Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Sound Of Hysteria...

No, this isn't a post about the financial meltdown (great doc on Frontline the other night btw), or about Canadian broadcasters or our ISP's, it's just me and one of my occasional rock n' roll rambles.

There's a musical artist or band's 'sound', like the The Stones, U2, Radiohead, David Bowie, TV On The Radio...and then there's the 'sound' the record producer brings to the table, or in this case, the studio.

But what is a record producer exactly? Well, Wikipedia says:

A record producer has many roles, among them controlling the recording sessions, coaching and guiding the musicians, organizing and scheduling production budget and resources, and supervising the recording, mixing and mastering processes.

The music producer could, in some cases, be compared to the film director in that the producer's job is to create, shape and mold a piece of music in accordance with their vision for the album. Unlike in film, the music producer is seldom responsible for raising the funds to create the record – more like the film director, the record producer is hired by those who have already obtained funding (typically record or publishing companies, though occasionally the artists themselves).

That's what the best record producers are known for...creating, shaping, and molding the music into a cohesive vision or concept album. There have been several notable record producers in the pop music industry over the past several decades: 'Wall of Sound' Phil Spector (The Righteous Brothers); George Martin (The Beatles); Brian Eno (U2, Talking Heads, Robert Fripp); Timbaland (Justin Timberlake); and my personal fav: Robert John "Mutt" Lange.

Lange's resume is pretty impressive...from Graham Parker's Heat Treatment to AcDc's Back In Black to Bryan Adam's Waking Up The Neighbours to Shania Twain's Come On Over and Up! (say what you want against Twain, but her songs and cd's were really well produced)...Lange has been the mastermind and guiding force behind many of the most popular and successful albums of the past three decades.

And in the mid 80's, he produced Def Leppard's Hysteria, which still to this day remains one of my fav 'sonic' experiences. I really love the way that album 'sounds'.

Lange began working towards a signature multi-tracking musical design during Lep's previous release Pyromania, and specifically "Photograph", but he aced the sound with flying colours on Hysteria. Yes it took more than three years to complete, but proof was in the pudding.

Also from Wikipedia:

While Pyromania contained traces of heavy metal, "Hysteria" removed them in favor of the latest sonic technology available at the time. As with Pyromania, every song was recorded by every member in the studio separately instead of the whole band. The multiple vocal harmonies were enhanced by Lange's techniques, even pitching background vocals on all tracks. Guitar parts were now focused more on emphasising melody than hard rock's more basic and cliched riffs.

I'm not surprised the band used the Rockman amplifier, developed by guitarist Tom Scholz, since Boston's Boston album feels like it could be Hysteria's predecessor.

Listen to "Animal" and you'll hear why:

Or "Love Bites":

Other masterful soundscapes from the album: Women, Rocket, Armageddon It, and of course Pour Some Sugar On Me. Actually, one of the episodes of VH1's Classic Albums profiled "Hysteria". Unfortunately, Mutt Lange doesn't make an appearance, but there's plenty of interesting insight into the songs and how they achieved the sound. Here is Part One. You can watch most of the rest of it HERE.

I don't really have a point, other than to say how much I still enjoy the experience of 'listening' to this album. And I'm not talking about lyrics or song meaning or any of that...just the way the sound...the 'production'... hits my ear and reverberates around in my head. It pleases me. Sort of like the CSI franchise...not a lot of substance, but it sure has a great appealing signature 'look'.

Robert John Mutt Lange made sound 'look' good with Hysteria.

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