Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sound City - review!


I have to admit that I wasn’t as excited for the Sound City documentary as most music fans. It was just so hyped up that it seemed impossible to live up to my expectations. Regardless, I gave it a shot, went in with an open mind and I was not disappointed. I really liked it!

This documentary is split into two parts. The first half is the history of the Sound City recording studio. It revisits many of the classic albums that were recorded at this facility. Some of the albums are by artists such as Rick Springfield, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine.

When Sound City studio was created, its sole purpose was to record the best albums by the best artists. In order to achieve this goal, they knew that they would require the absolute best equipment for production. Now, appearance-wise Sound City was described as a total dump. It had grungy second hand furniture, shag carpet on the walls and empty bottles and cigarette butts everywhere. Sure, they didn’t spend money on quality furniture and soap but, the appearance of this building would prove to be irrelevant. Instead, all of the money was invested in the equipment, particularly the neve console sound board. This proved to be a successful approach since the walls were full of platinum records.

The sound quality of this studio was successful in attracting the best artists. This resulted in some pretty significant events in music history taking place at Sound City:

-          It was the Sound City studio that Mick Fleetwood was scoping out to record the next Fleetwood Mac album. He was shown an example of the studio’s work by playing back a new album they had recorded by the band Buckingham Nicks and of course, the rest is history. Besides choosing Sound City to record the next Fleetwood Mac album he also asked Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks of Buckingham Nicks to join Fleetwood Mac.

-          Neil Young decided to try out Sound City. When he recorded the vocals for the song Birds he loved the sound so much that he re-recorded all of the vocals on the current album he was working on called After the Gold Rush.

This is just a taste of some of the events that happened here at the studio. Sure, all of these events are not directly tied to the neve console and the sound quality, but indirectly they are. None of these great artists would have been at this trashy studio had it not been producing such great sound.

The second half of this documentary is after Sound City had closed down; Dave Grohl (of the Foo Fighters) bought the legendary neve console and installed it in his own studio. He gathered many of his famous friends and recorded a new album using the vintage equipment.

The accompanying album for Sound City is a fun listen. It’s cool to hear Rick Springfield perform a full out rock song on The Man That Never Was, great to hear Stevie Nicks sing again on You Can’t Fix This and it was very cool hearing Paul McCartney playing with the surviving members of Nirvana on Cut Me Some Slack. It’s a fun album to hear but it’s nothing that will have any lasting effect on me. It is lacking feeling. The sole purpose of this album was to record using the legendary equipment.  These songs were written for the purpose of recording this album and sound rushed, lacking any great lyrics. It’s cool to see this all-star lineup record together, and it’s great that they are using this legendary gear but, it failed to achieve anything special.  

Overall, the Sound City documentary was a great film and I highly recommend it to all of my analog friends. The album is fun listen but only when accompanied by the documentary giving it some purpose.

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