Well, I did get this book -- The Encyclopedia of Record Producers by Eric
Olsen, Paul Verna and Carlo Wolff, Billboard Books, 1999. Here is the
"In my view, the record producer has three main functions: (1) to lead and
direct, as in film director; (2) to observe and advise, as in consultant;
and (3) to provoke and stimulate, as in catalyst."
OK; fair enough and I guess general enough, though I can think of a whole
host of producers who did more a LOT more than that to pick up a paycheck.
How about reading a score along with an
orchestral performance to scout for clams? The authors are at pains to
point out the record producers who cannot read music, or can't operate a
mixing console, as though illiteracy in one's
profession is something to be praised, as if it is a kind of miracle. Well,
what is it that a symphony conductor does? Raises music out of the air with
his/her hands and eyes -- is that a miracle?
Is he/she a "non-performer"?
After a cursory glance at its 893 pp., I have to say I cannot condemn it
altogether as there are entries here on people I have met, known fairly
well and at least one person I have had the pleasure
of working with myself. Any book that would mention them cannot be all bad.
And it does cover in some depth people that I would like to know more
about, like Leslie Kong. But....
From the perspective of early recording, it doesn't bring anything to the
table. The earliest involved producer who has an entry is John Hammond,
whom they call "the most important nonperformer in
20th century popular music." I wonder what Chris Albertsen would say about
that. No one named Gaisberg or Kapp, no Tommy Rockwell, Mayo
Williams, Ed Kirkeby, Ben Selvin, Nat Shilkret. It is
heavy on producers of the 60s-70s-80s. There is stuff here that would drive
some among us crazy; to wit, this excerpt from the Hammond entry,
describing a recording made in 1930:
"12-inch 78s ran about five minutes a side and were recorded with one
microphone, direct to acetate."
And there are numerous "misteaks" of a copy-editing nature, which drive ME
crazy. There is one in the first statement I quoted, which I copied
The only classical producer included is Kurt Munkacsi, who has produced
most of Philip Glass' albums. Attached to the John Hammond article is
a sidebar about his son, who is described as "the most
important white country blues player of the last 30 years" -- superlatives
are never far from hand in this book. But alas, John Hammond *fils* is not
a record producer. Perhaps this sidebar could have
been kicked to the curb in favor of an article about Walter Legge.
To be fair, the editors state that "our pre-40s coverage is limited to a
handful of the greats," but they could have summarized the pre-1950
evolution of record production in a paragraph or two, and didn't.
They do not take a stance on who the first producer might have been, or how
the term came into usage. There is a section in the preface entitled "The
Producer as Star" and I'm under the impression that is
really the thrust of this tome. There are numerous entries about artists
who are producers that mostly produce their own stuff, unless of course you
feel that "Seaside Woman" by Suzy and the
Red Stripes is more important in Paul McCartney's oeurve than "Band on the
Run" or other things that he is really noted for. This can be significant;
I do not think the debut album by The Specials
would have been as good as it was if Elvis Costello hadn't produced it. But
just the same, as in the case of Becker and Fagan, Paul Simon and others
who get their own entries here, their work as
producers is principally done in support to their work as artists (Costello
isn't included, by the way.) And of course, there are entries that I
altogether disagree with, such as one for Spot, whose
production work is always the weakest element of the albums that he worked
on, but I digress.
I wondered why no one here seemed familiar with this book. It has some nice
things in it, but I would suspect the field of record production, and
producers, is still wide open in a research sense.
Uncle Dave Lewis
On Thu, Apr 19, 2012 at 11:03 PM, David Lewis <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I agree with the notion that the producer of a recording is sort of like
> the director of a film. Early guys like the Gaisbergs, Jack Kapp, Mayo
> Williams and Tommy Rockwell fit the modern profile as well as anyone. But
> I'm not sure that what constitutes "production" was handled from a single
> kind of professional in relation to the recording itself; some fit more in
> the role of engineer as we understand it. But there were fellows in the
> 1920s like Ed Kirkeby who would book a pool of musicians to record a slate
> of songs in stock arrangements, which he would supervise, and not always
> lead; or Clarence Williams who block-booked sessions of songs from his
> publishing concern and led the band. In such cases, the record company is
> working with a client who in effect "produces" the records. Publishers had
> a lot of influence over what was recorded before World War II; after, the
> publishers were there, but by then, artists were working with more autonomy
> in regard to material. I understand there is an encyclopedia of producers,
> but I have only been able to tip into it here and there and do not know if
> they have developed a criteria as to what a producer is. Anyone have it?
> On Thu, Apr 19, 2012 at 10:02 PM, Roger Kulp <[log in to unmask]>wrote:
>> I may be wrong,but weren't Moses Asche,and Norman Granz,among the first
>> to be called "producers" in the late 1940s? This would be on 78s,just after
>> the war?
>> Was Alfred Lion even credited before the Lp?
>> From: Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Sent: Thursday, April 19, 2012 2:31 PM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Producer Credit (was: Digest - 17 Apr 2012 to 18
>> Apr 2012 (#2012-105)
>> I think the term "producer" is a relatively new (maybe 1950's, commonly
>> seen in the 1960's) term for what used to be a "record company man
>> overseeing the recording session." The term "A&R man" is older and
>> basically covers the same thing. "Talent scout" was also used for the early
>> "recording trips" undertaken by the American companies in the 1920's.
>> "Recording supervisor" and "recording director" were also used. The job
>> evolved to where it was, literally, producing a "production," to the point
>> of weeks or months of sessions and non-linear recording of different parts
>> (overdubbing, comping, etc). Back when the talent gathered around a horn or
>> a microphone and performed all together, all at once, the role was more
>> "A&R" (artists -- lining up the sessions, booking the artists, deciding
>> what talent made the grade for release -- and repertoire -- knowing music
>> and performance well enough to know what was a good take, what songs would
>> likely be hits from that
>> artist, etc). Today a "producer" seems to be part schedule-juggler, part
>> mixing engineer, part recording engineer, part musician and part record
>> company executive. If you want a purer notion of a "producer", I think
>> about Alfred Lion at Blue Note. He owned the record company, oversaw the
>> sessions (which for years involved complete takes of musicians playing all
>> together at the same time), decided on the album sequences, oversaw the
>> design of the covers and marketing materials, and planned the next step for
>> his aritsts. A varient of a classic "producer" would be Quincy Jones, who
>> could act as talent scout, talent coach, arranger/conductor, session
>> organizer and director of recording and mixing.
>> The term "producer" is thus somewhat fluid and it doesn't mean the same
>> thing to everyone in every era.
>> -- Tom Fine