March 31, 2013 3:00pm PT by Steve Bloom
5 Essential Phil Ramone Recordings
Revered music man Phil Ramone was nothing if not productive. During a 50-year career, his production polish touched hundreds of albums spanning multiple genres, including jazz, folk, rock and pop, earning him 14 Grammy Awards.
Ramone died Saturday morning in New York City at the age of 79, prompting many of the world's biggest music talents to sing his praises on social media and beyond.
Narrowing down such an enormous trove of monumental musical output to a handful of albums, while a daunting task, makes it all the more deserved. Below: Earshot's picks of five Ramone-produced albums every music fan should know.
1. The Stranger – Billy Joel (1977): The first pairing of Ramone and Joel struck gold. The album’s a hit parade, with Record of the Year “Just the Way You Are,” "Movin' Out," "Only the Good Die Young," "She's Always a Woman” and "Vienna.” But it’s Joel’s culinary opus "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” that still awes 36 years later.
2. There Goes Rhymin’ Simon – Paul Simon (1973): Lots of fun songs on the troubadour’s second solo album and first with Ramone. “Kodachrome” and "Loves Me Like A Rock" signaled a sassier Simon. Ramone spread the love, producing Art Garfunkel’s Watermark four years later.
3. Genius Loves Company – Ray Charles (2004): Recorded a year before Charles’ death, it’s Brother Ray’s “Duets” album. Ramone paired the R&B legend with everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Johnny Mathis. The disc won eight Grammys, including Album of the Year.
4. Smackwater Jack – Quincy Jones (1971): Count Basie alum Jones found a kindred spirit in Ramone, who’d spun the knobs on John Coltrane and Stan Getz dates. Rashida’s dad covers Carole King and Marvin Gaye on this funky slab of early ‘70s soul-jazz.
5. Valotte – Julian Lennon (1984): While Ramone worked with Paul McCartney (All the Best!) and Ringo Starr (Time Takes Time), this session with John Lennon’s oldest son stands out among his Beatles-related projects. The title track -- now relegated to one-hit wonder status -- was a Top 10 smash.
Honorable Mentions: Getz/Gilberto - Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto (1964); Calypso in Brass – Harry Belafonte (1966); Phoebe Snow – Phoebe Snow; “Evergreen” – Barbra Streisand (1976); Flashdance (1984); Stardust – Natalie Cole (96); Duets II – Tony Bennett (2011)
UPDATE: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” as a track on Paul Simon's There Goes Rhymin’ Simon.