Top 10 George Martin Non-Beatles Records
The late George Martin’s exalted stature as history’s best-known record producer may have chiefly been established by virtue of his association with the Beatles. But to dismiss, or even underestimate, his indispensable contributions elsewhere would be a grave error. As proof, we offer a list of the Top 10 George Martin Non-Beatles Records to remind music fans of the many other legendary artists and classic records he had a hand in shaping over the years.
The often neglected Little River Band scored multiple mainstream radio hits in the late ‘70s, culminating in a Top 10 U.S. smash with 1981’s "The Night Owls." Recorded by Martin on the island of Montserrat, both the song and its parent album, Time Exposure, delivered loads of lush harmonies that clearly benefited from Martin's past work with the Beatles.
While John Lennon and George Harrison tapped Wall of Sound legend Phil Spector to produce their solo debuts (and Paul McCartney did everything himself on his), Ringo Starr looked no further than trusted old pal Martin to shepherd his first solo effort, 1970's Sentimental Journey. Even though the collection of expertly arranged and orchestrated big-band standards received a critical bashing upon its release, the ever-genial Starr was quick to clarify that he was aiming to please no one but himself and his parents with the record.
The endlessly infectious-yet-multifaceted power pop featured on Cheap Trick’s first few albums always marked the Rockford, Ill. rockers as eager and unashamedly earnest students of everything Beatles. So, it was no surprise when they jumped at the chance to collaborate with Martin on their fifth studio LP, All Shook Up. It proved to be one of their most distinctive and experimental efforts. What’s more, songs like "Stop This Game" (with its droning piano intro) and "Baby Loves to Rock" (jetliner sound effects behind a lyric about Russia) were filled with subtle acts of Fab reverence.
Paul McCartney’s professional reconciliation with George Martin at the start of the '80s helped revitalize the Beatle's flagging post-Wings career. Even though critics weren't that kind to 1983's Pipes of Peace, fans pushed it to platinum sales behind McCartney’s duet with Michael Jackson, "Say Say Say" – captured with chart-topping perfection by Martin. The title track also became a No. 1 hit in the U.K.
You could almost say that it was Martin who belatedly put the “orchestra” in the jazz-fusion group Mahavishnu Orchestra – by recording and arranging their only collaboration with the renowned London Symphony Orchestra. This album, the group's third overall, reportedly ranked among Martin’s all-time favorite projects. That makes it good enough to land it a spot on our list of the Top 10 George Martin Non-Beatles Records.
Martin's contributions to Mahavishnu Orchestra's Apocalypse may have paved the way to his partnership with guitar wizard Jeff Beck, who had himself decided to dip his toes into the world of jazz-fusion in the mid '70s. On Wired, Beck and Martin corralled an unprecedented assortment of talent (including Mahavishnu alum Jan Hammer and Narada Michael Walden) to help craft a remarkably unique and accomplished LP that explores styles and sounds well beyond jazz, fusion, rock and pop.
George Martin’s innate talent for helping bands craft simple and addictive pop songs shined on his 1974 collaboration with America, who built their platinum-selling career on simple and addictive pop. America had already scored several signature hits by the time Martin worked with them, but they were under pressure to rebound from their third album’s mediocre sales, so they called on Martin to guide the recording of Holiday. The album reached the Top 3, while a pair of singles – "Tin Man" and "Lonely People" – hit the Top 5.
The Beatles' busy schedule meant that, in their heyday, Martin rarely had the time to work with other artists. But one of the few and lucky exceptions were the Beatles’ friendly Liverpudlian competitors (and fellow Brian Epstein clients) Gerry and the Pacemakers, whose Martin-produced 1965 LP Ferry Cross the Mersey doubled as soundtrack to a feature-length film exploiting the hype surrounding Beatlemania. Notably, the album also boasted extensive orchestrations, written, arranged and conducted by the classically trained Martin.
The commercially and critically approved Tug of War was rife with nostalgia, both subliminal and overt, relating to George Martin's and Paul McCartney's shared Beatles adventures – many of which were inspired by the recent and traumatizing murder of John Lennon. "Here Today," McCartney’s loving open letter to his late bandmate, was a highlight thanks to McCartney’s nakedly vulnerable performance and Martin’s brilliant, impeccable orchestral charts.
Blow by Blow simultaneously showcases the incredible versatility of both artist and producer, which makes it an ideal choice to top our list of the Top 10 George Martin Non-Beatles Records. The 1975 LP is a mind-broadening assemblage of funk ("You Know What I Mean"), fusion ("Air Blower"), pseudo-reggae ("She’s a Woman") and sublime balladry ("Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers"). Future guitar heroes like Joe Satriani owe their entire careers to the exquisite atmospheric guitar piece "Diamond Dust," which is expertly backed by Martin-arranged strings.