All those people who bet that the long-rumored Mick Jagger-Rick Rubin album would never see the light of day can start paying up.
Tentatively titled "Wandering Spirit," the collection--mostly recorded in Los Angeles--is due in stores from Columbia Records on Nov. 16.
Why was there doubt about the record?
Some industry observers feared that the two strong personalities would simply not be able to decide on a common direction for the album.
And sure enough, Jagger--whose battles over the years with his Rolling Stones cohort Keith Richards are legendary--acknowledged there were tense moments between him and Rubin, the fiercely independent head of Def American Records who has helped develop or produced records by such rap and rock acts as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Public Enemy and Slayer.
"We haven't had any fistfights," said Jagger, ever the diplomat, as they put final touches on the album last week. "But Rick and I are both strong-minded. . . . I don't want to go into it."
But Rubin, in a separate interview, did go into a little more detail.
"At one point while we were making the record, Mick pulled me out of the control room and talked to me in the hallway," Rubin said. "And one of the things he told me in that conversation was I was worse than Keith (Richards). I took that as a compliment. That was the nature of the relationship, and I definitely think good things came out of it."
The oddity of the pairing was clear from the beginning. Rubin said he has no idea what Jagger had in mind when the singer first called him last spring, though he probably had heard Rubin's work on the Chili Peppers' "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" album.
Jagger may have been surprised to know that despite Rubin's rock credentials, he had only limited familiarity with and interest in Jagger's past. Not only had Rubin never heard either of Jagger's two previous solo albums--1985's "She's the Boss" and 1987's "Primitive Cool," neither one much of an artistic or commercial success--but he also had only surface familiarity with the Stones legacy.
"Only since starting this project did I start listening to Rolling Stones records, to be honest," Rubin said. "I knew the songs on the radio, but I didn't own any of their albums. I grew up listening to the Beatles."
But the match seems to have worked. Rubin said that Jagger made few references to the Stones style in the course of these sessions--and none to Richards' latest solo album, which will be released later this month to create a head-to-head competition between the longtime partners.
The album has more of a rock edge than Jagger's other solo work, with guitarist-arranger Jimmy Rip's playing providing the focus and guest work from the likes of keyboardist Billy Preston and Chili Peppers bassist Flea adding color.
Among the Jagger originals on the album are "Wired All Night" (a guitar-centered rocker), "Don't Tear Me Up" (a mid-tempo song a la the Stones' "Beast of Burden") and the title song, which mixes rockabilly with hard-rock punch. There are also some classic remakes, including Bill Withers' "Use Me" (a duet with Lenny Kravitz) and a metalish version of James Brown's "Think."
Would Rubin work with Jagger again--despite the tension?
"I don't know," Rubin said. "Good question."
But it's worth noting that when the two left the Capitol Records studios after a recent mixing session, they went off together in Rubin's black Rolls Royce. When was the last time Mick and Keith drove away together?