Monday, March 06, 2006

From Josef Albers to Enoch Light

Throughout most of the last 8 or so years I have aggressively collected as much of the Command Records catalog as I possibly could. I was drawn to the drama of the art, to the drama of the arrangements, and to the amazing quality of the recordings themselves. It's not that competitors like Phase 4 were necessarily bad, Exotic Percussion with Stanley Black is still probably the best exotica I've ever heard -Stanley Black makes me wonder how Martin Denny ever made a living.

The paintings on the covers of records like these are still interesting to me because they so accurately describe whats in them. And to me, thats where the Bauhaus comes into play. Josef Albers did the majority of the paintings for the Enoch Light/Command Records, theres the rest of the Bauhaus connection. The paintings submitted for the Enoch Light records would have been gorgeous had I ever seen them connected to the records or not. But seeing them serve such a brilliantly descriptive purpose and integrated into my life really makes them all the more valuable. Furthermore, the Command label began life at the stereo point of sale. A lot of records did. A lot of really awful records. Ping Pong percussion comes to mind..."bongo left, timbale right...::awkward arhythmic edit::begin pretty boring weepy strings of a Jerome Kern showtune." Enoch Light's recording sessions clearly spent a whole lot of time on mic placements and acoustics, and a lot of time on balancing the arrangement in the stereo field. Their level of workmanship on both the recording and and arranging level, coupled with the polish of their packaging, makes them some of the most professional and listenable "music as a product" that I've ever heard. They drift around at thrift stores all over the country in small numbers these days- or at least nothing near the level of saturation I met when I went digging for records as a 16 year old on some of my first trips driving myself.
I can't really say whether bins were that much better then, or whether they just seemed that way because I was so optimistic having found records like "Other Worlds, Other Sounds" and having my mind blown by hearing them the first time.

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