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Invisible Visionaries - the plans

PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2005 11:16 am
by Charlie
To my considerable surprise, I've been told that a new series of ten 30- minute shows has been commissioned by Radio 2, to start before the end of the year.

The theme this time will be Invisible Visionaries - behind-the scenes producers and record label A&R men who changed the course of music.

Avoiding household names like Phil Spector, Berry Gordy, Sam Phillips and George Martin, I'm planning to include John Hammond (whose discoveries ranged from Billie Holiday to Bruce Springsteen, by way of Aretha and Dylan), Chris Blackwell, Nick Gold, Tom Wilson (Dylan, Velvets, Mothers), Ibrahim Sylla, Bert Berns (Twist & Shout, Piece of My Heart) & Allen Toussaint.

PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2005 12:55 pm
by howard male
Well obviously I'm going to have a Seventies perspective on this and suggest Tony Visconti and Eno. Visconti discovered and nurtured both Bowie and Bolan before Eno got his hands on them. And Eno, of course, both as producer and instigator of different writing processes, has done much to change the sound and approach of many mainstream pop and rock acts.

...and

PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2005 4:12 pm
by David Godwin
.. without wishing to start a "folk debate" - could the recently deceased Nat Joseph be considered?

PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2005 4:33 pm
by Charlie
howard male wrote:Well obviously I'm going to have a Seventies perspective on this and suggest Tony Visconti and Eno


No question, they are both important, but they've been featured in documentaries on Radio 2 before, and I don't have any different or extra perspective that could add to existing perceptions, knowledge and acclaim

Suggestion - Jumbo Vanrenen

PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2005 7:41 pm
by Con Murphy
Would producer, engineer and record label owner Jumbo Vanrenen make a good subject?

A&R man at Virgin where he dealt with Jabula, Dudu Pukwana, Rip Rig & Panic and PiL. He ran (possibly launched?) the Frontline reggae label (Mighty Diamonds, Gladiators, etc) and got Orchestre Makassy a Virgin release, I believe.

Then of course he set up Earthworks, which was <i>the</i> label of the late 80s for African releases - the peerless Orchestra Virunga LP, the tremendous Indestructible Beats of Soweto compilation, Thomas Mapfumo's breakthrough LPs in this country, Souzy Kasseya's Le Phenomenal. Need I go on...?

PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2005 10:47 am
by RobHall
I'm afraid that I can't think of any outside of the mainstream, and the bar is set pretty high if they have to have changed the course of music, but here's a few ideas:

Dave Robinson/Nick Lowe at Stiff - surely worthy of mention?

Daniel Lanois - though he follows very much in Eno's footsteps IMHO.

The Mitchell Froom & Tchad Blake team had quite a distinctive sound and were responsible for a number of hits by Crowded House as well as key albums by Los Lobos, Richard Thompson and Bonnie Raitt. Perhaps more to the point, they're half of the Los Lobos side project The Latin Playboys, who caused much interest when played by Eno the last time he was on the show.

PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2005 11:05 am
by NormanD
How about:
Jazz
Milt Gabler (produced Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit", Ella & Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan, Haley's "Rock Around The Clock"
Chris Albertson - Blue Note, etc.
Norman Granz - impressario
Bob Thiele - head of Impulse and Verve

Country
Chet Atkins
Billy Sherrill
Owen Bradley. I think they killed country with strings, but they did make an impact.

Blues
Willie Dixon
Willie Mitchell

etc
Todd Rundgren
T-Bone Burnett

....and how can you forget JOE BOYD??

Norman

PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2005 11:34 am
by RobHall
Jerry Wexler.

Don Law, (thank you Google) who recorded Robert Johnson.

Back to jazz: I think Teo Macero, for his work with Miles Davis, can be said to have changed the course of music. And I'll second Norman's suggestion of Norman Granz.

PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2005 11:39 am
by RobHall
Lee Perry, King Tubby and - I'm no expert - any number of Jamaican producers?

PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2005 11:47 am
by Con Murphy
RobHall wrote:Lee Perry, King Tubby and - I'm no expert - any number of Jamaican producers?


