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best producers

Filed under: — adrian @ 1:03 am

Producers do a lot of things from picking studios and engineers, to fleshing out arrangements, to picking/ writing the songs.

10 great producers and why:

  • John Vanderslice – JV’s produced, mainly, his own recordings and the Mountain Goats’ last two records. Listen to Cellar Door (“Promising Actress” or “Pale Horse”) or Pixel Revolt (“Peacocks in the Video Rain”) for examples of his inventive his use of instruments and many subtle layers or the MG’s “Against Pollution” for simple and perfect production.
  • Brian Wilson – the main Beach Boys music writer (he wrote very little of the lyrics) and producer, he was renowned as a nut, basically, but there are few whose recorded output as a record producer is more respected. Start with “God Only Knows” or “Good Vibrations” to hear his multi-parted, intricate compositions with a huge range of instruments playing, seemingly, exactly what each should.
  • Phil Spector – Spector is famous for his Wall of Sound, his technique of having a very dense, many layered, mono recording. He mainly used this through the girl groups of the 60’s. He also used Spanish/ latin elements and huge, reverby drums. Some of my favorites of his are The Crystal’s “He’s a Rebel” and the Ronette’s “Be My Baby.”
  • Juan Garcia Esquivel – Renowned for “Space Age Bachelor Pad” music, I listened to this guy a lot when I was in high school I was afraid to listen to him again, thinking I might not like him any more, but I still do. He’s got just about the wackiest arrangements of anyone. He’d often take jazz standards and arrange them in his own style, using the full limits of the stereo, which was pretty new at the time. He’d often use incongruous instruments, like a punchy bassoon preceding a hawaiian guitar over a wall of shaking brass. Start with “Sentimental Journey” and “Mucha Muchacha.”
  • Holland-Dozier-Holland – I love Motown so it was only a small amount of time before I got into some Motown producers. These three wrote and produced so many fantastic songs. Their style is the Motown sound, in a way, utilizing the Funk Brothers, with strong bass, steady drums, tamborine, and vibes. One of their best certainly has to be the Four Top’s “Bernadette,” with those sustained chorus notes, pregnant pauses and so much tension. Other notables include Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancin in the Streets”, the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” and the Miracles’ “Mickey’s Monkey.”
  • Smokey Robinson Another Motown producer/ songwriter. He could get on this list for his production for his own songs only, but he was also the producer of songs like the Temptations’ “My Girl” and the Marvellettes’ “Don’t Mess with Bill.” One of the best produced and most inventive Motown songs has to be Smokey Robinson and the Miracle’s “Tears of a Clown” with its awesome basoon/ flute beginning, basoon/ baritone sax base for the groove, and harsichord. This song is like an onion there are so many layers.
  • Steve Albini – Though he usually labels himself as a record engineer, I’m going to include him on this list. He tends to just perfectly record artists at their best. A very good example of this is Songs:Ohia’s Didn’t It Rain (start with “Blue Chicago Moon”). It’s either a huge coincidence, or it’s a testament to his skill that seminal albums by the Pixies, Superchunk, Nirvana, and Low were all recorded by Albini. Other examples to check out is Low’s Things Lost in the Fire (try “Sunflower”) or Palace’s Viva Last Blues (try “New Partner”).
  • Chris Walla Walla’s the other main guy in Death Cab for Cutie, but he’s also worth noting as their producer and as an independent producer (working, often, at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone Studios or his own Hall of Justice). I’ve seen Death Cab play a few times on live TV (Carson Daly, SNL) and they always sounded, well, like crap—the mix sounded all wrong, the voice and the instruments sounded too separated. I finally figured out that this has to be, in part at least, to the fact that they sound so good on record, thanks to Walla. He also uses some uses some pretty inventive techniques to get crunchy drum sounds (“Title and Registration” by DCfC or Nada Surf’s “In the Mirror”). Other times, it’s just a how’d-he-do-that, like the claps and stomps on “Sounds like Settling” by DCfC just sounding so huge. Good examples include the above DCfC songs, Nada Surf’s “Always Love” or the Velvet Teen’s “Radiapathy.”
  • Dave Fridmann He’s worked with a number of bands, but, to me, most notably with the Flaming Lips, Mogwai and Weezer. Have you listened to how huge the guitars sound on “Do You Realize?” by the Flaming Lips? (or most of the rest of Yoshimi Battles…?) And certainly there must be some talent put into making those sparse/ soft to dense/ loud transitions on Rock Action by Mogwai (check out “2 Rights Make 1 Wrong”) sound so good.
  • Rick Rubin He did some amazing work with Johnny Cash in Cash’s final years. I can’t really talk about most of his recorded output, but he stripped everything away and let Johnny Cash make beautiful music again. Check out Johnny Cash’s “Hurt”, “Solitary Man” or “I See a Darkness.”

So that’s a likely incompletely and not-necessarily-well-thought-out list of some people who, in my opinion, are/ were the best producers.

Feel free to add your thoughts.

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Filed under: — adrian @ 1:01 am

USA Curling hat to support their first ever medal!

Way to beat the Red Coats, Team USA!

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