Apr 152014

This may be well-known around these parts, but Chris Charlesworth is re-running a Crawdaddy piece on his blog that The Who tweeted out this week. He says:

The Who had blazed a trail with their state-of-the-art amplification but as home stereos became more sophisticated in the early seventies their records somehow lacked the clarity of their rivals. To remedy this, for the Who’s Next sessions they bypassed Kit Lambert in favour of the technically more accomplished Glyn Johns, who produced nine tracks of such sparkling clarity that The Who sounded like a new band.

It always bugged me as a kid that Beatles and Led Zep albums just sounded better than The Who albums that were released about the same time. Now I see that the finger is pointed at Kit Lambert. Does anyone know if there are any good remastered versions of the early albums to be found?

Jan 312014

A lot of XTC fans (not I) feel that Skylarking is the band’s album. There are many stories of Andy Partridge‘s frustrations with the heavy hand of producer Todd Rundgren. This interview with Todd on working with Laura Nyro is telling. Man, it’s got to be hard to put your work in the hands of an equally driven, iconoclastic producer. Good stuff all around!

Jan 032013

George and America Do Ringo

This post’s title pretty much asks all I want to ask: Excluding Beatles records, solo Beatles records, and for the sake of argument pre-Beatles records (eg, Goon Squad recordings), what’s the best single recording birthday boy George Martin, who turned 87 today, has produced? It doesn’t need to be an entire album; it can be a single song.

Is it Cheap Trick‘s “Dream Police” (the song) All Shook Up? Is it something by America? Is it Stackridge‘s “Pinafore Days”? Unless something is slipping my mind it may be—I can’t believe I’m typing this—Jeff Beck‘s groundbreaking fusion album, Blow by Blow.

Regardless of the seemingly tremendous gap between his work with the Beatles and any other record he produced after them, Happy Birthday! Your value as the Fifth Beatle far outweighed your contributions as the Fourth American.

May 112012

I’d forgotten about this little hit song of Dave Edmunds, “Slipping Away.” It’s got a lot in common with one of ELO’s last hit songs, “Don’t Bring Me Down.” That song and this Edmunds production by ELO’s Jeff Lynne set the stage for a decade of constipated production jobs by Lynne for already established tight-ass artists Edmunds, George Harrison, and Tom Petty. I don’t necessarily dislike the records Lynne produced for these artists, man, get these guys some bran muffins!

Apr 262012

Photo by Dan Burn-Forti

Nick Lowe’s 45-year career as a singer-songwriter, record producer, and all-around musical instigator is a one-man Village Green Preservation Society, to quote the Kinks’ 1968 mission statement. After brief spell in a Cream-influenced psychedelic rock band, Kippington Lodge, Lowe and his fellow UK mates, including future standouts in the late-’70s new wave scene, got an early start on “preserving the old ways” in the Americana roots-rock band, Brinsley Schwarz. A big push to launch the band in the States flamed spectacularly, and in the US their records would be left for music nerds to dig out of the far reaches of used record bins for the next decade.

In 1976, following the demise of the Brinsleys, he hooked up with veteran Welsh musician and producer Dave Edmunds and carved out a role for himself “protecting the new ways,” as house producer for fledgling punk/new wave label Stiff Records. His “So It Goes” b/w “Heart of the City” was the first single on Stiff, and it heralded the artist’s devil-may-care approach to writing subversive takes on AM Top 40 hits of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. His solo output at this time peaked with his second album, Labour of Lust, on which he was backed by Edmunds and fellow members of Rockpile. The single from that album, “Cruel to Be Kind,” with the shaggy video including scenes from his wedding to Carlene Carter, is the most vibrant expression of the new wave era’s cheerful sense of fatalism. He must have been a good fit for the June Carter-Johnny Cash clan.

As a producer, Lowe made his mark helping Elvis Costello & The Attractions craft a diverse, high-octane run of 5 straight albums in 5 years, including their unexpectedly sincere take on one of Lowe’s Brinsley Schwarz-era hippie goofs, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding.” Known as “The Basher,” for his no-nonsense approach to both work and play, Lowe wasn’t messing around, although frequently it just seemed that way.

By the mid-’80s, despite a few minor hits and continued successful production work, Lowe was losing his way. His records lost their snap. The jokes were growing stale. The snappiest of that run, 1990’s aptly named Party of One, was nevertheless the end of the line for Nick the Knife.

I suppose with my advancing age I’m not quite so interested in tricks in the studio, sort of wham-bam-thank-you-m’am.

A few years later, financially secure thanks to a Curtis Stigers cover of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” being included on the soundtrack to Whitney Houston’s schlock smash, The Bodyguard, a mature Nick emerged. He was done chasing pop stardom, done with dick jokes. He embraced his pop classicism on albums like Dig My Mood, The Convincer, and At My Age. His latest album, The Old Magic, goes even further in this vein, skirting the raunch of rock ‘n roll, soul, and country music for something more akin to early ‘60s dinner club pop balladeering. The new album has been a tougher sell for me than his last few gems, but Lowe’s craftsmanship and comfort in his own skin are impressive. Over the phone, Lowe was as warm, open, and engaging as his music might suggest. He made a couple of mentions of the thrill of meeting and playing with one of his own heroes, the recently deceased Levon Helm, and his new musical friends, Wilco. A thrill’s a thrill, whether it’s the thrill of looking backward or the thrill of looking ahead.

RTH: I was looking at your tour schedule and was saddened to see that this coming Saturday you were supposed to play a Midnight Ramble show with Levon Helm. I know you’d appeared with him on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle, which I didn’t get to see. Had you met Levon before, say in the Brinsley Schwarz days?

NICK LOWE: Yes, I sure did. The Brinsleys had a house just outside of London., where we all used to live together. One day some people phoned up and said the Band, who were doing a big show at Wembley, in 1972 or ‘73, needed a place to rehearse. These people said, “Can they come out to your house and rehearse?”

They hadn’t played for a while. We just couldn’t believe it, we were such big fans. Anyway, they all turned up, they played on our equipment, you know, ran once through what they were going to do on the show, and off they went again. I might have said, “Hello.” It was a huge thrill.

RTH: When you played with Levon on Spectacle was that the only time you’d performed with him? Continue reading »

Apr 172012

Dear RTH, I’m writing to ask for your help. After my trip to the Experience Music Project, where I was able to see and hear lots of beautiful guitars, I’m still confused about this concept of “wet” vs “dry” sound. I’ve been trying to understand the differences, especially in light of Mr. Moderator’s musical preferences, and just when I think I have it sorted out, some track completely throws me into the spin cycle.

Could you please post your favorite “wet” and “dry” tracks so that I can better understand these sonic labels?

Much obliged, LMKR

Jan 202012

For those whose time isn’t sufficiently wasted, I invite you to remix a few Paul McCartney songs. Especially those who believe he got it all wrong. Call it “Macca as his music was meant to be heard.”


Actually, I think McCartney got it right most of the time behind the board His drum and bass tones have rarely been matched, even by more experienced producers. The same can’t be said for Jeff Lynne. It must be that giant mound of hair muffling his ears from that horrible glossy drum effect thingy. Agree? If not, I invite to nominate another rock star turned producer who should have left the knob turning to someone else.


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