A list of twelve non-Beatles studio albums produced by the "fifth Beatle" George Martin.
By Steven Prazak
George Martin’s place in music history will forever be in cement for his exceptional and deathless production contributions to the legacy that is now and forever the Beatles. Although the Fabs must be line item #1 on the Martin resume, the late Sir George also lent his remarkable ear, arranging gifts and fader fiddling to quite a number of other artists in a variety of spectrums. Here’s a good dozen that deserve a visit.
Stackridge – Man In the Bowler Hat (1974)
[album released in the U.S. as “Pinafore Days”]
Stackridge were a pretty popular '70s touring act in the UK that never managed to sell many albums despite some exquisite song-craft that often came within spitting distance of Beatles-quality on all their five ’71-’76 LPs.
Martin came on board for their third album and brought the already melody and harmony rich West Country (UK) quintet to a new plane. Considered by many as Martin’s finest post-Beatles work, The Man In the Bowler Hat also featured both Martin’s celebrated orch-arrangements as well as piano work, as evidenced on this charmer from side two.
America – Hideaway (1976)
These transplanted yanks came right out of the gate with a hit ("Horse With No Name") amidst much criticism that they were little more than CSNY wannabes (the “Group With No Neil,” as one writer put it). For their sixth album, here comes George Martin adding a noticeable sonic depth and light orch touches that kept America in the American hit parade for some time to come, starting off with this one.
The Action – Shadows and Reflections (1967, UK 45)
The Action, like the Beatles, were a British group produced by George Martin throughout their recording career. For The Action, however, that wasn’t even two years. But left in their wake were five 45s that didn’t sell a lick, but revealed a fine, stomping mod-meets-Motown inspired combo that would reportedly tear the house down nightly. By their final single released in summer ‘67, a melodic maturity set in, no doubt stirred by a post-Sgt. Pepper Martin. The end result is a remarkable harpsichord and horns-lead pop-psych classic that endures to this day.
Jeff Beck – Blow By Blow (1975)
Jazz fusion was new territory for both guitarist Jeff Beck and producer Martin, but both rose to the occasion to such an extent that it revitalized their careers in the mid-70s in a big way—the album is considered by fans to be a high water mark. The music, buttressed to a large extent by the Fender Rhodes of Beck’s keyboardsman Max Middleton, is a glorious affair showcasing Beck’s one-of-a-kind guitar chops running alongside some pretty remarkable Martin string arrangements. The album closer, "Diamond Dust," in particular, is just magnificent.
Edwards Hand – Edwards Hand (1968)
Curious name, but the two are in fact Rod Edwards and Roger Hand, both refugees of the very twee, but tuneful psychedelic band Picadilly Line. For the first of three Martin produced albums, the boys did their Anglo Simon & Garfunkel approach to a brace of folky, very Beatle-esque tunes all under the masterful guidance of Sir George. The ornate and oboe-led "Friday Hill" is a good indicator of the wonders on this LP.
Cheap Trick – All Shook Up (1980)
It was probably inevitable that the always Beatles-tinged Cheap Trick would’ve run across George Martin at some time. That time was 1980. The end result wasn’t quite the “Abbey Road with balls” that folks were expecting, but still pretty damn good, especially the very Lennon-like "The World’s Greatest Lover" that closes side one.
Seatrain – Seatrain (1970)
As close to Americana as the very British Sir George got, which in Seatrain’s case is considerable. The band was comprised of musicians from the rootsy U.S. bands Blues Project, Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band, and Earth Opera. Seatrain’s brand of country-fied get-up-and-go benefited enormously from the rich production Martin brought to the party. This was also George Martin’s first post-Beatles project.
Gerry & the Pacemakers – Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying(45 – 1964)
Despite helming some of the most remarkable waxings of the sixties with the 1964 Beatles, Sir George still managed some time to produce some of the Fabs’ Liverpudlian mates including this terrific ballad from Gerry & the Pacemakers. The tune itself is certainly nice, but it’s the orchestral arrangement that Martin scored it with that sends this song into the stratosphere. The oboe and french horn, always popular Martin musical “messengers,” lead the charge here, especially on the transitions. The arrangement serves as almost a countermelody adding to the falling-then-rising dynamics of this well deserved hit. One of Martin’s personal favorites, and you can certainly hear why.
Paul Winter and Winter Consort – Icarus (1972)
Perhaps forecasting the new age movement by a few years, Martin hooked up with the celebrated saxophonist Paul Winter and recorded this timeless classic that Winter and his musicians still play today.
Mahavishnu Orchestra (with the London Symphony Orchestra) – Apocalypse (1974)
Martin’s taste for orchestral works and his recent foray into jazz fusion with Jeff Beck made his production of the new lineup of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra a no-brainer. Though the orchestral arrangements are credited to Michael Gibbs, this daring LP still manages to carry the George Martin stamp with a remarkable recorded interaction up front and center between both a huge orchestra and the Mahavishnu electric group. Probably the most adventurous record in the George Martin canon. Exhibit A: Vision Is A Naked Sword.
Parrish & Gurvitz – Parrish & Gurvitz (1971)
Despite a record label campaign proclaiming these two as the “next Beatles” (never a good idea, that one!) and somehow—and inexplicably—reminding producer Martin of a budding Lennon & McCartney, Brian Parrish and Paul Gurvitz put together with Martin a quite nice, if straightforward, acoustic rock and harmony-heavy album highlighted by this track. Paul Gurvitz later joined brother Adrian in Three Man Army and then the Baker Gurvitz Army. Brian Parrish fronted the Yes spinoff band Badger for their first album.
The Family Way - Original Soundtrack (1966)
Maybe I’m fudging a bit with the “non-Beatles” column heading here, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include it. Although Paul McCartney gets the largest typeface here, it’s George Martin, as usual, doing the heavy lifting. Martin takes McCartney’s basic melodies and transforms them into a positively gorgeous score that is so British and brilliantly supports the film with which it’s intended. The whole soundtrack LP is just 24 minutes long, but considering what Martin (and McCartney) were melodically up to between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper, it’s required listening by fans of both.
So there’s an even dozen taste of George Martin’s more notable work behind the desk in a variety of non-Beatle (mostly) environments. Did I leave out your favorite?
Steven Prazak is a former A&R consultant with Geffen Records and program and music director with WUSC-FM. His first concert (the Nice and the Byrds) was at the Fillmore East in 1969 when he was all of 11 years old, and was reviewing the first two Alice Cooper albums in Hit Parader magazine the year after. He’s also appeared on numerous national TV wrestling shows over the years as commentator, interviewer, or annoying bad-guy manager, though he’ll deny it. Prazak is presently a marketing content and corporate communications writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find more of Steven's articles for Original Fuzz Magazine, here.
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