Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Great Rock Producers

Behind every acclaimed artist stands a great producer, who, by and large, is mostly responsible for shaping said artist's sonic fundamentals and helping in developing the pertinent artistic vision. Or else to just make really great coffee. But seriously, there has been a handful of distinctive board-manning personalities who have stamped their mark on some of the most celebrated recordings of the rock era:

The word "atmospheric" should be made synonymous with this immensely talented French-Canadian studio whiz, who have worked on everything from U2's "The Joshua Tree" and "Achtung Baby" to Peter Gabriel's "So" and "Us". Lanois's signature sound is a widescreen, ambient-influenced, eclectic blueprint that takes in occasional Third World touches, some industrial tones and traditional folk balladry.

Perhaps the foremost progenitor of archetypal 1980s synth-pop, Hague has sprinkled his fairy dust on albums by New Order, the Pet Shop Boys, O.M.D. and Erasure. Hague's trademark sound comprises polished, hard-edged techno patterns combined with sleek, aerodynamic Kraftwerkian tones that worked to great effect on classic tracks like the Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls", New Order's "True Faith" and Erasure's "A Little Respect".

A studio maven who got his first big break co-engineering U2's historic "The Joshua Tree", Flood (real name Mark Ellis) went on to become one of the most respected names in the business, via Depeche Mode's hugely influential "Violator", the Smashing Pumpkins' epic-sized "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" and Nine Inch Nails' claustrophobic "The Downward Spiral". Specialises in combining dark, industrial tonalities with progressive electronica textures.

While better known these days as a celebrity DJ, Oakenfold initially found fame as a stalwart pioneer of the late-millennium dance scene, manipulating the basic foundations of Balaeric beat, Italian disco and Detroit house to his own unique designs. His singular remixing technique can be heard on myriad works by New Order ("World"), U2 ("Even Better Than the Real Thing"), Massive Attack ("Sly") and the Happy Mondays ("Step On").

The only producer to successfully combine the grandiose sound of full-sized orchestras with lush synth-pop sensibilities, Horn's deliberate overproduction has reaped him due rewards on songs like Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax" and "The Power of Love", the Pet Shop Boys' "Left to My Own Devices" and Yes's "Owner of a Lonely Heart". Also a considered songwriter in his own right, having penned hits for Buggles ("Video Killed the Radio Star"), Grace Jones ("Slave to the Rhythm") and the Art of Noise ("Close to the Edit").

Without Nellee Hooper, there would be no trip-hop. It's that simple. Massive Attack is obviously the biggest beneficiary of Hooper's inventive sonics, but others like Bjork, Madonna, Garbage and U2 have also profited from Hooper's production. Hooper's artistic zenith must be Massive Attack's sophomore album "Protection", a lavish, kaleidoscopic cornucopia of downtempo electronics and orchestral, John Barry-informed strings.


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