George Martin will forever be linked with the Beatles, and deservedly so. Besides the eight years with the Beatles, and his other Beatles projects, he produced many artists before and after the Beatles.
“Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” A huge hit for Gerry and the Pacemakers. The arrangement is delicate, but powerful. A classic piece of pop with just the right amount of orchestration. Martin produced a string of hits for the band including “Ferry Across the Mersey,” “How Do You Like it?” a number one hit, “Hello Little Girl” and others. Martin was also producing Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, The Fourmost and other Beatle-era bands, often covering Lennon-McCartney songs.
“Daisy Jane” America made several albums with Martin in the middle part of the 1970s. Their first collaboration, Holiday, resurrected the band after several under-performing albums. Martin challenged them to write songs up to their ability. He added smart arrangements and they were back with hit singles and an album that became their strongest. Hearts followed, although not as strong of an album, the singles were better. “Sister Golden Hair” rocks out and “Daisy Jane” is a really mature ballad.
All Shook Up Cheap Trick was in a bit of a career change. Bassist Tom Petersson departed, as did their producer, and they moved away from the Beatles-pop of “Dream Police” to more complex, but less radio-friendly material. Enter George Martin. The result was a less successful album commercially, but one that took the band outside their comfort zone, which didn’t please the record company. All Shook Up stands as a growth opportunity for the band, and forty years later they are still taking chances.
Jeff Beck. You might think that this was an old pairing. Blues-rocker Jeff Beck was now on a jazz-fusion trajectory. Martin has worked with jazz artists and orchestras, so this was no huge departure. Together, Beck and Martin made two very good albums, Blow by Blow and Wired. Some of the songs are covers of jazz songs, a few are covers of pop tunes, and the remainder were written by the musicians working on these albums. Both of these albums are near classics. I don’t know what Martin’s role was, but he focused Beck’s arrangements and delivered a sound that stands the test of time.
Live and Let Die. Paul McCartney wrote the theme song to this Bond film, which Martin produced, as well as the rest of the score. This is a powerful song, and Martin helped McCartney through a difficult period in the early 1970s. This song reinforced McCartney’s songwriting and delivering a hit. Their classic Band on the Run album would follow.
El Mirage. Jimmy Webb, an accomplished arranger and producer asked Martin to produce his 1977 album. There are some classic Webb songs here including “The Highwaymen” and “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.” Webb is not much of a vocalist and does not have the charisma of those who made hits of his songs, but with the arrangements, this might be Webb’s best album.
Mahavishnu Orchestra. John McLaughlin, his Mahavishnu Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra all rolled up in a jazz fusion soup. Martin reportedly said it was one of his favorite albums. In all honestly, I’m not very familiar with 1974’s Apocalypse, the resulting album, but I am with McLaughlin, especially his work with Carlos Santana. Much wilder than Jeff Beck’s projects.
Gary Brooker. After Procol Harum dissolved, Brooker enlisted Martin and a small group of stellar studio musicians to work on his first solo album, No More Fear of Flying (1979). It’s relaxed, soulful and thoughtful.
“Candle in the Wind 1997” Elton John asked Martin to produced these new version of the song with lyrics honoring Princess Diana. Martin did the orchestral arrangement, adding tasteful flavor to this poignant song.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Soundtrack. Most people remember what a bomb the film was, and some unusual interpretations of Beatle songs. There were a few good ones on the soundtrack, along with some dreadful ones. “Got to Get You Into My Life” by Earth, Wind and Fire is a very good song. “Come Together” by Aerosmith is passable. “Get Back” by Billy Preston is okay (he played on the original Beatle song). Frampton’s version of “The Long and Winding Road” is not bad.
The Who’s Tommy. Martin had not worked with Pete Townshend until 1993, when Townshend asked Martin to produce the music for the Broadway musical. The show played for more than two years and has multiple revivals and touring productions. Martin won a Grammy for his work.
Comedy Albums. Before the Beatles, Martin produced a slew of comedy albums for some of the best comedic talents in England. Peter Sellers, Peter Ustinov, Spike Milligan, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and David Frost. These are household names now, and their performances reached the world via Martin’s recordings. He recorded many comedy shows and cast albums. This was before Parlophone turned to rock and roll.