Egypt Station – The Packaging

Now that the general public and the reviewers verdicts are in (all generally very positive btw), and now that Paul McCartney’s Egypt Station has entered the Billboard 200 at No.1, making it his first No.1 album on the US charts in over 36 years (the last time was Tug Of War in 1982), maybe it’s time to take a closer look at the cover art and design of the album – both in LP and CD form – because these too seem to have met with a very favourable reception from fans:

Explaining the album’s concept, Paul says, “I liked the words ‘Egypt Station.’… I think of it as a dream location that the music emanates from.” The title is taken from the piece of art which is featured on the album cover. It’s a limited edition lithograph, the original of which Paul himself painted back in 1988:

“My original inspiration [for the painting] was….Egyptian symbols and shapes I got from looking at a reference book on Egypt. I was interested in the way they drew sunflowers, so two appear on the left and on the right. It was a nice shape, so I took that and then I also love the way they symbolize trees. I like the way they reduce a tree to just some very simple symbols.”  Paul McCartney

The art directors hired for the project are Ferry Gouw, an illustrator, graphic designer and video director based in London, and Gary Card, a set designer, illustrator and artist also based in London. They’ve taken McCartney’s original painting and extended out its themes and style across many panels (for both the CD and the LP) in a spectacular way.

At first the two seem an odd choice as on the surface they both appear to work in very different worlds to that of Paul McCartney. Gouw inhabits more of an out there, conceptual electronic dance music, skater/cartoon world. He’s also the in-house designer for James Blake’s record label, 1800-Dinosaur. This video is a little old, but it gives a taste of Gouw’s style:

So, you might wonder how Gouw got the McCartney gig. Then you discover that earlier this year Roxy Music hired him to produce a new video interpretation of their legendary song (from 1972), ‘Virginia Plain‘. Gouw says:

“I wanted it to feel like a kaleidoscopic holiday in glamorous, but surreal locations, that only exist in vintage posters and your imagination. The song is so dense – the imagery comes thick and fast, so they all have to pop up in a stream of consciousness. So I researched vintage holiday posters, Americana pin-up icons, art deco jazz posters, and re-drew all the elements to make up the video.”

It was Bryan Ferry who commissioned the piece after being impressed with Gouw’s work on a video for his solo album, Olympia. The result has been described as the creative rebirth of an iconic track in British musical lore:

On the other hand, Gary Card seems more into groovy and colourful pop sculpture of late. By way of example there’s this amazing eight foot high plasticine Christmas tree he made for a London hotel last holiday season:Both Gouw and Card have been on Instagram since the release of Egypt Station“After months of hard work this beauty is finally out in the world. So proud to see it everywhere, it’s a real privilege to be a part of this. Expect me and @garycard to be spamming Instagram with this for the next few years LoL” – Ferry Gouw

Woke up this morning to news that the Paul McCartney album we designed is number 1 in the U.S 👍🏻 here’s the full art work @ferry_gouw n me based around @paulmccartney‘s original painting #egyptstation” – Gary Card. He then posted this image of the  6-panel “concertina” style packaging they devised for the CD:

When folded up the CD cover is held in place with a bright red cloth fabric elastic band:

For the exclusive Target and HMV editions (which have two bonus songs) the elastic band is green in colour to help set it apart:

It’s not the first time that McCartney has employed elastic bands to hold together a cover. In 1999, under his The Fireman persona, he released a 12″ vinyl featuring remixes of a song called ‘Fluid’, taken from the Rushes album. That folded cover has a red rubber band to keep everything in place too:

The Egypt Station “concertina” idea for the CD is also used for the vinyl record, but only in the “Deluxe Edition” design. This is a three-panel gatefold and you can see Sir Paul holding an example of it here:The LP cover is quite spectacular in this larger format, with a beautifully textured feel to the paper used giving a high quality tactile feel. There’s also a tri-fold lyric sheet in a deep blue which fits within – also beautifully designed by Gouw and Card. Here’s one page from the lyric sheet:

You can see how the LP package folds compared to the CD version a little more clearly here:

The attention to detail extends further inside, with the labels on each side of the LP being individually custom designed as well. Another nice touch:

And that brings us to the vinyl colours. Egypt Station is offered in black vinyl (140 gram standard, and 180 gram deluxe); in blue and orange coloured vinyls for the deluxe version – only available via McCartney’s official site; in red vinyl as a Barnes & Noble store exclusive; and in green vinyl – offered to Spotify subscribers first, but for a period also available to all via the McCartney site as well.

