Category Archives: Album Cover Art Award Articles

Album Cover Hall of Fame Breaking News Update for January 8, 2019

Album Cover Hall of Fame Breaking News Update

January 8, 2019

By Mike Goldstein, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2018 Best Art Vinyl Awards

Winners of the Best Art Vinyl Awards 2018 – Copyright 2019 Art Vinyl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amsterdam-based designer/artist Rahi Rezvani (http://www.rahirezvani.com/home/), perhaps best-known for his portfolio of designs for the Netherlands Dance Theater and other works with performance artist Marina Abramovic and Dutch singer Alain Clark, earned top honors in this year’s Best Art Vinyl Awards for his cover for British rockers Editors 2018 album Violence.

From the 50 nominees originally posted for voting last year, the 2nd place design award went to Tom Hingston (along with photographer Julia Noni) at the London-based Hingston Studio (http://www.hingston.net/) for their work on the cover of Cocoa Sugar, the third studio album by UK electronic dance band Young Fathers. Third place in this year’s competition went to the team at the Sheffield, UK-based design group The Designers Republic (http://www.thedesignersrepublic.com/) for their design work on Aphex Twin’s Collapse EP.

The awards were presented in ceremonies at the Hari Hotel in London, and you can take a look at all of this year’s nominees (along with the winners) on the Art Vinyl site at https://www.artvinyl.com/award-year/2018/

That’s all for now – back to you sometime soon with more on our favorite people working on our favorite album packages.

Mike G

Unless otherwise noted, all text and images included in this article are Copyright 2019 Mike Goldstein and AlbumCoverHallofFame.com – All Rights Reserved. All of trade names mentioned in these summaries are the properties of their respective owners and are used for reference only.

Album Cover Hall of Fame Breaking News Update for October 2, 2018

 

ACHOF Breaking News Update for October 2, 2018

By Mike Goldstein, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com

I’m happy to be able to share the list of winners of last night’s Making Vinyl Packaging Awards, announced at a ceremony held at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit hosted by famed album cover art director Craig Braun. Talent from all over the world was recognized for their excellent work in each of the twelve categories that comprised this year’s award show, with several nominees taking home multiple winning and/or runner-up awards.

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Announcing the 2017 Inductees into the Album Cover Hall of Fame

By Mike Goldstein, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com

This latest class of honorees in the 6 major categories – as voted on by a world-wide panel of music, art and marketing experts in the area of album cover art & packaging – represents the “who’s who” of creative and production talent, with many recognized names from the fine art and design world.

Since officially launching the site in 2012, we’ve inducted five classes of Inductees based on the results from the group’s yearly surveys (the initial three classes focused on nominees who began their careers as album cover artists between the years 1960 – 1975, 1976 – 1990 and from 1991 – present, while the last two years’ voting looked at all producers active any time since 1960). Hundreds of additional biographies were added for consideration by the esteemed panel of writers, curators of galleries (retail and online) that focus on album cover imagery, art/design museum curators and music marketing experts.

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Interview with Susan Archie, 2015 Grammy Award Winning Designer

Interview with Susan Archie, principal of World of anArchie, winner of the 2015 Grammy Award for “Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package” for her work on The Rise & Fall Of Paramount Records, Volume One (1917-27), released by Third Man Records/Revenant Records.

Paramount, Third Man Records, Revenant Records, Susan Archie, Grammy Award, Box Set, Interview, Album Cover Hall of Fame, 2015, article, interview

 

 

 

 

 

Susan Archie, Dean Blackwood & Jack White, art directors

With a thorough understanding of digital technologies being such a key driver to success in today’s music business, music fans often forget that the earliest recorded music came about as the result of an application of a new technology – i.e., those introduced by the early French and American inventors of the phonograph and the gramophone. While we take for granted the various advances in recording technology that have taken place since the late-1800s, without the energies applied – and risks taken by – music industry pioneers, there would be no archives of the performances given by the musical acts that have gone on to influence modern music and music engineering.

