MARTIN BIRCH PRODUCED IRON MAIDEN BLACK SABBATH DEEP PURPLE RAINBOW AND WHITESNAKE AMONG OTHERS
Martin Birch, to quote Anthrax’s Charlie Benante on Twitter “produced the sounds to most of our lives”. I agree with him one hundred percent, I had just turned ten when I first hear Iron Maiden, and Martin’s handy work. It was the song “Run To The Hills” off of the K-Tel compilation Masters Of Metal. It was given to me for my 10th birthday, and I have cherished that album, and the bands featured on it since.
That album opened me up to so many artists that I had never heard of previously. A few years later, Maiden really got their hooks in me musically, pun kind of intended.
I was shipped off to Spain for summer vacation, and was forced to take an annual hiking trip with members of my family. On the bus this kid says to me “you speak English, can you translate what the singer is saying between songs?”
I obliged, and a short time later I heard “And this is what not to do if a bird shits on you….” It was Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson introing “The Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner”. I knew “Run To The Hills” but nothing else, those songs, that album instantly captivated me. The trip was over a few days later, and the following day I was on the train going into the city to buy Live After Death and Piece Of Mind.
Before Janick Gers joined the band, Martin Birch was Iron Maiden’s sixth member. He had a way of capturing the band, that to this day I listen to albums like Piece Of Mind, Killers, or Powerslave, and they still sound as great as they did the first heard them. They’re timeless, and don’t sound dated at all. You can essentially say this for every album up until Somewhere In Time.
On that particular album, the band went for more of a brown sound, and incorporated synths as well. The synths giveaway the era in which that and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son where recorded, but those albums still sound sonically great as well. That’s not a knock on them, it’s just when a lot of bands started dabbling with keys.
The title track to Powerslave is one of my go to songs to use when testing out a pair of headphones, or speakers. There is just something about the ending of that song that the drums just sound alive. It sounds like they’re in the room with you, as if you can feel the air being pushed out of Nicko’s snare drum shell, when he hits that end fill. That is all thanks to the work of Martin Birch.
Here’s “Powerslave” off of Iron Maiden’s 1984 album of the same name, produced by Martin Birch:
As good as the band was, and arguably still is, he was always there to guide them, and record them. All of the albums he recorded with the band, all the way up to Fear Of The Dark, all sound great, regardless of how strong the material may be.
He also didn’t seem to be a yes man, which in my opinion helped thrust Maiden into the glory they achieved. Don’t get me wrong, they needed one another to pull it off. But it’s like having that special ingredient to push a recipe over the top. Martin added that to Maiden, and most every other band he worked with.
I hear Martin’s work every day, literally. My default ringtone on every phone I’ve had since Ronnie James Dio passed away is the title track to Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules. Given my age, I had to go back and investigate other albums he worked on. I instantly gravitated to highly influential albums that featured Ronnie, namely Rainbow and Black Sabbath albums.
There isn’t one album that Birch worked on that doesn’t soncially sound great. Even albums like Slide It In by Whitesnake, which recently received the remastered treatment. They updated the sound for 2019, but Martin’s original recordings are still captured the essence of the band in the studio.
So even with it being remixed and remastered, his original engineering on the tracks, and whatever guidance he may have provided them is still at the core of what makes that album and pretty much every other one he’s worked on special.
Here’s Charlie Benante’s Tweet on the passing of Martin Birch:
— Charlie Benante (@skisum) August 10, 2020
Thank you Martin Birch for creating such memorable moments that will live on with us forever. Long live Martin Birch, up Martin Birch!