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by Barry Walters

April 12, 2013

'70s Studio Rock

by Barry Walters  |  April 12, 2013

Studio rock exploits the artificiality of multitrack recording. Creating sounds not found in nature by manipulating the acoustics of indoor spaces, it's generally made with high-end microphones, skilled engineers, analog recording equipment and magnetic tape. Although it started decades earlier with electric-guitar pioneer Les Paul's experimentations with acetate disc recordings, the practice of creating pop symphonies with overdubbed layers of studio-specific sound exploded in the '70s. That was when the influence of The Beatles, their producer George Martin, and similar affiliations from the '60s snowballed as eight-track recording decks turned into 16-, 24- and 32-track rigs designed to create nearly infinite sonic possibilities.

This playlist picks up where The Beatles left off, starting with Klaatu (a Canadian band once rumored to be the Fab Four in disguise), some early Paul McCartney and John Lennon singles, and a Beatles-referencing track by Stackridge produced by Martin himself. From there, '70s Studio Rock draws from several styles of the era but keeps the focus on ensemble playing, layered arrangements, and varying combinations of avant-garde productions and tradition-based tunes. There's soft rock, glam rock, Krautrock, art rock, prog rock, jazz rock, yacht rock, power pop and more, with contributors as diverse as The Carpenters and Can.

But the connections between cuts are just as strong. This was a time when even the right recording engineer could lead his own band: Alan Parsons, who worked on Pink Floyd's hugely popular and influential Dark Side of the Moon and produced several hits here by Al Stewart, Pilot and others, parlayed his skills behind the deck into fronting his largely amorphous but nevertheless successful studio act, The Alan Parsons Project. Top session players were just as likely to create bubblegum for TV actors to mime to (see The Partridge Family) as they were to morph into legitimate, best-selling bands (see Toto). Luxuriate in the boom-time lusciousness of all this excess.

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