My Type of Music posts typically are a little harder to write. However some months it seems as if the stars in the typographical heavens align and too many albums with great covers are released. Maybe it’s because March heralds the new Spring – not that we’ve noticed in uncharacteristically cold and even occasionally snowy Belgium – but this Easter Monday episode features many joyful, even daring designs. Typographically speaking a couple of album sleeves unearth lovely, almost-forgotten gems.
I never hide my disdain for haughty sans serif modernist typography, so it should come as no surprise that I absolutely love the exuberantly swashalicious treatment for the title on Gary Dee Bradford Sings for you and you and you. University Roman pulls out all the stops, its already very ornamental character shapes turned up to eleven with intertwining curves and curls. I hope the iconic type family finally gets the Pro treatment, because the addition of the ornaments and alternates in the digital version is long overdue, as are many “flair” versions of other classic typefaces. Ask Mark Simonson, he knows.
I have to admit I am a little puzzled by the album sleeve for Music to Scare Children by. The little children on the floor don’t seem upset or frightened at all, probably thanks to the use of the friendly hand-printed script similar to FF Soupbone. It is a shame the designer didn’t go for the original Comic Sans and settled for a pale imitation instead. To match his stylish suit the name of Dick Dujour is set in an elegant copperplate script.
This cover however would certainly have those little tykes genuinely terrified. The depiction of the hooved one on Satan Is Real by The Louvin Brothers is uncannily realistic, and guaranteed to scare senseless unsuspecting music shoppers. The hand-drawn casual display sans would perfectly fit in the Neapolitan or Sideshow type foundries. The narrow gothic is Alternate Gothic.
The cover for Freddy Gage’s All My Friends Are Dead is appropriately quiet and contemplative. Bookmania is used to its full effect, swashes reaching out to each other, longing for connection, filling the cold and empty void between characters.
Safely hiding behind a wooden beam in matching bright pink-and-white dresses with folded hands and timid smiles, The McDonalds Sisters defiantly interpret the album title for I’ve Got Confidence with their body language. The colour scheme of the dresses is nicely offset against the green of the forest background, and cleverly repeated in the album title set in Binner, shaded. I like the fact that the artists’ name is set at an angle not quite the same as the beam, creating a nice tension which enhances the boldness of the cover. The typeface is the discontinued version of Koloss by Agfa Compugraphic (later merged with Monotype to become the Creative Alliance). It is still included in my 2006 FontBook – the last paper edition before it turned into the awarded iPad and iPhone app – but absent from current font listings.
More tension on the album sleeve for Sharifar Noor Dengan Playboys by Insan Derita. The compu-retro display face Amelia is expertly positioned on a curve. Its square-yet-rounded shapes are beautifully contrasted against the casual slab serif letter forms of the obscure Estro.
Another rarely seen Mecanorma typeface can be found on Heino’s In Einer Bar In Mexico. The character shapes in Contest are created by elliptical counter forms cut out of curved square outer shapes. This is a great typographic choice as it reprises the typically shaped glasses of the German schlager star.
In yet another remarkable case of the letters of an obscure Mecanorma typeface mimicking the glasses of the artist, the Wild West-meets-Disco design Jackson shows an uncanny resemblance to Mia Westers’ eye wear. The album title is set in the geometric display sans Pump.
Despite the conspicuous absence of farm animals, the cover for We’re Free by the Free Folk Gospel Singers makes subtle connections with Pet Sounds, the seminal album by the Beach Boys whose sleeve is featured on Fonts In Use. First there’s the prominent use of Cooper Black in a coloured bar at the top. Then the photograph of the band posing in a playground is an obvious nod to the image of The Beach Boys in the petting zoo, both places tailored to entertain small children. The album title deftly mixes Windsor Elongated with Coffee Service, one of those lovely casual brush scripts which are being revived under the Filmotype and Sideshow banners. In the oversexed landscape of today’s pop music it is a breath of fresh air to see the clean and wholesome gentlemen in the band show more cleavage than the lovely ladies.
The album sleeve for Oral Roberts On Country Roads features great polychromatic typography, with Craw Modern as supporting typeface. Now that FontShop started offering the Hamilton Wood Type collection we can expect even more of these fascinating layered wood type typefaces. Everybody loves a bit of Oral on country roads; he always goes down well.
From polychromatic to simply chrome, the stunning blue-metallic-finish-with-white-outline-and-drop-shadow not only enhances the legibility of Revue on the cover for Pidä ittes miehenä. It also echoes the musky machismo of the four mullet-haired hunks in Nasma Team, two of them wearing a manly moustache. A welcome change from all these wishy-washy androgynous teen pop stars.
Yes, this is what we need. When the testosterone is pumping through your system the perfect release is to construct some daggers and nunchakus out of cardboard and tinfoil, and dance bare-chested before the police comes. How can you resist when the order is given in compressed Belwe?
Once you acknowledge your inner macho, simply give in and treat your mate to a sensuous massage. What better background music than the aptly titled Music To Massage Your Mate By? The romantic cover artwork leaves little to the imagination. The high-contrast Art Deco display face is very similar to the aptly named P22 Art Deco Display.
What a wonderful throwback to the ’80s this (unfortunately partial) cover for LaVerne Tripp & Family is. That red headband and permed hair! Those sweatpants pulled all the way up to the armpits by suspenders! Those bare forearms! That camouflage jacket combined with a shirt and slim tie! You can clearly see the other members of this spontaneous family, all cheerfully pointing up one index finger, feel in no way threatened by the Bible and dagger held up by the pater familias. These days it has become very rare to find the psychedelic script Kalligraphia in the wild. It’s a pity they substituted the original ampersand with its downwards swash for a more generic one, and letterspacing a script design is a big no-no in my book.
The official website of the LaVerne Ministries also is worth visiting. The homepage features a condensed variant of Macbeth combined with P22’s extremely popular Cezanne, very appropriate choices. As these two type designs commonly are associated with horror stories and the likes, they instil the required sense of dread and impending doom.
Another one of those unjustly forgotten scripts is Lazybones. It is used to great effect on the cover for Smile A While, mirroring the buxom bodies of prog rock outfit Brainstorm. The bouncy letter forms visually translate the concept of “smile” in the album title. Using the unassuming Helvetica Light makes sure the album title doesn’t take away of the curvaceous character (and body) shapes.
We end this April’s Fool episode with the sleeve for the album by reggae/ska/rocksteady outfit Wasnatch – a tasteful pun on the name of the band’s hometown Wasatch Front, Utah – offers an unusual variant on a practice in pornography which could be dubbed here as “brass to mouth”. The strategic placement of the French horn cleverly illustrates the album title Front To Back, set in a geometric slab serif. Using a multilinear display face for the band name refers to the hollow tubes of the brass instruments. A fun detail is the entry point of the tail of the “n” which suggests a connection with the mouthpiece of the French horn. My only criticism would be the poorly kerned “To”.