When the images for Egypt Station first began to appear many likened the cover to George Harrison’s 1982 outing, Gone Troppo:

Yes, there are certain similarities in the colours and the pastiche style used, but Egypt Station‘s artwork goes far beyond. It harkens back to the days when albums really were works of art. They could be folded out and explored and enjoyed as an immersive experience in themselves, quite apart from the music contained within. We think Ferry Gouw and Gary Card should be congratulated.

Interesting peice of trivia: In 2004, when Paul headlined the Glastonbury Festival in England, the same Egypt Station artwork from his original painting adorned the pre-show curtain:

There is a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package of the year. In 2018 there was a tie for first place and so two winners were recognised (click here to see the list and scroll down to Award Number 65):

Above on the left is Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy (Deluxe Edition) – Sasha Barr, Ed Steed and Josh Tillman, art directors.

On the right is Magin Díaz’s El Orisha De La Rosa – Carlos Dussan, Juliana Jaramillo, Juan Martinez and Claudio Roncoli, art directors.

There’s a good article about both albums and their cover art here. There’s further information on both here also.

I guess we’ll just have to wait until January, 2019 to see if: a) Egypt Station receives a Grammy nomination for its extraordinary packaging, and b) it wins!

Paul McCartney always puts a lot of effort into the design and presentation of his albums. Two excellent examples are the totally integrated concept for his Electric Arguments release as The Fireman in 2008/09, which saw the standard CD right through to an extraordinary limited edition deluxe box set executed with aplomb; and his album New from 2013. You can find the story behind the cover art for that one here.

FOR MORE ON EGYPT STATION SEE ALSO:

Record Store Day Double A Side to be released; a retro Egypt Station Cassette; some Egypt Station Reviews; the Spotify Egypt Station Green Vinyl; and Packaging Variations of Egypt Station.

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‘Egypt Station’ – Available on Cassette

The Paul McCartney Official US Store is now offering McCartney’s new Egypt Station album on cassette:

You can buy it (with a digital download included) for US$9.98! It’s the sixteen track version – no bonus tracks.

This is not the first time McCartney has dabbled with what some might view as a redundant format. Last time was for Record Store Day 2017, when a 3-song cassette of Flowers In The Dirt demos with Elvis Costello was offered as a limited edition:

The cassette of Egypt Station takes the number of different variations of the album for collectors to seek out to eight. That’s five different vinyl editions, two different CDs, and now the cassette. And there is still a super deluxe edition in the pipeline. No details on what that will contain have been released to date.

Paul McCartney’s ‘Egypt Station’ – A Review

One of Australia’s leading music critics has given Paul McCartney a big thumbs up for Egypt Station, released last Friday.

Veteran music journalist Bernard Zuel writes:

“…this is what you get when a man who was brilliant in his 20s and 30s and stumbled into mediocrity a bit too often in his 40s and 50s, shows [that] the creative rejuvenation of his 60s continues at a fine pace….

It works. But then he’s Paul McCartney, we’re not, and that’s the deal…..”

You can read Bernard’s full, track-by-track review at bernardzuel.com

The respected UK newspaper The Times has also given the album high praise, with a four out of five star rating:

“…..here he is, aged 76, with his most emotionally satisfying work in decades….Egypt Station displays McCartney’s unique ability to write songs that are direct and sophisticated. Who else could construct the minor key piano melody of Hand In Hand from just a few notes nobody thought of arranging that way before, and then set it against words about sharing your life with someone, that are conversational yet poignant?

Likewise with Dominoes, which chugs along with the lighthearted rock’n’roll Wings did so well, but comes with a philosophical message about accepting the here and now. As with so much McCartney material, it is more profound than it seems.” 

Hey Jude/Revolution – If It’s Re-issued Should This Be The Look?

Loved this Tweet yesterday by Canadian Beatle aficionado and author, Piers Hemmingsen:  

It made us think that if (and it seems to be very likely) there are plans to re-issue a physical ‘HeyJude’/’Revolution’ single as part of the forthcoming Beatles White Album 50th Anniversary, then it really should come in a white sleeve like the 1968 Canadian issue.

What do you think? Does this…..

….look better (and more appropriate) than this…..

Piers Hemmingsen is the author of The Beatles In Canada – The Origin of Beatlemania!

