Lost links & Re-ups

On any post, if the link is no longer good, leave a comment if you want the music re-uploaded. As long as I still have the file, or the record, cd, or cassette to re-rip, I will gladly accommodate in a timely manner all such requests.

Slinging tuneage like some fried or otherwise soused short-order cook

01 January 2008

Music in Transition (Records)

In the '50s & '60s, Tom Wilson was virtually the only African-American record producer working in mainstream American popular music. He was most productive in the 1960s, though he made his first mark in the mid-50s. Having a goal in mind of setting up a record label & recording the most advanced jazz musicians of the day, he formed a label called Transition Records. The label did release several albums, including Sun Ra's Jazz By Sun Ra (or Sun Song) which was Ra's first LP, & the album Jazz Advance by Cecil Taylor. However, the label eventually folded, & most of their material was sold to Delmark Records, a small Chicago-based label.

Thomas Blanchard Wilson Jr. (March 25, 1931 – September 6, 1978) was an American record producer best known for his work in the 1960s with Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Simon & Garfunkel, & The Velvet Underground. He worked for Columbia Records, then went to Verve Records.

Wilson was born in 1931 to Tom & Fannie Wilson. He grew up in Waco, Texas, where he attended A.J. Moore High School. He was a member of New Hope Baptist Church. Tom was known by his initials, T.B. in his youth. While attending Fisk University, Wilson was invited to Harvard where he became involved with the Harvard New Jazz Society & radio station WHRB; to the latter he later credited all of his success in the music business.

After Transition Records folded, Tom went on to Columbia Records. As a staff producer at Columbia Records Wilson was one of the "midwives" of folk-rock.

He produced Simon & Garfunkel's 1964 debut LP Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. which included "The Sound of Silence". Seizing on local radio interest in the song in Florida & inspired by the huge success of The Byrds' folk-rock version of Bob Dylan's "Mr Tambourine Man", Wilson took the duo's original acoustic track & without Simon or Garfunkel's knowledge, overdubbed electric instruments, turning the track into a #1 pop hit, helping to launch the folk-rock genre. Simon and Garfunkel, who had already split, re-united after the hit & went on to greater success.

Wilson's other major achievement was his work with Bob Dylan, producing Bringing It All Back Home. Wilson is credited as one of the producers of Highway 61 Revisited, even though he only produced one song, Dylan's 1965 single "Like a Rolling Stone," where he allowed musician Al Kooper to play the signature organ part, even though up to that point he had only been a guitarist.Tom Wilson should be remembered as the person that gave Dylan his rock and roll sound....indeed, as the person that first got Dylan to "plug in" (on Bringing It All Back Home).

After his stint at Columbia, Wilson moved to Verve. In 1966 he signed the Mothers of Invention to Verve Records & was credited as producer on the group's seminal debut album Freak Out!

About the sessions, Frank Zappa has stated:
"Tom Wilson was a great guy. He had vision, you know? & he really stood by us ... I remember the first thing that we recorded was 'Any Way the Wind Blows,' & that was okay. Then we did 'Who Are the Brain Police?' & I saw him through the glass & he was on the phone immediately to New York going, 'I don't know!' Trying to break it to 'em easy, I guess. Wilson was sticking his neck out. He laid his job on the line by producing the album."

For Verve Wilson also produced The Velvet Underground, featuring Lou Reed, John Cale, & Nico. Another of his Verve production credits was The Blues Project, which featured Al Kooper as vocalist & keyboardist. In fact, Kooper had met & joined the Blues Project after the band had auditioned for & been rejected by Columbia Records, where Kooper had been playing in Bob Dylan's band, which was being produced by Wilson.

Wilson was also credited with producing the first album by Soft Machine.

While it is undeniable that on most of his notable productions, the lion's share of the creative work is attributable to the primary artists, composers & instrumentalists on these recordings, it stands to reason that it is more than mere coincidence that Wilson was a supervising presence at the birth & blossoming of some of the major breakthroughs in American music in the mid-20th Century. From his championing of the innovative early work of Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor & Frank Zappa, to his shepherding of Bob Dylan from standout folk singer to full-fledged legend & voice of a generation; from his resuscitation of a dying Simon & Garfunkel duo, leading them to stardom & making possible the exploration of their unique musical world to his helming the session that yielded "Like a Rolling Stone", often cited as the single greatest song of the Rock 'n' Roll era, Tom Wilson was a crucial force. Though he rarely receives notice comparable with these mammoth achievements, Wilson clearly belongs in the discussion (along with luminaries such as Phil Spector, George Martin, Brian Wilson and Teo Macero) of the most important & influential producers of the 1960s.

1 comment:

  1. ¿Querés ver un blog simple, con mucho contenido, con poesía, literatura, rock, frases y demás?

    Bueno, te invito a que pases por mi blog... hay de eso y mucho más.

    En los links que te dejo está también mi otro blog (donde hay reseñas de discos, etc) y mi página de purevolume, donde subí 4 covers de Bob Dylan que hice yo mismo...

    Un saludo!