Sunday, July 31, 2011

Johnny Marr and the Healers Bangin' On

This is a great way to package a single and promote something and give fans a pretty good value. The idea of the CD single often ends up going south for a lot of bands. But Johnny Marr and the Healers have a great thing going with this, the Bangin' On single.

The elements are very simple. Three songs are fine (I consider anything with four songs an EP, or extended play single, but that's not a hard and fast rule--that's just my rule), and there's over fifteen minutes of music here. The cover is artsy, and gets a little busy, but when tied into the artwork for the back (and the band photo) as well as the CD labeling itself, well, we're talking a home run here.

So many singles fail to find these simple elements and make them work. They either get the cover and design wrong (a tendency to go cute or gross or shocking comes to mind) or they fail to offer anything worth buying. I tend to prefer this kind of single--anything with B-sides is perfect. Occasionally, someone will stick three live tracks on a single--I like that, too. I'm not too keen on remixes, never have been. A single with seven remixes is not as interesting to me as something with B-sides or live tracks, but, again--that's just me being weird.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jack Frost Every Hour God Sends

A delightful piece of vinyl, and one for the history books.

Every Hour God Sends was a single from the Jack Frost album, the first one, and it is a fantastic single. Jack Frost were Steve Kilbey and the late Grant McLennan.

This is typical of any Red Eye records release--small hole in the middle, fabulous packaging, three tracks, and a terrific sleeve. Any and all of these that I get from Red Eye, I hang on to them forever.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Journey Sucks

Yes, there's a "Journey" bump out there in the popular media. How delightful. I am not on board.

There are a lot of factors that go into why a song is used on television or in the movies. Would you believe that one of the biggest factors is the ease with which a producer can get the rights and get the song added to a production within the budget of that production?

I mean, let's face it. You can probably get George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone" without too much fuss as long as you pay the fee for the song. Now, go out and get "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison and see if it's just as easy (you will have to negotiate with his estate and his publishers, I would imagine) and you will probably have to pay a little more. It's not a question of which is the better song (My Sweet Lord is, of course, the better song but it isn't as popular because it hasn't appeared on anywhere near as many television shows or in a bunch of movies. See how that works?). Quality is not affected by anything like sales or how many proms featured Journey songs or George Thorogood songs (there are no proms where George Harrison's solo recordings are featured). 

So, judging something based on how many times it has appeared on TV or in the movies is ludicrous. George Thorogood does not suck at all, by the way. Journey sucks, of course.

But, let me go over a few things. Ease of access is a huge factor. It's extremely easy to get Thorogood's song, and I suspect that it is just as easy to get a song by Journey. I think that this ease of access explains a great deal. And it most certainly has nothing to do with quality. Nor does it have much to do with sales. The album from which "Bad to the Bone" originated was certified gold, meaning it sold at least 500,000 copies. What might surprise you though is that the single for My Sweet Lord sold over a million copies. That doesn't include sales of Harrison's sprawling three-record set All Things Must Pass. 

Now, was that because it was a great song? (It is). Was it because it was one of the first singles to appear after the breakup of the Beatles in 1970? (Yes, more than likely). But it could also be called a great song. A recording of great merit and quality.

Anything by Journey in that category? No. The entirety of Journey's musical catalog can be piled on one side, and George Harrison's My Sweet Lord can be placed on the other and these two things would not be equal. My Sweet Lord is, in and of itself, better than everything Journey ever did (no fair subtracting Raised on Radio in order to give Journey an edge, by the way).  

Journey sucks. See headline.

So, what difference does it make if Journey songs appear in movies and if My Sweet Lord doesn't appear in as many? None at all. Lots of people have done versions of My Sweet Lord and that doesn't factor into the discussion either. Just because everybody and their brother has done a version of it doesn't change the fact that the song is great. period.

Stolen? Yeah, maybe. I'm not aware of anyone accusing Journey of stealing one of their songs. My Sweet Lord was probably lifted from someone else's work. Does that matter? No.

It's not as easy as it looks. But, perhaps--just perhaps--Journey makes it easier than many other artists to approve of the use of their music. If that's the case, does that make them popular? Better? No, it means that, in order to make money, they have made it easy for people to use their crappy songs. That's all it means.

