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Idiotic liner notes


Daniel A
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My attempt at a thread like this at the BNBB a couple of years ago misfired after just a few posts when a couple of liners some members brought up turned out to have been written by a couple of other, distinguished board members. Even so, every now and then I'm baffled by what makes it to the sleeves.

There are other examples (I'll dig some of them up), but what prompted me to start the tread was this quote from the notes to Paul Chambers's 'Whims of Chambers', written by Leonard Feather:

"I would call Chambers a gas, except that it is depressing to think about gas chambers"... :rsly:

Edited by Daniel A
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Okay, I'll play. Perhaps more enthusiastic than idiotic, the first thing I thought of was Ira Gitler's notes for Booker Ervin's The Blues Book which include the following warning:

"The loudness or hardness of a musician's delivery doesn't necessarily stand for true depth or sincerity, but if it does, look out, for you are in for a steamcleaning from the convolutions of your cranium down to your entrails."

So the next time your entrails need a little sprucing up, just remember this additional health benefit...

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The liners to TIME OUT. Did that guy ever write anything else after that?!??

Anything by Phil Schapp. You'd think he discovered things that only the truly clueless thought were missing (the second set of tapes to Ellington's Newport show? Yeah right!)

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How about when the liner writer, for whatever reason, seems to give up and punt:

Joel Dorn on "Signifyin"-- "If I wanted I could cite my favorite cut on the album, or tell you that such and such is a blues in F, but really what would be the point. Lou's music is not to be dissected."

John Clement on the Hodges Mosaic:

"In the notes for this Mosaic set, I generally haven't attempted to describe the value, impact or quality of the solos because I think such judgments are a very personal matter...No matter who the writer is, an opinion is simply that. In short every listener should decide for him or her self whether a particular solo is memorable or not."

:lol:

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John Clement on the Hodges Mosaic:

"In the notes for this Mosaic set, I generally haven't attempted to describe the value, impact or quality of the solos because I think such judgments are a very personal matter...No matter who the writer is, an opinion is simply that. In short every listener should decide for him or her self whether a particular solo is memorable or not."

:lol:

I think he's right. And every listener should get paid whatever he got for writing the notes... ;)

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I always got the impression that Leonard Feather was a wanker from his liner notes. He also liked to gratuitously show off his knowledge of music theory.

Ira Gitler gets slammed a lot and his liner notes can get pretty goofy, but his enthusiasm is pretty infectious and I look forward to reading something by him.

Guy

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this quote from the notes to Paul Chambers's 'Whims of Chambers', written by Leonard Feather:

"I would call Chambers a gas, except that it is depressing to think about gas chambers"... :rsly:

I guess Feather would not have written this stupid line if he had known that his notes would be reissued again and again and saved for posterity.

I can't come up with other bad examples as I rarely read the original liner notes of old albums. Especially the Prestige liner notes seem to have been written in the same amount of time that the musicians had to record their album (one or two hours). The musicians are great improvisers, but most writers are not.

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  • There was a time--in the 50s and 60-s, especially--when jazz disc jockeys were frequently asked to write notes. The trouble was that these people generally had a limited vocabulary, they lacked a writer's imagination, and their knowledge of jazz was largely gained from reading other simplistic liner notes. There was also a formula: "XX was born to a musical family, his mother sang in church....blah, blah, blah."

    I should know, I wrote too many of those myself. :(

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Especially the Prestige liner notes seem to have been written in the same amount of time that the musicians had to record their album (one or two hours).

True, but the Prestige late 60s repackagings (and Don Schlitten-produced new releases) had some of the greatest liner notes ever written (or at least some of my favorites), full length essays by Dan Morgenstern, Ira Gitler (who had actually been present at many of the earlier Prestige sessions), Mark Gardner, et.al. A particular favorite is David A. Himmelstein's notes to Booker Ervin's SETTING THE PACE, which reads like an espionage novel or something.

I'd recommend that those who do vinyl look for those Prestige repackagings just for the liner notes. Even better, I recommend somebody putting them on line. Even mo' better, I'd recommend somebody collecting and publishing them.

Now if you want some truly wacked-out liner notes, pretty much anything by H.Allen Stein for Savoy should fit the bill. Was that cat real?

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For sheer consistency of drivel, Crouch's sleevenotes for Wynton must be hard to beat. And, on The Majesty of the Blues, you even get the apotheosis (is that the right word?) of the sleevenote - where Crouch's truly, truly, excruciating "Premature Autopsies" appears both in the sleevenotes and on the record itself.

You couldn't write funnier spoof Crouch any better than Crouch straight.

Simon Weil

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I always got the impression that Leonard Feather was a wanker from his liner notes. He also liked to gratuitously show off his knowledge of music theory.

True, Leonard always goes on about some idea somebody played on a diminished chord on bar 32 in a dorian mode or something some other theoretical babble I found some of his analyses' in the "Indestructible" liners to be quite funny. The liners to "The Dynamic Duo: Jimmy and Wes" by Daddy O Daylie are funny, trying to be a hipster. Speaking of hipsters anyone remember the liners to "A New Sound, A New Star, Volume 1" the Babs Gonzales wrote? :blink: very, very dated.

Edited by CJ Shearn
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thanks Jazzmoose, if there are any liners on Pat records they are usually like "I decided to use this guitar because no one has explored harmonic material in this way before" or "Lyle and I wanted something acoustic in nature" or "we are addressing a very particular area of music here hopefully successfully adding our stylistic touches" lol. :lol:

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