Call me old fashioned but in a way I’m sad that albums aren’t produced as vinyl anymore in the same numbers that they used to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s bloody brilliant being able to fit 80 albums onto a small square in my pocket (I have an Ipod Nano and I love it) so I always have a choice of what I want to listen to when I’m out and about. The problem is, having grown up with CDs, I miss the artwork and inside booklets that come with an album. It’s even better with vinyl; being much larger the design of the sleeve has a real impact and is often a piece of art to itself. Personally I feel that downloading music has taken a little bit of the ‘magic’ out of buying an album. It feels cheaper (psychologically) like somehow by taking away the physical product a little bit of its soul has been taken away too.
Anyway, I digress slightly. This article celebrates five awesome album covers that show creativity and originality.
1. King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King
This cover is an absolute classic. Pretty much everyone has seen this one before, even those that hate King Crimson. I’ve never come across such a striking design before; it catches your eye and draws you in thereby ticking all the boxes for an album sleeve. It was painted by a man called Barry Godber who sadly died of a heart attack in 1970 soon after the album was released. Even more sadly it was his only painting; but I suppose this makes the design even more of a gem. There will never be anything quite like it again.
The screaming face on the front cover is the Schizoid Man (featured in the lyrics of the first track 21st Century Schizoid Man) and on the inside is the Crimson King himself. Far out.
2. And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – The Century Of Self
This is another striking cover but one that many people might not have seen before. The great thing about this design is that not only is it a recent release (2009) but it was designed by the lead singer of the band Conrad Keely. And he drew it entirely in blue ballpoint pen. Keely often does the designs for the band’s albums; he designed the cover and a free graphic novel for their latest release Tao Of The Dead. Here’s a little tidbit: the books in the background of the design are named after track names on the album itself. So, bet you didn’t know that.
3. Yes – Relayer
Whatever you might think of Yes and whatever you might think of prog-rock there’s no denying that Yes had some pretty amazing album covers. As was quite common at the time the design stretches as one piece on the front round to the back and it was designed by Roger Dean, an artist who specialises in fantasy landscapes. Roger has worked with Yes on every one of their albums since Fragile in 1971. He is especially known for his work on posters and album covers for musicians and they are said to have inspired the landscapes used in the film Avatar. Another notable band he worked with was Asia.
4. Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
Within certain circles this album cover is iconic. This is the nature of a band like Neutral Milk Hotel, they were really influential behind the scenes and popular artists sing their praises however they never got the recognition they deserved. Had I covered more bands for the underrated bands article they would have been next on there. I really like the ye oldie 1920s feel to the design, in fact it was based on an old postcard of the period. It was designed as a collaboration between R.E.M’s staff designer Chris Bilheimer and Neutral’s lead singer and guitarist Jeff Mangum. Another reason I like this is the inside sleeve with the CD. It folds out into a square with a surreal picture on one side and the track listing and lyrics on the other in the style of a ‘wild west’ poster.
5. Green Day – Dookie
I added this one to the list because Dookie was one of my favourite albums as a teenager and this cover reminds me of that time. It is a really cool cover, there’s a lot going on and I really like the cartoon style of it. The artist who designed it was Richie Bucher from San Francisco where Green Day originated. There are various characters hidden in amongst the crowd who are linked to the music scene there from their early days. The graffiti that reads “Twisted Dog Sisters” refers to two girls they knew and the bearded man with the camera used to take pictures of the bands at a San Fran venue. The best part of the design? The monkey throwing poo of course.
This version of Welcome To Paradise (featured on Dookie) is actually from their second album Kerplunk but Kerplunk is their best album. Deal with it.