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Baker's Dozen

Prophets, Seers & Sages: Tony Visconti's Favourite Albums
Julian Marszalek , October 31st, 2012 09:01

While the veteran producer has recently been remastering T. Rex's The Slider for its 40th anniversary re-release, he found time to pick out 13 of his top records for us


Les Paul And Mary Ford – The Very Best Of…
I cannot divorce Les Paul from Mary Ford although he eventually did [laughs]! That woman had a voice like honey. If you hear her singing ‘How High The Moon’ where she triple-tracked or quadruple-tracked her voice and these were the days when no one was doing that… and she was the first woman or first vocalist to do this. People often underplay how perfect her voice was and how beautiful it was. Her phrasing was incredible. She was a jazz singer and a country and western singer as well and she was able to incorporate both of those styles with her little glides and her little swoops.

But before Autotune, before Melodyne and before Pro Tools, this woman sang perfectly, 100% in tune. That was extraordinary. So you can imagine how she just got the headphones on and sang these sweet harmonies. I really try to give her full credit but the genius here is truly Les Paul. He was amazing at speeding up tapes, slowing down tapes, turning one guitar into a compete orchestra with string parts and percussion parts like it was a xylophone. He was a very accomplished jazz guitarist and he had these incredible jazz licks. They were pop records but they were soaked in jazz and swing and Mary Ford’s country and western stylings and of course Les Paul invented the eight-track tape recorder. He gave the specification to Ampex and they built a one-off because they thought no one else would want this. And for a while, Les Paul had the only eight-track in the world.

I went up to him at a concert – and I met him because he’s my idol, you know? – and he was about 85, 86-years-old and I bought a t-shirt so that he could sign it. So I said "Les Paul, glad to meet you. I’m a record producer and here’s a t-shirt and could you sign it, but I gotta tell you that if it wasn’t for you I would never have become a record producer."

And he just went "yeah, yeah. Next!" [laughs].

And I thought "how lovely; I’ve had my wrist slapped by Les Paul." I’ll never forget that day. I met him afterwards in other circumstances but there he’d just got off the stage and there was a queue of people with the same t-shirts and he just wanted to go home!

I love what he did. Millions of words are written about him but Les Paul changed everyone who’s in music’s lives. Everyone.