Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sleevefacers Become The Album Cover

Jolie Myers/NPR

December 1, 2008 · British DJ Carl Morris was just "horsing around," when he held up a Paul McCartney record to his face, grafting the famous Beatle's head to his body.

Since then, he's perfected the art of "sleevefacing" or melding one's body with an album cover. His little experiment has flourished into a Web site and book that includes photos of people sleevefacing across the world.

He tells Alex Cohen that the best creations involve "happy accidents as much as the planning" and breaks down the evolution of this unique art trend. (See photos below).


Ummm, this is not an original idea, just look at this 1976 release from ELO (Ole') who perfected the art a long time ago. It is an amusing concept, but it has been done before.

If you want to look at more of the silliness, you can visit a website that has been set up. There are some very creative images, it is good for a laugh.

Vinyl records begin a comeback

By Andrew Steadman
Collegian Staff Writer

Jesse Ruegg is a music fan.

So much so, in fact, he runs a concert series in downtown State College (Roustabout!) and owns a venue equipped for hosting rock shows (Chronic Town).

So it should come as no surprise he has a strong opinion about his music.

"Fans who are really passionate about their music want the best they can have, they want the best sound quality," Ruegg said.

For Ruegg, that quality can only be achieved through one medium: the vinyl record.

"When you buy a vinyl record, you actually have something unique," Ruegg said. "You can't download it; it's tangible. You have a nice canvas for cover art, a sleeve with liner notes on it, and the actual physical act of playing a record is a very tactile experience. It's almost ceremonial."

Ruegg's opinion may sound like old-fashioned nostalgia, but there is growing evidence he is certainly not the only one who feels so strongly about the mystique of the vinyl LP (long-playing record). Though the CD supposedly supplanted vinyl as the musical medium of choice back in the '80s, the sale of recorded music has struggled mightily in recent years. Yet, despite the drop in CD sales, vinyl has continued to sell. In fact, record album sales have thrived. And it's not just vintage vinyl; consumers are buying new records by current bands as well.

"With music sales going down, vinyl's actually going up," Ruegg said. "It doesn't seem to make sense."

The Evidence

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry. Among other things, the RIAA is responsible for keeping track of recorded music sales figures as well as protecting the intellectual property of the artists it represents. The RIAA's 2007 year-end statistics show vinyl records experienced a 36.6 percent sales increase from 2006 to 2007. When compared to CD sales, which dropped 17.6 percent over the same period of time, it's quickly apparent something is happening in the music industry.

Liz Kennedy, deputy director of communications at the RIAA, said the group is hesitant to see the increase as a significant shift in consumer opinion.

"Our 2007 numbers do point to about a 30 percent increase over the year before," Kennedy said. "Any resurgence in sales is good news, but I don't think we'd be able to speculate on the future."

A statement the RIAA released to the media gives the group's official opinion on the matter: "The music industry offers a multitude of options to satisfy the many ways fans prefer listening to music, from classic vinyl to innovative digital services. Any way in which consumers can discover and enjoy legal music is ultimately a great thing for fans and the music community alike."

Others in the industry agree a single year's sales figures aren't enough to prove that vinyl's revival has any staying power. Richard Laing, who works in sales and marketing at Seattle-based independent label Sub Pop Records, said his company is cautiously encouraged by the increase.

"It still remains to be seen if it's a short-term trend," Laing said.

Sub Pop was the label responsible for the grunge movement of the late '80s and early '90s, when its stable of bands included Nirvana, Soundgarden and Mudhoney. It continues to be one of the most influential indie labels with bands like The Postal Service and The Shins. Though RIAA's 2008 figures have not yet been released, Laing said Sub Pop has seen a continued increase in vinyl sales throughout the year.

Greg Gabbard, owner of State College's City Lights Records, said independent record stores like his own have benefited the most from the resurgence. He said some owners of smaller record stores who were discouraged by declining album sales decided to stay in business as a result of the sudden interest in vinyl.

"The increase was dramatic in the past couple years," Gabbard said.

