Monday, June 05, 2006

Album Art

I'm way old enough to remember the days when a new album came out on 12 inches of vinyl and the sleeve was almost as important as the record it enclosed. When Sgt Peppers came out in 1967 we were almost as interested in the sleeve as the record itself.

Later, in 1970 and 1971, the sleeve held another importance for me; there it was that I read a scholarly screed, continued on disc 2, of the social context into which Mahler's 9th symphony fit. Well, at least according to that particular sleeve note writer!

As a historical note; that first copy of the ninth I ever owned fit onto three sides; the fourth side didn't have a filler. It had a groove to be sure but it recorded a 440 Hz sinewave. Yes, of course I played it even if the label on that side was defiantly blank. Should I admit I played it more than once? I think not! :-)

The change to the CD form factor was not kind to those of us who are advancing in years. Back in 1982 I could read em but I can't these days without a magnifying glass. Of course I have no LP's to hand so I'm not sure I could read those either!

As you well know I've been converting my ancient CD collection into WMA's living on multiple hard disks and soon to be on a portable media player! The one crawling its way to me even as I write has enough storage space for 1600 CD's at the encoding level that I find works for me, which is, when you think about it, a heck of a lot of music. It's also a major logistical nightmare in sorting.

Ah, but the buggers inventing this stuff are way ahead of us :-) It's been a learning process for me as I prepare for the prospect of carrying my entire music collection on a device smaller than the pack of smokes I'm used to carrying. Get the tags right and you can find anything you want.

Part of getting the tags right is to get the album art right. As word oriented as I am I cannot see the cover to Sgt Peppers and not instantly know that 'Being for the benefit of Mr Kite' is there. It's burned into my neurons!

I use that example as one that anyone my age would instantly know. I'd be surprised if anyone else recognised a description of the album art for the Chandos recording of Bax's 1st symphony. I would though. Which is why I've spent a lot of time recently downloading and associating album art with the album.

Initially I used the support built into Windows Media Player. Mostly it works well but there were one or two albums where, even though it showed the correct covers, it stubbornly refused to actually download them to the hard disk. Copyright issues? If that's the case then at least they should display a message to that effect.

So I went searching and found a freeware app that does a good job of automating the process. Along the way I discovered that one can use Google to search for images! Hey, I have my areas of interest and you have yours. I learned something today! :-)

First app I tried only works with iTunes. The fastest uninstall in the Southwest! The second app Art Fixer for WMP and MCE[^] did the trick very nicely. I am now down to less than five albums of 400 with no album art.

To get to that level with my collection required a bit of fudging. If no art exists out there on the net for Bertholdt Goldsmiths 'Early and Late' string quartets (a birthday present from Sue about a decade after we divorced) then maybe album art for something else I don't have but that does contain the composers name would work.

Of course this doesn't work for Sgt Peppers; for that album only the correct art will work, but then again, Sgt Peppers album art is available everywhere. Even on Microsoft.

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