by Art Chantry ( email@example.com )
this is one of my all time favorite thrift store record finds. to begin with, the cover is by the incomparable burt goldblatt. burt has been largely overlooked by design history and i think that’s a crime. he’s probably the best, most versatile, most multi-talented record cover designer of the last 60 years. that sounds like hyperbole, but i actually mean that. he has my vote even above reid miles and alex steinweiss and david stone martin and even hypgnosis as the best of the best. the big problem with burt’s amazing output is that it’s never been collected into a book or even a decent magazine article. he’s a nice unassuming guy (or ‘was’. he recently died). so, he never pushed his way into self-promotion and egotistical chest-beating (like so many of us arrogant graphic designers feel the compulsion to do). he just went about his life-long career cranking out one innovative and remarkably brilliant cover after another. the result is that his career has been sorta lost.
if you ever see a collection of his covers all in one place, it sort of blows your socks off. he could do it all – photography, illustration, printing, montage, concept, low budget, art direction, campaigns, branding, everything. the big foot he had over his competition is that he saw the bigger picture of what he was doing and was an actual graphic designer and not an ‘artist’ or an ‘illustrator’. he thought much bigger than those restrictive frameworks. he also concentrated on the jazz culture as his place of operation – the music and people he loved the most. since jazz was a minor seller even in it’s glory days, most of his covers went unseen by the larger market and now adorn highly rare and collectible disks that only show up in very exotic sales and auctions. so, he is still obscure – almost by intention. burt goldblatt is my all-time favorite record cover DESIGNER, period. take that to the bank. i wish somebody would do a book on the guy (hint hint).
this odd little record, however, is one of my favorite records NOT because it happens to have a burt goldblatt cover. that’s just gravy on the mashed potatoes. this band is one of the strangest, weirdest most delightful groups i’ve ever heard. TRIO SHMEED (their real name) is described on the back cover thusly: “the Shmeeds have a crazy mixed-up sound that combines the characteristics of traditional swiss folk music and modern american swing. they can adapt it – and they do – to fit the intricate meter of the cha-cha-cha, the sprightly motion of the polka, or the stuttering drive of a locomotive.” sorts sums it it up nicely.
the cut on this Lp that sold me on this group forever is the first song on side one. it’s titled, “Yodel Cha-Cha.” yes, it’s a yodelling cha-cha song!! and to top it off, it’s done up in that mid-50’s vocal trio style of the cocktail bachelor pad! that gal on the cover is a killer yodeler!! and the other two twerps are pleasant harmonizers (sorta like ‘peter, paul and mary’ – two boring bookends holding together a force of nature between them). this is an amazing and absolutely silly record (and very serious, too). do NOT mess with the trio shmeed!
ever heard a cha cha yodel tune? i’ll bet not. and you never will anywhere else either. the Trio Shmeed was one of a kind. thank god
AC: i never had any contact with the guy, so i have no idea. maybe it’s just that he didn’t like crowds of twits asking him lots of stupid questions? or maybe he was just having a bad day?? we’ll never know. besides, people say that sort of stuff about me all the time. it’s my carefully cultivated “public image.” people love it – everybody has a “cranky asshole art chantry” to tell. when i hear the details, most of them seem to be made up, too. strange turf….