Gabbard said independent stores were best prepared for the sudden interest, because the smaller stores were the ones that were still stocking vinyl records as well as buying used vinyl. Laing said the bigger outlets are catching on, with Best Buy and starting to stock new LPs.

The Theories

There are many differing opinions on the exact reason for vinyl's success in the face of the recorded music industry's recent struggles. Ruegg is willing to suggest what the RIAA will not: The resurgence is a reaction against poor business practices by the major labels. He said the major record labels have lost the trust of consumers for a number of reasons, which has contributed to an increase in vinyl record purchases.

"It's almost like a response to the music industry being like a stick in the mud," Ruegg said. "They're totally missing the point of pop music. I'm talking about the major labels here. Eighteen dollars for a CD is ridiculous, charging that much for crappy music."

Another reason for vinyl's recent success may be sound quality. It's common knowledge that digital music formats like MP3 suffer from a significant decrease in quality, but the vinyl faithful also believe part of the music is lost in translation to CD. Audio purists have long argued over which medium is superior, with many holding the opinion that vinyl records better recreate the live music experience.

"I personally think that music mixed and mastered for vinyl and played on vinyl records is the pinnacle of analog sound," Ruegg said. "If I have the choice between listening to something on CD and listening to it on vinyl, I'll go with vinyl every time."

Ben Sneeringer, a Penn State Berks student who is a member of a vinyl appreciation group on Facebook, said vinyl is less convenient than modern portable options like the iPod, but that he still prefers the sound of vinyl.

"I like the sound of vinyl better. It's much fuller and is far less compressed than MP3s," Sneeringer said. "I just think the sound quality is better on a record, if you have the opportunity, as opposed to MP3s or even CDs."

The final theory for the renewed love of vinyl is harder to quantify, vinyl enthusiast Joseph Lacombe, Class of 2008, said.

"What I like about vinyl is its physicality," Lacombe said. "I like the process of sliding a record out of its sleeve and laying it down, then placing the needle and hearing that first little audible crackle as it begins to spin."

Nostalgia, album art, liner notes and the actual act of playing the record all factor into the power of the vinyl record. Laing compared the phenomenon to the desire to actually own something one enjoys, such as a favorite book or, in this case, a record.

"A lot of people are buying records because they like the sound," Laing said. "But they also like to have the actual piece, the physical artifact."

The Response

Chronic Town, the hookah bar and concert venue Ruegg co-owns with Jeff Van Fossan, has begun buying and selling used and new records. The store is joining several other places to buy records in State College, including Gabbard's City Lights Records on College Avenue and Josh Ferko's Stax of Trax, a record store contained within Webster's Bookstore Café on Allen Street.

Ruegg said the decision to sell records was influenced by his own appreciation for vinyl as well as the wants of his establishment's patrons. He's a vinyl fan and he realized many of the patrons of his store were also vinyl fans, so it made sense.

"Sixty to 75 percent of our collection is vintage stuff, used vinyl," Ruegg said. "Stuff that's not in print anymore and stuff you can't buy anymore."

Selling records originally started as a way for Ruegg and Van Fossan to supplement the musical aspect of Chronic Town. They started by buying a few copies of LPs from bands that played Roustabout! and selling them in the store, but it has since grown beyond their expectations.

"We've actually sold more records than I ever thought we would," Ruegg said.

Even so, vinyl records won't be dethroning CDs just yet. Laing said vinyl records are more expensive to produce than CDs, which means Sub Pop and other record companies must gauge how well a record will sell before deciding to release it on vinyl.

"People still have their listening environments based around the CD," Laing said. "It's a different group of people who buy a record."

Laing said his company has begun offering records packaged with coupons redeemable for a free MP3 download of the album, which stimulates traffic to Sub Pop's Web site as well as meeting the demands of consumers in the digital age.

"The fact that we include a download eliminates some of the shortcomings of vinyl," Laing said. "It's relatively cost effective to do. Plus, to redeem the coupon, you have to come to our Web site."

