Record Redux Updates: Carly Simon and Donna Summer

Spring Greetings! A quick update on what's going on in Alter Ego world.

Record Redux: Carly Simon has hit the (virtual) bookshelves this month on The book is the first of its kind to cover the entire catalog of this music icon, whose career has spanned five decades.

My favorite way to enjoy this book (and Record Redux: Spice Girls) is to go page by page and play each single and b-side. I turn to YouTube for the songs I don't have or cannot access otherwise. Quentin's sharp and insightful reviews help me listen to each song with a fresh ear -- and I appreciate the music that much more.

The layouts below are some page spreads from the book. Enjoy!

Next in the Record Redux queue is the legendary Donna Summer, whose book will publish December 2017. I'll be starting the cover art soon, so I'll share something this summer.

Cover art revealed for "Record Redux: Carly Simon"

I'm excited to share the final cover illustration for the second book in the Record Redux series spotlighting iconic singer/songwriter Carly Simon. Written by music historian Quentin Harrison, this complete discography and critical review spanning five decades will be available from Amazon on April 10, 2017.

With Quentin's first book, "Record Redux: Spice Girls" (released in July 2016), he succeeded in attracting the interest of renowned British music journalist David Sinclair to write the book's foreword. Quentin has struck gold a second time, with David Mauro providing the Carly foreword. David wrote the liner notes for Simon's 2002 anthology album and also wrote for her last studio release, 2009's Never Been Gone.

Details around the launch of the book are in the initial planning stages, so I'll be sure to share those details once Quentin and I can nail down specifics.

As for book number three in the series? I'll work on capturing the magnificent likeness of the one and only Donna Summer, which will publish in December 2017.

Record Redux: Celebrating (and designing for) Female Music Icons

My last post about the book (and coolest project collaboration to date) "Record Redux: Spice Girls" touched on the greater book series to which this first volume belongs and serves as the kick-off.

I'll say again how thankful I am to be a part of this project; not only as a designer but as a music lover. Starting with the Spice Girls — and now shifting to Carly Simon for book #2 — I've already been exposed to corners of their respective music catalogues I hadn't known before. It's truly a fascinating course in music appreciation. And Quentin's commentaries, both written and shared with me in conversation, add deeper layers of storytelling behind every song.

Last week, we announced the entire 14-book lineup, via this fun graphic. The series presents a compelling, dynamic and unexpected selection of exciting women, each of whom have helped shape the sound of popular music over several decades.

What distinguishes the Record Redux Series is its dedication to focusing on the music, not the halo of celebrity and hype that surrounds — and sadly, often engulfs — the artist. For every time the media diverts our attention with an artist's connection to an overly dramatized scandal, a high profile marriage, dating escapades, their latest hairstyle, or wardrobe malfunction — the music gets pushed out to the margins, fighting for attention and yearning for discussion.

Many of the women featured in this lineup have been written about extensively, but rarely is their music covered with any degree of depth or critical perspective. It's my sincere hope that this series helps music fans rediscover the work of these amazing women and see (as well as hear) them in a new light.

Which artist are you most interested to learn more about in greater detail? For myself, I'm looking forward to exploring Sheena, Teena, the 70's Supremes and Joan.

My Design Challenge: Doing These Women Justice

I have to admit that aside from the task of designing the contents of the books, the most daunting aspect of these books is capturing the likeness — the essence of the artist, the woman — for each book cover.

They will need to be instantly recognizable yet not come off as broad caricatures. And I think each one will present unique challenges. Some, by virtue of their iconic status, already have become an alter ego of sorts unto themselves, whereas others will require a greater degree of visual detail to come to life. For example, the Spice Girls are “built in” with larger-than-life stage personas that married perfectly with the superhero/pop comic graphic treatment I gave them for their cover. By contrast, I'll likely take a more nuanced approach with the likes of Sheena Easton, Kim Wilde and Teena Marie.

Does the pressure to achieve this kinda freak me out? Yep. Am I up for the challenge? Definitely.

I'll start the cover design for the Carly Simon book soon, but my approach will be entirely different from the one I took for the Spice Girls. Something more flowing and “painterly” in the line work, I think. I look forward to unveiling the cover sometime this fall/early winter!

Until then, Fan us on Facebook!

Visit the Facebook page RECORD REDUX SERIES for more updates, music sharing and other fun stuff from Quentin Harrison!

Alter Ego Pop Art and the Spice Girls: A match made in heaven

Last year through a mutual friend, I met Quentin Harrison, a talented music journalist and historian who was seeking a designer and illustrator to work on his first published book. That in itself piqued my interest; when I learned the subject matter focused on the Spice Girls," I knew I wanted in!

The book, "Record Redux: Spice Girls," launched on July 8, 2016, to coincide with the 20th anniversary debut of their first UK single, "Wannabe." Quentin has served up the first ever complete discography of the Spice Girls, tracking their movements in music — both as a group and as solo artists — over nearly two decades. The book covers every released single (plus its B-side) and LP with full stats and Quentin's keen critical commentary throughout.

For the cover design, I wanted to glorify their iconic, larger than life alter egos: Baby, Ginger, Posh, Scary and Sporty. They always struck me as powerful music superheroes, and it was important for me to capture their essence. I knew that the attitude of their stance alone was enough to identify each Girl without adding any detail. About six months before the book's release, the social media campaign unveiled the lineup in silhouettes only; each Girl bathed in their "signature" on-stage color. This campaign approach was a way to reintroduce the group while suggesting that the book would go beyond covering their more notable Spice hits.

Aside from the pressure of creating a cover that would honor the group (and appease their fans), the other challenge was designing the book itself. Inspired by their signature colors, the book uses a corresponding color coded system to track their activity as a group and as individuals. Below is a special advance excerpt we released to show the book's reader-friendly format.

How-To Reader Guide in the book shows the format balances stats with Quentin's critical commentary of every single and LP release.

How-To Reader Guide in the book shows the format balances stats with Quentin's critical commentary of every single and LP release.

This project has truly been a career highlight for me, and I've enjoyed collaborating with Quentin and designing the marketing and promotion support. This book is the first in a series of 14 that will explore the contributions and influences of women in pop music. Quentin's second book, "Record Redux: Carly Simon" will publish April 2017 -- I'll keep you posted on its progress!