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  • Writer's pictureSteven Pluto

My Favorite Record Producers: Martin Birch (27 December 1948 – 9 August 2020)

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

For all the acknowledgment a band or artist gets for releasing a critically acclaimed record; the hidden driving force behind the album is often the producer.

The producer oversees all aspects of the creation of a song or album. These can include a choice of song, choice of musicians, instruments, and vocalist(s) and how those instruments are played, and how those notes are sung as well as where the song or album is recorded. Like a director is to a feature film, the music producer is to a song.

Back in the day before the arrival of streaming services such as Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, and Spotify, you had to purchase your music at your local record store. Since there was no way to hear an entire album unless you bought it, you had to do some homework beforehand. I learned early on that a really good producer can make or break a listening experience. So,I started to take notice as to which producers I gravitated too.

With that in mind, I have decided to make a few posts (in no particular order) on some of my favorite record producers.

Martin Birch was both a music producer and sound engineer. He became renowned for engineering and producing albums recorded predominantly by British rock bands, including Deep Purple, Rainbow, Fleetwood Mac, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, and Iron Maiden.

There are a few reasons why I enjoyed Birch's production style so much. First, I thought that he had a knack of capturing a great performance of the band in the studio. Giving the listener the closet thing to a "live" feel from a studio recording.

Second, even though he always was known for having a guitar-focused approach to his production, you could always hear each instrument in the mix as its own thing. Every single instrument could be heard as distinctly as if each part were done on its own and then successfully put together.

In my opinion, Birch’s biggest contribution to music was that he helped numerous artists in shaping their sound through his belief in the power of a long-term producer/artist collaboration. He engineered and/or produced five Fleetwood Mac albums from 1969 through 1973 and did the same for numerous Deep Purple albums from 1969 through 1977. Birch also produced the first six Whitesnake albums and served as engineer and producer for all of the Iron Maiden albums between 1981 and 1992.

To be honest who knows if any of these bands would have had the global success or sustainability without Birch’s continued work on honing and tweaking their respective sounds.

Essential Listening

1. Iron Maiden – Powerslave (1984)- Birch and the band hit paydirt with Powerslave. The album captured all the signature elements of the band's definitive era in one place- solidifying them as global superstars.

2. Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell (1980)- The first Black Sabbath album to feature vocalist Ronnie James Dio, who replaced original vocalist Ozzy Osbourne in 1979.With Birch on board the band sounded reborn and re-energized proving that there was life after Ozzy.

3. Whitesnake- Slide It In (1984)- The album that proved that no one does power-blues better than Whitesnake.

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