Published Sep 01, 2006"Its not often we get to do records like this anymore, producer Hal Willner (far right) chuckles when asked about his latest production, Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys. Regarded by some as the father of the conceptual tribute album, Willner was tapped by Anti- Records to follow through on an idea by Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp, the director and star of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. The end result is a dizzying, 43-song collection of beautiful, bawdy, seafaring folk songs performed by the likes of Antony, Akron/Family, Nick Cave, John C. Reilly, Mary Margaret OHara, Lou Reed, Sting, Lucinda Williams, Richard Thompson, and many more.
The scope of the project immediately appealed to Willner, whos earned a reputation for his unusual multi-artist records. His 1981 tribute to Fellini film composer Nino Rota, Amarcord Nino Rota, featured Debbie Harry and Bill Frisell, while 1992s Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus lured Keith Richards, Chuck D, and Henry Rollins.
For 26 years Willner has served as the musical supervisor at Saturday Night Live and the intensity of doing live TV has informed his own productions. "The Chanteys project was totally SNL-like because we went by the seat of our pants and only figured out what we were doing a few days before we did it. I love that; its an adrenaline rush and is just great.
Ultimately Willner hopes Rogues Gallery is as educational as it is entertaining. "Maybe someone will come to this who doesnt know Loudon Wainwright or Bono or Bryan Ferry and go, Wow, this is cool, he says. "I just hope that we created a really great listening experience and that people gain something from it. Its fun and funny, often very beautiful, occasionally very sick its the full meal.