John Lennon ‘Imagine’ – Film, Audio and DVD/BluRay On The Way?

Speculation and rumours that there would be a number of additional elements accompanying the forthcoming Imagine John Yoko book (due on October 9) has had an on again/off again nature over the last few days.

The story so far…..

Officially, all we know is that the book is happening, as is a cinema release of the John Lennon and Yoko Ono film Imagine, announced this week: This is the 1972 film with each of the songs from Imagine portrayed (plus four songs from the Ono LP FLY, recorded at the same time) in between glimpses into the lives of John and Yoko, plus some fun sequences featuring the pair and a host of celebrity mates. It looks like it’s the original 70 minute cut of the film, plus an additional 15 minutes or so of bonus material.

If you’d like to go along and see the movie on the big screen there’s a special site set up find out where it is on near you and you can book tickets. Screenings start from September 17.

We also now know that there will be definitely be a DVD and Blu-ray release of the 1972 Imagine film, coupled on the one disc with Gimme Some Truth – The Making of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ Album which dates from 2000 and is directed by Andrew Solt:Gimme Some Truth is a surprisingly good examination of the recording process, a fly-on-the-wall window on Lennon in the studio creating the Imagine album that stands the test of time. The DVD and Blu-ray will be available from October 5, and Amazon is taking pre-orders now. There will be bonus material included, but it has not yet been revealed just what this will be. These two films will be great to have in remixed sound, 5.1 mixes (if that is your thing), and fully restored visual content.

And that leads us to what hasn’t been announced yet regarding the last piece in the puzzle: the audio from the Imagine sessions.

There’s been lots of talk about a super deluxe box set; a single CD; a double CD; and a double LP (with a limited edition in clear vinyl for collectors too). Depending on who you believe this is about to be officially announced (like in the next few days, with an October 9 release date), or this part of the Imagine re-issue project has been delayed and we won’t see it until at least February, 2019. (This courtesy of Lennon producer, Jack Douglas, who apparently stated at the Chicago Fest for Beatles last weekend that the project had been shelved to February next year).

Until something official comes out it all remains speculation, but the big box set (which will be audio only) will likely contain four CDs, plus two Blu-rays of material. On these will be some 140 tracks – which is HUGE!

In the box we’ll get the remixed stereo Imagine album, plus singles and extras; outtakes from the album, singles and extras; the Quadraphonic album remastered; raw studio mixes; plus a host of other audio content. For example, someone well-connected to the project has posted this as the content on CD2:

CD 2 – ELEMENTS & OUTTAKES
Elements Mixes and Album & Single Outtakes
ELEMENTS MIXES
Imagine (Strings only) 
Jealous Guy (Piano, bass & drums)
Oh My Love (Vocals only) 
How? (Strings only) 
ALBUM OUTTAKES
Imagine (Original demo recorded at Ascot) 
Imagine (Take 1) 
Crippled Inside (Take 3) 
Crippled Inside (Take 6 alternate guitar solo)
Jealous Guy (Take 9) 
It’s So Hard (Take 6) 
I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier (Take 25) 
Gimme Some Truth (Take 4)
Oh My Love (Take 6) 
How Do You Sleep? (Takes 1 & 2) 
How? (Take 31)

That’s just for one CD. Those two Blu-rays alone will contain a massive amount of additional audio and this release (if it comes about) will set a precedent for the Apple/Universal box set re-issue approach so far. There will be raw studio mixes; “elements” mixes with instruments and voices separated out; documentary content about the evolution of the songs; plus interview material from the time of Imagine with John and Yoko included. To date the breadth of material planned for release is unprecedented.

The promotional music site Ultimate Classic Rock jumped the gun today and published an article called “John Lennon’s Imagine Album Explored in a Six-Disc Box Set“. As you can see if you click through, they’ve subsequently taken that story down, possibly with a big rap across the knuckles form Apple/Universal….

We reckon this big release program WILL happen. It’s just a matter of when.

UPDATE: The official Lennon site has now uploaded a teaser Imagine the Music page and a video (a beautiful short extract of just the isolated vocals from ‘Oh My Love’). Looks like we’ll know exactly what is on offer on August 23, when The Ultimate Deep Listening Experience will be officially announced.

