Most of the times even the most talented of bands need a guidance in the studio. I mean, if The Beatles needed guidance, obviously everybody else would need. Maybe Led Zeppelin was an exception but that’s because their guitar player was already a producer.
Anyway, all of this just to highlight the importance of that guy behind the glass yelling, counseling and sometimes forcing artists to do their best. The greatest strength of a producer is to be able to extract the best qualities of the band and fulfill their craziest but brilliant ideas (see George Martin with The Beatles).
And as we just touched on Sir George, I know it is unnecessary to say again, but I’ll say it anyway: since he was The Beatles producer he is not eligible for the list.
So here we go.
# 5 – Bob Rock: Yes, he almost flushed his career down the toilet with the disgusting, horrible, terrible and awful “St.Anger”, but that cannot cloud his other achievements. He was responsible for the brilliant drum sound on Mötley Crüe’s “Dr.Feelgood” which landed him the gig with Metallica on the “Black Album”. And with the “Black Album” he just produced the greatest sounding Metal album of all time. That’s why he deserves the number 5 spot.
#4 – Martin Birch: A lot of people (including band members with whom he worked) complaint about the bass sound in Martin Birch’s productions. And that’s a fact. You just need to listen to the Deep Purple remasters to notice the difference. But that problem was quickly solved when he went on to produce Iron Maiden. Can you imagine anybody tickling with Steve Harris’ bass sound? So, with that out of the way he produced all best Iron Maiden records, which means at least 7 of the 50 best records of all time. Oh, and despite the issues with the bass sound in other productions take a look at the man’s CV: “In Rock”, “Machine Head”, “Burn”, “Stormbringer” (those four as an engineer), “Come Taste The Band” Deep Purple), “Heaven And Hell” and “Mob Rules” (Black Sabbath). Not too bad.
#3 – Kevin Shirley: After a rocky start with Dream Theater’s “Falling Into Infinity” (the fans loathed the production), Kevin became responsible for all Maiden albums after Bruce’s return. If that wasn’t enough, Kevin also produced Journey’s brilliant come back “Arrival” and is now a great partner to maybe who is currently the greatest Blues/Rock guitarist in the world: Joe Bonamassa. Their works together are great and not only on records but also on videos. Kevin still has a brilliant career ahead of him, so he gets the number 3 spot.
#2- Ron Nevison – Well, about this guy I can’t really say anything. Let’s leave that to his CV. As an engineer: “Badco”, “Straight Shooter” and “Run With The Pack” (all from Bad Company), “Physical Graffiti” (Led Zeppelin), “Quadrophenia” (The Who) and “It’s Only Rock And Roll” (Rolling Stones) among others. As a producer: “Heart” and “Bad Animals” (Heart), “Crazy Nights” (Kiss), “Lights Out” and “Obsession” (UFO), “Vital Signs” (Survivor), “Ultimate Sin” (Ozzy Osbourne) and “Out Of This World” (Europe), among others. Do I really need to write anything else?
# 1 – Robert John “Mutt” Lange – I could write about South African “Mutt” Lange just like I did with Ron Nevison, because his resumé speaks for itself: “4” (Foreigner), “Highway To Hell” “Back In Black” and “For Those About To Rock” (AC/DC) and “High N’ Dry”, “Pyromania” and “Hysteria” (Def Leppard). Yes, one would be hard pressed to find a producer with a better CV. However, “Mutt” was also a visionary. He was the guy who noticed Def Leppard’s potential when all the press were slugging them after “On Through The Night” and manage to squeeze out of them a record like “Hysteria” which made them the biggest band in the world in 1987 and is still in the Top 50 biggest selling albums of all time. At the time it was dubbed the Metal version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. And if that wasn’t enough, “Mutt” bedded Shania Twain (one of the hottest chicks EVER) for many years! That pretty much seals the deal. # 1 to “Mutt”.
Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal”.
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