Like many an American industrial enterprise, the early U.S. recording business was also an attractive one to those individuals and companies looking to entice the public to buy their products, with some companies (Edison and Victor, for example) impressing consumers with the quality (sound and manufacturing) of their hardware (AKA record playing devices) and software (recorded content, in its many forms – first cylinders, then 78RPM discs, etc.) and others looking to simply “spend-a-little, make a lot” as production of devices and content quickly scaled up as the century turned.

In that second camp were the owners of the Wisconsin Chair Company who, around the start of World War 1,  launched a brand called Paramount to manufacture phonographs and, to provide a broad range of recorded content to play on those phonographs, operated Paramount Records as a way to produce what would turn out to be hundreds of ground-breaking recordings “on the cheap”. By the time Paramount ceased operations in 1932, it had compiled recordings of an impressive of performers spanning early jazz, blues, gospel, the Vaudeville and operatic stages and other popular musical styles. Continue reading

A Scientific Approach To Determining “The Best” In Album Cover Art

Details on the U.S. Mensa Society’s “Best Cover Art” Bracket Challenge

American Mensa “Best Cover Art” Bracket Challenge Artwork

By Mike Goldstein, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com 

Earlier this month, I learned about an interesting poll looking to discover “the world’s best album cover”. While these polls are typically done by music/art/photography/lifestyle publications (and something that I summarize in a yearly report on the topic (here’s a link to the one from last year – https://albumcoverhalloffame.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/best-and-worst-album-cover-art-lists-2013-summary-and-analysis/), I was intrigued by the organization behind this most-recent poll – the U.S. outpost of the Mensa Society which, to the uninitiated, is an international organization made up of people of all ages who, according to their site, ” share only one trait — high intelligence.” To qualify for Mensa, applicants were required “to score in the top 2 percent of the general population on an accepted standardized intelligence test”, making Mensa members – who include engineers, homemakers, teachers, actors, athletes, students and CEOs – well-equipped to develop a method (their “bracket challenges”) via which the “best ofs” in many categories can be determined (past challenges have include “best” heroes, inventions and toys).

This year, the group decided to throw their focus to determining, in a totally subjective, slightly-scientific and non-definitive way, which modern-era album cover is “the best”. On October 14th, I contacted the organization to find out more about their methodology and heard back from Chip Taulbee, who serves as the Editor of the Mensa Newsletter for the American Mensa organization and, based on this back-and-forth between myself and Chip, I think that they’ve come up with a strong approach that will, in the end, probably start more heated discussions than serve to satisfy any music fan’s appetite to know “what’s best”. Even so, I have to laud the group for their efforts and look forward to seeing the results when they’re posted early next year. For your review, here are my notes from my discussion with Chip:

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Interview with Shauna & Sarah Dodds on their Grammy-winning album cover for Reckless Kelly

Interview with Shauna and Sarah Dodds, Backstage Design, winners of 2013 Grammy Award for “Best Recording Package” for their work on Reckless Kelly’s Long Night Moon

By Mike Goldstein, Curator, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com
March 21, 2014

Dodds, Backstage, Design, Studio, Grammy, Reckless Kelly, Shauna, Sarah, Long Night Moon, album cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While most of the press coverage of the annual Grammy Awards show is focused on the nominees and winners in the dozen or so “major” categories, there’s a lot of talent on display in some of the lesser-promoted award categories that, given some additional attention by the show’s producers, press and music/art fans that might not be aware of them, would serve both to excite those exposed to their works and serve to show just how imaginative, innovative and influential producers of music packaging and imagery remain today.

And while there are those that insist that, due to the swing from retail to digital distribution of music and music products, album cover packaging and album art in general is less important today than other forms of marketing and promotion, I’d like to point to this year’s winning design for “Best Recording Package” – awarded to Shauna and Sarah Dodds of Austin, TX’s Backstage Design – as a great example of just how shallow this train of thought seems to be. In today’s extremely noisy music marketing arena, it takes a well-honed sense of what it takes to rise above the din and deliver a package to an act’s fans – both existing and new – that engages them and gives them a sense of intimacy with the act, it’s music and the people behind “the brand”. I think that, when you take into account the depth and diversity of what the winning design team created for their clients, you’ll agree that they delivered a package that perfectly illustrates what can – and must – be done to keep the art of music packaging relevant and exciting for artists and fans alike.

In the following interview, Shauna and Sarah give us an intimate look into their creative process, the challenging design and production briefs for the project and an unimaginable display of knowledge of lunar maps – enjoy!

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Interview with Ian Cuttler – the making of The Legend – Johnny Cash album package

Interview with art director Ian Cuttler Sala, winner of the 2006 Grammy Award (48th Annual) for “Best Boxed or Special Limited-Edition Package” for his work on The Legend – Johnny Cash on Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings

Ian Cuttler, art director, Grammy, Grammy Award, Columbia Records, interview, Mike Goldstein, package

 

 

 

Edited from the original interview which was published in March, 2006 and reprinted to note the untimely passing of Mr. Cuttler Sala in February, 2014, killed in a car crash while in Los Angeles…

GRAMMY-winning packaging – how it all comes together.

You have to admit it – the nominees for the 48th Annual GRAMMY Awards in these categories represented artists – both musical and graphic – from a wide variety of genres and disciplines. From the covers for an Alabama gospel/folk project and two leading female indie songwriters, to the packaging of multi-CD retrospectives on Sir Ray, The Man in Black, and NY’s premium purveyors of punk, every package spoke volumes of what lay inside the shrink wrap.

Recent research has shown that nearly 20% of all music purchases are affected directly from the impression made by the packaging, so these graphic first impressions have become even more important to an industry dealing with music delivered in new ways (including sans package!).

Mexican-born artist Ian Cuttler Sala has been living in New York City for the past 9 years, where he has excelled in his career as Senior Art Director for Sony Music. He has successfully art directed and designed a wide variety of projects such as Louis Armstrong: The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings (which was also nominated at the 43rd Annual GRAMMY Awards. Other projects in his rooster include CD packaging and campaigns for recording artists such as Beyonce, Destiny´s Child, Ricky Martin, Mariah Carey, Julio Iglesias, and Marc Anthony, among others. ¨This is just the beginning” Cuttler Sala claims. Even though he is well-established as an industry leader, his passion for the arts keep driving him to explore in related fields, such as photography, where his prowess is rapidly growing, creating quite a name for himself.

Interviewer Mike Goldstein of NY’s RockPoP Gallery asked this talented individual about his process, the artist and label rep he collaborated with to produce his winning work, and a little about what he thinks the future holds for them and the role of the art director in a rapidly-changing retail music environment. Here is an excerpt from that interview:

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Interview with Grammy-winning designer Fritz Klaetke on his work for Woody At 100

Interview with Fritz Klaetke on his Grammy-winning (for Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package) work for Woody At 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection.

Posted April 2, 2013 by Mike Goldstein, curator, Albumcoverhalloffame.com

woody guthrie, woody at 100, smithsonian

To be an artist of any sort in Depression-era America required both talent and commitment. For an artist like Woody Guthrie, inspiration for his song-writing came initially from his experiences living in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl (if you call that “living”) and meeting some of the many migrant workers who, like he, were looking for something – work, charity, companionship – to help them make it through the day. He learned a lot from absorbing the traditional music these migrants played and sang while they worked – or commiserated about their lack of work – ultimately creating the portfolio of songs that would earn him a place at the top of the list of “most-influential American songwriters” of the 20th Century.

While his legend has been built around his musical talents, many are surprised to find out that it was Guthrie’s capabilities as a sign painter, illustrator and cartoonist that kept him fed as he journeyed to California early on in his career. Fans of his music were first given a look at his artistic talents when they saw the cover sketch used on his 1943 autobiography titled Bound For Glory, but most have remained unaware of his prodigious output in this area, not knowing that he also produced a number of images used to illustrate his record albums, sheet music, tour posters, articles he’d written on a variety of subjects and, in many cases, drawn to help him better-visualize the inspirations for his music.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1912, the producers at the Smithsonian Folkways record label turned early on in the process to their long-time creative partners – Fritz Klaetke and his team at the Visual Dialogue design firm in Boston – to create a design for a retrospective box set package they’d release called Woody At 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection.

Collaborating with producer and archivist Jeff Place to dig deep into the Folkways archives to find examples sketches, drawings and other related ephemera that would he the design team fully illuminate the man and all his artistic capabilities. They also tapped Guthrie’s daughter Nora, who’d also been involved in a fine book that chronicles her father’s talents as a graphic artist (titled Woody Guthrie’s Artworks, written by Steven Brower and published in 2005), for additional help. The impressive results of this work were awarded this year’s Grammy Award for “Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package”.

I caught up with Fritz recently and asked him to give us the story behind this award-winning design project and what it was like to be charged with coming up with a creative visual interpretation for a package that chronicles the musical output of one of our country’s most-honored creative forces…

Mike Goldstein (Curator, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com) – Fritz, welcome back from your vacation break, and thanks for taking the time to discuss this project with me. Let’s get started with some background questions – How is it that you were first introduced to Woody Guthrie’s music?

Fritz Klaetke – (Partner, Visual Dialogue) – You know, it’s funny to say this, but I think that, as one of those classic American songwriters, Woody Guthrie’s music is just in the air here. I probably heard “This Land Is Your Land” as a kid growing up in Detroit. but the first time I really “studied” Woody and his music was in 1994 when I designed the CD package for Woody Guthrie: Long Ways To Travel, which was one of my first package designs for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

woody guthrie, long way to travel, fritz klaetke, designer

Woody Guthrie – Long Ways To Travel

Mike G – In your opinion, what was it that made Woody Guthrie – the artist and his music – different from other artists in his “category” or of his day?

Fritz K – I don’t know if Woody even had a category back then. I think that he took the traditions of the “wandering, singing storyteller” and made them his own.

MG – I understand that this is a comprehensive compilation, featuring many, many songs, but was there a particular track on the album that served as the inspiration of the package art and design?

FK – The inspiration wasn’t a particular song, but rather the direct, personal feel to Woody’s music–hence the life-size cover photo of Woody staring out at the listener. Another inspiration was his type-written lyrics, letters, and notes. We created a collage of the typewriter type which functions as a rough-textured border for the cover photo and continues inside the book.

MG – What “guidance” – or specific instructions – did you provide the illustrators or the photographers/designers that created the key parts of your packages?

FK – Well, all the design was done right here at Visual Dialogue – it was only me and designer Kimber Lynch working on it. I’d say that the “illustrator” was Woody himself – we were able to select from an amazing collection of visual artwork he created that was housed in the Folkways archives. The photography and other artifacts were supplied either by Folkways or came directly from the Guthrie archives. With all of it, the package was really about Woody, so we wanted to make the design about him, not us. From the large photo on the cover to the interior layout which emphasizes his artwork and original lyrics, Woody and his work is in the foreground and we’re backstage hopefully making him look good.

MG – As I know that he was a prolific painter, cartoonist and illustrator, were you tempted to use, or riff on, any of his own work? Was the label as hands-off as you make it sound, or were they actively involved in any/all aspects of the development of this design?

Woody Guthrie, archival images, Woody at 100

Archival images by Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie, drawings, archives, Woody at 100

More images from the Woody Guthrie archives

FK – At the outset of the project, I worked closely with Mary Monseur, the production manager at Folkways, to come up with the format for the book with disc pages in the back. During the process, I also worked very closely with Jeff Place, the producer and archivist at Folkways who really drove the selection of content, but the design was basically left up to me.

MG – How did you choose the talent – the designers, illustrators, typographers/graphic designers, photographers, etc. – who would work with you on this effort?

FK – As I mentioned previously, all of the creative work was done in-house here at Visual Dialogue. We did get a bit of advice on the text typography from my colleague and neighbor Jim Hood, who teaches at the Art Institute of Boston and is a scholar of type design history. We were looking for a typeface that worked as a text font but was also appropriate to the era in which most to the songs were recorded and ended up with Devinne. That typeface was paired with Trade Gothic Condensed used for headlines.

MG – Taking into account all of the project coordination, how long did this process take – from start to finished product?

FK – All said, it took about two years, but that’s because we had to nail down a format for the package well in advance before anything had been designed in order to get printing estimates. Once we actually had our kick-off meeting at Folkways with Jeff Place, the producer and archivist, and Mary Monseur, the production manager, the process took about three months to first deliver files to the printer, then quite a while to produce, since the package was being printed in China…

Woody at 100, Woody Guthrie, design, comp

Design comps for Woody At 100

design, comp, woody at 100, woody guthrie

comp, design, woody guthrie, woody at 100

Almost there…!

MG – Were there any special tools you used or work processes followed – manual or computer-based – that helped create the finished product? Can you give me any more details of that final aspect of the process? How were you able to oversee the quality of the pre-press and final printing? Did you or Smithsonian have anyone in China overseeing the process?

FK – there weren’t really any “special” tools used – just our usual graphics software – Adobe InDesign and Photoshop. For the printing and production, we worked with Tri-Plex Packaging in New York City and I kept close contact with the account person there, Jason Roth, while he coordinated the review of materials, proofs, etc. and acted as the liaison connecting us with the actual printing and binding teams in Shanghai.

MG – When working on a package like this, do you consider your efforts to be works of self-expression, or do you take your lead from your client?

FK – In this case – the artist Woody Guthrie – was definitely the driver for our design. In working for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, we’re also cognizant of the rich visual heritage of Folkways and the album covers created by Ronald Clyne (Editor’s note – the late Ronald Clyne was the designer responsible for over 500 of the label’s record covers over a 40-year period and is credited with developing Folkways’ unique style of album imagery). In a sense, the Woody At 100 cover is an extension of the early LP cover designs for Folkways – strong, black & white photography combined with bold, straight-forward typography and a limited color palette.

MG – Before we change gears a bit, I’d like to ask you if there is any other anecdotal info about this project you’d be willing to share…every project I’ve ever looked into seems to have something of an “ah-ha moment”, so anything you’d be willing to share would be quite a treat!

FK – One of the hardest parts about the Woody At 100 project was coming up with a photo for the cover. So many photos of Woody have been used to death in other projects and, like Monet’s haystacks, they can become pretty dull after you’ve seen them a hundred times. We really had our hearts set on using an image of Woody where he’d be looking straight out from the cover. After much searching, Nora Guthrie found an undated, passport-sized photo tucked away in a closet somewhere that had never been seen outside of the immediate family. When we found that image, we knew we had our cover photo!

MG – Let’s talk a bit about some topics I’d like to get your opinions on – First off, with the electronic delivery of music products growing at a fast pace, are you noticing any more or less enthusiasm on the client’s – or artist’s – behalf to invest time and money in packaging that stands out?

FK – It’s interesting how the role of music package design has changed with downloaded music. Cover art definitely takes on less importance when it’s viewed on an iPod screen but, conversely, box sets – with their ability to deliver a fuller experience with the inclusion of extensive song notes, essays, artwork, etc. – give package designs like Woody At 100 an arguably bigger role than the in the heyday of the LP cover era. I believe that this deeper experience is what many real fans of particular musicians or groups ultimately crave – a way to go beyond just the songs included on the records.

MG – How do you think album cover art help us document human history? I believe that iconic album cover art – in many ways – has had a noticeable effect on Pop Culture. What’s your take on this – is the imagery and music providing the direction, or is it reflecting the culture, or ??

FK – It’s interesting to think about this question. In a case like Woody At 100, the cover art represents a documentation of a milestone project of one of the 20th century’s great artists. In a sense, it reflects Woody’s time in which he created the music, but it’s filtered through a 2012 lens. For contemporary music, I think cover art definitely becomes one of the defining visual representations of the era in which it was produced. It’s too bad that so many of our leading musicians – including those who are out there on the edge from a musical standpoint – are often quite unimaginative when it comes to their visual representation.

MG – You bring up an interesting point. When Guthrie was first releasing his records, there wasn’t any album art per se, so musicians had to rely on other forms of promotion to get their music into peoples’ homes – endless tours and radio. Since he was both a political animal and an active visual artist, it would have been interesting to see what sort of album covers (and music videos) he’d have approved and how involved in the process he’d have been. What do you think?

FK – As I mentioned before, his first album, which was released on Asch Recordings (Editor’s note #2 – Asch Recordings was the precursor to Folkways Recordings, run by Moe Asch, an early believer in the importance of impactful album cover images) in 1944, features Guthrie’s artwork.

Woody Guthrie, Asch Records

Woody Guthrie on Asch Records

I’m sure he would have been right at home designing his own music packaging. There are several of his cover sketches included in the book and, of course, it would be interesting to speculate on the results if Woody would have picked up a still or video camera…

MG – Last question – Where do you keep your new Grammy trophy?

FK – Well, as of this date, I still haven’t received it. I found out that it takes like two months to get the engraved award! I was hoping to go through airport security with it on the way back to Boston from Los Angeles but, when I do finally get it, I have a place of honor picked out in my studio next to a bunch of design awards and my middle school ping-pong trophy.

About the artist, Fritz Klaetke (info provided by the interviewee) –

Fritz Klaetke, Visual Dialogue

Fritz Klaetke of Visual Dialogue

The offspring of an architect and a painter, Fritz Klaetke was genetically pre-destined to be a designer. He grew up in Detroit and founded Visual Dialogue in 1988 while still a student at the University of Michigan. Today, the studio is located in a renovated row house in Boston’s historic South End neighborhood.

The output from Visual Dialogue ranges from brand identity to music packaging, print collateral to websites, magazines to sculpture, and book design to interiors. Clients include The Art Institute of Boston, Barbara Lynch restaurant group, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Harvard University, Institute of Contemporary Art, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, MIT, Moshe Safdie and Associates, New York Public Radio, and Smithsonian Institution.

Visual Dialogue has received recognition from organizations including the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Art Directors Club, Type Directors Club, and The Webby Awards and the work has been featured in publications such as Communications Arts, HOW, I.D., Novum and Sports Illustrated. In addition, several of Fritz’s projects are included in the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City.

The design of Big Wet Kiss for the Boston-based band Chucklehead was Fritz’s first foray into music packaging in 1992. Since that time, he has created music packaging for artists including Lead Belly, Boozoo Chavis, Johen Cohen, Roscoe Holcomb, Langston Hughes, Mississippi John Hurt, Ella Jenkins, Sleepy LaBeef, Bill Monroe, Jonathan Richman, Pete Seeger, Doc Watson, Mary Lou Williams, and Bob Wills.

Besides the Grammy-winning Woody at 100 package, other box sets Fritz has designed include Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology, Friends of Old Time Music and Lead Belly’s Last Sessions, all for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. In addition to over 70 music packages, Fritz and his team at Visual Dialogue also designed the Webby-nominated Folkways website: www.folkways.si.edu.

A video Fritz’s Grammy acceptance speech can be viewed at www.visualdialogue.com/and-the-grammy-goes-to

For more information on Fritz Klaetke and Visual Dialogue, please visit their website at www.visualdialogue.com

About this AlbumCoverHallofFame.com interview –

Our ongoing series of interviews will give you, the music and art fan, a look at “the making of” the illustrations, photographs and designs of many of the most-recognized and influential images that have served to package and promote your all-time-favorite recordings.

In each interview feature, we’ll meet the artists, designers and photographers who produced these works of art and learn what motivated them, what processes they used, how they collaborated (or fought) with the musical acts, their management, their labels, etc. – all of the things that influenced the final product you saw then and still see today.

We hope that you enjoy these looks behind the scenes of the music-related art business and that you’ll share your stories with us and fellow fans about what role these works of art – and the music they covered – played in your lives.

All images featured in this story are Copyright 2013 Fritz Klaetke and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings – All rights reserved – and are used by the author’s permission. Except as noted, all other text Copyright 2013 – Mike Goldstein, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com (www.albumcoverhalloffame.com) & RockPoP Productions – All rights reserved.

Your ACHOF Curator’s trip to Seattle – Grammy party & EMP

I’ve been a member of the Grammy organization for a long time now and try every year to either go to the Grammys, the MusiCares “Person of the Year” show or a Grammy-sponsored “viewing party” that the regional chapters throw. Now that I live in Portland, OR (and have to pay my own way!), I’ve found myself hopping on the Amtrak Cascades line early on a Sunday morning to take the scenic 3.5 hour trip up to Seattle for the Pacific NW Chapter’s viewing party , held at the Spitfire bar/club in Belltown (just a short distance away from the tourist mecca that is Pike Place Market). I’m always happy to donate prints for the fund-raising raffles and/or auctions that take place at the party and, as I have a nice collection of “left-overs” from my RockPoP Gallery days, I put together a nice selection of Justin Hampton poster prints (QOTSA, Mastodon, Judas Priest, Ween and The Beatles) and dropped those off at the club early, which gave me some time to hop on down to the Seattle Art Museum to see the new Rembrandt/European Masters exhibition I’d heard about.

Getting to the SAM, I realized that the exhibition wasn’t scheduled to start until the 14th (sheesh!!), so I did a tour of the current exhibits, including a fascinating one that was closing on 2/17 titled Elles:SAM that featured a eye-popping selection of works – prints, photos, paintings, sculptures and video installations – by “seminal woman artists”. Some of my favorites, including Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler and Georgia O’Keeffe, were included and, while I wasn’t familiar with all of the artist represented, I was particularly impressed with the playful works of Yayoi Kusama and a video installation titled Cornered by Adrian Piper that managed to get even an ADD guy like me to sit down and watch for a while! http://seattleartmuseum.org/exhibit/exhibitDetail.asp?eventID=23870

After buying some Valentine’s Day chocolates at Fran’s Chocolate for my wife Fran (aren’t I cute?), I headed back to my hotel to prep for the evening’s festivities. I got there when the doors opened at 7pm, and any of you that know me know that I’m pretty horrible when it comes to “schmoozing”, so it was my plan to see if anyone else from Portland had gone up for the party (there wasn’t) and then find myself a table near a large monitor. Luckily, I found just such a place, ordered a G&T and settled in for an evening of watching (people and monitor) and checking every half-hour on the status of the silent auction bids on the poster package I’d donated.

Sitting at the table next to me, I did meet a nice guy named Davin Stedman who is a principal in a talented Seattle band called The Staxx Brothers  and spent a fair amount of time talking to him and his friends in attendance about the Grammy show, the music business, storyboarding music videos and, my favorite subject, album art. He was very knowledgeable on all subjects we dove into and I’m hoping that we stay in touch, as I was pretty impressed with some of the music/videos I’d seen on his site (http://www.staxxbrothers.com/info/index.html).

After a few hours at the party, during which my range of emotions ran from happy (to have seen fun. win a couple of Grammy Awards and for the Bruno Mars/Sting performances of classic Bob Marley songs) to intrigued (just HOW did they get Carrie Underwood’s dress to light up like that?) to disappointed (they showed Prince PLAYING in the previews!) to downright bored (sorry, just can’t get excited about Frank Ocean or Rihanna, although she’s quite beautiful). By 10:30, it was time to go. I checked on the auction table (bids on the posters were up to $170 – not bad, but should go for more), said good-bye to Davin and the local Grammy folks, and walked the short distance back to the hotel to watch the rest of the show in my room. Maybe next year, I can convince SOMEONE from PDX to join me and double the turnout from our fair city (or, even better, perhaps those of us in Portlandia can host our own party)…

The next morning, I took the monorail out to the Experience Music Project (“the EMP”, to locals) to see what was new and exciting in this temple to Paul Allen’s amazing collection of all things Pop Culture. Being somewhat more prepared this time, I knew that the new Art of Video Games exhibition wouldn’t quite be ready for viewing, but I’d wanted to see the Hendrix Hits London display and, time permitting, the Worn to be Wild leather jacket exhibition. As a side note – while I understand the power of a sponsor’s support of an exhibition (in the case of the Worn to be Wild display, that would be Harley Davidson, a company that makes more money selling licensed clothing and accessories than they do selling motorcycles) and that the EMP has expanded the scope of its original mission statement to include the very broad category of “Pop Culture”, I do hope that, one day, they’ll agree to talk to me and others who promote the importance of album cover art and artists as integral parts of both the music business and Pop Culture and work with us to curate a comprehensive album cover art show there.

Anyway, back to my visit. I next spent a short while traipsing through the Hendrix exhibit, where I did sit and watch a nice video they’d put together on Hendrix’s time in London and took a shot or two of drummer Mitch Mitchell’s silver sparkle drum set (well-known by Hendrix/Mitchell fans).

Mitch Mitchell drum set EMP
Mitch Mitchell drum set at EMP Museum

 

 

 

 

 

I then walked out to find a path to a part of the museum that I don’t think I’ve seen before. There, I came upon another exhibit that turned out to be a great surprise. Fans of science fiction and horror, run, don’t walk, to see the Icons of Science Fiction exhibit there – you won’t be disappointed, and your true geekdom will be tested. Turns out that Mr. Allen is a huge science fiction fan as well and, as someone with very deep pockets, he’s managed to put together a collection of artifacts from science fiction storytelling in all forms. First edition books, graphic novels (AKA “comic books”), scripts and props from movies and TV from the Golden Ages until now.

Mummy mask at EMP

Mummy mask at EMP Museum

Gill Man, EMP, movie
Gill Man mask on display at EMP Museum

Being a kid who was glued to the TV and in attendance at many Saturday “monster matinees” at the local movie house from the early 1960s on (and who can forget “Creature Features” with your host, Svengoolie?), the items on display reintroduced me to films and shows that I hadn’t thought about in ages. There were props from The Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Forbidden Planet, Star Trek (TV and movies, all variations), Dr. Who and many others. To see a flying saucer model used in Plan 9 from Outer Space and that flying creature that landed on your head and sucked on your brains from It Conquered The World was just so cool. Being that the EMP is a teaching institution, there was an underlying premise to the exhibition – “What If…”(as in “what if we could explore the stars?” and “what if I had superpowers?”) and this was supported by a nice selection of video interviews with trend-setters in science fiction films and television both past (Roger Corman, Gene Roddenberry, etc.) and present (producers and directors for The Matrix, Terminator and others), plus a nice interview with John Landis about the ground-breaking theatrical short he produced with Michael Jackson for his song “Thriller”. With all that being said, the art collector in me couldn’t help but be jealous of Mr. Allen’s collection. Just imagine inviting your friends over to your house to watch a classic horror film on your big screen and being able to walk down the hall past Robbie the Robot and a full-sized Alien (Mr. Giger, your genius is indubitable).

Alien, movie, Giger

Alien Monster on display at EMP Museum

http://www.empmuseum.org/at-the-museum/current-exhibits/icons-of-science-fiction.aspx

 

After emerging from that exhibit thoroughly satisfied, I waltzed on upstairs to see the leather jackets on display. There were many, many examples, including a Norton jacket (how did that slip in there?) from the early 60s decorated as any self-respecting “Rocker” would have done it and 8-10 jackets embroidered, pinned, patched, sketched on and ripped in honor of their owners’ favorite punk bands.

LP, album cover, EMP, leather

LP Wall on display at EMP Museum

There was also a wall of album jackets on display that featured musical acts wearing leather jackets and, seeing them (The Ramones, Springsteen, Joan Jett, Queen, Michael Bolton, etc.) only served to remind me that record covers really did reflect the styles of the times. So, while seeing the famous red ’56 Harley KH ridden by Elvis (as seen in Albert Wertheimer’s famous photo) had its value, it was seeing another example of the importance of album covers as historical documents that made the visit worthwhile for me.

http://www.empmuseum.org/at-the-museum/current-exhibits/worn-to-be-wild-the-black-leather-jacket.aspx

That, and being able to pick up a t-shirt with the Toys In The Attic artwork on it (nice work, Ernie/Ingrid!) for just $10! I’ll wear it proudly, and often.

Aerosmith, Toys in the Attic, Ernie Cefalu

Mike G’s Toys in the Attic T-shirt

Mike Goldstein, February 15, 2013, Portland, OR, USA

Info on the 2012 Grammy Award nominees in the packaging categories

A little bit about the 2012 Grammy Award nominees in the packaging categories…updated with info on the Winners!

This year’s nominees in the packaging category included a wide range of talents – a few past nominees and winners, a number of U.S. and international design firms, some designers working directly for the musical acts represented and, as we’ve seen from past examples including folks like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, the handiwork of the musicians themselves, showing us that there’s more to their creative talents than just great songwriting skills.

You can view the offical list of the winning works from previous Grammy Awards events on the Grammy website (http://www.grammy.com/nominees/search?artist=&title=&year=All&genre=22), but here’s a bit of background on each of this year’s winners and nominees – an impressive group of creative individuals, for sure!

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