Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Importance of Album Cover Design

Recently, I learned by reading a fellow believer's blog post, that Roby Duke, a talented Christian musician from the West Coast, passed away several years ago. I left a comment there, but I'm not 100% sure that it actually went through because of some funky aspects of how Blogger responded when I attempted to post the message. So I figured that I'd store it here just as backup in case it didn't go through; and I also figured that I might as well post it here, too, since it pertained to my belief in the importance of good graphic design for packaging of Christian books, CDs, etc. Here's the comment I left there:

You write, "I got the opportunity to design his album covers including 'Blue Eyed Soul', 'Down to Business' and the CD re-release of his 1st album 'Not the Same'. It was an honor and a blast to be part of that. If ever there is a greatest Hits album, sign me up!"

Back in the 80s, I worked in the record department at the Harvard Cooperative Society (a/k/a The Coop), in Cambridge, MA. Back before Tower Records came to town (across the river, in Boston), the Coop was the biggest record store in New England. I was probably the only CCM fan in the Coop's record department at the time, and I was always trying to get them to carry more CCM and to place it in the same bins as the secular music, so that unbelievers would be exposed to it.

I remember getting Roby's first album there. I wish I had fond memories of the album, but the copy we got must have been the version he first released prior to your redesign, because I thought that the cover looked pretty unprofessional, to be quite candid. It might have been OK if it had been released in the sixties, back when it was still commonplace to treat the back of the cover as an afterthought, but I had become accustomed to high quality album covers by Christian acts such as Love Song, Mustard Seed Faith, the Pat Terry Group, the Sweet Comfort Band, Andrae Crouch and Resurrection Band, just to name a few of the best Christian album covers (and musicians) from the early days of the Jesus Movement. Perhaps it isn't fair to judge an album by its cover, but keep in mind that CCM was getting little or no airplay in those days, so I often bought an album or took a pass based largely on the quality of the cover art (or, on occasions, on whether or not I had had an opportunity to audition the record at the Logos bookstore in Kenmore Square). There was no Internet where one could check out albums prior to buying them. I figured that if an album cover looked amateurish, then the music was probably amateurish, too. My "system" of deciding what to buy wasn't perfect, but it seemed to work for me more often than not.

I do remember thinking from his album cover photo that Roby and I could almost be twin brothers. The resemblance was uncanny, in terms of the beard and hair, the glasses, and so forth. But that wasn't quite enough to make me give his music a chance.

To this day, I haven't really had a chance to hear much of Roby's music (which I seldom saw in the Christian bookstores I visited), but based on what I've subsequently heard about him, I have reason to believe that I've missed out on a lot. Hopefully, when my financial situation is better, I'll be able to pick up some of his older recordings at Amazon.

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