Why? Because Journey sucks. They sucked thirty years ago and they suck now. And whether or not their music appears on television or in movies does not have any mitigating effect on the inherent suckitude of Journey, which is permanent and unaffected by the approval of the masses.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The House of Love The Beatles and the Stones Remix EP

A very bright, very vivid cover and a wonderful, wonderful recording. Yes, I did a double-take when "Beady Eye" put out their own song called "Beatles and Stones" or whatever and I thought that, perhaps, they were doing a cover. They didn't. They just used a very similar title.

I like this for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the quasi-3D image on the back, which is very much in line with the non-image projected by bands in the early 1990s.

This one, though, is a classic. I really enjoy this single, although probably not so much this version. At the time of this release, Fontana was using multiple producers who couldn't relate to the band and this somewhat "unauthorized" remix of the single came out without the full blessing of main songwriter Guy Chadwick. But, you could flip this thing over on your turntable and get Love IV and call it a win for the home team.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

OMD Junk Culture Covers

I've talked about minimalism in the past, but here's a great example of using just enough minimalism to make a decent cover.

Why does this work? Well, OMD's Junk Culture has a wonderful cover. It's white text on black, with bright, vivid flowers dropped in around it after being run through a blurring visual effect. Are they glowing out of tune or shimmering or just too far away? What is with the blurry flowers, anyway? That's what makes this a good cover. The elements are simple, but never simplistic. This is supposed to signal that we have art, and a bit of romance on board, and that's all well and good.

What works is that the cover does exactly what it's supposed to do--it provides enough of an indication as to what you're getting while leaving what's inside a mystery.

Was there ever a more disappointing record label than A&M by the way? How many artists did they drop? Tons of them. I suppose every label did that, but A&M always dropped artists that I liked.

G. D. Spradlin 1920-2011

One of the greats. A true talent and a real gentleman.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Triffids Holy Water EP

 This is a wonderful package from the Triffids, on Island Records. I love the fish motif and I love the art direction on this single. This is the 12-inch single for Holy Water, and it even comes with a little Lennon and McCartney on it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Psychedelic Furs Forever Now Reissue Covers

I would like to do something on the first five Psychedelic Furs albums because they're all very vital pieces of rock and roll history. I realize that there were seven major label releases, but I think they could have ended before Book of Days. Really, after Mirror Moves, what was left for them?

The third release was Forever Now and I'm going to get this one out of the way because I think it has one of the most God-awful covers of the 1980s. It has always sort of bothered me, and I realize I'm probably the only one who has this issue with it, but, oh well.

The music inside? Excellent stuff. The cover? Bleh.

I just think the patterns and designs that mar the cover photo are too much. The stars and diamonds are too distracting. Pink and green isn't an awful color motif but when you lay that over a blurry black and white photo, it just doesn't work for me. There is probably nothing wrong with it, but that's how I see the cover. I see it as too busy and too distracting. Their other album covers are all much more appealing. I think All of This and Nothing is probably the best cover. Nothing could be more different than this one.

Amy Winehouse 1983-2011

Was the death of Amy Winehouse tragic? Yes, and even more so because this was a young lady with a tremendous amount of proven talent and ability. Her demons got the best of her, but only in this life. Now, she's free of them forever.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Teardrop Explodes Treason Single and Others

Oh, what a wonderful assortment we have here. I'm combining the Treason single with a package done up in wonderful lettering for the Teardrop Explodes. Was it really thirty years ago? Really?

This is how singles and twelve inches were designed--bold artwork, a preening "look at me" quality that was unashamed to present the terrific music found within.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Railway Children Reunion Wilderness Covers

I'm not going to say that this is bland, but it definitely could have been a better package. The Reunion Wilderness release from The Railway Children goes in a minimalistic direction, and leaves very little else to recommend the album.

Serving as the Factory Records debut when it originally came out, these views are from the release that Ether records put out. The original Factory release might look a little different. What strikes me, though, is that this doesn't look anything like a Factory records release. It's not awful, but it does lack the sort of visual hook that would have helped the band out a little in terms of attracting the attention of people who browse through record stores.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Verve She's a Superstar

The Verve's She's a Superstar single is a wonderfully designed package. I love the cover and I love the layout of the package. This is one of the most magisterial singles of the 1990s and I highly, highly recommend it.

Pulp Mis-shapes EP Covers

An extremely well-designed package that came out when Pulp were really pushing themselves out there and trying to take over Britain. Did they succeed? Darned near.

The details from this package are wonderful. This is how you can make a CD single work.