Smokey Robinson Exclusive: Watch The Behind-The-Scenes Clip from ‘The Art of McCartney’

Smokey Robinson
Ralph Sall

Producer Ralph Sall describes the process of putting the all-star tribute album together.

Producer Ralph Sall's The Art of McCartney tribute album has certainly been an ambitious endeavor, with two discs, 34 tracks and an opulent deluxe edition that features six more songs and video interviews with many of the performers. But, Sall says, he hasn't necessarily exhausted the concept.

Check out this behind-the-scenes clip of Smokey Robinson recording “So Bad” for the album, exclusively on

"It's quite a handful as it is, but there could be a volume two," Sall — who started working on The Art of McCartney in 2003, after using some McCartney tracks the film "The In-Laws" that he was music supervising -- tells Billboard. He recorded 21 of the tracks for the album with McCartney's band of the past 12 years and says, “When I met with them to record a lot of the tracks, they just kept flowing. I actually did a lot more than are coming out; I have a lot more tracks, not finished, not with vocals, but I still have them. And there are a number of artists that for one reason or another, mostly due to timing issues -- usually they were on the road for a long period of time -- weren't able to participate but would still like to. So you can imagine if I was to do a volume two, there's enough true headliners that would make it a special event as well."

Sall hardly wanted for star power on The Art of McCartney, however. With a lineup that includes Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Brian Wilson, Smokey Robinson, the Who's Roger Daltrey, Alice Cooper, B.B. King, Heart, Def Leppard and more, Sall says that "at certain times I felt like I basically ended up recording the entire Rock and Roll Hall of Fame." But the set also includes younger artists such as Owl City, Corinne Bailey Rae and the Airborne Toxic Event, while the Cure recorded its version of "Hello Goodbye" with McCartney's son James playing guitar.

"It obviously became a much larger endeavor than I might've originally anticipated," says Sall, who's also produced tribute albums for the Grateful Dead (Deadicated) and the Doors (Stone Immaculate). "I don't think anyone anticipated it would take me quite as long or become quite as large of an endeavor as it ended up being, but Paul has such an amazing catalog that there were just so many things I wanted to get to. At first I was really thinking of his solo career, but then I kind of thought that the way Paul represents himself live and how he combines all of his eras together, that would be the best way to approach this project, too, and I opened it up to his whole huge catalog of songs.”

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If Sall does go after another volume of the tribute, he can certainly count on The Art of McCartney participants to sing the praises of project. "It's extremely flattering -- even moreso when we found out who else was involved in it," says Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott, whose group recorded "Helen Wheels" while he joined McCartney's band for "High, High High." "The fact that we got asked and then lo and behold separately I got asked to do a song with his band on my own was even more of a kind of a 'stop me and pinch me and see if I'm still awake' moment. It's a great thing to be involved in and a pleasure to do. I don't care who you are — the Beatles and (McCartney) are all part of our house of cards."

Heart's Ann Wilson says her band initially asked for "Letting Go," which it performs in its set, and was pleased to be asked to also record "Band on the Run." "It was really fun," she notes. "I can't even describe for you what it meant for a Beatle fan like me, for a Paul fanatic such as myself, how much fun it was to go in and do that and to know that nobody expected me to take the song and switch it all around and jazz it up. All they wanted and all I wanted was to just go in and sing the song like at a hootenanny and make it sound great the way it lies, which I think we did."

McCartney was not involved in The Art of McCartney, according to Sall, but the producer did keep him and his camp aware of developments and sent the occasional track their way. "I heard from him early on and he enjoyed what he heard and was appreciative that I was doing it," Sall recalls. And while he considers every artist on the album a coup, Sall acknowledges that Dylan was a big and perhaps unexpected fish to land. "Bob Dylan choosing to do a Beatles song, I think, is newsworthy," the producer says. "I'm very friendly with that camp of people who look after Bob, and I just simply went to them with the project and... Bob decided it was something to do. I wouldn't say it was a surprise, but I was happy that he chose to participate. I think the greatest American artist of all time doing the music of the greatest band in the world, ever, is pretty special."