Thursday, September 29, 2011

Courtney Love Has Never Been Acquainted With the Truth

Courtney Love is going to write a book? About what? How wonderful she is? How nothing is her fault? Please.

I predict that it will be a bunch of dishonest and self-serving nonsense. Oh, and Love will blame Dave Grohl for every single problem she has ever had.

The problem is not the idea of Love writing a book; the problem lies with the people who put this deal together and sold it as something valid and worthwhile. No book written by Love would ever approach the truth or setting any sort of record straight. She will have her ghostwriter conjure up bullshit and that will be the end of it. The media will cover it and review it when it comes out. Who cares?

Don't Worry About the Future of Music Played Live

As long as there are kids like Macyn Taylor, live music will endure.

This is what mastery of the instrument looks like. I cannot say anything else that will adequately describe how truly, truly talented this young lady is on the guitar.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Johnny Cash on the Verge of Superstardom

Johnny Cash, 9 22 1959 (Photo from Stars & Stripes)

Johnny Cash, as photographed on September 22, 1959 here in Germany.

Cash came back to Germany after having a few hit records in order to revisit the places where he was stationed. I don't know what's neater--his tie or the fact that there used to be a show on AFN called Hillbilly Reveille.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sly Stone Should Have Showed Up Once In a While For Those Gigs

There are plenty of people who decide to flake out and stop caring. Sly Stone flaked out and stopped being able to function decades ago. Who is genuinely shocked that he is semi-homeless or this destitute?

It's sad, but it does speak to the need to show up and actually play the gig.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wire Train Covers

Someone at CBS Records had no idea what to do with Wire Train.

Oh, sure. They tried. They made an honest effort to market them and move their albums and make it work. It failed.

Artistically, Wire Train was anything but a failure. They made great music, found a fan base, and did what they were supposed to do. The machinery of the music business was simply not prepared to handle anything other than commercial success on a broader scale than Wire Train could achieve. If they were out there now, making music and touring, they'd probably be very successful. But that old format whereby a record company comes up with an advance, they use that to make a record, they tour that record, they pray for a hit single or two--that's what failed. The band did not fail.

Using band photos sometimes works. Other times, no. It doesn't work. Here are two examples of album covers (cut down for the CD market, of course) where they just used whatever shots they could get and just cut it all up with scissors and laid it out on a table and said, what the hell. Let's use this.

The layout of In a Chamber reminds me of buying Earth tone paint at Lowe's. Four band members, the four elements, yes, we got it. Between Two Words is an even bigger mess. The front cover image, which aims for artistic and surreal hits pretentious and jarring, square on. The head shots that go with it reflect what must have been a band-wide reluctance to take good photos. Here you go, run with these. We're not buying it. To be fair though, it was the mid-1980s. Rock legends like Bono and Bob Dylan were supportive of the band. But something didn't gel on a nationwide basis. Something didn't work. Was it the covers? Superficially, no. A lack of hit singles? Given the times, you couldn't survive in the 1980s without radio-friendly hits. R.E.M. didn't start to rise above their college roots until they put out the single The One I Love, and that was on their fifth album. Wire Train never found their version of that.

And, sadly, not enough people bought these records. That, in a nutshell, is the story of Wire Train.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What Do You Have to do to Get Fired From INXS?

Isn't it time for everyone to just move on?

The magic isn't coming back for INXS. It's over. It's gone.

I mean, really. Who thought this was ever going to pan out? Anybody?

U2 No Line on the Horizon

It's always unpleasant when I feel like I have to dump on an artist because of something as silly as an album cover. In this day and age of the digital download, the album cover is even less important than it was when the presentation format for marketing music shrunk from the album cover to the compact disc cover.

U2 is so big, why not dump on them? I could do any and all of their albums and I wouldn't have a problem with that. I will probably do all of the old U2 singles and albums, just for fun.

The No Line on the Horizon cover is the blandest, most worthless thing you could imagine. This is an example of an awful, indulgent, and artistically bankrupt cover.

Really? Scotch tape and still water? That's the best you could come up with? I want to highlight what is printed on the CD itself. That's at least interesting. That's at least a picture of something. Why spend several years planning and executing something like this that you know is going to be sold to millions of people through the various formats (yes, even vinyl) and then absolutely punt when it comes to the cover art?

What's sad is that I can't leave this up. No one will stop and visit my blog with this at the top of the page. It's that bland.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Siouxsie and the Banshees Voices on the Air Covers

There are a lot of things that I like about the design and concept of this album. I'll get the bad stuff out of the way first--white text on a blue background? I don't like it. The cover could have been a little more dramatic. The use of white squiggly lines is fairly bland.

The concept and the execution is well done, however. Setting aside what I don't like, this is an effective way to present the artist and the music. The BBC has to slap their name on it--fine and dandy. The consumers of this music know they're going to get tracks recorded over a lengthy period in three and four song sessions, and they know what's coming. This kind of a record sells itself to savvy buyers before it even comes out.

A Siouxsie and the Banshees fan is going to know--a-ha! Here they are, in session, and they're going to flip it over and see what's on this disc. That's why it is so important that the track listing on the back cover stands out. It has to be large and visible because the fans who are on the fence about buying this are going to scan for what they want (if, for example, they want older songs instead of newer ones) and this is why the execution works. The most important aspect of this package is the back cover, not the front. You can clearly see the tracks. That's what matters.

The rest is good enough for an album like this. No one expects much from these releases. Having it come out like this with extensive liner notes is good but that's really to be expected. Having an actual title is good as well. So many of these releases are "so and so live on the BBC." This one has a comprehensive title--Voices on the Air.

Anyway, it works. This is not a throwaway, although it could have been. Instead, it's a careful attempt to appeal to fans of the band and give them what they are looking for. That's what matters. It works.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians Gotta Let This Hen Out Covers

Never mind the fact that this was a mind-blowing live album. Robyn Hitchcock's Gotta Let This Hen Out! was a brilliantly conceived project, from front to back and from side to side. The cover illustration alone is worth the price. The music inside has never gotten old or musty on me. I think I have had this since at least 1987 or so. I remember that it came out with the Fegmania album and I have owned both of those without shame or remorse since being brought into the cult of Robyn Hitchcock.

The lettering style is wonderful as well. Everything about this album has an independent sensibility and if you're looking for a reason why this kind of music was so vital in the 1980s, look no further than this terrific album. In the context of 1986, music was bland, overproduced, over-commercialized, and devoid of any warmth or sentiment. Album covers were done with scissors and glue and garish colors. Now, imagine seeing this in LP format (which I still have). I can't really describe the difference that the album version makes as opposed to the CD format (seen above).

Robyn's artwork glows from the cardboard, luminous and pulsing. The cover image is so unique and surreal that it can't really even be described.

I have numerous releases from the old (and I believe completely and utterly defunct) Midnight Music label. They always did an interesting thing with the graphics and images and text on the things they put out. They had a very distinctive style.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Loft Model Village Single

Someone who worked for the Static Caravan record label came up with a very nice design for this single. The concept is easy to relate to--if the song is called "Model Village," then find something urban and contemporary. By choosing a scene with garishly lit logos, rather than a rural English village full of storybook houses, are we to infer a bit of social commentary? Or is this just a great single from one of the lost bands of the 1980s?

The Loft were Peter Astor's band before signing to Creation and becoming the Weather Prophets and all that. Some of the songs from The Loft ended up being recorded later; there's one that I know of and there could be others. Model Village was a great single.