100 Recordings That Changed Music: 50 – 41

Our journey continues! We’ve had a range of responses to our previous instalments of our 100 Recordings that changed music features, with people asking whether specific songs/artist will be included.

We must re-iterate by saying that these are the recordings that we feel have fundamentally changed production methods (and therefore in broader terms, music) in particular ways.  You can read our previous parts here – One, Two, Three, Four, Five

So let’s take the plunge down from the halfway point, from 50-41:

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50: ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER

Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)  Producer: Jimi Hendrix

Bob Dylan’s original recording was a sparse affair, but Hendrix took the song and remoulded it into a rock classic. Recorded at the newly opened Record Plant Studios in New York by engineer Eddie Kramer, the track features multiple guitar overdubs (which took over three months to perfect) mixed with innovative panning techniques. It appeared on Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, one of the first rock albums to be released exclusively in stereo. Dylan was so impressed that he still regularly performs Hendrix’s arrangement in concert.

 

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49:  A WHITER SHADE OF PALE

Procol Harum (1967) Producer: Denny Cordell

With its haunting, Bach- inspired Hammond and stream-of consciousness lyrics, A Whiter Shade Of Pale became the sound of 1967’s Summer Of Love, spending six weeks at the top of the charts. By 1968, cloak-wearing groups using Hammonds and singing pretentious lyrics had sprung up, heralding the arrival of what would soon come to be known as prog rock.

 

48: MUSIC FOR THE JILTED GENERATION

The Prodigy (1994) Producers: Liam Howlett/Neil McLellan

Producer Liam Howlett incorporated the sounds that were being used in rave music – heavy, distorted analogue synths for the most part – and layered them over hyperactive, skittering beats to create a high-energy collage of sound that would go on to influence a generation of electronic producers.

Largely created using MIDI sequencers and old hardware synths, the album does incorporate some sampled elements as well and its sound is hard and heavy, designed for the kinds of sound systems that Howlett was accustomed to.

 

47: OOH LA LA

Goldfrapp (2005) Producers: Alison Goldfrapp/ WillGregory

Although musically somewhat retro – especially in the plethora of vintage synths that can be heard – electronic duo Goldfrapp’s hit single from the album Supernature (recorded in MT’s home town of Bath) kicked off a resurgence of synth pop fronted by female singers that lasted for a number of years.

Harder- edged and more dance- oriented than debut album Felt Mountain, the sound was adopted by many others.

 

46: MOON SAFARI

Air, 1998 Producer: Air

The very epitome of Gallic cool, Air’s debut album was perhaps the best known of the ‘loungecore’ records that followed on from trip hop in the mid and late 1990s. A curious blend of down- tempo and pop, the lush production relied heavily on vintage synths and drum machines, but unlike dance music employed them to create atmospheres and soundscapes rather than fill dancefloors. A reissue of Moon Safari (Virgin Records) in 2008 marked the album’s ten-year anniversary

 

45: REACH OUT (I’LL BE THERE)

The Four Tops (1966) Producer: Holland-Dozier-Holland

Perhaps the ultimate Tamla Motown record, Reach Out (I’ll Be There) certainly shows writer/ producers H-D-H at the peak of their pop- production powers.The backing was provided by the Funk Brothers, Motown’s team of top session musicians, and featured the magnificent bass playing of the legendary James Jamerson, who played on countless Motown hits.

Lead vocalist Levi Stubbs performed the song half-sung, half- shouted after the producers suggested he should try singing in the style of Bob Dylan. Result? A number one on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

44: DUMMY

Portishead(1994) Producer:Portishead

The Bristol band’s debut album broke new ground in splicing together genres and styles of production. In some respects quite lo-fi, it was also incredibly warm and immediate-sounding. Recorded on something of a shoestring using old AKAI samplers among other things, the blending of slowed-down samples, real drums and 60s film soundtrack guitars was done so cleverly that you often couldn’t tell what was sampled and what was ‘real’.

 

43: PAPA’S GOT A BRAND NEW BAG

James Brown(1965) Producer: JamesBrown

By 1965, The Godfather Of Soul was developing the soulful R&B sound of his earlier recordings into something altogether more groovy. With this record Brown pioneered a new musical genre – funk – that would go on to influence other genres in the years that followed. Whereas most pop music relied on the back-beat (beats two and four in the bar), funk took its cue from the first beat of the bar (‘on the one’ as Brown would say).

The original one-take recording was only meant as a run through and was seven minutes long. Edited to 45RPM single length and speeded up by a semitone, it became James Brown’s first US top ten hit.

 

42: WHAT’S GOING ON

Marvin Gaye (1971) Producer:Marvin Gaye

Breaking away from the standard Motown pop sound of his earlier hits, Gaye decided to take his music in a new direction. Motown boss Berry Gordy was reluctant to release the single, believing it to be uncommercial, but Gaye pushed for its release and was rewarded with a huge hit.

The album that followed expanded the spiritual themes Gaye had developed on the single and is now considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time.

 

41: ENDTRODUCING

DJ Shadow (1996) Producer: DJ Shadow

DJ Shadow’s debut album is widely regarded as the first album constructed entirely from samples, with the vast majority of the sounds taken from other hip hop, jazz, funk and psychedelic records as well as spoken-word albums and film soundtracks.

Sampling wasn’t new, but Shadow’s heavy use of the AKAI MPC60 MkII and skilful programming fused into something that set the standard for a new generation of hip hop producers. No more simple looping of funky drums, this was sampling as an art form…

 

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