Friday, July 4, 2008

Alternative-rock mainstay Beck’s new album, “Modern Guilt,” to be released Tuesday, was produced by Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley and “Grey Album” remix fame. Throughout his career, Beck has employed au courant knob-twiddlers, from the Dust Brothers to Nigel Godrich. Each has exerted a strong influence over how Beck sounds at a given moment. At their best - or, if you prefer, their pushiest — producers often are de facto composers.

1. George Martin — How do you turn a scruffy quartet of Liverpudlians into the most innovative act in rock history? Hook ‘em up with the classically inclined yet progressive-minded Mr. Martin.

2. Phil Spector — The progenitor of the so-called Wall of Sound (lots of echo and orchestration), Mr. Spector and his sonic architecture left indelible impressions on artists from Brian Wilson to Bruce Springsteen.

3. Quincy Jones The 75-year-old is legendary in his own right as a composer and arranger. (The theme music for “Sanford and Son,” anyone?) But he found his biggest payday in a former child star, whom he helped turn into the biggest pop star in the world. Michael Jackson’s three albums with Mr. Jones (“Off the Wall,” “Thriller” and “Bad”) were his best and best-selling. He hasn’t come close since.

4. Jeff Lynne — An inveterate wall-of-sounder from his days as the frontman of the Electric Light Orchestra, Mr. Lynne has a distinctive stamp: bright guitars, sunny orchestration and ringing vocal harmonies. Using a pair of unearthed John Lennon demos, he even made the Beatles sound like Jeff Lynne.

5. Brian Eno/Daniel Lanois — How do you take a scruffy quartet of Dubliners and turn them into the most popular band of the past 25 years? Hook ‘em up with master boardmen like Mr. Eno and Mr. Lanois. They’re not shabby on their own, either. Mr. Eno, a Roxy Music original, has done memorable work with Peter Gabriel and Talking Heads, while Mr. Lanois helped revitalize the recording career of Bob Dylan (“Oh Mercy,” “Time out of Mind”).

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