Vinyl – The Art of Making Records
Mike Evans. Aurum Press. 2015. ISBN 978-1-78131-515-6
The title The Art of Making Records could cover any number of approaches, and that seems to be the main problem with this book, which attempts to cover the lot across 250 or so pages. The cheap computer generated cover design aside, this was then a book which promised much (in a decent 10″ format hardback) but perhaps as a result left me a little disappointed. I can see how the initial concept must have been a winner, while the author (and compiler? No fewer than eight people are credited with bringing it to print) is clearly a fan of pop culture and album art, and very knowledgeable (having been at the business end of music back in the Sixties).
Yet the publishers seem not quite to have understood how to treat all the material, and farmed the design out to someone who didn’t have the same passion. The end result is a book which tackles the history of recorded sound and all related avenues in photographs and images in the first section, and then turns into a collection of loosely themed album sleeve pages, potted histories of selected labels (and a couple of pages of their output), shots of vintage home hi-fi, and a few artists, all done decade by decade.
So visually there are lots of great covers (and some of the early historical images I found full of detail and interest), but it does feel at times a bit light on detail. Almost like a collection of Wikipedia pages brought to life, which I’m sure it isn’t, a pitfall that could have been avoided.
Nevertheless I did enjoy going through it, came across new stuff (sleeve art being an area which is so huge it’s always good to have a few pointers), and as an overall romp through the subject matter, it is a worthwhile primer. I just got the feeling that there was perhaps a small series of much better books here trying to get out.
I never saw the book when it came out in 2015 and seem not to have been the only one, as a result of which the publishers have off-loaded the remaining stock at HMV, where you can find it (at the time of writing) for a tenner (around half price). At that price it would be silly not to add it to your bookshelves. Just print yourself a nice home-made dust jacket to hide that front!