Saturday, April 30, 2011

Belle & Sebastian Dear Catastrophe Waitress Covers

Belle & Sebastian deliver a wonderfully unique album called Dear Catastrophe Waitress, and you can hear the Indie enthusiasts sigh with pleasure.

The cover begins the story, and the back cover continues it. This is how great album art is crafted. No idea what a "catastrophe" waitress is, but I know that the minimalism and indie sensibility presented here works for the music inside. Looking at the cover reminds me of a French art film, one that will satirize the uptight worldview of the straights and the suits.

A fitting way to close out the month--with some brilliantly conceptualized and executed art.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Bauhaus Mask Covers

Just a few of the covers of the Mask album by Bauhaus.

I bought this out of a used record bin in South Minneapolis back in the late 1980s. The music is just as the essay says, "for when your kitchen is dead."

Bauhaus was a band that had an element of humor under the surface. I'm sure of it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Primitives Crash Covers and Labels

One of the best singles of the 1980s by any guitar band anywhere is Crash by the Primitives. Dusted off and retrieved from a pile of discarded songs, Crash is timeless and perfect.

I love the front and back of this single. It's very stylish and very 80s without being cheap. I wish they had done something to keep Tracy Tracy's nose from being part of the center hole on the label, however.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy Distressed Gentlefolk Covers

I have a version of this on vinyl and CD, but no time to scan it. It's here because it actually informs another project (not another music blog!) that sort of popped into my head.

The Jazz Butcher have a slew of albums no one can really acquire or purchase reasonably because they have not been completely remastered for the new digital age. Their first album, In Bath of Bacon, is all but lost to the ages. You can get it, but it'll cost you. The rest of their catalog is woefully beyond the legalese descriptions of out of print and catalog item removed by owner's request and regretfully unpopular with the cool kids.

In many respects, that's fine. I despise the music of the cool kids. This music is music of the soul and the heart, played straightaway by smart men with drinking on their mind. You can relish in a Jazz Butcher album without caring which version of the band you're listening to. I own them all on vinyl; that's really the best way to go.

Distressed Gentlefolk gives us a stunning track of eternal wonder--Falling in Love. Did Hank Williams write anything as good? No. And I don't care who knows that.

You'll have to trip through the rest. Remember 1986? People actually made music like this on purpose because it was good.

Creation Flowers in the Sky 1984-1987 Covers

Another compilation package from Creation (ALL of them are worth looking at). This one is a bit older, but features the same design aesthetic. This compilation would have been dumped into shops at just about the time Creation would have needed a little influx of cash, which is entirely understandable. Creation wasn't making music for commercial reason; Creation was trying to give artists an avenue of approach when it came to the music business. The lucky few who bought these compilations helped the label put out more music.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Creation Records Sampler Do You Believe in Love Cover

Whatever happened to the compilation CD? Creation would dump these into the marketplace in order to come up with a little scratch now and then. These things kept Creation running for a time, and what the listener ends up with is something that, years later, takes on a kind of a life of its own.

Who is the model? Is she appearing in stock photos that Creation bought from a reseller of stock images? Or is she someone close to the label?

If you can find this item, seize it and hold on to it as a relic of a bygone era. "Always the Light" by The Weather Prophets is one of the greatest independent singles ever.

This one is too lovely for words.

Goldrush The Heart is the Place Cover

Goldrush are an Oxfordshire, England band that I really enjoy listening to. They have some fantastic music out there--please check them out.

Their most recent release, The Heart is the Place, is a continuation of their efforts, and I can't say enough good things about the band (but I will say some critical things about their album cover).

Whose idea was it to copy Radiohead? Especially when Radiohead are also an Oxfordshire band? Was this intentional?

Radiohead uses that "insane asylum dude with a ballpoint pen" type lettering and artwork to great effect on their releases, almost to the point where duplicating it risks having someone like me with a lame blog write about it. The image above is supposed to invoke obsessive emotional distress and practiced originality.

I don't like how this was put together or marketed. The music inside is too good to hide in this kind of packaging.

Also, I can't figure out if Goldrush are on hiatus or defunct. I am hoping for hiatus as they really are that good.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dead Can Dance Cover Art

In and of themselves, the various releases by Dead Can Dance each constitute a major artistic achievement on many fronts, not just in music but also in art and design. There is an incredible amount of thought and consideration that goes into each release. This is where craft upstages commercialism and amateurism every time.

