It’s not often you see a cover use stock photos so extensively yet still remain an original and interesting cover. Sagmeister is known for his unique approach to design and as this was the 12th album by Pat Methany the obviously needed some way of making it different and stand out.
Every piece of text, except for the album credits, was replaced by and image code, even the track listing on the back. The images represent the mood & songs of the album. The cover did use a blue “belly band” to make sure fans actually knew to pick up the album.
The actual CD was used as the image cipher, with the CD’s design cut into segments and transparent part of the CD showing the alphabet. You rotate the CD in the case to reveal the different codes.
By lining up the arrow with one of the three coloured segments (red, green blue), the cipher is revealed. So while the cover used the green version of the cipher, the booklets pages used others. I love the fact the actual CD is an integral part of the design, they didn’t just slap the solution on the back page of the booklet. This gives fans a whole new experience with the packaging, it almost becomes a game. They can spend the next few day decoding the text while they chill out to the album.
Although you can just see many of the older fans (I imagined them all to be quite old) looking confused and annoyed and they tried to decipher the liner notes. This was back in 1997 before they had an easy way to Google for an answer. Click here if you want to read their profound words.
If you still have a computer running Windows 95 or 3.1 or a Mac pre OS9 (why?!) you can download the official translator apps here.
Kempa says it best here saying: “Running the application brings up a screen that translates your keystrokes into the pictoral code. Correctly filling in the blanks with ‘Pat Metheny Group Imaginary Day’ rewards you with a photograph of Metheny sitting with his acoustic guitar, lost in thought. One can only imagine how much Warner Brothers was duped into paying for the development of this ‘intricate’ promotional software back in 1997.”
And for no useful reason at all here’s “Sleevage dot com” translated using the green cipher.
Other Coded Albums:
Both Pearl Jam and Coldplay have done similar things with their albums and New Order have been doing this across multiple albums with a colour code running across multiple albums, singles and website. We’ll have to do a feature on this soon.
The decipher on the CD reminded me of the Dial-A-Pirate wheel you got when you bought The Secret of Monkey Island.
I still have this somewhere in my many boxes of crap. This is how Lucas Arts solved piracy back in the early 90′s. You’d be asked to enter the date for a certain pirate shown and unless you had this dial a pirate tool you’d get it wrong. Locking you out of the game. Just like the trivia questions at the beginning of Leisure Suit Larry. This actually stopped me playing it back in 1980′s.
P.S: I’ll be honest and say I’ve never heard a Pat Methany track. But I imagine it to be like Steely Dan which I unfortunately and quite familiar with thanks to my neighbors.