Over the last few weeks we’ve been running down some of the greatest and most revolutionary songs and albums in music history. From those that re-defined production methods, to innovative instrumentation and unusual but pioneering song construction. You can read Part One, Part Two and Part Three before you begin this weeks plummet down the list from 70 – 61.
These tracks and albums are not only highly innovative but are regarded by us as being responsible for some of the most important developments in music production. Do you agree with our selections? And who would you like to see featured as we go forward? Please let us know your thoughts!
Without further ado, let us carry on with our journey….
70: THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED Gil-Scott Heron (1970) Producer: Bob Thiele Mixing the hard, crisp sound of a funk band with spoken-word delivery, this track’s sound is as urgent as its political message. Originally recorded just with congas and bongos, the full band was brought in to give it a more mainstream sound. Many regard Scott-Heron as the ‘godfather of rap’.
69: THE WEIGHT The Band (1968) Producer: John Simon
Music From Big Pink, the album this track comes from, didn’t immediately take the world by storm, but it had a profound influence on some of the biggest musicians of the day. For those tired of rock bombast, psychedelic self-indulgence and the increasingly volatile political situation, The Band captured a vibe that seemed simpler, rural and timeless. Recorded at A&R Recorders in New York, drummer Levon Helm and bassist Rick Danko share lead vocals, accompanied by the incomparable Garth Hudson on piano.
68: ANGI Davy Graham (1962 )Producer: unknown
The brief but glorious hiatus between post-Chuck Berry rock n’ roll and fuzzy blues rock revivalism spawned some astonishing fingerstyle acoustic guitarists. They pushed the envelope with modal tunings and complex, jazz-influenced time signatures. However, most of these great players would probably acknowledge Angi as the track that started it all – and if you couldn’t play it, you couldn’t play.
67: HEROES David Bowie (1977) Producers: Bowie/Tony Visconti
Several elements make this recording notable. There’s Brian Eno’s synth drones, performed on an AKS VCS3 and Robert Fripp’s processed feedback guitar. But the big deal is the way Visconti recorded the vocals in Hansa Studios’ huge live room. Using three mics – one close, another 15 feet away and the third at the far end of the room – Visconti used noise gates to trigger the mics. As Bowie’s vocal gets louder, the sound becomes more distant. The fact that it’s a great song probably helps too.
66: SOON My Bloody Valentine (1990) Producer: Kevin Shields
MBV were the doyens of the ‘shoegazing’ scene and their recordings achieved mythical status. Over a two-year period the band passed through numerous studios, but the majority of Soon was recorded at The Garden Studios, Shoreditch, using an Otari MTR90 MkII and an AMEK 2500 desk. Soon appeared on the Loveless album, with Shields playing all the instruments and Belinda’s vocal recorded with a Neumann U89.
65: MOVING ON UP Primal Scream (1991) Producer: Jimmy Miller
On Screamadelica, the Primals struck gold when they found a way to combine their rootsy guitar-driven influences with a new enthusiasm for clubbing. Laying down basic tracks at Jam Studios in Tollington Park (formerly Decca 4), tapes were dispatched to various producers/DJs for remixing at studios around London and beyond. Moving On Up was sent to producer Jimmy Miller with instructions to find a groove that stopped the track sounding like Faith by George Michael or too much like Bo Diddley. A gifted percussionist, Miller (well known for his work on The Stones’ late 60s/early 70s albums) turned out to be the right choice.
64: BORN SLIPPY Underworld (1995) Producers: Rick Smith, Karl Hyde, Darren Emerson
The pounding rhythm of the kick drum had apparently been intended as a bit of a joke, but thanks to a prime placement over the end credits of the film Trainspotting, ended up propelling the band into the mainstream. Fiercely repetitive, the track is typical of the band’s other work, which builds seemingly endless layers of loops and patterns into an intense and hypnotic cacophony of sound.
63: MONKEY GONE TO HEAVEN Pixies (1988) Producer: Gil Norton
Probably the Boston-based band’s most well-known track, Monkey Gone To Heaven was recorded in their home city at Downtown Recorders. The string overdubs were recorded later as the Doolittle album was being mixed. No scores had been written, so cellist Arthur Fiacco had to write a part on the spot with Black Francis and producer Norton directing the violinists. Unusually, this song turned out to be a critical and a commercial success.
62: OXYGÈNE IV Jean Michel Jarre (1976) Producer: JM Jarre
Oxygène IV’s main theme is based on that Johnny B Goode of electronic music – Popcorn. Composed and recorded in the kitchen of his Paris flat using an eight-track and linked Revox tape machines for echo, Jarre’s main synthesizers were an EMS VCS3 and an EMS Synthi AKS, and he made liberal use of an Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phaser. Oxygène’s sales exceed 15 million, and in the 1970s even hip parents would have had the LP. Or maybe a cassette copy.
61: FOOLS GOLD The Stone Roses (1989) Producer: John Leckie
An odd mash-up of indie guitar rock, acid house and high art aspirations all contributed to The Stone Roses’ combustible chemistry. Recorded at Sawmills in Cornwall with John Leckie at the helm, Fools Gold featured a one-bar loop from Bobby Bird’s Hot Pants, a Shaft-influenced bass line, John Squire’s wah guitar and an uncharacteristically pitch-accurate vocal from a whispering Ian Brown.
Join us soon for the next ten of our countdown – what else should be included do you think?