3. John Lennon and Yoko Ono – “Double Fantasy” (1980)
It’s the mid-seventies and the times are not kind to John Lennon. Having gone through a separation with Yoko Ono and being in the midst of a lawsuit with Morris Levy, with regards to the breach of contract and the “Roots I Rock’ n’ Roll scandal”, he was at an all-time low. His disappointment was also deepened by the low sales (compared to Beatles standards) of his greatest hits album in 1975, “Shaved Fish”.
After going through a recording session with Ringo Star for his 1976 album, “Ringo’s Rotogravure”, John Lennon made the transition from rock-star supreme to husband and father. He moved back in with Yoko Ono and their 1 year old son, Sean, in New York at the Dakota, living a private and quiet life.
Several years passed and here we are in 1980. John Lennon took a few years off and he felt that it was time to get back on the back of the horse. Being inspired by new music such as The Pretenders, B-52 and Madness, Lennon decided it was time to once more step into the breach.
The album he and Ono made, “Double Fantasy” was supposed to be the most perfect comeback for the couple, showing them in a new light, ready to face the world with a fresh start. Sadly faith struck once more, and on December 8 1980, John Lennon was killed in front of his residence. The album “Double Fantasy” turned out to be a most sad goodbye rather than a comeback.
2. LL Cool J – “Mama Said Knock You Out”
James Todd Smith, or better known as LL Cool J, which stands for Ladies Love Cool James, is an American rapper, entrepreneur and actor. His debut was made possible due to, at the time NYU student, Rick Rubin and manager Russell Simmons, founder of the independent Def Jam label.
At the time 16 y.o. James was cooking up demo-tapes in his grandparents’ home, backed up by his grandfather, a jazz saxophonist, who bought him some 2000 $ worth of musical equipment (two turntables, an audio mixer and an amplifier). Using the gear his grandfather bought him James mixed some demo tapes and started sending them out to record companies across New York including Rubin’s and Simmons’ Def Jam Recordings. He was signed by Def Jam under LL Cool J, releasing his first record, “I need a beat.”
After the tremendous success of his debut album, “Radio” in 1985, his next two materials were badly received by the public, striking a deep blow in the career of the artist. Not much was expected of him at the start of the 90’s, however things are rarely what they seem. The opening lines of the title track on LL Cool J’s “Mama said Knock You out” say: “Don’t call it a comeback/ I been here for years”.
But it was in all sense a comeback, people loved it! The new album showed a rapper that re-started fresh, with a banging attitude. He received great positive reviews and sold millions of copies. It was the re-launch of LL Cool J’s career and it propelled him to release more tapes and star in both movies and television shows.
1. Johnny Cash – “American Recordings” (1994)
And here we are, the top gun! Johnny Cash has a huge line-up of success, dating back to “Cry, Cry, Cry” in 1955. His popularity soared through the roof over the passing of the 60’s, making of him one of the top players in country music. The 70’s were not Cash’s years. The singer was hooked on booze and drugs and the quality of his music dropped considerably.
The tip of the spear was reached in 1986 when Columbia records ditched Cash after 26 years of lucrative business. After the drop from Columbia Cash signed with Mercury Records, but by 1991 he was left with no label once more. The expectancies were pretty low for him, a 60 year old country musician. Once more enter the magician, Rick Rubin!
Cash and Rubin worked out to produce the first album in the series of “American Recordings” at Cash’s cabin out in Tennessee. The album featured Cash solely playing the acoustic guitar, covering songs that were hand-picked by himself and Rick Rubin.
The idea behind the album was to put in light what was most stunning about Cash, his voice, a crown jewel of sorts. The finite produce, released in 1994, was an astonishing success. It was Jonny Cash, no doubt, but a version of him that was much wiser and older. It stood up well to the critics and also encompassed a younger audience.
He stated that the later stage of his career brought the same feeling as his glory days back in the 50’s, making the music he wanted to. Johnny Cash went on to release six “American Recordings”, putting him in the spotlight once more, were he belongs.