Friday, January 30, 2009

Best and worse covers please

John has left a new comment on "China gates":- This is not - for once - one of my 'fantastically tenuous links', and I must declare an interest as a director of The Sixteen Productions, which produces the CORO CDs. I am glad to see the debate about cover designs (I am, of course, very glad also to see the positive comments about the contents of our Acoustic World series!): it seems to me to be such a subjective issue (look at the changing trends in book covers). If one could identify the perfect cover to shift the maximum number of CDs, well, how cool would that be? It would be great to see people's suggestions of the best and worst covers in their collections, with an honest appraisal of whether they affected their purchasing decisions.
Come on readers, the best and worst covers in your collections, and do they affect your purchasing decisions? Here's a starter for ten. Early last year regular reader David Cavlovic wrote that 'Some of the best cover art ever was on the EMI Reflexe series'. I'll second that, one outstanding example is above. To counterbalance it there a real dog below, although it was a close call between that and some of ECM's fuzzier efforts. Yes, cover art still affects my purchase decisions, except whan it is ECM. And I still close my eyes when buying some Naxos releases. But then I'm probably the only person in the world who still buys CDs. Now read more about that best cover art ever.

* I have added a poll to the sidebar where readers can vote on 'Does cover art affect your decision to purchase a recording?'


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11 comments:

Pliable said...

John, there could be a real licensing opportunity for Coro with those EMI Electrola Reflexe recordings.

EMI Electrola in Germany started to transfer the Reflexe titles to CD in the late 1990s, but, to my knowledge, they did not follow the project through.

Given EMI's current financial position and their willingness to license their crown jewels to companies like Brilliant Classics for pennies, a sub-licensing deal for the original German Reflexe releases may be doable, and it fits with the your core early music business. Thomas Binkley and his Studio der Frühen Musik, The Hilliard Ensemble, Jordi Savall and Hans-Martin Linde are just some of the artists who recorded for the series.

A limited edition re-issue on CD using the original cover art would become an instant collector's item. Put my name first on the list if you can license them.

Michael said...

Well, given that I've already staked my claim on the Westminster Gold Goetterdaemmerung cover (the one with the crumbling cookie), I remember a very fine recording with such a hideous cover that it never made it over to the World of Google.
The recording was of the Bach keyboard concerti played by Igor Kipnis on the harpsichord with Nevile Marriner conducing (I think) the "London Strings", an obvious nom de disque. The cover was the worst of late 60s Wannabee Hippy: a crude painting of some lady with blue hair of some astral significance or other. It right royally sucked. And just in case the 12 inch format was not enough, the thing came with a wall poster of the painting.
Yes, it put me right off buying the thing, but buy it I did, and the performances were great. The Triple Concerto in A has never sounded so grand and with such a gallant swagger!

Must go,
Your in Haste,
Michael Richards

Pliable said...

The infamous crumbling cookie can be found here -

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2008/07/twilight-of-art-director.html

More infamous Westminster Gold covers here -

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2008/10/innocent-ear-20.html

here -

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2008/08/wolfgang-amadeus-at-his-most-seductive.html

and here -

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2008/07/now-for-something-little-more-contrived.html

Michael said...

Well, folks, a bit more Googling has turned up the fact that the offending cover was painted by Mati Klarwein, who did the Abraxis cover. That figures, as the Kipnis recording was on CBS. But I haven't turned up a jpeg of the actual cover, not even on Klarwein fan sites. Must have been as bad as I remembered! No longer have the vinyl. Drats.
The CD set has an innofensive 18th C. painting instead. Not good enough for the inner hippy!

Michael Richards

Pliable said...

Email received:

So is this a good place to mention the culture war that erupted in 1994 when this great CD:

http://www.amazon.com/Patrol/dp/B000003ELH/ref=pd_sim_m_2

and Tomoko Mukaiyama's " Women Composers" BVHaast 9406

vied for nudity cringe-or-love content?

It both helped ticket sales, as well as sullied the psychological interpretation of ethical standards for some.

Pliable said...

