The 'Song Doctor' Is In
Sunday, January 15, 2006
LOS ANGELES It's impolite to stare, but since Rick Rubin is in a meditative state, his eyes sealed, there's little chance he'll catch you gawking.
And so you lean forward to study the iconoclastic record producer's beard up close. What a sight!
Rubin's hirsute hallmark is wiry and unruly, its craggy tips resembling a seismic reading. Nearly as long as it is wide, the salt-and-pepper beard droops to Rubin's chest; given his sprawling bald spot, it's as if there'd been a hairslide on his ample mug and nobody bothered to clean up the mess.
Maybe they were all just afraid: With his similarly unkempt hair, Rubin can appear ridiculously imposing, almost Hell's Angelic -- though in his current state of tranquillity, he sort of resembles Confucius, or maybe David Crosby during his nodding-off days.
And . . . and suddenly Rubin is staring right back, with piercing blue-green eyes.
"Isn't it beautiful?" he says softly.
He smiles. You nod.
He nods. You blink.
"It really feels like we captured a moment in the studio," he finally says.
Oh, right -- he's not talking about his beard , silly! It's the Neil Diamond song that's been thundering over the outrageously high-end stereo system here in the library of Rubin's magnificent Hollywood Hills home.
Rubin is playing one of his favorite tracks from "12 Songs," the riveting album he coaxed out of Diamond last year. It was the crooner's best-reviewed work in decades, landing on more than a few music critics' best-of-2005 lists; "12 Songs" also resonated with fans, reaching the No. 4 Billboard ranking -- Diamond's highest chart position in 25 years.