Still looking for a perfect holiday gift for the music fan in your life? Not the friend who thinks he's on top of things because he has Mumford & Sons' album or the sister-in-law whose iPod contains all three remixes of will.i.am's latest single, but the person who misses old-school vinyl because he loves just gazing at the cover art for 40 minutes. Yeah, that person. Matthew Chojnacki's terrific new book, Put the Needle on the Record, gathers more than 250 sleeves from 1980s singles, the most creative era for the long-since-discarded art form. Even better, Chojnacki is a Clevelander. Best of all: He's exactly the kind of guy who can just sit and stare at an album cover for 40 minutes.
"The '80s were all about complete oversaturation of imagery," he says. "I was looking for things that just popped for me, whether they were representative of the decade or they just stood the test of time." Chojnacki's tastes aren't confined to one genre. The 45 and 12-inch sleeves in his book — which come from his personal collection of 5,000 — include everyone from Madonna, Peter Gabriel, and the Smiths to Run-DMC, Twisted Sister, and Dolly Parton.
"I wanted every page to be a unique experience," he says. "I probably looked at more than 10,000 images." He also got the stories behind the pictures, interviewing many of the musical and creative artists.
Chojnacki, who's a VP of finance at Hugo Boss, arranged Put the Needle on the Record's photos — all of them in color and lovingly reproduced — in a sort of thematic order, grouping similar-looking images and designs. So in a way, the book makes a great gift for the art fan in your life too.
"Forty-fives were like the bastard child: They were thrown around and thrown out," says Chojnacki. "But the '80s were such a great decade for music and using visuals in a big way. Everyone was pushing boundaries and trying to stand out."
COLD COMFORT: Akron singer-songwriter Ryan Humbert presents his third-annual Holiday Blowout concert at the Akron Civic Theatre on Saturday. Humbert will lead a 16-piece band through a set featuring many holiday classics, as well as some original songs. You'll have to listen closely for Humbert's twang, since the six-piece horn section and gospel singers onstage with him may grab most of the spotlight. The Woodridge High School Choirs will also perform on a few songs. It all starts at 7:30 p.m., and proceeds benefit the Akron Canton Regional Foodbank; tickets are $15 to $20, available at ticketmaster.com.
TALES FROM THE OTHER SIDE: Roots rockers Robbing Mary will unveil their debut album, El Otro Lado, with a show at the Barking Spider at 10 p.m. on Saturday.
The album itself is a compilation of sorts, gathering 15 songs from the quartet's first eight years, including a few cuts from the 2009 EP Groveland. It's a genial mix of midtempo alt-country tunes and ... um, midtempo rockers that splits the difference between the Eagles and Whiskeytown. The honeyed harmonies of Dan Mills and Jennifer Vilimonovic sweeten the pot.