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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

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The Incredible String Band – The 5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion
I came to England in 1967 and my boss was the incredible record producer Danny Cordell who had worked with Procol Harum, Georgie Fame, Joe Cocker and all that and he turned me on immediately to them. It had just been released and he played it to me and he said "this band is super! Listen to them!" and I agreed. They had everything I liked about Bob Dylan and Donovan but they were definitely their own and again, I later found out they were Scottish too! They weren’t that far removed from Donovan’s mentality at the time.

They were the first real hippy band that did magical, magical stuff with just acoustic instruments. I mean, some of them might have been pots and pans too like Spike Jones but it was a very organic sound. Robert Williamson and Mike Heron were incredible songwriters. Each song they kind of leapfrogged over each other; one song was written by Robert, one was written by Mike, and then the next one was written by Robert and so on and they shared lead vocals like The Beatles did, and that’s something that you don’t really see or hear anymore.

I also met one of my favourite producers, Joe Boyd, who produced the album and also some of my favourite albums; if I had more space I’d probably have three Joe Boyd albums. Anyway, at the time that I heard this album I played it over and over again and took everything thing that I could from it; I was overwhelmed by the beauty of it and then of course I met Marc Bolan who had a little band called Tyrannosaurus Rex. Marc Bolan was also a fan of The Incredible String Band and I had a chance to try out some of those ideas with them.

The album was very influential to me and my work and remains so to this day. Every one of the albums listed here is on my iPod and these tracks come up on random. I could be walking down the street and I’ll hear an Incredible String Band track and I just grin from ear to ear. It makes me so happy, this album.

Every producer either learns [their craft] in the studio with a great engineer or producer but I never did that tea boy thing. I would just listen to records over and over again and come up with my version of what I thought they were doing. It was bound to be different.

Nowadays, people have such rude manners. They write to me and say [adopts whiny voice] "tell me what microphones you used on Marc Bolan; on his amp, on his voice, tambourine and make it snappy! I’m at university, I’m writing a paper and have to know what he did!" I wrote back politely and said "I won’t tell you a thing because I discovered all of this on my own. Nobody told me how to do it."

I didn’t reply rudely but I did say "figure it out yourself like I did". That was the only way I could learn in those days; I would just listen to records and figure it all out. Although I did ask Glyn Johns how he got the phasing on ‘Itchycoo Park’ because, believe me, I’d have never figured that out [laughs]!


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