Sufjan (my pronunciation varies!) Stevens says he wants to record an album for every state in the union. Michigan was his first in 2003 and now in 2005 he’s just released Illinois. At this rate, by the time he completes a record for every state he’ll be…well, I was told there would be no math, but let’s just say it doesn’t look like he could possibly make it!
That whole state by state concept and the veritable plethora of rave reviews had already piqued my interest enough to pick up the CD, but then things got even more interesting… I was at a large music festival the week before the CD was set to release and there was a booth there, run by the label itself I believe, selling the new Illinios disc. They had a stack of them and I thought, what the heck, I’ll just come back and pick it up the next day on my way out. When I went back to the booth I didn’t see any there. My heart sank…this highly anticipated new release and I could have had it early. Well, maybe they still had some under the table…so I asked. “Oh we still have some” the guy told me, “but I can’t sell one to you.” My first thought was that he got in trouble or had second thoughts about selling them before the release date. I asked him why and he said, “Well, I’m not supposed to say anything, but they’re all being pulled, we can’t sell any more until they’re repackaged.” I asked him what in the world he was talking about…he said that they just found out they had to pull them because of a copyright infringement on the cover. I was trying to picture the cover and must have had a quizzical look on my face, because he finally sighed and said, “It’s a certain caped superhero.” Wow! Supposedly they had not gotten permission to use the image of Superman. My immediate thought was, I must have a copy; this is going to be worth something! So I tried bribing him. I offered him $20. He wouldn’t budge. I offered him lavish gifts, other people’s money, but I’ll say this for him, he held his ground! Well, I ended up buying one off of someone else there at the fest, so I felt pretty good about that. I’ve since found out that the initial shipment was already sent out to retail and they reached an agreement to let that initial run hit the shelves. So you can still find the banned cover version in some stores, so it isn’t as rare as it could have been. That said, what in the world was the label thinking? Superman! That’s funny stuff. About the only thing with a more protected copyright would be a Star Wars logo or character! They are denying they were issued a Cease and Desist, but I can imagine it was only a matter of time.
But I haven’t even mentioned the actual music! How’s the *$#@! Record you’re screaming…well, if you haven’t read the gushing and raving in any of the 50+ magazines that have reviewed it, check out a great review of the CD here on the TUESDAY MORNING 3 A.M. review site. I was fearful…anything with that much critical buzz is usually a let down for me, but this record is fantastic. From start to finish it really is a great concept album and it flows well. It’s easily my favorite of his. I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of Michigan. I think his other stuff is okay, and I can see why others like it, but it’s a bit too much of the singer-songwriter/Americana vibe for me. This record incorporates numerous styles and will appeal to the power-pop crowd as well. I see a kind of Wilson-esque Smile vibe during certain portions of the disc. Also, this album is a force against the current onslaught of the singles driven download culture. It’s really meant to be listened to as a whole, yet contains excellent songs. It’s full of beautiful and quirky alt-pop. Go find yourself a copy with the now out-of-print Superman cover!