Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players, a collaboration of influential artists who were involved or had invested interest in some of the unforgettable recording that took place at Sound City Studios located in Van Nuys, Los Angeles, California, have put out a record that is well worth the hype, titled Real to Reel. The release of this album is paired with Grohl’s directorial debut of a documentary that commemorates Sound City Studios and its significance to the music industry. The Foo Fighters front man and former Nirvana drummer was inspired to start this Sound City movement following the studio’s closure in May 2011. The studio’s Neve 8028 console now sits in the artist’s private Studio 606 in California, where this album was recorded.
The album is ripe with just plain old quality rock and roll. Snippets of most of the songs were featured in the documentary. “Sound City, that’s it man,” says Tom Petty to open up the first track, titled “Heaven And All.” In it, Grohl pairs with Robert Levon Been and Peter Hayes from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to launch the album into rock euphoria. The second song, titled “Time Slowing Down,” is not too far off from a Foo Fighters song, probably because Grohl is on guitar. Dave also takes a vocal track on this one with Masters of Reality’s Chris Goss and both Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk from Rage Against The Machine as featured instrumentalists. The third track, titled “You Can’t Fix This,” centers around the distinct voice of Stevie Nicks. It’s really a beautiful track with tons of emotion, which also features Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins and Rami Jaffee, keyboardist of The Wallflowers and member of the Foo Fighters as well.
For the fourth track, Grohl recruits Rick Springfield to take the lead vocal and guitar roles. Springfield recorded a large part of his catalog at Sound City Studios. The song,”The Man That Never Was,” is arguably one of the most rocking on the album. The rest of the Foo Fighters, including Hawkins, Mendel & Smear, along with Grohl are the only other musicians on the track and the instrumentals definitely have a Foo Fighters vibe as a result. The fifth track features Lee Ving from the punk rock group Fear on vocals. Grohl tried to do a straight punk rock song with Ving here, but the track has more of an alternative rock aura. They approached the song with repetitive punk rock undertones and verses, echoing “Your Wife Is Calling” (the title) with redundancy at times. Ving should have stayed in retirement for this one. Alain Johannes from Queens of the Stone Age does instrumentals on the track.
Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor took the vocals on the next track titled “From Can To Can’t” with Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen on guitar and Scott Reeder to add to the dark instrumentals. “I know what’s wrong, God, you complicated everything,” screams Taylor in this dark ballad of sorts. The seventh track titled “Centipede” features Queens of the Stone Age lead singer, Joshua Homme and, with Alain Johannes also on the track, the song molds into what we may be hearing on the upcoming QOTSA album. It has a “Mosquito Song” vibe for sure. The next song, “A Trick With No Sleeve,” also features the two QOTSA members, but with Johannes on vocals this time. It starts off like a Mark Lanegan-featured QOTSA song and then turns into a Foo Fighters song.
The ninth studio track titled “Cut Me Some Slack,” perhaps the highlight of the album and biggest teaser for the album, rocks very hard. The trio, consisting of Dave Grohl on drums, Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic on bass and the one and only Sir Paul McCartney on vocals and lead guitar, was introduced as a “Nirvana reunion” for the 12-12-12 Benefit Concert for Hurricane Sandy at Madison Square Garden, where the song was first premiered live. Without giving it as strong of a tag, since nobody will ever replace Kurt Cobain, the aging McCartney keeps up with the pace. The next track titled “If I Were Me” has a more relaxed sound, with the Jayhawks’ Jessy Greene on violin and backup vocals and Dave on lead vocals and acoustic electric. Jim Keltner from Traveling Wilburys tackles the soft drum rhythms. “What’s your hurry, what’s your hurry?” sings Grohl, and the answer is that there is no hurry to finish listening to this album, it’s great.
The final song titled “Mantra” is an awesome collaboration of Grohl on drums, Josh Homme on guitar and Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails on keys. It’s such a cool way to close out the album since the track jams hard towards the end. It’s a smooth, clean, yet rocking masterpiece and is a clear combo of each musician’s taste. Grohl is the lead vocalist with Homme doing backups. Reznor comes in on vocals towards the middle of the track. It spans for nearly eight minutes, has lengthy buildups, and is definitely in the album’s top three songs.
Sound City Real to Reel is exactly that, a very real music experience that has been digitized. The talent that came together to put this album out shines through and through; it leaves the listener eager for more and hopeful towards further releases from each and every one of these artists. It’s worth every minute of the listen and serves as a perfect dedication to Sound City Studios, where magic happened. The album is due to drop this Tuesday via Sony/RCA Records and is worth picking up a copy.
-by Mike Haskoor
“Cut Me Some Slack” ft. Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, and Krist Novoselic:
Take a listen to the track “Mantra” featuring Grohl, Homme, and Reznor: