Mutt Lange: a guide to his best albums

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Synonymous with Def Leppard polish and dirty AC / DC boogie during their ’80s career highs, Robert John’ Mutt ‘Lange (the nickname comes from his childhood) has been aptly described as the producers’ James Cameron. of rock. But dig deeper into his resume and you might be surprised to find that the reclusive South African-born producer began his career with R&B pub rockers Graham Parker and The Rumor, The Motors, prog-pop group City Boy, country bands Clover and Outlaws; and blues rockers Savoy Brown.

So many technical feats and skills that any good producer can possess, what separates a good producer from a great producer is the same as what makes a great manager: one who encourages, inspires and develops those around him so that he can ‘they are even better. Talented bassist and trained singer, Mutt is an accomplished musician in his own right, perfectly placed to understand and respect the state of mind of his proteges. As such, Def Leppard and AC / DC took it to heart. For both groups, Mutt produced the best-selling albums of their careers following their respective tragedies.

Def Leppard bassist Rick Savage simply considers Mutt a genius. Guitarist Phil Collen credits him with improving his playing when he joined the recording of Pyromania. “When I met Mutt my game changed – as a producer he makes you play a lot better,” Phil said. “He improved my game 100%. He does that to everyone he works with.

When registering Back in black, Brian Johnson was encouraged by Mutt to sing even louder than he thought possible, pushing him to the top of his abilities and emphasizing precision – as evidenced by the opener The bells of the underworld. “I didn’t know I could sustain notes like that,” Beano said of his DC debut.

A teetotaler known for his long hours of work – a dedicated work ethic not to everyone’s liking – Lange’s attitude towards production is to cultivate, improve, and polish a piece of music over and over again to ‘so that it is irreproachable. It is a meticulous and meticulous attitude to work and without a doubt the mark of a perfectionist.

Notoriously private, Mutt is known to have participated in only one interview in his entire career – for the The BBC’s 1989 documentary Def Leppard, Rock of ages. “We would just take each song and try to elevate it to the level of a rock classic,” Mutt said of his collaboration with Def Leppard on Hysteria. “We refine and refine and refine until the music itself is right.”

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AC / DC – Back In Black (Albert, 1980)

Having proven itself on Highway to Hell, Mutt was the sure pair of hands AC / DC needed following the trauma of Bon Scott’s death and the need to found new lead singer Brian Johnson. As that muffled, spiky guitar count suggests in the title track, AC / DC recorded Back in black live rather than using overdubs.

With sheer, bloody focus and determination in spades, they didn’t even use a click track thanks to human metronome Phil Rudd. The third best-selling album in history is Mutt Lange’s greatest achievement. The beauty of Back in black is its ability to give dirty, jagged sound while still delivering perfectly polished audio capture.

Foreign – 4 (Atlantic, 1981)

Foreign registration 4 was an intense affair in which even the usually placid Mutt lost his temper. The recording session lasted almost a year – a staggering 10 months – one of the longest ever recorded for a single album, especially an album under 45 minutes.

Even though the best-selling single Waiting for a girl like you was in the box after just two takes, studio budgets and deadlines were shattered, with recording costs reaching over $ 1 million. Guitarist Mick Jones took production credit on the album, ending when Mutt turned his attention to Pyromania. Although Mutt helped with the songs, he received no writing credit.

AC / DC – Highway To Hell (Albert, 1979)

The first of Mutt’s legendary AC / DC production triptych (the third being For those about to switch), the heavy blues of ‘DC was the perfect bridge for Mutt after his previous work with Graham Parker and Savoy Brown. Persuaded by their label to drop longtime producer George Young (Malcolm and Angus’ older brother) for a “name,” they hired Mutt after a mutual dislike of engineer Jimi Hendrix Eddie Kramer.

Mutt coached Bon Scott on coordinating his breathing technique – as demonstrated on bursting lungs Touch too much, with Mutt providing melodic backing vocals. Even more controversial, he even trained Angus, already an expert, on his guitar solos.

Def Leppard – Pyromania (Vertigo, 1983)

Def Leppard’s third album was their second with Mutt after his work on High ‘N’ Dry. Mutt saw the potential of the group seeing them live and described them as rough diamonds that he could shape and polish. Smoothing out the more angular edges of the band’s Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy influences into radio-adapted rock, that’s exactly what he did.

With the inevitable liquidation accusations, the band’s new sound had its heavy metal detractors, but thanks to a solid rocker. Photograph and hymn Rock of ages (with the introduction in German of Mutt’s comedy), Pyromania peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Albums chart.

Cars – Heartbeat City (Elektra, 1984)

Heartbeat city was The Cars’ fifth album – their first four were directed by Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker. This marked the group’s commercial peak, but at a cost. The recording lasted six months – much longer than the band liked; their classic debut was completed within a week.

Used to spontaneity, the hard work left The Cars demoralized by Mutt’s meticulous technique, who spent days achieving just one perfect sound. Rick Ocasek vowed to never make an album the same way again. He self-produced the sequel to The Cars in 1987 Door to door (in a month) but worn out by the fame and fallout from Heartbeat City’s quadruple sales of platinum, he leaves the group which then separates.

Graham Parker – Heat treatment (Vertigo, 1976)

One of Mutt’s first jobs after working with City Boys and Kevin Coyne, Heat treatment capitalized on R & B / new wave rocker Graham Parker ‘s scorching debut Howling wind (Produced by Nick Lowe and released just six months ago.)

By comparing, Heat treatment was a more mature, smoother, and quieter affair, but it emphasizes the rapid growth of Parker’s singer-songwriter – comparable to Elvis Costello but maintaining a swaggering air like Dr Feelgood. Looking back, Parker has described somewhat unfairly Heat treatment as one of his least favorite albums, describing Mutt’s production as “stiff”. But for a 27-year-old producer, he still shows a lot of potential.

Boomtown Rats – The Art of Surfacing (Ensign, 1979)

Geldof and the guys hired Mutt to produce their first three albums before moving on to Tony Visconti. Surfacing was their third and most diverse survey effort. The ominously prophetic subject of the first single I do not like Mondays scored them their second single # 1 after Rat trap of Tonic for the troops, with Geldof inspired by Mutt’s professionalism.

“Because of Mutt Lange, I had already started to write with structure and melody,” said Bob du TFTT sessions. “I wrote She is so modern and Mutt said, ‘it’s a pop song’ ”. Surfacing built on this success by broadening their sound while remaining resolutely Irish, which distinguishes them from the generic American new wave groups of the time.

Muse – Drones (Helium-3, 2015)

Prior to the recording, singer Matt Bellamy was concerned that Mutt would spawn Muse with inappropriate commercial sound. But conceptualism stripped of Drones received applause from the general public as well as from the heavy metal and prog press.

It won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Rock Album, proving that Mutt still has what it takes in the 21st century. “He looks like a person who hasn’t lived under the constraints of society or normal life for a very long time,” said Bellamy of Mutt. “You feel like you’re in the presence of some sort of guru or spiritual stranger. “



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