Dreaming The Beatles – Book Review

We’ve been reading a terrific Beatle book called Dreaming The Beatles – The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World by Rob Sheffield. It’s not new. The hardcover first edition was released last year – and won great accolades then. It has though just been re-issued as a  paperback, and it’s recommended that you go get yourself a copy:

Rob Sheffield is a columnist for Rolling Stone magazine and has been writing about music, TV and popular culture since 1997. He’s written a number of other books on music including works on David Bowie and Duran Duran.

Sheffield has a delightful and refreshing writing style and delivers some truly unique insights and observations into The Beatles: as a band, as individuals, as musicians, and as a world-wide pop phenomenon involved in a love affair that persists up to today (and will do well in the future).

The big difference here is that Sheffield’s take on it all is a decidedly fresh one. Given the huge number of words written about this band over many, many years, that is really saying something.

The basic premise of Dreaming The Beatles is to examine why they have remained so loved and so central – not only in the Sixties, but right up to the present day. Sheffield writes: “The Beatles didn’t plan it this way – they couldn’t have. In 1964, their publicist Derek Taylor wrote liner notes for one of their albums predicting it would still sound fine to “the kids of AD 2000”, a bold claim that looks hilariously small potatoes now…..Taylor upped the ante with his 1995 liner notes for Anthology, calling the Beatles’ story “the twentieth century’s greatest romance.” How was he supposed to know that the romance was just beginning?”

The world, it seems, just keeps on falling in love with The Beatles. Sheffield again: “They tried to break the spell they’d cast and were genuinely surprised when they failed. When John Lennon sang “The dream is over” in 1970, he wanted to free his listeners and himself from the dream. But it didn’t work, because the group didn’t belong to these four men anymore. The dream wasn’t theirs to break.” As four individuals they each tried to end it, pursue new paths, and get on with the rest of their lives. Sheffield observes that the world just smiled politely and said, “I think I disagree.”

Through a series of short vignettes and essays Sheffield examines how this came to be and (with lots of detours along the way) picks apart various significant albums, songs and transitional moments and connections in their career to gradually build up a picture of why it all mattered – and why it continues to matter.

Dreaming the Beatles is often funny too, and is always an engrossing read frequently offering up interesting and entertaining opinions. Take for instance the chapter ‘Beatles or Stones?’ where the traditional rivalry between the two bands is delightfully unpacked. “The Stones flourished during the all-to-brief phase when Mick Jagger thought he was Paul McCartney.”, writes Sheffield. “‘Dandelion’ is easily the best faux-McCartney song of the Sixties. Alas, this phase has been underrated through the years, for the admittedly excellent reason that as soon as Mick gave up trying to be Paul he got ten times better at being Mick, which is when the Stones hit their prime.”

If you feel jaded about reading yet another Beatle book, pluck up the courage and seek this one out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by an author who knows his stuff, can look at the time-worn tale in new ways, understands why the story continues on, and in the end just loves the music. Like he says: “Being born on the same planet as the Beatles is one of the 10 best things that’s ever happened to me.”

Dreaming The Beatles – The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World is published by Dey Street Books (Harper Collins)

McCartney Confirms 50th Anniversary Edition of The White Album

While speaking with DIY Magazine (to publicise his new solo project Egypt Stationdue out in September), Paul McCartney confirmed that there will in fact be a 50th Anniversary Edition of the The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album):

Have you finished preparing the 50th anniversary package of that one yet?

It’s all in place, I’ve just got a couple of essays [to approve]. It’s all lined up and it’s really good.

Are there any moments you’d forgotten about when you were trawling back through the archives?

Something sparks another memory, but it’s really nice because we were a great little band – I think we can agree on that. So for me to be a part of that and to be remembering it is great; all these little things remind me of it and I do learn things.

The album itself [‘The White Album’] is very cool and it sounds like you’re in the room; that’s the great thing about doing remasters. But we’ve also got some demos of the songs, so you get things stripped right back to just John’s voice and a guitar. You just think, how fucking good was John?! Amazing. We were just doing it; it was amazing. We were having a good time.

Exact details are scarce, but it looks like on November 22 this year we will definitely see something similar to the 50th Anniversary Edition box set Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from last year – which was beautifully done.

A new mix remastered by Giles Martin and Sam Okell? Definitely some demos and studio outakes, from what Sir Paul said. The mono version of the album included? And maybe some bonus materials, including a new stereo mix of the ‘Hey Jude’/’Revolution’ single (like they did with ‘Strawberry Fields’/’Penny Lane’ for Pepper)?