The history of pop music is filled with visionary producers: Phil Spector, Glyn Johns, Phil Ramone, Tony Visconti, Quincy Jones, Babyface, Dr. Dre.
But if one knob-twiddler set the stage for the way pop music would be created in the future it was Beatles producer George Martin, whose 50-year career is explored on the six-disc, 150-track box set Produced by George Martin, due July 17.
In the 1950s, Martin produced a variety of skiffle, jazz and comedy acts for EMI’s Parlophone division. Then in 1962, he took a chance and signed the Beatles, who had been turned down by practically every other label in England. He helped guide the band from its relatively simplistic pop beginnings through its personal and musically diverse swan song, Abbey Road (1969). And with each sonic turn along the way, he helped set new standards in music technology, arrangement and composition.
While Martin is best known for producing the Beatles, he has also worked with a wide array of other acts, including Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Jimmy Webb, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson and Celine Dion.
The first disc of Produced by George Martin features his early work with a range of relative unknowns, including the Viper Skiffle Group, Rolf Harris and Temperance Seven. Disc two comprises many of Martin’s comedy recordings with such performers as Milligan, Sellers and Beyond the Fringe.
Martin’s most important projects from the ’50s and ’60s make up disc three. The Beatles tracks “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Please Please Me” “Yesterday” and “In My Life” are included, as well as songs by Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Dakotas, Billy J. Kramer, the Fourmost, Cilla Black and Alma Cogan.
Long before discovering the Beatles, Martin was a classical musician. The fourth disc in Produced by George Martin explores his classical work and includes tracks by Ron Goodwin, Jack Parnell and the George Martin Orchestra.
The final two discs cover Martin’s first post-Beatles work, including ’70s recordings with Webb, Jeff Beck, Billy Preston and Stan Getz, as well as Martin’s work in the ’90s with Dion, Sting, Jose Carreras, Gabriel, Jackson and Sinéad O’Connor.