Published Feb 01, 2000Album producers are like film directors to the musicians' screenwriting and acting. These four gentlemen are auteurs and sound sculptors in the pop/rock genre, name-dropped frequently enough to warrant the suffix "-esque."
A major influence on the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Motown hit factory, and bubblegum music right up to the New Pornographers and Apples in Stereo. Spector is the architect of the "Wall of Sound" effect, in which a rock orchestra with strings, horns, pianos, drums, and vocals are all recorded in one room, causing the lead vocalists to sing melodramatically above the fray; the resonant cacophony of the room acts as a texture in itself. A nasty sociopath in his personal life, Spector's musical bombasity mellowed on later recordings for the Beatles and the Ramones. "Spector-esque" refers to dense and dramatic production on fluffy classic pop material.
Seminal recordings: The Ronnettes "Be My Baby," "Walking in the Rain" "I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine"; The Crystals "Da Doo Ron Ron," "He's a Rebel"; Righteous Brothers "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," "Unchained Melody"; Ike and Tina Turner "River Deep Mountain High"; Ramones "Do You Remember Rock'n'Roll Radio?"
A founding member of Roxy Music in 1971, Eno's early solo works of avant-garde songcraft culminated with Another Green World before he became an ambient pioneer and renowned producer. His Ambient series elevated the concept of functional aural wallpaper to a creative art form, spawning everything from new age atrocities to the electronic textures of the Orb and atmospheric rock. Although Eno chummed around with the likes of Robert Fripp, much of his aesthetic was less about musical proficiency and more about mood and emotion. His work with David Byrne pioneered the use of sampling in dance music, and his work with U2 and James brought subtlety to stadium rock. "Eno-esque" refers mostly to ambient textures in dance or rock music.
Seminal works:Brian Eno Another Green World (EG, 1975), Ambient 1: Music For Airports (1978); David Bowie Low (RCA, 1977), Heroes (RCA, 1977), Lodger (RCA, 1979); Talking Heads Remain in Light (Sire, 1980); Brian Eno & David Byrne My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts (Sire, 1981); James Laid (Mercury, 1993); Passengers [Eno and U2] Original Soundtracks 1 (Island, 1995)
A guitarist from Hamilton, Ontario who got his chops working with the likes of Raffi and Sylvia Tyson, Lanois studied under Eno in the early 80s, using Eno's approach with bands like Martha and the Muffins and Parachute Club. Influenced by Toronto guitarist Michael Brook, Lanois refined the Edge's signature guitar sound on U2's Unforgettable Fire. On subsequent work, Lanois meshed his Canadian folk roots and interest in Acadian and New Orleans rhythms into an atmospheric, languid production style. Like Spector, Lanois believes in the sound of a room while recording a band together, adding an ambiance that became increasingly rare in mainstream 80s and 90s recordings. "Lanois-esque" refers to a genre-less ambiance melding folk, country, funk, and Eno-esque production.
Seminal works: M+M Mystery Walk (Current, 1984); U2 The Unforgettable Fire (Island, 1985); Neville Brothers Yellow Moon (A&M, 1988); Daniel Lanois Acadie (Opal, 1989), For the Beauty of Winona (Warner, 1992); Emmylou Harris Wrecking Ball (Elektra, 1995)
A Chicago guitarist who started with the heavier-than-thou Big Black in the mid-80s, Albini is known primarily for his ability to successfully capture the intensity of aggressive bands; his work with the Pixies defined what would later be called "grunge." Albini's approach sounds anti-digital, and captures a fury that often sounds downright frightening on disc. Recently, he has increasingly worked with softer acts like Palace, the Sadies, or Low, where his bare-bones aesthetic brings a vivid texture to the work. He has hung around a lot of Canadians (Shadowy Men, Phleg Camp, Thrush Hermit, King Cobb Steelie). "Albini-esque" generally refers to in-your-face guitar and drum sounds. .
Seminal works: Pixies Surfer Rosa (4AD, 1988); The Jesus Lizard Goat (Touch and Go, 1991); Nirvana In Utero (DGC, 1993); PJ Harvey Rid of Me (Island, 1993); Neurosis Times of Grace (Relapse, 1999)