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Liner notes, album sequencing, RIP

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Rivers:
It has been striking me, more and more often lately, that the switch to digital from packaged albums with their accompanying liner notes has resulted in, hopefully temporarily, a loss of important research, informed musical analysis and other benefits.

Starting with the LP vinyl format one could and would read the cover notes while listening to the music. Much time and research went into those notes, and they were an important component of the value of purchasing the albums.

Many, in fact most, reissue compilations on CD reprinted them wholesale. For a new compilation they often commissioned new notes. Document and JSP often did a good job in both respects.

You can see my question coming here but I'm going to ask it anyway. Is all that information going to be lost forever, or preserved in some form for future generations?

I have about 20 big boxes of CDs stashed away with some great liner notes. I'm sure I'm not alone in being concerned about all that stuff being lost to the format wars.

Prof Scratchy:
I too am nostalgic for the liner note! It was a major part of the enjoyment of getting a new LP. I read and re-read the liner notes over and over, every time the record was played. The ones I liked best were those that gave away some musical information, such as the playing position or chord sequence of a particular tune. But some liner note writers got carried away with themselves and were guilty of perpetrating myths, or of creating them. The advent of the CD with its reduced packaging and small print notes just about coincided with my requirement for bifocals (or longer arms). I got out of the habit of enjoying the liner notes, and was annoyed by the faff of extricating the booklet from the tray, often popping the plastic lugs of the tray cover, sometimes snapping them off altogether. Grrrr! So now, in the download times, what is my source of written information and entertainment in blues music? Weenie Campbell of course. This is such a font of knowledge and surprises that it beats liner notes on quantity and quality hands down. Which is my cue to thank all WC contributors (and especially Johnm) for sharing their knowledge and opinions so freely and selflessly.






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Rivers:

--- Quote from: Prof Scratchy on December 17, 2018, 12:55:52 AM ---
But some liner note writers got carried away with themselves and were guilty of perpetrating myths, or of creating them.


--- End quote ---

Good point. The general nerdiness of collecting old recordings tended to mitigate that but you're right. Sometimes the information presented was thought to be correct at the time and has since been superseded as more has come to light.

But there's still much of value out there, including the photographs and graphics. Some are top notch, like many of the Yazoo notes, and Neil Slaven's stuff for JSP (particularly for A Richer Tradition). A tip of the hat to weenie contributors Johnm, Bunker Hill, Gayle Dean Wardlow and others I'm missing for their work in this field.


--- Quote ---
The advent of the CD with its reduced packaging and small print notes just about coincided with my requirement for bifocals (or longer arms). I got out of the habit of enjoying the liner notes, and was annoyed by the faff of extricating the booklet from the tray, often popping the plastic lugs of the tray cover, sometimes snapping them off altogether. Grrrr!


--- End quote ---

My feelings exactly :) Sometimes I would scan the booklets so I could blow them up in Acrobat reader. Wish I'd done it to all of them and kept an archive, but I didn't.

Stefan Wirz's site has a some album notes available. I used them recently while compiling an SOTM post.


Johnm:
Thanks Prof and Rivers for the good words.  At the risk of some thread creep, I would say that I not only miss liner notes, I also miss the idea of the album or CD program, as opposed to the current trend of listening to everything via downloads in a contextless mishmash.  I know, you can create your own context, blah, blah, blah.

I miss the idea of an album's or CD's program being a cohesive, well thought out (not always) artistic statement.  I liked and still like the process of figuring out a sequence that takes into consideration changes of tempo, mood, different key relationships and the like in the course of deciding a program's sequence that will allow for an arc, or two arcs, if you're looking to preserve the feel of an LP.  In my experience, when I listened or do listen to an entire LP or CD in the order in which the songs were sequenced, over time the songs change, or at least how I experience them and what I hear changes.  If you cherrypick and simply dub off the songs that you liked best the first time you listened to the CD, and never return to the entire program again, I think you're relying way too heavily on your musical first impression. 

One example that is often given of a wonderful job of sequencing is the Harry Smith "Anthology of American Folk Music", on Folkways.  I think the sequencing on that whole set is kind of miraculous, it's like a Swiss watch with each successive track clicking into place seamlessly.

Returning to the original topic, one thing I've noticed is that Classical LPs usually have more content-driven liner notes, and tend to be written by people who know something about music.  Liner notes for vernacular musics are kind of all over the map, from very well-informed and informative to inexplicable drivel.  Really good liner notes, though, can aid in both understanding and appreciation of the music on an album.  They're worth the trouble, as is the idea of a program for an LP or CD.

All best,
Johnm   

Rivers:
I agree with you about album sequencing. I changed the first post title to include 'album sequencing' so we can hash it around as well.

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