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10 Great Album Covers

Updated on April 9, 2011

CD Album Covers

To begin with I would like to apologise for using a very commercialised album cover to begin the article, I just wanted to grab peoples attention and also some of the others aren't so colourful and eye-catching.

I wanted to mention in this article album covers which are particularly unique in the fact that they have been composed artistically using either traditional illustrations or clever photo-manipulation with detailed meaning. Something I learnt at university whilst attending 'Semiotics' classes was how to deconstruct imagery and discover underlying meanings or to how designs can be interpreted differently depending on the audience.

1. So to start with obviously I have included Nirvana's Nevermind album cover. This graphic design work includes a baby swimming towards a dollar bill on a fishing hook. I like the way that minimal effort was used to convey such a powerful message, it uses symbolic images to express how youth in America is manipulated buy commercialism as soon as they are able to understand the importance of money. There was some controversy surrounding the choice of the photograph with Geffen Records because it exposed the baby's penis, however Kurt refused to compromise saying the only other alternative he would use was a sticker covering that read 'If you are offended by this, you must be a closet paedophile'.

Pink Floyd - Tree of Half Life

2. This album cover was created by Storm Thorgerson in 2003, originally it was intended for a band called Catherine Wheel. However it was entered into the Pink Floyd 30th anniversary campaign and they loved it so much they decided it was worthy of representing an album.

Tool - Lateralus

3. I had to include one of James Maynard Keenans Tool band albums because they always have fabulous physchodelic artwork. It is produced largely by an artist named Alex Grey who also has a website if you are interested in exploring more of his work. I also like how they have included a portrait of the late comedian Bill Hicks R.I.P.

The Beatles - Revolver

Some people may say Beatles album covers such as  'Sgt Pepper's lonely hearts club band' are more artistic, however I have to disagree because I feel that album cover while it is amusing it is not aesthetically pleasing. It has too many bright colours and is not done with as much graphic precision as the above 'Revolver' album cover. I like the contrast between the sharp line work and the photo montage, it even blends down from bold black and white through grey to white. The simplicity of the band members faces represents the raw spirit that the music presents to the adoring fans.

Smashing Pumpkins - Zeitgeist

 This album artwork was designed by the popular Graphic Designer/Obey Giant street artist Shepard Fairey for the American alternative band Smashing Pumpkins. Fairey has also produced artwork for other famous bands such as Led Zeppelin's most recent album 'Mothership' and of course everybody knows the designs on the Obama Election posters. His use of screen printing bold four colour shapes produces a strong impact and the iconic imagery projects exactly what the band want to represent. In an interview Fairey said:

'Civil liberties, freedom of speech, privacy, etc. have been decreasing since 9/11. The sun in the image could either be setting or rising and this ambiguity shows that there is still hope to turn things around... The U.S. is the dominant global force. When things are going wrong in the U.S. they are probably going wrong around the world. I think this image conveys both the U.S. situation and its larger global implications'.

Santana '1969'

I think many people who land on this article will agree it would be no surprise to see one of Carlos Santana's album covers in any list of cover appreciations. Above we have the bands debut 1969 album entitled 'Santana' and one of the more recent albums 'Supernatural'. It is in no doubt that his name will live on for generation after generation and these two albums have something special to contribute to his name. The 1969 cover is particularly interesting because at first it appears to be a lions face but then when you look closer you can see a native person in a grass skirt. I also have always had a strong liking for Art Nouveau typefaces.

Iron Maiden's Eddie

 I think anyone who is into there music and respects originality will agree that Iron Maiden have a very distinct identity, I don't know what gave the band the inspiration to choose Edddie as there mascot but  he is definately unique and the only other chracter I can think of who bares a resemblance is the crypt keeper from the tv show 'tales from the crypt'. Eddie was orignally drawn by Derek Riggs until 1992 and ever since there have been numerous versions by different artists. I could'nt chose a specific album because I am fond of many of them, especially 'seventh son of a seventh son' and 'A real live one'.

The Doors - Morrison Hotel

This album cover you may say has got much going on it the actual picture, however the story behind it is rather interesting. The cover photo was taken at the actual Morrison Hotel located at 1246 South Hope Street in Los Angeles. The band asked the owners if they could photograph the hotel and they refused, so the band snuck inside when nobody was looking and took the photograph. The reason behind chosing the hotel coincides with the lead singers name, Jim Morrison, and also the album 'Morrison Hotel was the second side of the LP Hard Rock Cafe'.

Beastie Boys - License to ill

The full album cover from front to back, features a Boeing 747 with "Beastie Boys" proclaimed on the tail, crashing head-on into the side of a mountain. The tail of the plane has the Def Jam records logo and '3MTA3' which spells 'EATME' when viewed in a mirror.

The original title for this album was 'Don't be a Faggot' but Columbia Records immediately refused to release the album under this title and requested Russell Simmons their manager to have the Beastie Boys to come up with a different name. Adam Horovitz later apologized for the band's earlier suggestion for the title.

De La Soul - 3 feet high and rising

So finally I finish with a hiphop classic which was released in 1989, De La Soul's 3 feet high and rising. I would like to assume that at least 40% of people who read on hubpages have at caught a glimpse of 'Me, Myself and I' on MTV once in there life. This was the most famous single from the album and I think these words and the band name represent an individuals choice to express their own personality without intrusion of marketing trends. The album name was inspired by the Johnny Cash song 'Five feet high and rising', and the I believe the colourful imagery and symbols in some way reflect the optimism of Cash's teachings in that song.

I think I have used a wide range of different music genres from different generations in this article and what I have tried to bring to light is specific works which I appreciate and also widely acknowledged ones that I think some other people appreciate. This way I am not just repeating what magazines or authors have established in the past, but I may educate older music fans and young fans alike with something new to consider.


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