Sunday, March 13, 2016

A George Martin Production: Ultravox's Hymn

This last Tuesday, May 8, 2016, renowned record producer George Martin passed away at the age of 90. As most news outlets reported, Martin was best known in his role as the producer of all of The Beatles hit albums save one – “Let it Be.” Although Martin had produced most of the album’s singles and was the original producer on the fledgling album under the working title of “Get Back,” the band replaced him with Phil Spector for the final album release.

During the next week, I’ll be highlighting Martin’s production work. Yes, we’ll be featuring a Beatles’ song or two, but I want to concentrate on some of the other artists he produced. While his work with The Beatles stretched his creativity beyond comprehension, he is one of the best known producers of the 20th century.

One of the groups that he worked with was Ultravox in 1982. This new wave synth band of the 70s and 80s was barely known in the US. Charting at #61, their best selling US LP, “Quartet,” was the only album produced by George Martin. As the band was preparing to record “Quartet,” they sought a new producer and Martin’s daughter Lucy, an Ultravox fan, encouraged her dad to take the gig.

One of the single releases from “Quartet” was their tune “Hymn.” Loosely drawing from biblical language, the band produced what would be best termed as a psalm or song rather than a hymn despite the record’s title. The artwork for the picture disc and the single’s sleeve used Masonic emblems go figure.  While “Hymn” was the band’s fourth most popular release in the UK and charted at #11, it failed to make a dent in the US charts. Ultravox’s only single to chart on the Hot 100 was “Quartet’s” previous single “Reap the Wild Wind,” which only made it to #71.

Enjoy this week of George Martin production and remember this man behind the music.

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