November 1949 4 July 1984
How was Jimmie's cover art restored?
I've received many private email messages over the years asking for details on how Jimmie Spheeris cover art was restored. Restoration of Jimmie's cover art was a complex project which began in late 1996. Sony agreed to let the late Johnny Pierce reissue Jimmie's catalog on CD. Johnny asked me to create cover art and packaging which honors and serves the original LPs. I immediately agreed to donate services.
From an art restoration standpoint, Jimmie's 1971 Isle of View debut LP was easily the most challenging. Original film negatives and press plates were long gone and no one at Sony's art department could provide anything useful from the Sony/Columbia vaults. Extensive research failed to locate a usable copy of the source image.
I owned three copies of the original LP, but the covers were badly faded and scuffed. I was unable to locate graphic designer Ron Coro (designer of the original LP package) and the only other art credit on the LP lists "Cover Compliments of Monte Luna."
Not much to go on... so I began the laborious process of scanning the best portions of my three LPs and digitally restoring them (often pixel by pixel) into a single composite image.
The restoration process took three weeks, using various photo and vector editing software programs on my Mac. Once the image was restored, various filters were employed to sharpen it and then intensify and correct the colors. Our goal was to approximate the original palette based on personal recollections of how the image looked back in 1971. Some choices were arbitrary, but I think the resulting image serves the original well.
Why did we crop the original LP cover image?
I miss the good old days. Prior to CD inserts, designers had over a spacious square foot of real estate to work with when designing LP cover art. At roughly 4.75 inches square, CD cover art is stingy by comparison.
Early in the process, I made a decision to crop the original LP cover art and focus attention on what Johnny and I came to call "the bird man." Sony's art and marketing people were initially reluctant to do this (and some Jimmie "purists" have sent me email over the years to say they agree). But Johnny supported my choice and we eventually prevailed. At the same time, I chose to set the type larger and on two lines instead of one (in a new digital version of the same font and color used for the LP).
While I can't begin to read Ron Coro's mind, I've seen lots of his work over the years and respect his choices immensely. I believe that if CD technology had existed in 1971, he would have arrived at many of the same conclusions which guided us during the CD restoration project.
We fiddled and refined the CD insert prior to its 1998 release (especially the palette and contrast), but the finished cover art remains mostly true to the initial design sketches. Here's a web-friendly copy at roughly actual size.