Coxsone Dodd and his Studio One? Or if that's too household a name, what about Leslie Kong, A&R man for Toots & the Maytals, producer of The Wailers and Desmond Dekker, and he ran the Beverleys label (Ken Boothe, Delroy Wilson, Jimmy Cliff, John Holt, etc).

great ideas

PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2005 4:39 pm
by Charlie
lots of useful suggestions

Willie Dixon is very likely, and I realise I'm guilty of a 50s/60s bias. I have a feeling this might run into a second series and I may have to get some people out of my system before I can look up and wander further afield, ie come more up-to-date.

Mitchell Froom is an interesting suggestion, as is T-Bone Burnett.

I wonder if either or both can be pin-pointed as having made enough path-breaking records, which is a major criterion.

Jumbo Vanrenen is a good suggestion, although he was not an in-the-studio producer. But it's true he was a vital A&R man at Virgin, Island and Mango, as well as founding the Earthworks label. I have just started looking at Earthworks as the next candidate in the series about compilation labels on the World Service, while having Ben Mandelson (Globestyle and several good studio productions) in mind for a slot here.

PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2005 5:30 pm
by RobHall
To be honest, I think you would be hard-pressed to make an argument for either T-Bone Burnett or Mitchell Froom if you're looking for evidence that they have produced a body of path-changing records; rather, they each have a particular sound that is identified with their work.

In the case of T-Bone Burnett, should you end up using him as an example, you could make an interesting link to Willie Dixon - T-Bone produced the album that Willie made just before he died and the sound on it - crystal clear and absolutely pristine - is to be marvelled at.

Rob

PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2005 11:03 am
by RobHall
Hi Charlie

A few more occurred to me on the train this morning. Again, apologies for the fact that they're mostly mainstream but, on the basis that it's better to have too many ideas to choose from rather than too few:

Quincy Jones - his work with Michael Jackson alone probably qualifies him for inclusion, but it would be interesting to trawl through his jazz work as an arranger to see what innovations he was responsible for in that sphere. Also, he produced a number of influential soundtracks and TV show themes in his time ("Ironside", "In The Heat Of The Night", etc).

Disco: a whole genre where a particular sound could be taken up as the flavour of the month before being superceded - Giorgio Moroder and Arif Mardin spring to mind.

Motown - Berry Gordy (don't forget he worked with Jackie Wilson before setting up Motown), Norman Whitfield, Holland dozier Holland. Are they missing from your initial list because they've already been done on R2? (Mmm... maybe Quincy Jones has too?)

Sid Nathan at King Records - surely a serious contender?

Arthur Baker - I know that you have an interest in this guy, though I don't know a lot about him myself. According to Wikipedia, he's living in London and has a couple of restaurants. Maybe he should go in with the other disco guys.

Hope this is helpful.

Rob

Steve Alaimo?

PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2005 11:27 am
by Con Murphy
Charlie wrote:I realise I'm guilty of a 50s/60s bias.


and

Rob rather bravely wrote:Disco .


Could it stretch from the 50s to the 70s (I think)? How about music publisher, agent, manager, performer, movie star, TV star, recording artist, songwriter, producer, recording studio owner and record company owner Steve Alaimo. Roll Call:-

Allman Brothers
Betty Wright when she was at her best (Clean Up Woman, etc) (again: I think)
George McCrae - Rock Your Baby
Anita Ward - Ring My Bell
K.C. and the Sunshine Band
Timmy Thomas' Why Can't We Live Together

I concede that this might be getting too far into Guilty Pleasures territory...

PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2005 11:40 am
by Charlie
RobHall wrote:The Mitchell Froom & Tchad Blake team had quite a distinctive sound and were responsible for a number of hits by Crowded House as well as key albums by Los Lobos, Richard Thompson and Bonnie Raitt. Perhaps more to the point, they're half of the Los Lobos side project The Latin Playboys, who caused much interest when played by Eno the last time he was on the show.


The more I think about Mitchell, the better the idea seems - time to draw up a shortlist of seven tracks and put them up against the other candidates. He did Suzanne Vega, of course, and I think Marc Ribot too. Did he do any Tom Waits?

I've looked at his website, and apart from Los Lobos and Latin Playboys there are not enough classics and too much 'alternative mainstream' - Crowded House, Richard T, Bonnie Raitt, three albums by the Corrs. And no, he never worked with Waits or Ribot.