Producers are an often overlooked but always integral part of the recording process. They're the people who often make the idea come alive. We highlight and celebrate the 50 most influential producers ever. Edited and compiled by Tim Chester.

50DJ Shadow

Remix work – and a stint in UNKLE with his Mo’ Wax boss James Lavelle – aside, Josh Davis has largely kept his production smarts to himself, extending the remit of sampladelica beyond anyone’s imagination. Essentially a hip-hop album, 1996 debut ‘Endtroducing…..’ took sample culture to its (un)natural conclusion as Davis pieced together the entire record from snippets of jazz and psychedelic tunes picked up in record stores, along with cuts from interviews and other hip-hop records, and spliced it all together with his AKAI MPC60. He’s never quite matched this groundbreaking brainstorm, but – in fairness – neither has anyone else. MH

49Paul Epworth

The Grammy Award-winning Paul Epworth, we should say. Adele’s ‘21’ has ensured Epworth will never want for diamond-encrusted mixing desks, but he was already well established as a producer of classy albums on the right side of the cool divide. To that category you can add Bloc Party’s ‘Silent Alarm’, Florence and the Machine’s ‘Lungs’ and even Plan B’s schizoid double. And to top it all, he’s been helping 2012’s future ruler Azealia Banks with her forthcoming debut album ‘Broke With Expensive Taste’. We’ll gloss over the first Kate Nash album. MH

48George Clinton

While George Clinton is perhaps best known for his production on his own work, most notable Parliament and Funkadelic, and creating p-funk, he was also called in behind the desk for Bootsy Collins and Red Hot Chili Peppers for their seminal 'Freaky Styley' album.

47Pete Rock

Making his name with CL Smooth and their seminal 1992 hit ‘They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.), Pete Rock was one of the movers and shakers of a jazzy style of hip-hop practised by Stetasonic, A Tribe Called Quest and, of course Guru and Gang Starr. On his own, Rock has become one of the most influential producers of his era and in his field, credited on Nas’s Illmatic, albums by Redman and Common and Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘Watch The Throne’. He’s also flexed his remixing skills on tracks by artists ranging from Black Eyed Peas to Scritti Politti.

46RZA

Diggs secured his place in hip-hop history from the get-go producing his group Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 debut ‘Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’ and introducing the world to a new, fluid, insidiously menacing style of rap production. Wu-Tang albums have popped up only occasionally, but the collective’s solo efforts have kept the RZA in work – as have precursors Cypress Hill and, recently, Kanye West on ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ – and he’s enjoyed a nice sideline as Bobby Digital, releasing three unhinged albums in the 2000s, plus another under the RZA name. MH

45Roy Thomas Baker

Let’s put it this way: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Even if you’re heartily sick of it 30-odd years down the line, you have to admit it’s a production job of some chutzpah. Baker was behind half a dozen Queen albums as well as Free’s classic blues-rock third ‘Fire And Water’, but he managed to evolve his style to produce a clutch of Cars and Devo albums in the 80s. One of the many who attempted to harness Guns ‘N Roses’ ‘Chinese Democracy’, Baker returned to the pomp rock fold with The Darkness’s ‘One Way Ticket To Hell… And Back’ in 2005. MH

44Jerry Wexler

From that most noble of backgrounds – music journalism – Jerry Wexler went on to become one of the most revered record industry executives, co-heading Atlantic Records and getting his hands dirty in the production booth. He steered Aretha Franklin from gospel to soul, produced Dusty Springfield’s ‘Dusty In Memphis’, worked regularly with Ray Charles and set Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack on their way to stardom, confirming his place as one of the true visionaries of classic R&B. All this and he even managed to coax a gospel album – 1979’s Slow Train Coming – out of Bob Dylan.

43Jimmy Miller

US producer Jimmy Miller struck up a fruitful mid-60s relationship with Steve Winwood and never looked back, working on records by the Spencer Davis Group and other Winwood projects Traffic and Blind Faith, before etching his name in louche rock’n’roll folklore with his production on peerless Rolling Stones albums ‘Let It Bleed’, ‘Sticky Fingers’, ‘Exile On Main Street’ and more. It was this intimate acquaintance with the more addled end of rock that led Primal Scream to bring Miller in to help out on 1991’s ‘Screamadelica’. ‘Movin’ On Up’ and ‘Damaged’ were perfect recreations of Miller’s golden age. MH

42Steve Albini

Uncompromising hard rock, punk, grunge, you-name-it producer Steve Albini arrived with his own noise outfit Big Black in the early 80s and has continued to record since, for the last 20 years with Shellac. But his fame – whether sought or not, as he attempted to avoid major label advances – is down to his production work, whether boosting Pixies along the path to legend status on ‘Surfer Rosa’ or trying to keep Nirvana in one piece on ‘In Utero’. On this side of the pond, notable credits on PJ Harvey’s ‘Dry’ and The Wedding Present’s ‘Seamonsters’ have only reaffirmed his surefire spiky touch. MH

41Trevor Horn

Fresh from the Buggles – and an alarming stint in Yes – Trevor Horn established himself as the 80s producer nonpareil with his opulent pop efforts on ABC’s 1982 debut album ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. The Sheffield new romantics torpedoed themselves but Horn moved on to make Malcolm McLaren an unexpected hip-hop pioneer on ‘Duck Rock’ and set the chart goalposts aflame with mid-80s situationist phenomenon Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Classy pop with Grace Jones and Seal followed before Horn turned up as surprise producer of Belle and Sebastian’s 2003 album Dear Catastrophe Waitress, adding bite to their fey jaws. MH

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