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Stretching 'Rubber Soul': A New Spin on The Tribute CD
By the second week of December, Sampas had signed a contract. He celebrated by taking the rest of the year off.
In January, Sampas and Solomon got together with Razor & Tie's A&R chief, Gerard Babitts, and other label executives to work on The List.
Shaping The List undoubtedly is the most important part of the tribute-album process. The projects sell based largely on their guest lists -- the only real explanation for the inclusion of Joss Stone and Gavin DeGraw on the new "Killer Queen: A Tribute to Queen."
The quality of such albums generally depends on who's on them and what they're doing. But you can generally determine the what simply based on the who.
You know, for instance, that a prog-metal band like System of a Down will probably attack a song LOUDLY and AGGRESSIVELY, with all the subtlety of a thunderclap. If you don't want that, you don't bother putting System of a Down on your wish list, no matter how popular the band might be.
On the other hand, you expect that an indie-folk godhead such as Sufjan Stevens will create something gorgeously orchestral with tender, delicate vocals. If that's what you're after, then by all means: Sufjan Stevens, come on down!
So what exactly did Sampas and Co. determine about the direction of "This Bird Has Flown" (the title comes from a "Norwegian Wood" lyric) during those meetings, when Sampas brought up more than 50 names and left with about 30?
No System of a Down, definitely. No 311, either, despite the band's interest. No Oasis, the brash British rock outfit that's made quite a career out of aping the Beatles but wasn't invited to do so on "This Bird."
Sting: Also booted.
But Sufjan Stevens and other Pitchfork and college radio faves? Absolutely. Same for various alt-country/singer-songwriter/Americana artists.
Yes, too, to Alicia Keys -- never mind that the R&B songstress doesn't seem to be particularly well aligned with the indie-centric artists who ultimately participated.
"We were going more for the Damien Rices, David Grays, Aimee Manns, Sufjan Stevenses," Sampas says. (Of those artists, only Stevens actually appears on the project.) But, Sampas adds: "Alicia Keys made the final list, for some reason. That kind of jumps out at me."