Producers that make (or break) the band
If you think of the all-time greatest producers, one of the names that springs to mind would undoubtedly be Phil Spector, who is arguably more famous than most of the acts he produced. He was the ultimate producer-as-star; a hit-factory with a trademark “wall of sound” that defined an era.
The sound was produced in a specific echo chamber designed to bounce noise off the walls in a certain way. Spector would record in three-hour sessions designed to exhaust the musicians to the point where they would lose their individualism. Electric and acoustic guitarists would play in unison along with more typical orchestral arrangements to create layer upon layer of sound.
Spector’s legacy has been profound, influencing tracks like The Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’ (recorded using similar techniques by Brian Wilson), Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’, The Sex Pistols’ ‘Anarchy In The UK’ (featuring over 20 feedback-laden guitar overdubs) and McAlmont & Butler’s ‘Yes’.
One of the more notable producers-as-stars in recent years has been Timothy Zachery Mosley, AKA Timbaland, who is also a performer. His distinctive, shuffling percussion and blunt, heavy basslines formed a kind of narrative to R&B pop in the 00s.
As well as his own records, his production credits include material for Katy Perry, Jay-Z, Chris Cornell, The Pussycat Dolls, Jay-Z, Madonna and Justin Timberlake.
Canada’s Nelly Furtado was pretty dull before Timbaland challenged her to make an album in a genre that he knew full well she didn’t like, inspiring a newfound respect in her for that type of music.
Though the album, Loose, was enormously successful, it faced the same criticism as a lot of Timbaland records: that, like Spector, the album is overshadowed by its production. Sure, it provided a career boost to Furtado, but she didn’t sound like Nelly Furtado any more. The records that Timbaland produces sound like Timbaland rather than retaining the identity of the performer. Timbaland has also faced his share of controversy, in the form of accusations of plagiarism after apparently using an uncredited sample on Furtado’s ‘Do It’ – though I’m pretty sure that, unlike Spector, he’s never shot anyone [In 2009, Phil Spector was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 19 years in prison – legal Ed.]
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Princess Stomper is a former magazine contributor and music researcher, who now works in a marketing department for an academic organisation. She lives in the English countryside and runs the Reinspired blog.