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What If Fade To Black Was On The Black Album

"I have fun," the music-minded YouTuber says in the video's description. "What if battery was on the black album? Metallica Rework! I didn't simplify the guitar as much because I didn't feel like it. Enjoy!" Similarly, the musician's also given a Black Album-style treatment to numerous other Metallica tracks.

What If Fade To Black Was On The Black Album

For example, the heavily distorted rhythm section of the song One was recorded with significantly boosted bass and midrange, while the generally more melodic and radio friendly songs on the Black album tended to have the gain and bass dialed down somewhat. The best approximations of the clean and overdriven sounds are as follows:

Kirk also obtained two Les Paul style guitars both of which he still uses, one a black Gibson Les Paul Custom fitted with EMG active pickups, the other a black ESP KH-3 Eclipse.

For the black album, Metallica was still using Mesa Boogie amplifiers. The Mark IIC+ and IV in particular. For this album, there were many amps used to record it. Many layers of guitar tracks were done to give it a monstrous tone.

Matt: I have gone and found this Epiphone Explorer in a nice party bat black color with EMGs installed. It's very simple, it's all that it is, it's just all black, made in China and it's 450 quid.

Kirk acquired this guitar circa 1984, and used it occasionally during the Ride the Lightening tour. The guitar seemed to have been modified by Kirk, and featured a Floyd Rose tremolo and a locking nut, and three Fender Lace Sensor pickups with black covers.

The original concept of a "black album" appears to have been where an artist self-censors their catalogue, and shelves or withdraws a body of work that they're either dissatisfied with: or, if the hype machine is to be believed, they believe to be too disturbing, depressing or accursed to release. Others are called black albums because of their enigmatic (lack of) sleeve art, a trend pioneered by no less an outfit than Spinal Tap. Jay-Z's black album is something else: for starters, it's actually called The Black Album, and it was conceived from the outset as its maker's last record.

Let's think about that for a moment, because Jay's stated decision to retire from making music in 2003 was, for those who believed it, astonishing. Here was one of the giants of rap, a guy who'd lived the quintessential American rags-to-riches redemption story as he'd left street crime behind and had come to dominate pop culture in well under a decade. True, his seventh album - The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse - hadn't hit quite the same heights as its universally acclaimed predecessor, the first Blueprint, but it was still a chart-topper and had sold several million copies. Biggie and 2Pac were dead, Eminem was big but clearly still on the rise, and while Nas may have been declared the winner of the 'Ether' dis war, Jay was caning his nemesis in the charts: in their respective first weeks at the end of 2002, The Blueprint 2 sold three copies for every one of Nas's then new LP, God's Son. There was nobody bigger in rap, and though the internet was starting to have an impact on the stratospheric sales levels seen through the 90s and on into the new century, there was no genre selling more steadily and widely in America, by far the world's biggest music market. Rap is often - and both understandably and correctly - compared to boxing, but there's never been a heavyweight champion who didn't carry on for at least one more title fight past their peak. Look at any sport and it's hard to find an instance of a top player stepping down before they start to fade. In music, the tendency is for artists to keep on recording until they drop dead. No matter where you looked for comparisons, this was pretty much unprecedented.

So was the plan for the album, which was to see Jay collaborating on 12 tracks with 12 different producers. This didn't quite pan out as intended, with two from the originally mooted list - Dr Dre and frequent Jay collaborator DJ Premier - conspicuous by their absence. Three other producers who'd worked with Jay before - The Neptunes, Just Blaze and an up-and-comer by the name of Kanye West - got two tracks apiece on what became a 14-track release. But Jay approached the writing with a concerted sense of purpose that had never gripped as tightly a hold of him before. Even on the tracks where the theme ostensibly strays from the sense of autobiographical closure and the need to etch his name into the annals of musical history (the Neptunes-produced 'Change Clothes'; the criminal's warning to rivals that makes up 'Threat') there's a determination to achieve a kind of permanence that fair knocks you backwards.

