Tuesday, March 31, 2009

nice package

First, I'd like to apologize for being smacked down with a terrible cold over the last few days. I know how an adoring, online public feels when one of their favorite sites goes dormant for a couple of days. Thanks for reaching out to The Rewind during our downtime. Stocks of NyQuil and Kleenex went up this week. Now onto what matters most - the music!

When you're a rabid record collector like I am, packaging becomes part of the listening experience. When vinyl was the main configuration, listening to an album became more than just an aural experience. It was a tactile activity. Removing the LP from the sleeve. Reading the liner notes. Soaking in the photographic and design elements.

As packaging became smaller with the advent of the CD, some artists embraced the medium and came up with fantastic ways to embellish their musical content.

Now that CDs are so last century, artwork has become even less important, it seems, in the age of digital delivery. But there are a few groups that continue to take advantage of the graphic design medium and push the boundaries across all configurations. Pet Shop Boys is one of those groups.

Having just released "Yes", their tenth longplayer, in the UK, and soon to follow in the US on April 21, the duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe always manage to unleash their artistic expression well beyond the zeros and ones of digital data.

Never ones to shy away from the constraints of typical packaging, they've outdone themselves this time with a lavish and expansive, vinyl edition of "Yes" which was announced this week to their salivating, dedicated fan base. And it's mighty pricey!  

Designed by longtime, artwork collaborator, Mark Farrow, the vinyl set is strictly limited to a pressing of only 300 pieces. Even with a $450 price point, it sold out within hours. 

Each of the eleven tracks of the album is featured on one side of a 12" record while the instrumental of each, which is exclusive to this format, is on the other side. A twelfth sleeve contains a numbered, giclee print signed by the duo.  All of the elements are housed in a smoked, perspex box.  The front of the box is emblazoned with a gold version of a tick - that's a check mark for our US readers.  The iconic, tick image features on the CD cover art of "Yes".

Have a look at the gorgeousness.  

In a stroke of clever genius, the colored sleeves can be arranged in order to recreate an eight foot, tick mark image.  For you art aficionados, the random, color imagery was inspired by the work of contemporary artist, Gerhard Richter.  Watercooler alert!

PSB are no stranger to intricate packaging for their albums.  For instance, "Alternative", their 1995 collection of b-sides, featured one of the first uses of lenticular art.  It's often incorrectly referred to as a holographic image. Remember those old baseball cards that looked as if the player was in motion when you moved it from one position to another?  That's lenticular.

I love it when I'm able to grab the iPhone and do a little real time photography for The Rewind. But wait!  There's more to come a little further down this entry.

Recently, Time Life incorporated lenticular art into the firehouse, collector's box packaging fo  "The Real Ghostbusters" 25 DVD set. Watch Slimer and his friends flash back and forth when you move the box from side to side!

Fancy packaging is a lot like designing furniture for your living space. Whereas tactile textiles can make a room more inviting, the same goes for CD artwork. You want your pop to pop! Your rock to roll! 

For PSB, they took touchy feely to whole new level when they released their album, "Very", in 1993. Housed in an opaque, bright orange case with raised dots and lettering, Chris and Neil threw EMI's manufacturing plants into a frenzy with their landmark, packaging concept which resembles Lego building blocks. 

Let's face it, kids.  These days, something needs to make a product appealing outside the musical contents.  The look and feel must make it stand out from the static. That philosophy is lovingly embraced by our friends at Time Life. And everything is very reasonably priced, too. Check out the packaging on these hot properties!

They've got the retro 50s, soda jerk pizazz of "Malt Shop Memories".

Then there's the hot rockin', metal, diamond plate design of "Hard + Heavy".

And we can't forget the plush, red velvet luxury of "Great American Songbook". It's 10 CDs of sophistication and romance from the golden era of American song.  Rub your hands all over this baby!

The design for the "Great American Songbook" collection was inspired by the original, double vinyl LP packaging for the Bee Gees' 1969 masterwork, "Odessa".

Recently, "Odessa" was reissued in a lavish, 3 CD set replica of the original packaging to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its release. But the little CD box doesn't quite carry the same sizzle as the original LP edition. Still, it's a fabu piece for any collector.

The design options are nearly limitless at Time Life.  Inspiration is pulled in from all over the globe. Maybe they should shoot a reality show about it.  Kind of like their version of "Project Runway".  Killer!


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