I purchased a few weeks back a new CD: “The Black Keys – El Camino”.
It is crazy good. The Black Keys are basically a 2 man band and yet I heard some keys and backup singers on these songs.
So, I went for the liner notes.
Now back in the day, when I was buying LP’s… I LOVED liner notes. There was nothing I liked better than the first listen to an LP while I was reading the liner notes, usually just a listing of lyrics and who played on each track, but sometimes stories about the songs or work on the album, or lists of “people we would like to thank” from the band… it could be almost anything and I always felt it helped me get a feel for the album and those who made it. There was not always a deep meaning behind every song, but any extra info was always cool. The art and the liner notes worked together to form a sense of the LP for me.
I seem to recall some really intense Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull liner notes and Judas Priest actually called out individual solo’s within a song in their liner notes. Some records even came with small posters inside. The best was when the album was a gatefold cover and filled with liner notes and art and then the paper LP sleeve had the lyrics on it. That was enough to keep you busy while you were listening to it. Of course, back in the day, I had nothing else to do BUT sit around and listen to it. The first playing of a new album was a ritual for me. I absorbed it and was ready the next day to provide a full and accurate review for anyone who asked. Ah, the good old days.
As years went by though, liner notes seemed to taper off and more often than not the paper sleeve on the LP was just white. Ugh.
When I sold my “Who – Live At Leeds” LP the record store owner told me that he would give me a buck for the LP and 8 bucks for the inserts. This particular Who album came with a ton of inserts that replicated memos and record company letters. Very highly prized by collectors.
Then came the CD format. Tiny album covers. There were some standouts that used the small booklet tucked into the little plastic case as their own personal and band collaborative manifesto, replete with pictures and lyrics and art and credits. Most however just listed the most basic lyrics and track credits.
Then came the Internet where you can look up lyrics to any song at any time.
So now I get almost everything digital and don’t even get a cover to have liner notes in. Sigh. I get all my band and individual album information at www.allmusic.com. I love reading about bands on that site. I love the back stories and bandmate comings and goings and the descriptions of how the bands formed. I highly recommend it.
Which brings us back to The Black Keys.
The “El Camino” CD comes in a digi-pack (yeah, Go Green!) and after a few listenings and hearing the keys and backup singers I though since I have the physical CD, I might check the booklet/liner notes.The booklet is 13 pages long. On one of the pages I found my answer about the extra players. Yes there were keyboards and yes there were backup singers. There was a list of song titles, a smattering of credits and the individual and band thank you’s. There rest of the booklet? All it contains, for 12 pages (and front and back cover too) is pictures of vans like the one on the CD cover. None of which are El Camino’s by the way. I shook my head. What is the point of this? Don’t get me wrong, I love The Black Keys and still do despite this, but I have to call them out, or at least their record company for wasting time money and space on something that could have been filled with 13 pages of info about why they decide to use the backup singers, or their story during the time they were recording this CD, or their influences or even just the lyrics… pretty much anything. They could have included the sparse credits and thanks you’s on the front or back cover and skipped the booklet altogether, and then made the digipack a gatefold 2 panel, instead of 4 panels.
Bring back the liner notes. Please. I know we all get our information in different ways these days, but for the few that are actually buying physical CD’s, make it worth their while. I paid $11.99 for this CD at Best Buy. It goes for $8.99 on Amazon as a digital download.
Check out this old one. This is how it is done. If you had this album you would have to set aside time to read the liner notes. Ah the good old days.