Despite the innovations, vinyl records still account for only about 10 percent of Sub Pop's total sales. For now, it looks like vinyl will continue to flourish but still maintain a sort of counterculture status to the dominant music media.

And for Ruegg, part of vinyl's attraction is its separation from the ordinary.

"I don't need to hear any more Jessica Simpson. I don't want to hear any more American Idol bands. I want to hear something real," Ruegg said. "The bands that are doing that sort of thing are putting their stuff on vinyl."

Collectors recover lost era of Jewish America on vinyl

By Lilly Fowler

Born into the traditions of both Modern Orthodoxy and Reform Judaism, Josh Kun grew up on the streets of Pico-Robertson trying hard not to stand out.

Still, Kun (who today calls himself a typical "dysfunctioning Los Angeles Jew") admits he was one of the few teenage boys to coast the neighborhood wearing hip-hop gear.

"That tug-of-war between secularism and the expectation of religiosity or the expectation of tradition, that tug was a big one in my life," Kun said in a recent interview.

Now a journalism professor at USC, Kun has found a way to meld his passion for music with the traditions with which he was raised. Namely, by discovering lost pieces of Jewish history through -- of all things -- vinyl records.

While other music fanatics visit Hollywood's nightclubs to discover groundbreaking music, Kun rummages through countless bins at places like the National Council of Jewish Women's thrift shop looking for Jewish records of the past. But he hasn't done it alone.

Roger Bennett, a lawyer from England and co-author of their new book, "And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Our Vinyl: The Jewish Past as Told by the Records We Have Loved and Lost" (Crown, $24.95), is also guilty of giving in to record-collecting pleasures.

Kun insists that putting together the 11-chapter book filled with hundreds of little-known album covers has been serious business.

"We realized we had this collection of stories that collectively added up to a whole other history," Kun said.

Specifically, Kun believes these albums can help listeners understand the three dominant narratives of postwar Jewish life -- assimilation, the birth of Israel and the Holocaust -- and also help to create new ones.

With chapters titled, "The Yiddish Are Coming: How Vinyl Kept a Dying Language Alive" and "Me Llamo Steinberg: The Jewish Latin Craze," it's not difficult to imagine the new tales these records may have in store for audiences.

But Kun says there are also plenty of questions he and Bennett are still asking.

"Who runs out to the store and says, 'Oh, I can't wait to get home, pour myself a drink, sit back, finish dinner with the family and listen to "Six-Day War,"'?" Kun asks.

In addition to including lavish album covers from the 1950s, '60s and beyond, Kun and Bennett also asked the likes of music critic Ann Powers, actress Sandra Bernhard, TV pioneer Norman Lear and others to write for the book about what they hear when they listen to the music.

Whether it involves forgotten Jewish artists like the Barry Sisters, who belted out a Yiddish version of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head"; Johnny Yune, a Korean immigrant who got caught up in New York's Israeli club scene and learned how to sing Hebrew and Yiddish songs, eventually putting out a record; or Nat King Cole's rendition of "Nature Boy," a song that takes its melodic riff from an old Yiddish tune, friends, critics and music geeks chime in.

And Kun himself admits to having become a sincere fan of the old albums he has discovered.

"There are those that are kinda the research tools, and then there are those that bleed over to gotta get them on the iPod," he said.

Three Web sites, Reboot Stereophonic, And You Shall Know Us By the Trail of Our Vinyl and Idelsounds, also offer fans of the records an opportunity to explore the music further.

Reboot Stereophonic, whose motto is "history sounds different when you know where to start listening," is a nonprofit record label that reissues the records featured in the book in CD format. Idelsounds offers a discussion forum that allows new conversations about the music to happen. Eventually, the three sites will become one, offering fans a one-stop hub on the Web, streaming the music online, in addition to combining the other features of the sites.

Kun and Bennett are also in the process of tracking down the artists who are still alive to talk about the music they once made.

All in all, Kun said, the project is about capturing a piece of history.

"We want to have these stories preserved before they go away," he said.

