My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

10 things I hate about CD liner notes

The CD may be a dying format, but it’s still my personal preferred way to buy music. Partly that’s because I like having proper printed liner notes to refer to and keep physically with the music they refer to. But I often have cause to complain. Here are my top ten peeves with unsatisfactory liner notes:

10. Songs not listed in the correct order (most recently I found this on Marty Raybon’s religious album from 2008). This is deeply confusing when you’re listening for the first time and aren’t yet familiar with the material. You wonder why a song has the apparently dissasociated title it appears to, before you realize they’ve had a last minute change in the sequencing, after the liner notes were printed. Not a frequent error, but really annoying when it happens. It’s more common for the songs to be listed in order, but only if you unfold the paper in just the right way.

9. Print too small to read without a magnifying glass or a torch. What’s the point of printing it if no-one can read it?

8. Text and background in a color combination too faint/dark to read ever.

7. Mis-spelling songwriters’ or musicians’ names. This looks embarrassingly amateur as well as being disrespectful to the person in question. On Brandon Rickman’s very good album last year, for instance, fiddle player Jenee Fleenor’s name was spelt correctly twice and incorrectly three times. Misspelt sogwriters’ names are even more common.

6. Mis-spelt words on printed song lyrics or in commentary. There is no excuse for this on a high-budget release. If the person responsible for putting the notes together can’t spell, employ a proofreader.

5. No lyrics at all.

4. No songwriter credits – not common these days, but some low-budget releases do omit them; this is an economy too far for me. I want to know who wrote the songs.

3. Your liner notes are printed on a glossy, multi-page brochure with room for dozens of fetching pictures of the artist in various outfits, holding instruments, posing with pets, etc, but somehow they still have no room for the lyrics. (Okay, I like the odd picture of a dog. I’d stil rather have the lyrics, though.)

2. You can’t be bothered to print the lyrics in the liner notes, but tell buyers you can see them on the label or artist website. Websites are transitory. I hope to still be listening to your album in 10, 20 or more years’ time: is your website still going to be there?

1. A note saying lyrics (or credits) are available on the label website, when they aren’t, at least when the album is released (Anita Cochran’s Serenity and Randy Kohrs’ Quicksand are recent guilty parties here). This is extremely frustrating.

What are your pet peeves?

19 responses to “10 things I hate about CD liner notes

  1. Razor X February 4, 2010 at 8:53 am

    In addition to some of the ones you mentioned, not crediting duet partners is a big pet peeve of mine. It doesn’t happen too often with CDs; it used to be quite common with cassettes, presumably because they were trying to save space. It happens fairly often with digital albums for some reason.

    One album that really irritated me was the Reba Duets album, which listed the artists’ names but not the song titles on the back cover. To get the song titles themselves, you have to actually refer to the liner notes. I could never figure out why they didn’t print the song titles on the cover.

  2. Jane February 4, 2010 at 9:28 am

    I loathe liner notes without lyrics – As someone who is hard of hearing, I have trouble hearing words, and often misheard things. So yeah, all liner notes should have lyrics!

  3. highwayman3 February 4, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Mine are CD’s like Kenny Chesney Lucky Old Sun or Dierks Bentleys Fell That Fire where it is not made out of plastic and you got to slide the CD out of the cardboard like a record case. I just feel like I am scratching it everytime. I dont buy CD’s anymore but that was a pet peeve when I did.

  4. Lep February 4, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Amen to all of these. The ones that really annoy me are the budget releases that have nothing but a small slip of paper with the song titles printed on them. No lyrics, no musicians, no pictures.

  5. Bob February 4, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Since I also much prefer to have the cd than digitally download the album (like my kids do), I can relate to your liner note complaints. While the first thing I check when I get a new cd is to see who wrote the songs, the lyrics are the most important. The first time I play a new cd I like to read the lyrics as I listen. I received 3 cds for Christmas – Terri Clark’s latest, Zac Brown’s and David Nail’s – and only Nail’s included lyrics (all very readable).

    Some other pet peeves I have:

    The liner notes fail to identify backup singers. You listen to a song and it’s obvious some one else is singing and there’s no credit given.

    The notes fail to indicate the year the song was written. I noticed this when I was writing about the best Christmas songs written since 1980. I always knew the release date of the cd or album, but the song could have been written many years before. Knowing the year the song was written may also lead you to see if anyone else has covered it. “You Ain’t Down Home”, one of my favorite songs on Julie Roberts’ 2004 cd, was written in 1986 by Jamie O’Hara. A search of ASCAP lists other performers beside Julie but none I’m familiar with.