Email received:

Dear Mr. Pliable :

Hardly a month has passed since i discovered your blog. Guess it was a lucky chance, i was looking for information on Silvestrov´s "stille lieder" on google and it seems i pressed the right button.

Being a self-taught music lover, it is invaluable to find a place where to follow these threads through the labyrinth of classical music editions. Guess i am not (and don´t want to be) a connoscieur, but rather see myself as an explorer, delighted at each new direction in which this search blooms.

But, alas, hardship and fustration befall on the endangered species of records buyers!. At least, here in Buenos Aires where, save one shop (yes, one!) it is impossible to find a decent selection of cds. Even so, i manage to get new or used records, the frequency depending on various bizarre economical factors.
So, yes, you are not alone, there are still people in this world who prefer and enjoy buying records.

As for album covers, here are some i´m quite fond of (in no particular order)

* Janácek : On the overgrown path /Josef Palenicek (Supraphon)
( this black and white photograph by Josef Sudek might not be a striking one, but for some reason grabbed my attention eighteen years ago, made me want to listen to the music inside. I am quite moved by it.)

* Byrd : With lilies white /Gerard Lesne, Ensamble Orlando Gibbons (Virgin Veritas)

* Federico Mompou : Música callada / Herbert Henck (ECM)

* Takemitsu : Quotation of dream / Oliver Knussen (DG)

* Bach : Das wohltemperierte clavier vol.1 / Richard Egarr (Harmonia Mundi)

* Biber : Unam Ceylum / John Holloway (ECM)

* Morton Feldman : Durations I V - Coptic Light / Ensemble Avantgarde (cpo)

* Jacobus de Kerle : Da Pacem Domine / Huelgas Ensemble (Harmonia Mundi)

* Moondog : H´art songs (Kopf)

So, until our next communication then. Keep on the good work!

Best regards from a faraway shore.

Ricardo Messina

Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Pliable said...

jenny has left a new comment on your post "China gates":

John, With all due respect I'm not sure the issue of design is always such a subjective issue, most of us know good design when we see it. There is literally a deluge of new releases every month from countless distributers, even as the market for new compact discs continues to slide, and the inattention to detail when it comes to the look of the album design is hugely frustrating. If the packaging on a disc isn't compelling it probably won't even make it into our store because we just can't afford to hope that maybe, possibly, somebody will pick it up and determine that it's somehow worthwhile. A glossy photo of some shamrocks does not immediately make me think that this is the music from Ireland I need. Just to stick to the world of world music, you can find great design on the recent Stern's African reissues, many of the Smithsonian Folkways new releases, the Prophet reissues of classic Ocora lps (which also had compelling design), The Nonesuch Explorer relaunch, as well as the gigantic Topic catalog. They look good and sell themselves. I own a number of great Coro albums and love what you guys do, and really only want to see you guys sell as many albums as possible, so sorry if this seems like a rant. Lord knows there are some records I love with god-awful graphics, but I honestly can't tell you how many times I've seen a customer balk at a release that wasn't visually compelling.

Boydell and Brewer said...

I have to say that I always found those photographs of a rather Messianic Karajan (black and white, arms outstretched, shot from below, dramatic lighting) hard to take - I think they were on Brahms symphonies. But I do rather like ECM's design and rather wish that I'd invested in that book of their covers.

When I was a young man in the late 1960s and early 1970s, buying both rock and classical LPs, I always found the latter dreadful compared to the former. Classical LPs always seemed to have a stock photograph of a forest or a grainy b&w picture of the composer - perhaps I simply bought too many Lyrita LPs!

Pliable said...

Michael is referring to the 1996 ECM book Sleeves of Desire, not the more recent Horizons Touched -

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluejazzbuddha/2443032268/

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2007/10/horizons-touched-music-of-ecm.html

Pliable said...

Email received:

I second, third, and fourth that motion to re-issue the Reflexe series by Coro. Especially my beloved Planctus, but all of the other great titles as well.

Please, please, PLEASE, keep me informed!!

Cheers
David Cavlovic

Pliable said...

See a very striking new inlay here -

http://brittensinfonia.blogspot.com/2009/02/via-crucis-cd.html