Still, it's impossible to separate Kun's and Bennett's boyhood passion for music from their current endeavor.

"If they played this at synagogue, we never would have left," they write in the book.


Welcome, Mutant Disco!

Cantor records links Edmonton to the lost treasures of New York's musical underground

Published December 4, 2008
by Mike Deane in Music Column

Edmonton is the last place that comes to mind when you think about the New York post-punk or mutant-disco scene, but our town’s Cantor Records is playing a prime role in documenting relics of the NYC underground.

Cantor is a one-of-a-kind operation in Edmonton, and possibly in Canada: a label dedicated to reissuing rare and marginal vinyl records. The first of these re-releases is the lost art-disco EP Transportation by the group Chandra, named after their 12-year-old singer Chandra Oppenheim.

Much like Cantor’s singular place within Edmonton’s musical landscape, Chandra was the only group of its kind in 1980s New York. Art-punkers The Dance were exploring the possibility of starting a group with a kid when their friend, artist Denis Oppenheim, recommended his daughter Chandra. Once Chandra joined the group, they became the talk of New York, putting out an independent release, selling out concerts at CBGBs, and playing the west coast. A year later, Chandra reformed into The Chandra Dimension with an all-teenage band and recorded four songs that were never released.

Never released, that is, until music fanatic and record junkie Aaron Levin, sole proprietor/employee of Cantor Records and music director at CJSR, took an interest in this lost Lower East Side recording.

“I got a copy of the Chandra EP when I was looking for records by The Dance and found out that The Dance had backed this young girl,” Levin explains. “It really floored me, and when I found out she was 12 when it was recorded I knew it was a very exceptional album.”

“My habit of record collecting, and the idea of starting a record label reissuing the rare records I had discovered seemed really appealing but I never took it seriously,” Levin says. “I was talking to Steve Alexander, guitarist of The Dance, and he mentioned that they had recorded a second EP with Chandra and that it was really psychedelic, so that really piqued my interest.”

Armed with the knowledge of a lost Chandra EP, Levin tried to facilitate its release through other record labels but quickly realized that, though there was interest, no one was serious about releasing it. Levin took on the age-old punk DIY ethic and set out to do it himself. Thus Cantor Records was born with a name that hints at Levin’s broader philosophy. “The name comes from German mathematician Georg Cantor,” he explains, “who proved there were more irrational numbers than rational, which is symbolic, to me, of the many treasures in the independent music scene.”

Levin is the first to admit that these treasures are not easy to release. The Chandra album was a tiring process, yet he’s still working on releasing two other albums you’ve never heard of: Daily Dance by Bob Thompson and Doug Snyder (recorded in a kitchen in 1972), and Ian Tamblyn’s 1972 demo Moose Tracks.

While Edmonton may not be the ideal location to reissue obscure American records, Levin has chosen it over NYC as the setting for the official Chandra release party. And it only makes sense that NYC’s youngest and most promising art-punk will be getting her official release at our youngest and most promising venue, the all-ages Hydeaway. So on Dec. 10, Edmonton will be the only place in the world where you can hear abstract dance music with vocals by a 12-year-old girl. Take that, NYC.

Music News & Notes

DORO - Title, Cover Art And Release Date Of New Album Revealed

Ex-WARLOCK vocalist Doro Pesch will release her new album, Fear No Evil, on January 23rd via AFM Records. Cover art can be viewed on the left (click to enlarge). More details will be revealed soon.

As previously reported, Doro will issue a new single entitled 'Herzblut' on December 12th through AFM Records. It will be recorded in four different languages, all versions will appear on the single. The tracklist is as follows: 'Herzblut' (single version), 'Herzblut' (album version), 'A Fond Le Coeur' (French), 'Te Doy Mi Corazon' (Spanish), 'Eu Dou-Te O Meu Coração' (Portuguese), 'Share My Fate'.


Burning Point Cover Art

The cover art of the new BURNING POINT album "Empyre" has been revealed. Artwork is from the hands of Felipe Machado Franco who's previous works includes artists such as Iced Earth, Axel Rudi Pell, Blaze Bayley etc.