    One feature I’d like to see (and won’t I’m sure) is a breakdown on who wrote the words and music. On my 1976 John Denver LP “Spirit” there is an 11″ x 11″ sheet with the lyrics on both sides that you can actually read without squinting and under the title of each song it gives you the writing breakdown. (For example, on “Come and Let Me Look in Your Eyes” the credits read “Words by John Denver & Joe Henry, Music by John Denver”.)

    • Occasional Hope February 4, 2010 at 1:59 pm

      I like knowing the date of a song too.

      You might like Jann Browne’s version of You Ain’t Down Home if you can find it – she had two really good albums (on Curb, I think?) in the very early 90s and a few independent releases since.

  6. CMW February 4, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    I’m gonna spam comment, but only because I think it’s interesting to see just how much our thoughts on this matter overlap. Here’s my obligatory ‘liner note kvetching’ post from September 2008. 😉

    http://www.countrycalifornia.com/how-to-get-liner-notes-wrong/

  7. Paul W Dennis February 5, 2010 at 6:47 am

    Unreadable liner notes is my biggest gripe – either things like red print on a dark pink background or excessively small print.

    What I expect to find in liner notes (in order of importance):

    Song titles (with timings and composers)

    Musicians & singers who performed on the album

    A photo or two – perhaps a couple of lines on the songs and how they were selected for the album

    Lyrics

    I think it’s ridiculous that the bulk of most liner notes today are spend on laundry lists of people to thank.If it’s that important to thank your hairdresser and shoe shine person, then thank them in person. Don’t waste valuable print space on it

  8. badrockandroll February 5, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    In addition to all of the above, I hate those sticky cello inventory control tags. Since so few stores sell CDs anymore, it seems silly to have theft protection devices on mail order products. They are stubborn little things that never peel off smoothly. I have broken more nails trying to get them off, and I get so frustrated when all I want to hear is my brand new music!. I also dislike those mail in cards that are inserted so that you can mail away for the label’s a catalogue: I have never heard of anyone doing it, so it seems like a waste of paper.

    • Occasional Hope February 6, 2010 at 12:06 pm

      Yes to both of those.

    • Matt Bjorke October 15, 2010 at 12:54 am

      Here’s a trick to opening up a CD with the top title sticker (security sticker).

      After removing the cellophane wrapper, go to the bottom left corner (hinge) and with your right thumb slowly insert your thumbnail into the hing area while simultaneously pushing the case down. Once it’s loose, you should be able to remove the sticker rather easily just turn the front jewel case part slowly as to not remove the sticker too quickly.

      This is what I do and have done since those stickers first arrived.

  9. Linda February 6, 2010 at 4:37 am

    I absolutely HATE when liner notes don’t include the lyrics. What’s the point of having liner notes in the first place if the lyrics aren’t included? It’s so disappointing to open the jewel case to discover that the liner notes are as thin as paper because there’s no lyrics included.

  10. Miss Leslie February 10, 2010 at 2:33 am

    I love to be able to read lyrics. . . . but for independent artists to spend an additional at least $.70/CD just for duplication (not including the additional expense from the graphic design artist), you face a hard choice.

    And with physical CDs selling less and less, the choice is harder.

    I like thanks on liner notes. The CD is a snapshot in time. It’s for the artist, just as much as it is for the fan. The thanks may not mean much to you, but they do to me. I like honoring people that have made the CD, the music or my career possible.

    Have you seen Billy Mata’s “This is Tommy Duncan” CD? He’s found an interesting way to raise money to fund his CD – advertisers place ads throughout the CD – much like a magazine. No lyrics, but every artist that played on the CD certainly gets credit.

    • Occasional Hope February 10, 2010 at 1:59 pm

      I know cost is an issue. It’s when the label has spent a fortune on pictures and left out useful info I get annoyed 😉

      • J.R. Journey February 10, 2010 at 4:11 pm

        Me too. I am a lot more forgiving of indie releases not having much in the way of liner notes. Terri Clark’s latest only included a 2-page booklet – all black and white – with the bare bones information. But on her official site, there are lyrics for every song and even a story behind the song.

        For indie artists, I know every dollar matters. But for those with major backing it’s different. When a major label spends hundreds of thousands to produce the album, I would think increasing the total costs by a small fraction to prepare and print lyrics and musician credits wouldn’t be too much to spend to tidy things up. Lyrics wouldn’t cost any more to print than all those glossy photos.

        Glad you stopped by, Miss Leslie. Thanks for your thoughts, and for shedding some light on the artists’ perspective.

  11. Miss Leslie February 11, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I get ya. But remember that some major label artists only have photos to offer up.

    Miss Leslie

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