Traditionally the first quarter is a weak period for album releases, but here we are, three months into the year, and some really wonderful album covers are starting to pile up. I love all of these. They represent music packaging done well, eschewing cliché to communicate something useful about the album in an original, stylish way. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to make fun of them…
There are a small number of occasions when old pictures are exactly the right thing to put on your cover. If you want to make sure everybody knows your record isn’t one of those cheery but insubstantial Passions, or some lightweight piece of fluff like “Die Sieben letzten Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuze,” that your new telling of the gruesome political execution of a peace-loving prophet and self-proclaimed son of God would make Mel Gibson flinch, then Rembrandt is your man. Accept no substitutes.
Chopin died 171 years ago. Alice Sara Ott didn’t. Or maybe she did. Pass me that pitchfork. We’re being invaded by hot Asian zombies. Note to self: write hot Asian zombie invasion movie screenplay, sell for bucket-loads of money, put money on floor, roll in money.
I’m not sure that anybody completely thought this through, but it’s fun and goes some way to communicating the breezy freshness of a record that does, after all, contain Pachelbel’s Canon.
Daniel: “I’d like you to make me look taller.”
Photographer: “Sure. Just stand on this ladder in front of this picture of some sky.”
Daniel: “Won’t that look like I’m standing on a ladder in front of a picture of some sky?”
Photographer: “Trust me. I’m a professional.”
Edna Stern may be a little crazy, but I’d be interested to hear how she plays the piano.
Edna: “My towering stature makes me feel awkward in photographs.”
Photographer: “Sit on the floor with the legs of the piano in the background.”
Edna: “Won’t that just make it look like we forgot the piano stool?”
Photographer: “Don’t worry. I do this for a living.”
This is a bit of a saturation-fest at full size, but make it the size of a postage stamp and this thing jumps off the page and grabs your attention like a carelessly-cast fish hook in the eye. It isn’t any more subtle when you listen to it, so anybody that bought this hoping for a nice romantic classics collection will have had an unsuccessful Valentine’s Day.
If you want to see a series of albums with coherent branding and striking imagery, check out the DG Concerts releases from the LA Phil. Of course, these mostly work because they’ve got the Walt Disney Concert Hall to photograph, but it still works.
This image makes me think of the stock photos used in the sort of corporate training presentations that encourage you to think outside the box. It’s a sign of quite how far we have to go that, in classical music, putting this picture on your cover counts as thinking outside the box. It works, though.
It’s a shame that the digital version of this album cover doesn’t do justice to the vibrant colors of the physical product. There’s a whole cycle on its way, and I want them all already. It’s like the twelve days of Christmas, but with Beethoven symphonies.
While we’re talking about old Ludwig van, 183 years after his death it transpires that Beethoven wasn’t deaf at all: he just didn’t understand how to use his metronome. Some of the most furious arguments in all Western musicology could have been rendered unnecessary with the simple addition of a sticker marked “This Way Up”.