- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2005

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Tom Jones has done it — he turned himself into a Euro-techno star. Burt Bacharach has done it — he hitched his wagon to Elvis Costello. And Neil Diamond is about to try it with producer Rick Rubin. The game is called Extreme Kitsch Makeover, whereby once-vital artists who’ve become human punch lines try to regain some respect. There’s no shortage of artists in need:

1. Steve Miller — The advent of classic-rock radio rescued him in the ‘80s, renewing the appeal of his most popular songs for a new decade. But he hasn’t been flying like an eagle for a long time. And time just keeps on tickin’, tickin’, tickin’ into the future. This Lost in Space Cowboy needs a roots-rock producer such as Ethan Johns to steer him back to the kind of blues rock he used to cook up with Boz Scaggs in the late ‘60s.

2. Glen Campbell — Before emerging as a country-pop star, the Rhinestone Cowboy was a musician’s musician, a sought-after session guitarist in Los Angeles backing everyone from Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley to the Beach Boys and the Monkees. Maybe T-Bone Burnett — the producer who helped revitalize bluegrass with the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack — can reinvigorate him.

3. Ringo Starr — That All-Star Band thing is starting to smell rank. Playing with Peter Frampton? Mark Farner? An ex-Beatle shouldn’t have to stoop to such measures. To turn things around, Mr. Starr could start by working with his son, Oasis drummer Zak Starkey.

4. Dionne Warwick — Whitney Houston’s cousin was a great singer once. She could handle the dizzying compositions of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. All she needs to do is offload that Psychic Friends Network baggage.

5. Stevie Wonder — From Motown genius to “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Ouch. An album of new material has been hanging fire for more than a year. Doesn’t sound promising. A kitsch makeover is clearly in order.

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