From Every Sphere

By Myke Atkinson

To be quite honest, I’ve never really liked the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover.” I’ve always felt that any truly great work of art is great because of the contributions of all of its parts, including the cover. So, when you receive a disc designed so poorly that it looks like you picked it up out of pity from some shitty local band after a more-than-mediocre set, you can’t help but have a certain slant on the album before it even touches your player. This situation becomes even worse when the album is by Ed Harcourt, a man UK music press (see the recycled materials of Uncut, NME, etc.) herald as the one to lead the world back into an age when the singer-songwriter is once again held in the highest regard.

Now, the dilemma arises when I get past my shaming of the cover for From Every Sphere, because the album itself is fairly good. While some of the songs sound like all they need to be on one of Tom Wait’s latest records is his hideous bark, Harcourt truly hits the spot with his more melancholy tracks. “Bleed a River Deep” shows the signs of a contemporary singer-songwriter who has truly figured out how to get across “that special something,” while album opener “Bittersweet” sounds like a Wilco b-side (and I say that with the highest regard). But, with the good come the bad–“Ghost Writer” is one of the cheesiest 80s pop-songs not to make the cut for those horrific compilations.

Finally, we reach the end of the album and have to stick it back in packaging that could well have been designed in Microsoft Word and the album seems to lose the shine it had while it was playing.

So what are the lessons to be learned from the mistakes of Ed Harcourt’s new album?

1) Don’t use the same font on your cover as one of the biggest selling albums of all time (check the Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness if you don’t believe me). That’s almost as bad as using the AC/DC font to design your bands logo.

2) When signed to a label such as EMI, don’t be afraid to spend some of their money to get a real album cover made up, the resulting sales will please everyone involved.

3) Never, ever, ever get one Steve Gullick to design your album. The outcome just isn’t pleasant.

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