Cover Story

I spent a couple of enjoyable hours today engaged in one of my favourite activities, bin diving for records. I did this in my hands-down favourite record store, Record Collectors Paradise. One other person in the store was down on their hands and knees like I was, reaching to the back row of the lowest bin, which was not good for the back but fun. I wonder if our being on our hands and knees is an almost reverential quality? Could it be considered being in a prayerful pose for our little gods who live on records and their ephemera?

When I got home and catalogued my finds, it occurred to me that the only reason I bought one of the albums was because of its cover art. It was a stylized prism which makes sense because the name of the family band is The Family Spectrum. I listened to the album, although I did not care what I heard because it was only the cover I had paid for. The music wasn’t terrible; it fits the stereotype of a family band playing faith-based music.

The cover is what caught my eye out of the hundreds of albums that flipped through my fingers today. That one had something that stood out from the rest of them. It had a prism. Nothing fancy, just a prism with a beam of white light coming from the left, always from the left for white light; that’s the rule. In the middle of the album stood a prism that could easily be mistaken for a door. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not. The white light starts in a broken beam of white that becomes solid in the prism, does a funky bend and comes out the bottom of the prism in a spectrum of six colours.

Maybe I’m reading more into this than I should, but I see Bob and Heather taking tentative steps toward the prism, represented as in the stuttering light beam. They get married and become whole, Mom and Dad Bunkowsky; this is full all-out Christianese we’re talking about here. Exiting the prism, they are split into six colours representing their six children. There is no consensus on what colours should come from a prism; The Family Spectrum used the same six as Pink Floyd on Dark Side of the Moon.

Album covers are important. They are our first contact with that particular record. It doesn’t matter if we are searching for a record that we are familiar with or stumbling through the bins hoping something jumps out at us. It is the cover art that we see, and it triggers a synapse in our neural network, and we need to stop flipping at that album and make a decision. Do we pull this record out or not? Sometimes the price tag speaks louder than the cover art, and we keep flipping. Other times, we are compelled to pull the record out and explore it further. Today was one of those times. There was no price tag, but I’ve priced enough albums to know that this was bargain bin material, so I tucked it in my stack of purchases for today. Two albums. Headlines by Flash & the Pan and The Family Spectrum. The Flash and the Pan album cover is eye candy as well, which is perhaps good marketing. I bought it, didn’t I?

Album covers are important, and using a prism on The Family Spectrum album cover is what made me stop flipping when I saw this one. It is not the first time or only time that has happened. Album covers can make or break a sale, and iconic album covers and their copies are the ones that catch our eye in the record bin. When bin diving, I usually don’t stop to read the album’s titles. I typically see the artwork, but if that doesn’t tell me what I need to know, I will look for a title. If I don’t see one on the front cover, I will have to pull the album and explore it further, and it is at that point the marketing has paid off. Out of the thousands in the store, that particular album had made it out of the bin and into my hands. In my hands is one step closer to the till than the rest of the records in the store. Today two albums accompanied me to the till. Both of them had eye-catching covers.

Back to the prism yet again. The obvious connection is to Dark Side of the Moon (DSotM) by Pink Floyd. This iconic album cover is discussed in reverential terms, although it was released over 49 years ago. I have to start saving money for the 50th-anniversary special reprint. The record cover, which depicts a prism spectrum, was designed by Storm Thorgerson of the design firm Hipgnosis in response to requests from the Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright.

The Family Spectrum is not the only example of using a prism for cover art. The Canadian rock band Prism naturally used prisms in their cover art, most noticeably on their debut album, Prism. I won’t discuss the numerous other albums that play with the prism concept; I think we get the idea. An interesting side note is that the folks at Hipgnosis knew a bit about science when they designed the cover. It is a pretty accurate portrayal, according to Chalkdust.

I could not find a release date on the Sing From The Heart album but based on the date of DSoftM, it seems safe to suggest that it would be after 1973. Fortunately, The Family Spectrum covered a few other songs that may help us date this album.

Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone)” is a song by Deena Kaye Rose. Rose recorded the song in 1976, but the original version failed to chart. Multiple artists covered the song, including Bobby Bare and John Denver. Denver’s version, released on the 1981 album Some Days Are Diamonds, was the album’s first single. Based on this, “Sing From The Heart” would be at least after 1976, but the most common cover is based on the John Denver cover, pushing the release date to after 1981.

Chiquitita” (a Spanish term of endearment for a woman meaning “little one”) is a song recorded by Swedish pop group ABBA. It was released in January 1979, pushing the date closer to the 1981 John Denver cover.

One more song can offer us a dating clue: Happy Man by The Pat Terry Group on their 1976 album Songs Of The South. Again this is consistent with our other song clues. B.J. Thomas did a cover of Happy Man that received more airplay on non-faith-based radio stations. That track was released for airplay in 1978.

In conclusion, The Family Spectrum released this album sometime between 1973 and 1981 and used the prism concept from the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon, which came out in 1973. While it is not a blatant ripoff, it certainly borrows generously. I have to hit pause here, the family in The Family Spectrum. That is not their name. I thought it was at first, but it is just a stage name for the Bunkowsky family.

In conclusion, again, Sing From The Heart was engineered and co-produced by Clive Perry. From humble beginnings working in the studios of western Canada with everything from family bands to polka bands, Clive established a name as a recording engineer (Finucan ProductionsFred PennerCrash Test Dummies) and in movie soundtracks with titles to his credit that includes Red Team (2000), Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988) and Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997). 

In conclusion, album covers are important.

In conclusion, I like the album Songs Of The Heart by Daniel Amos. And I would like to do more blogging on album covers, thanks to The Family Spectrum for starting me on this rabbit trail, it’s been fun so far.

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