Classic Albums

The Lost Art Of Liner Notes: Country Chart-Busters Volume 5 (1974, Columbia Records)

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After a lengthy break from writing about liner notes written on the back covers of random old LPs, our Lost Art of Liner Notes series returns as I make my way through a bounty of ten cent records I acquired on a recent record shopping expedition.

Today we take a look at a record which featured a minimal amount of liner notes – the fifth edition of a country music compilation series entitled Country Chart-Busters. So why write about the liner notes when they don’t really say that much, you may ask? Well folks, they do say that a picture is worth a thousand words but for the picture that accompanies the liner notes on the back cover of this album … well, really there are no words. See for yourself:
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Can’t sleep … clown will eat me.

Why someone though it would be a good idea to include a grainy photo of some creepy-as-hell clown on a collection of country hits I have no idea. While the front cover is a jovial, old timey depiction of three country musicians somehow managing to ride a horse simultaneously while standing up and holding guitars, the back cover is pure nightmare fuel from way out of left field. Is he supposed to be a rodeo clown or is he some ghoul who will murder you in your sleep while the sounds of Johnny Paycheck and Barbara Mandrell play softly in the background? Or worse yet, is he Crazy Joe Davola?

Anyways, read the liner notes below while trying to figure out who thought this was a good design idea and whether they got to keep their job after this was released. And then try to scrub this horrific image from your memory forever. The sweet sounds of Lynn Anderson may help in that regard.

The most amazing thing about Country Chart-Busters, Vol. V is that all of these songs are on one album. ten of the biggest stars in the World of Country performing the classics that have made country music what it is today. Songs like “Kids Say The Darndest Things” by Country Queen Tammy Wynette, Lynn Anderson’s “Fool Me” and “Nice ‘N’ Easy” by the fastest rising star in country music, Charlie Rich. Stars like Sonny James, Freddy Weller, Connie Smith, Barbara Mandrell, Jody Miller, David Houston and Johnny Paycheck make Country Chart-Busters Vol. V an album worth writing home about. There’s only one way you’ll ever hear such amazing talent performing material of such outstanding caliber and you’re holding it in your hands.

The Lost Art Of Liner Notes: Baroque Bouquet – Plant Music (1975, Amherst Records)

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Liner notes. They can get pretty weird sometimes. And there are perhaps none weirder than those of Plant Music, a collection of “Music to keep your plants Healthy and Happy.” Yes, apparently the great scientific minds of yesteryear (or possibly just a couple of stoned botanists) decided to dedicate their efforts to finding out exactly the right mix of instrumental music to soothe your savage plants. I guess it probably checks out – just look at the great effects of music on the growth of Audrey II.

I can’t help but question their expertise though after seeing them refer to acid rock as an “extremely simple musical form.” Not cool, man. Not cool. Also, what the hell is up with that bit where they casually mention the “sacrificing of animal life” being used as the stimulus in one earlier experiment? That’s pretty messed up. Maybe Audrey II really was involved in these experiments …

Anyways, check out the liner notes:

That music has profound effect upon life forms has been intuitively felt since antiquity. The effect of music upon plant growth has been studied at least since 1906. Bose (1906) suggested that plants may nearly be deaf. However one of his followers, Singh (1965), states that plants excited by pure notes of high frequency give direct responses and that under musical irradiation certain plants have improved both in yield and quality.

Weinberger (1968) reports that exposing wheat seeds and growing plants to high pitched sound can triple their growth.

Backster (1968) observed plant responses by means of a polygraph. Though not specifically referring to music as a stimulus to plant response he was led to the hypothesis that plants posess an “undefined primary perception” capability. He reports that such perception was indirectly demonstrated by the polygraph to which the plants were connected. The sacrificing of animal life in an adjacent room was the stimulus.

It seems to us (Boyles/Shannon) that to the degree in which Backster’s hypothesis is true, plants show this facility to “primarily perceive” music stimuli and possibly to respond selectively to contrasting types of music. 

This was part of the basis for our interest in the question: Do growing plants respond to energy sources in the form of musical sound, and if so, what generalizations can be made regarding the “types” of musical sound to which plants may selectively respond?

We reviewed the descriptions of existing experimentation done in the past and found that both strong positive and negative (stem slant) existed in experiments in terms of music varieties. The plants in all the experiments, in which we  were able to read the results, appeared as if a wind had blown plant stems uniformly away from one “type” of musical sound source and uniformly toward a musical sound source of another “kind”. We also found an accelerated deterioration of plant life quality ending in nearly 100% mortality after days of such exposure. The method of experimentation are all fairly alike: Environmental chambers were used, like plants were used in as many types of music as were being tested. Equal light sources were used as well as circulating fans. Temperatures of the chamber were also equal, and humidity factors were the same. The variable, of course, in all experiments was the types of music. After the experiments the plants were measured for life and growth in many ways.

A. Degree of slant of the stems both to and from the sound source.
B. Amount of root growth as contrasted to the other members of the studies.
C. Amount of new foliage.
D. Overall height and width of the plants

Within the limitations we have described, it appears that growing plants respond both toward and away from contrasting sound energies introduced into their environments.

