Since his tragic death in 1998, Phil Hartman has been mourned by fans as one of the greatest comic actors of his time. His performances, from Pee Wee’s Playhouse to Saturday Night Live and News Radio, displayed a comic genius far beyond his peers, and his film career was far too brief. Many like myself remember him best as two of television’s funniest character: Struggling lawyer Lionel Hutz and washed up actor Troy McClure, beloved residents of The Simpsons‘ Springfield.
What many may have not known about Phil Hartman – who’s name was actually spelled with two n’s before he got into show business – is that he had a career as an art designer when he was younger. Hartmann designed at least twenty-five album jackets for bands in the 70s, notably several for chart-toppers Poco and America.
(History: America’s Greatest Hits, by the way, is one of my least favorite Greatest Hits albums even though I like the band all right. Here’s why: George Martin started producing America’s albums in 1974, after they had already recorded three albums. Tracks from those three records – America, Homecoming and Hat Trick (the only really good America albums) – were remixed by Martin. It’s subtler than what he did with, say, “The Long and Winding Road”, but unnecessary nonetheless. It’s also sort of anathemic to the idea of a Greatest Hits album.)
We haven’t found a list of the complete Phil Hartmann covers – send us a link if you have. The Silver album was surprising because it came a few years later and was on the then-new label Arista. It’s also interesting because it’s credited to Hartmann and Goodman, so must have had a partner or started a firm. Phil Hartmann’s album covers are pretty cool, anyway, and Cantamos is pretty awesome. We’d bet you have an album with a Phil Hartmann cover and you never knew it.
Today’s musical entertainment will be the original, pre-George Martin 45 of America’s “A Horse with no Name”.
This is a rerun of a post from 2014, when Gus and Dave a lego model of the record store. The kids are home for spring break here in Minneapolis this week, and we talked about trying to re-build the model, but the consensus was that we’d have to disassemble too many other amazing creations to free up all the blocks.
Whenever a performing artist passes away, there is a rush of interest in their music. Fans flood stores looking for a favorite album or their most recent album, suddenly making a mediocre record a best-seller (let’s call this “the Double Fantasy effect”). Its a phenomenon that may be as old as record stardom — Enrico Caruso continued to enjoy commercial success long after his passing with new recordings still making news into the late 30s.
Presently the treatment of unissued recordings is a central issue in the settlement of Prince’s estate. We have mixed feelings on the subject. As fans we’re eager to hear more recordings, but also as fans we respect that he may have chosen to set the recordings aside for a reason.
This past weekend we were listening to Marvin Gaye albums, including the first two which were released after he was murdered in April 1984. Some good songs came out on the albums. One of the best of these was “The World Is Rated X,” which appeared on the Motown Remembers Marvin Gaye LP but was first recorded for his ‘lost’ 1972 album You’re the Man.
Columbia Records, with whom Gaye had signed after his tumultuous split from Motown, and to whom he’d delivered the enormously successful Midnight Love in 1982, was first to capitalize on his passing with an album of unissued recordings. The album Dream of a Lifetime collected unissued material and contained the hit “Sanctified Lady,” partly covering Gaye’s debts at the time of his death. Motown’s album followed the next year and included material from as early as 1963. Many of the early recordings on Motown Remembers Marvin Gaye were overdubbed to feature a more contemporary drum sound (the so-called “fat snare’ sound of the era) and new backing vocals.
The back cover of the Motown album always resembled, to us, one of those posterboard displays at a funeral. He is seen leaning on a car, in a kimono and — for some reason — eating breakfast in bed.