A Passage in Time is a compilation album, and this is a fitting place to start a discussion about how you write about the art used on a release. The record label 4AD has always been at the forefront of using fine art to market music. The amount of design consideration and the artistic references have always set 4AD apart. You could do an entire blog about their work, and I'm sure there are already four or five that do.

If delve into Dead Can Dance, be prepared to experience awe on a grand scale. Writing about it is well beyond my capabilities.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Bluetones Collection Cover and Back

A very nice, muted effort for the now-defunct British band called the Bluetones. I like the style of the front cover illustration.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nina Gordon Tonight and the Rest of My Life Covers and Booklet

Do you like how music companies market music made by women?

Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.

There are things that I like about this, and there are a couple of things I don't. Nina Gordon made a great record here. Her songs really hold up. But how she is being presented leaves me wondering if a more artsy presentation that didn't feature her looks so prominently would have been better.

It's not that she isn't fabulously attractive--she certainly is. But that's not what's paramount here--the music is more important than anything. This packaging makes her look like yet another female artist with  thirteen songs to sell. Does the fact that she's posing in sheer clothing, brightly lit to show practically every aspect of her body, detract from the songs or does it show that she has stripped things away to make an honest, clean, naked album? You can choose which version of that you like. I think it is unfortunate that they chose to market her in this way. They made a business decision, and I wouldn't presume to second-guess that decision, but what does that say about the music business in general? That the only way to get people to buy this CD is to hint at some revealing photos inside?

I happen to like the music, so the packaging really isn't of interest to me. I think the cover is perfect. It's Nina Gordon, here's her album, and the title is right there. The full body shots are wonderful, don't get me wrong, but they're selling some other aspect here, especially by putting the more revealing and suggestive image on the back cover. Do we really need the suggestion of full frontal nudity on the inset photo, which has a great smile? Do we really need the hang-it-all-out aspect of the back cover? It doesn't match the front cover at all, which is a wonderfully rendered portrait.

It all comes down to how you feel about this sort of thing. I'm not a prude, or at least, I try to not be a prude, but I don't know if the people who would be sold on something like this would really know what they're getting when they put the CD in the machine. Are they going to get easy listening and music to wash the dishes by? With Nina Gordon, no. They're not going to get that.

So what does the marketing suggest? Again, it comes down to the cover for me, and I think the cover is the strongest aspect of it all. The densely printed green sections, with the lyrics, don't match the packaging at all. Why flowers? Is it because this a girl's record? Is that sexist as well?

You get a hint of where Gordon was going with the first song--Now I Can Die. It's very well done. If I can convince you of anything, give this record a chance.

The Primitives Secrets Cover

The music of the Primitives was always as good as advertised. They made great singles and here's one that most people probably remember.

Tracy Tracy is wearing red hair on this cover, which may or may not be a nod to the fact that the British music press put them in the "blondewave" category or pointed out the similarities between her and similar artists in other bands. It's a shame that the laziness of the music press would drive a person to color their hair just so they could get away from that sort of thing, but what else is new?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ride From Time to Time EP

Released after Ride ceased to be a band, this release treated fans to live tracks from a "bootleg" live album that was released by a label other than the one that Ride was signed to. Not only did the band essentially hand over an entire live album to another label, the label in question chopped up one of the tracks and tried to release it as a single.

A must for fans, and a great album no matter what, Live Light was not the end of the band's releases; the Ride Box Set, released a few years later, showcased a much better live show with better sound quality.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Church Untitled #23 Digipack

One of the first Digipacks that I purchased came out in 1990, and that was the release for Sting's solo album, The Soul Cages, which was a conscious effort to leave the "longbox" behind and create a more environmentally-friendly package for consumers.

That album came with two sticks that "stiffened" the packaging and made it shaped like a longbox. I never saved those sticks and I can barely recall whether there was some piece that had to be torn or separated to make the whole thing work.

The Digipack (as opposed to the simple jewel box) has gone through multiple forms. The version that was used for the Church's Untitled #23 album is a great example of a beautiful Digipack. Using three pieces, the folding wings cover a jewel box case in the center. The artwork was created by Marty Willson-Piper, who found some wallpaper in Mexico that provided some wonderful textures (he may have had accomplices, I cannot recall).

I cannot say enough good things about the music itself. If you don't have this, you should find a way to acquire it in such a way as to support the artists who made it. This is one of those deals where actually buying the product accomplishes two things. First, it puts a wonderful package in your hands that is well worth the price, and it supports the artists who made it because I don't think they're being ripped off as bad as when they were signed to a major label.