The band line-up is also completed with a keyboard wizard, Pasi Hiltula ( ex-Kalmah, ex-Eternal Tears of Sorrow ). Pasi also played keyboards on Salvation by Fire & Feeding the Flames albums.

Pete Ahonen/ vocals & guitars
Pekka Kolivuori / guitars
Jukka Jokikokko / bass
Pasi Hiltula / keyboards
Jussi Ontero/ drums

"Empyre" is due to late February and the first pressing of the album will be a limited edition with bonus tracks.



Burbank, CA- In what is sure to be a must-have for devoted fans and vinyl collectors, Warner Bros. Records will release My Chemical Romance’s 2004 breakthrough album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge on vinyl on December 16th, 2008.

The limited-edition vinyl version of the New Jersey-based band’s major-label debut includes one red vinyl disc in a custom jacket. The jacket features a die-cut logo stencil insert lettered in My Chemical Romance’s classic font. A sticker is also included in the package.

The band’s commercial breakthrough, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, was released by Reprise Records in June 2004. The album spawned three Top Ten Alternative Rock radio hits, “I’m Not OK (I Promise),” “Helena,” and “The Ghost of You,” driving it to platinum status in the U.S. and more than two million in sales worldwide. Critics praised Three Cheers as aggressive, melodic, and forward-thinking and My Chemical Romance quickly became one of the biggest bands on the modern rock scene.

The band recently completed their longest and most internationally comprehensive headlining tour in support of their 2006 platinum album The Black Parade, capping off the run by selling out a show at Madison Square Garden.


Dischord to Remaster, Recut Vinyl Catalog

Dischord Records' back catalog is going to be brought up to date to be reissued on an out of date medium. Makes sense, right?

The Washington, D.C. label became the latest to dig into the vinyl-resurgence gold mine, announcing it'll remaster its entire active catalog, then start digging into the vaults for rereleases. LPs are now set to come with a code for a free download, so you don't have to resort to one of those ridiculous USB turntables to digitize your albums.

The first four records to get their makeover are Out of Step an dFirst 2 7 Inches by Minor Threat, Faith and Void's split LP and 1986, by One Last Wish.


Morrissey: Quixotic cover artwork for new album 'Years of Refusal,' is revealed

Morrissey continues to confound us mere mortals with his penchant for the dramatic. The Moz's new album, Years of Refusal, is set to come out February 16, 2008 on Polydor/Decca, and while the tracklist has not been finalized, the album cover art has been released.

Morrissey is seen with the requisite facial expression--stern and serious as all hell--holding a baby in his muscular arm. It appears as if the baby has a "W" on his forehead. The Moz's tight short-sleeved dress shirt is opened to reveal some manly chest hair. The Fred Perry logo is visibly obvious to enforce his Britishness perhaps (as if this is necessary)?

What this all represents is anyone's guess. Does the baby's "W" have something to do with a certain outgoing President of the United States?


Classic Rock Videos

Love Her Madly The Doors

Album Cover Art

Let's continue our look at's list of the top 50 dirtiest and sexiest album cover art, this time #19 (Gigwise comments in quotes):

19. Jimmy McGriff: ‘Groove Grease’ – "If you like nudity, bustin’ a groove and some grease, then Jimmy McGriff be your man. The jazz musician teamed up with organist Groove Holmes for this 1971 release – and what better way to mark two influential figures coming together than to decorate it with a picture of a naked lady from behind?"

I don't see any small cars or horses on her body (as in #20 & 21 on the list), hopefully we are over that concept.

CD universe had this to say about the record: Though the evocative title and soft-core cover art peg the era of this collection of soul-jazz instrumentals from the great Hammond organist and his band as the early 1970s, Jimmy McGriff's interpretations of standards like "Canadian Sunset,""There Will Never Be Another You," and "Moonglow," as well as originals like "Plain Brown Bag" and the title track, are timeless.