For the most part, though, The Black Album is Jay at, simultaneously, his most raw and uncompromising, his most personally vivid, and - we have to assume, despite what was to happen later - his most honest and introspective. This is never less than fascinating and at times he reaches a transcendence that elevates the album into the very highest class of recordings. The pinnacle of his writing - an Everest at the heart of this musical Nepal - comes on 'Moment of Clarity', the second of his collaborations with Eminem. It's telling that, unlike the Blueprint track 'Renegade', the Detroit emcee chooses not to get on the mic this time: it's Jay's show, and the material is intensely personal - there is no room here for another rapper, not even to formally allow the retiring king to hand the crown to the young pretender in public. Instead, we get Jay using Em's beat as his confessional, returning to a theme he began to explore on the opening track, 'December 4th' (named for his birthday), of how his absent father's death, and his apparent guilt at his lack of grief, had shaped his early life. Then there's an astonishing second verse, the like of which does not exist anywhere else in pop music, where Jay matches the truth-telling and soul-baring about his private life with something just as shocking about his public one:

There are occasional problems, of course, as there are bound to be - what fun would perfection be? - but most of them can be either excused or easily overlooked by a listener concentrating on finding things that work. Jay's mum's contributions to 'December 4th' never feel entirely comfortable or convincing, though you don't doubt her sincerity so much as her evident lack of experience with public performance. 'Change Clothes' is frothy, but has weathered well; so has the tougher 'Dirt Off Your Shoulder', which you can't decry in terms of its widespread impact after it allowed a future president to court the youth of America while dismissing criticism from his rival on the campaign trail. The record can also feel a little like it stutters, due to how so many of these songs would have worked best as the final track: the first line of 'December 4th' is "They say they only really miss you when you're dead or you're gone/ So on that note I'm leavin' after this song"; the magnificent 'What More Can I Say?' ends with an exhausted, gasped expletive and the sound of Jay dropping the mic; 'Moment of Clarity's chorus, with its references to all his previous albums, adds something tombstone-like to what was already the quintessential Jay-Z swan song. But it's the perfectly pitched, technically adventurous 'My 1st Song' that wraps things up beautifully: "Treat my first like my last and my last like my first/ And my thirst is the same as when I came."

Of course, the only thing wrong with The Black Album is what happened next. We perhaps all expected that he might make the occasional foray back in to the vocal booth to guest on other people's records - and if he'd continued to drop verses of the quality of the one he contributed to the superlative 'Pressure' on protegee Lupe Fiasco's first album, we'd all have been delighted that big homie had come out of retirement. Instead, and with the crushing sense of inevitability of a Scarface fan gleefully yet ruefully proclaiming that although he thought he was out they pulled him back in, Jay broke his vow and started making albums again. Many listeners always suspected this had been part of the plan at the time: and even if it was - though there's nothing that amounts to evidence that's surfaced to date to support the theory - the amount of damage this does to The Black Album is, to this writer at least, minimal.

Yes, there have been moments since where the old magic shines through, and no, he's still never made a duff album. But it's hard to argue there are that many moments in the post-retirement phase of his discography that truly rank with the best of the work he did up to this self-imposed career break. Give a Jay-Z fan a blank CDR and ask them to fill it with their selection of his best tracks, and there won't be many who find a lot of space for stuff from Kingdom Come, The Blueprint 3 or Magna Carta Holy Grail. American Gangster standout 'Roc Boys (And the Winner Is...)' is right up there with the very greatest moments in rap history, and that album as a whole has weathered better than the rest, standing today as a far cleverer, more focused, intellectually and creatively questing collection than many of us realised when it was new. But the second coming of Jay-Hova hasn't been anything like as compelling or as accomplished as he was before he hung up the mic. And that first flush of writing and performance reaches its zenith here, on what is surely the best of the "black albums" out there. 041b061a72


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