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Contrasts: Music Minus One album art

Contributed by Herb Lubalin Study Center on Nov 8th, 2021. Artwork published in
circa 1969
Contrasts: Music Minus One album art
Source: Shawn Hazen. License: All Rights Reserved.

A very nice, large-size use of Alexey Brodovitch’s Albro typeface, with minor adjustments in vertical scaling. The rhythm of the type in the lower half of the composition complements the illustration of the piano keys. The track list is a condensed variant of News Gothic, which picks up on the narrowness of Albro. The reversed label Music Minus One is set in Standard Medium Condensed (better known as Akzidenz Grotesk). The small script used at the bottom is Soroka Flair, designed by Albert Soroka.

The record label that put out this album is called, Music Minus One, or MMO. The records they produced were educational in nature, and were made to allow people to practice playing alongside with the record. By lowering the right channels on the stereo you could isolate the part that you wanted to replicate. The records also included transcribed sheet music to use. Wikipedia describes them as:

Music Minus One (MMO) is a music production and recording company in Westchester, New York. Their recordings are meant to be accompanied by the listener on whichever instrument (or voice type) is excluded from the recording, as an aid to practice, or as an accompaniment to home performance.

9 Comments on “Contrasts: Music Minus One album art”

  1. The small script used at the bottom is most likely lettering.

    It’s photo-lettering! This script is shown in PLINC’s Alphabet Thesaurus, vol. 2 from 1965, as Soroka Flair. It’s the only design credited to Albert “Al” Soroka and spans three weights; this being the lightest one. (Note that the name is Soroka Flair; “Soroka Design” is just a sample text to show a few more glyphs.)

    Soroka Flair in Light, Medium, and Bold weights (interspersed with Combo Script and Copeland Marigold), as shown in PLINC’s One Line catalog (1971)

    “Contrasts” is much taller than Albro as shown by Photo-Lettering (or than the digital version). The letterforms aren’t stretched, as one can tell from the circular terminals, but were probably redrawn with elongated proportions for this application. Nice!

    Unlike the track names, “Music Minus On PIANO” isn’t set in News Gothic Condensed. It has the straight-sided rounds found in the Extra Condensed, but is less narrow. I don’t recognize it right now.

  2. Oh interesting!

    I had the PLINC book open but could spot the Soroka design. Must have glossed over it. I think I saw the straight t and missed the rounded version. Good eye!

    The Music Minus one at the bottom does looks like the Bold weight of News Gothic Extra Condensed. I didn’t find it in the database and reverted to News Gothic.

    I know this is a digitization (below) but looks very close. The bold weight has straight sides too.

  3. Just looked at an ATF catalog from the 1960s and realized that there was no Bold weight of News Gothic Extra Condensed. This sample looks a tad heavier than what’s in the catalog, and a bit wider. The Gothic Condensed No.529 is closer in weight but too dark. It does have flat sides but it is too narrow for this sample.

  4. I had another look and concluded it’s Standard Condensed, AKA Akzidenz-Grotesk eng. It has the horizontal terminals in s, the straight-sided O, and also the deep notches in M. There is reason to assume that this face came from Photo-Lettering’s library, too. And indeed they carried an adaptation of this foundry typeface as Standard Cond, and additionally offered an exclusive Standard Intermediate Cond, which appears to be a tad heavier.

  5. Ah good shout! Didn’t think to look at Standard! Especially since that specimen is in our collection. I think you’re right, this all must have come from PLINC.

  6. Just updated the blurb accordingly.

  7. I just came across this José Melis album art, and was reminded of the Music Minus One cover artwork.

    There is no connection between the two, is there? Or maybe Chamberlain saw Suliman’s design from 7 years earlier. It’s curious that they both show a piano keyboard, and both use Brodovitch Albro.

  8. On closer inspection, is that actually Brodovitch Albo on the Contrasts cover? I can see they are closely related, but the Contrasts type has a higher weight contrast, has more classical features, and looks more polished than any of the Brodovitch Albo samples I have seen. The S in particular is wildly different.

  9. is that actually Brodovitch Albo on the Contrasts cover?

    See my previous comment. ;) Yes, I agree: it’s what we tag with lettering derived from typeface – custom drawn, but clearly following the model of a specific typeface. A font in indirect use.

    For the S: the original version of Albro came with various alternates, including two forms for S. One has a short horizontal middle part (as on the José Melis cover), the other form is closer to the one used for “Contrasts” – just less condensed.

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