Let's talk PRODUCERS!

Now playing:
Paul Oakenfold - Hold Your Hand (feat. Emiliana Torrini)
via FoxyTunes

And NOT the Nathan Lane/Ferris Beuller kind! It's time to discuss the geniuses behind the console... the one responsible for shaping the sound of the artist.
Some may not know that in many cases, the finished song that you are listening to is the equal product of both artist AND producer. That is, if you are listening to some great Classic Rock like I am. If you don't believe me, just look down below... there... can you see it? PINK FLOYD! But guess what? I'm not going to address Pink Floyd right now, although David Gilmour (guitarist and vocalist of Pink Floyd) has done some great production work for The Dream Academy. Do you remember "Life In A Northern Town"? That was his. Well, not his, but he produced it. How ironic is it, that David Gilmour will do some great production for The Dream Academy, but he often used Bob Ezrin to produce his own music? Now THAT is ironic, so please do me a favor and let Alanis Morrisette know what true irony is, since she seems to think that it is 'rain on your wedding day'. And THAT, my friends, is NOT ironic. Don't ya' think?

Oh, yes... on to the producers. If you scroll down to the bottom of this blog page, or maybe to the previous 7 posts, you will see my homage to Trevor Horn, who is probably MY favorite producer. As stated in that post, Trevor Horn could polish a turd. In this post, I will address a few of my other favorite producers. Allow me to list a few names: Mike Howlett, Gary Katz, Mark Knopfler, Hugh Padgham, Quincy Jones, Bob Rock, and Rick Rubin, to name a few. I will describe what they have done, in just a few. But first, I need to address the work of a producer. At least the tasks that I am aware of. Unlike a TV or movie producer (who are responsible for making sure that everything runs under budget, and is organized properly), a music producer is more like the director of a film. He analyzes what the artist is doing, and shapes and molds the sounds into something that would be marketable... or NOT. Allow me to explain. One of my favorite producers is a gentleman by the name of Tim Friese-Greene. He is really the unofficial "fourth member" of Talk Talk, as he produced their music, and actually played and co-wrote on some of the music. Do you remember the classic 1984 song, "It's My Life", which was covered by No-Doubt, a few years ago? That was one that he co-wrote, with vocalist and principal songwriter, Mark Hollis. Anyhow, in the case of Talk Talk, their first album was by far the most commercially accessible, and with each subsequent release, their sound became more and more experimental, alienating their casual fans. They didn't care about releasing hit singles... to them, music was a true form of art. THAT is why Talk Talk remains my second favorite band/artist, to this day. Tim Friese-Green went on to produce music for a few other artists, including Catherine Wheel. His influence is heard on the first and second CW albums, and even is evident on their future albums. The song "Eat My Dust, You Insensitive F***", from HAPPY DAYS, is very similar in sound to later Talk Talk music. That edited word? Fart. Really. Don't you think that sounds like a great song title? Huh??

So, let's talk about Mike Howlett , for a minute. My favorite album of all time, is "WORKING WITH FIRE AND STEEL: Possible Pop Songs, Vol. II", by CHINA CRISIS. This album was released in 1983, and features some of the finest music from the 80's. The magical thing about the album (apart from all the memories that I have, associated with the music) is the production. Mike Howlett took a band that was somewhat Electro-Pop, and incorporated traditional instruments... but not just instruments... CLASSICAL instruments. Grand Piano, Oboe, Trumpet, and a wide use of fretless bass, which is one of my absolute favorites. So, think a band like Depeche Mode, loaded with some of the best sounding instruments. This is actually the band that really helped me to understand exactly how a producer can mold the sound. Their next album, "Flaunt The Imperfection", was produced by Walter Becker of Steely Dan. Can you imagine what that album sounded like? You guessed it... Steely Dan. Which is also ironic, as Steely Dan always had Gary Katz producing their albums. Speaking of Gary Katz, he was known to take upwards of a YEAR in the studio, working on Steely Dan albums. That is one thing that kids today are missing out on. So much of the popular music is based off of fads, and will not have any kind of significance in the world of music, years down the road. I was fortunate to grow up in the 70's and early 80's, when music mattered. Many of those bands (especially 80's bands) don't have the lasting significance, but people still find novelty in listening to them. I do, on occasion. But even 80's music had significant production values. Today, it's all about noise, guitars and feedback. I'm not saying that is a bad thing, but I truly think that the youth of today are missing a big part of what music is actually about. I am glad to see that modern media, especially games like "Guitar Hero", expose the kids to classic music. It's great to see children actually WANT to listen to some quality Classic Rock, instead of the "flavor-of-the-month" bands. My youngest daughter, now 12, came in and actually wanted to listen to "Paint It Black", by the Rolling Stones, MULTIPLE TIMES.

How did I get off the "producer" subject? Go figure. Anyhow, let me address a couple more. How 'bout Mark Knopfler? The man behind Dire Straits! He produced an album by Aztec Camera, which was released in 1984. I don't know if Mark produced Dire Straits' albums at that point, but he did a wonderful job on "Knife", the Aztec Camera to which I am referring.

You know, I just realized that I left that poor Mike Howlett out to dry. In addition to producing my favorite album in the world, he also produced the debut album by "A Flock of Seagulls", as well as "Love Life", the finest release by Berlin. Quality albums, one and all.

In closing, let me mention Rick Rubin. I was not a fan of Rick Rubin, back in the 90's. He was involved with several bands that I was not into at the time. AT THE TIME! His work with The Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers fell on def ears (you Rubin fans will get that reference) back in the 90's, but I have since opened them up, and have been enjoying them ever since. Recently, Rick has worked with less Alternative artists, including Neil Diamond. Rick was the only person who could get Neil to lose the sparkled shirts, and get back to some serious songwriting, including playing his own guitar. The result was "12 Songs", which is some of the finest work he has done in the last 20 years. He also produced the latest Dixie Chicks album, which although not a classic, is one of their finest. Why? Because he let them be themselves. Most Country related artists are NOT encouraged to be themselves, and with this release, The Chicks were allowed to write their own material. While a little sophomoric in sound, it was great to hear some honest and heartfelt music coming from them. Rick Rubin is one to actually sit back and encourage the artist to be themselves, rather than taking over the band's sound. I respect that. His decade's worth of work with Johnny Cash was definitely the crowning jewel on a wonderful career. Again, he encouraged Johnny to just perform honest music. His cover of Nine Inch Nails' "HURT" was truly a fitting last single, before his passing a few years ago. I am also excited to know that the forthcoming U2 album will have Rick behind the boards.

As crazy as it sounds, I will buy an album based entirely on the producer, if I respect that person's work. I have done it many times, and will surely do it again in the future.

Now playing: Pink Floyd - Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)
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