Everyone loves the collaboration between Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin. It was amazing seeing Johnny Cash stripped down to a raw sound more like his Sun Records roots, and also hearing him play contemporary songs. I first heard of the American Records project when American II: Unchained came out and he covered Rusty Cage.
At the time Soundgarden was still riding high (I dislike everything after Badmotorfinger but I still love that and the prior stuff). I later discovered he had played a song written by one Glenn Danzig which was even more mindblowing.
It wasn't until much later that I discovered that one Glenn Danzig wrote a song for Roy Orbison
In another life, having written songs for Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison gets you some sort of medal. Danzig gets a stack of bricks. Where is the justice?
After Johnny died, Rick looked around for the next Johnny and produced Neil Diamond. Now I am going to say this delicately. Neil Diamond has never had success as a stripped down artist like Johnny Cash had. Even his early hits like Girl You'll be a Woman Soon were smooth productions, not simple and raw like old Sun Records.
No offense, but I think Rick was trying to get this magic with half the production, and it didn't spin the same magic. He must know this, after all he helped Johnny re-record Solitary Man without the horns.
No horns for a more Sun Records sound. But notice that Tom Petty sings backup and there is a rich layer despite the sparse veneer. It is powerful not because of the production but because of Johnny's delivery.
So what is my point. My point is that if you are looking for a commonality here it is this: if Rick Rubin was looking for another singer to revive it wasn't Neil Diamond. It was Jerry Lee Lewis.
Simple, raw, and powerful. Notice the bass isn't plugged in.
Descending from Rock and Roll/Rockabilly cool to sappy country lame. Its alright, they all did this (even Johnny). Although a song about Schlitz beer is awesome in my book. I don't know if you losers can get this; but my bar carries the stuff in a bottle. Classic 1960s formula!
So yeah, if Rick Rubin wanted to produce another elderly Rock and Roll legend from the Sun Records roster, Jerry Lee Lewis is still alive and kicking. He too was an outlaw and a rebel. He too worked well in a stripped down raw production.
The final piece to tie it together? Have Glenn Danzig write a song for Jerry Lee Lewis. It only got better as time went on. Life Fades Away was nice and all, but didn't make a splash. 13 was on the now legendary American I. Just think about Jerry Lee playing a Danzig song on his American I...
Pull out the terrible Motown horns and bass, and you have an American Original Wild One.
Update - the mean old man playing live in 2008. Come on Rick, time is running short.