We live in a time when most of our music comes in non-physical form. Mp3s and other formats of digital music have become the norm, and in the process the old-fashioned vinyl record has taken on value as a stand-alone artefact.
There are, of course, new records being pressed by current acts. There will always be a percentage music fans who will want to have the latest Sonic Youth or Arcade Fire album on vinyl. But what about the forgotten relics from the years when vinyl ruled as the only true medium?
My view is that old vinyl records are indeed valuable as stand-alone artefacts, almost regardless of content. I regularly pick up records purely for their cover art (something that my wife, a visual artist, has convinced me is worthwhile). Often obscure and bizarre records can have amazingly attractive artwork that can grab your eye, no matter what is contained within the grooves.
Album Cover of the Week is dedicated to all of these beautiful, bizarre relics. Each week I will post a cover that interesting, eye-catching, or just plain weird. In an age when album artwork is presented to us as a half-inch square on an mp3 player or computer screen, it is important to remember a time when records covers HAD to be eye-catching. The records had to announce themselves in a much more direct way in the past, and I’d like to honour that fact.
The record I’ve chosen for this first week falls into the ‘weird’ category. I recently unearthed this platter in an old cottage while my wife and I were on our honeymoon. It was quite literally winking at me from the pile of LPs.
It’s so tacky and bizarre that I just had to take it home. Upon getting the album home I also realized that the record had not been opened yet! It was still in its original shrink-wrap. The added bonus of having an un-played novelty record from 1974 was too good to pass up.
The music within is unremarkable: bland cover versions of popular hits of the 1970s, mostly with ridiculously overblown orchestral overdubs, by German bandleader James Last, an easy-listening group from Montreal called The Bells, and Max Greger and His Orchestra. The mix is terrible. But for me, the cover elevates this record to the level of a stand-alone piece of vintage pop art.
This record was probably distributed by drug or liquor stores, and is basically just a piece of advertising for Schweppes. But I wanted to post it because I think it illustrates my point beautifully: it grabs your attention and generates curiosity. The content is irrelevant- it’s just an interesting piece of eye candy.
Once I opened the record, I found another surprise: it has a gatefold sleeve, and instead of liner notes it’s filled with cocktail recipes (using Shweppes, of course). I think I’m going to keep this one with my liquor.