Shorter life for the longbox? -- Raffi is the latest musician to insist his new cd not use the wasteful pacakging

The longbox, that cardboard coffin of controversy, is in the penalty box again. The children’s music artist Raffi has insisted that the CD version of his new MCA album, Evergreen Everblue, not be sold in longboxes. Most chain stores have responded by refusing to carry the CD version at all.

Critics of the longbox — which is used only in the U.S. — say the throwaway sleeve wastes money and is environmentally unsound. Peter Gabriel, U2, and Joan Jett are among artists who have requested that their next CDs not be made available in a longbox version. But record store owners generally like the package. They say that its size — about twice the length of the CD’s plastic case, or jewelbox, which fits inside — makes the box more eye-catching for shoppers and more cumbersome for would-be shoplifters. Retailers are also reluctant to buy new display bins designed for smaller packages.

Raffi, a 42-year-old Canadian, professes to be unshaken by the de facto boycott of Evergreen Everblue. ”There’s a price to pay for taking a stand,” he says. ”Acting on principle often requires a sacrifice and I accept that. I just hope the situation won’t be this way for long.”

A January release by Sting, The Soul Cages, will feature an attempt at compromise (though not in its first shipment): an alternative package that can be folded down into something approaching the size of the jewelbox after its purchase. The controversy may come to a head sooner than that, however, with the Dec. 4 release of longbox critic Peter Gabriel’s Shaking the Tree: 16 Golden Greats. A popular star’s retrospective is exactly the kind of album retailers would want to stock at Christmas. But many say they’ll carry only the cassette version.