Response to Bach and Shankar musical forms is evident in all experiments we have read. response away from percussion, and also from non-mathematical and extremely simple musical forms (acid rock) is equally evident.

We conclude that some presently unknown plant response mechanism may operate in sonic manipulated environments or that some known mechanism may respond in some unknown manner in such environments.

The Lost Art Of Liner Notes: Mike Post – Railhead Overture (1975, MGM Records)

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Nowadays, Mike Post is best known for composing the Law & Order theme, but before he was famous for being the man behind that iconic “Dun Dun,” he was known for being the guy who stood at the junction of two railroads that ended abruptly while dressing like some kind of proto-Napoleon Dynamite on the cover of his 1975 album Railhead Express. While the liner notes really lay it on way too thick and play it up like this is some kind of grandiose concept album about how awesome trains (and brass bands) are, it’s … really not. It’s mostly just a random collection of Post compositions (only one of which seems to be explicitly about trains) and a few covers such as “Georgia On My Mind” and “Wouldn’t It be Nice,” with the big standout here being the other TV theme song that Post was know for before the L&O theme – “The Rockford Files.”

While I do appreciate the subtle-but-not-that-subtle shade thrown at some past collaborators of Post while he was on his way up  (“some names remembered and some best forgotten.”),  I fail to see how any of the music featured here really manages to introduce the “dialogue between rock and roll and the enlarged brass ensemble” that the notes promise. I mean, really, wasn’t that more Chicago’s thing anyways?
Whatever. Next stop, liner notes:

The great fire breathing locomotives sit like old soldiers on rusted tracks in wasted towers, their thunder silenced by the incessant whine of the endless freeway. We’ve reached the Railhead, the end of the line – the obvious place to search for a beginning.

Like the image of the iron trains etched in the memory of America, the explosive sounds of the large brass ensemble are remembered still, but only in dim lit dance halls of nostalgia where they echo the fate of the once proud locomotives.

Now a vision, similar to that which bore this “big band sound” and harnessed the fierce grace of the old trains, becomes the point at which the two converge. The artist who conceived this vision is Mike Post. He rocked and rolled through the 50’s and 60’s bending strings, pounding keys, and producing and arranging for some names remembered and some best forgotten. Post’s creative vision, however, soon exceeded the limitations of the standard five piece rock and roll rhythm section.

Through his collaboration in composition and orchestration with Pete Carpenter (his partner in various television and film scores, and very close friend) this project is Mike’s step toward a more complete musical expression.

This album then, is an introduction – an overture – to the dialogue between rock and roll and the enlarged brass ensemble, one to which we should listen closely, for it is a dialogue between our musical past, present, and future, all of which converge here, at the railhead overture.
– Stephen Geyer

The Lost Art Of Liner Notes: Duane Eddy – The Biggest Twang Of Them All (1966, Reprise Records)

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While the liner notes for Duane Eddy`s Lee Hazlewood-produced album The Biggest Twang of Them All manage to compare Eddy and his sound to both Willy Mays and a car fender, it’s hard not to notice the apparent innuendo barely hidden in the title’s reference to Eddy’s “big twang.” Was this all just a coincidence? It’s hard to think it could have been, especially when you take into consideration the other references in the liner notes to “early labor pains” and to twang just being “an impotent label for the life inside his virile sound.” Are … are they suggesting that Duane Eddy’s music can make you pregnant with its definitely-not-impotent “virile sound?” Was his guitar some sort of magical conduit for his superhuman virility? Read the notes and decide for yourself:

It’s a sound that’s bigger than that of the Columbia Calliope Co. in flagrant assembly. It’s the sound of Duane Eddy, the handsome, soft-spoken young gentleman from around Phoenix way. Duane hit the big league of music a few years back with a thing called Twang. The word sounds like a cross between a late stage of motor knock and early labor pains. But the word’s just an impotent label for the life inside his virile sound. An elemental, raw, unrefined musical sound. One electronically built into Duane’s guitar. One that comes out with a walk-into-a-solid-wall impact.

It’s a sound that’s as American as a ’40 Ford fender.

It’s a sound that’s sold nearly 12,000,000 records, and spread the excitingness of Eddy around the world. Imitators have come, but went. For some reason, the Twang is 100% Eddy’s. Like Willy Mays, nobody does it half as well.

It`s a sound that makes this album a muscular monster in its field. Backed by two drummers, four more guitars, organ, piano, bass, saxes, and that`s just the beginning, Duane goes unafraid at the kind of tunes that normally are one person songs. Like “Ballad of the Green Berets,” which becomes a twang-bang march under Duane`s banner. Like “Monday, Monday,” which was “The Mamas and Papas,” and now has the wild newness of Duane Eddy.  And on and on.

It’s a sound that’s alive and kicky. It’s today. Ask any 12,000,000, they’ll tell you. Duane Eddy’s the biggest twang of them all.