While listening to Eric Clapton's "Journeyman," a "Slowhand" record I like a lot and a record I imagine came 20 years too late for some of you, I was reminded of just how wrong some of it sounded, specifically, the production on the cover of "Hard Times."
"Journeyman" was released in 1989 and produced by Russ Titleman, a name we all know, and a producer who has amassed a respectable body of work, not to mention winning the Grammy for "Journeyman." The record suffers, as most records of that era do, from the unfortunate use of drum and bass sequencing, Fairlight computers and an overall Brylcreem slickness that can, at times, ruin a perfectly good take. And while there is enough to like on "Journeyman," this is about what I don't.
As a producer, is it Russ Titleman's job to simply go with the times or to help create a sound that is right for the artist? When a producer takes on someone as enormous as Eric Clapton, does he surrender all but his name? In the case of Clapton, we know now that 25 plus years later, Eric has made some terrible musical choices, yet he and Titleman created 1994's "From The Cradle," which by and large, worked well. It was simple, raw and even had some balls. It sounds like the record it is supposed to be. This makes me think that the cheese on "Journeyman" was intentional. And if it was intentional, does this still make Titleman a good producer? Didn't he hear the schmaltz and the late night cocktail bar sax tone on "Hard Times?" Or was it both his and Eric's choice to make a record for 1989 because they both thought that was best for this guitar hero?
Another record that immediately comes to mind is Joan Osborne's 2002 R&B covers release, "How Sweet It Is," a record that was intended to get this amazing voice and talent back in the spotlight. On paper, it was perfect. But John Leventhal, another major talent, produced all the grit and grime right out of its soul. Drum machines on Motown and Otis covers? In this case, Leventhal must have had more control over the project than Osborne, so what was HE thinking?
By now, we have all read the Andy Partridge/Todd Rundgren soap opera. And we all have producers we love and hate. Don't get me started on T-Bone Burnett!
But is there a specific record that you feel was either ruined by its producer or because of its producer, became something it might not have in the hands of someone else? I would leave the 60's alone on this one. Maybe most of the 70's, too.