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Album Covers: The Art of Records
Vinyl Record Cover Art & Design
Alex Steinweiss is credited with the idea or concept of the record album cover which was designed to protect the delicate grooves of the vinyl record and replace the clumsy standard plain brown wrapper of the 78 with a two piece laminated stock board with an eye-catching graphic illustration. Steinweiss unwittingly launched the golden age of album cover design and influenced generations of designers to follow. The Record cover has became an important part of the pop culture of music with gatefold covers, and inserts such as posters, photos, postcards, lyric sheets, all which added to the consumer experience, that makes the record package a powerful marketing tool and an extension of the bands artistic intent. The importance of cover design has been such that some artists specialized or gained notoriety through their work, such as graphic artist David Stone Martins' Jazz covers for Mercury, Clef, Verve Records or that of the notable design team Hipgnosis through their work on Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin albums, among others such as Roger Deans' infamous Yes and Asia album covers, Cal Schenkel for his work with Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa album covers.
Graphic Designers & Illustrators
Many memorable album covers have been produced by the talents of many world renowned photographers, graphic designers and illustrators alike, from both inside and outside of the music industry. In addition to the examples mentioned previously, just to name a few -- Jim Flora (Louis Armstrong, Shorty Rogers, Kid Ory) Richard Hamilton, (The Beatles), Ed Repka (Megadeth), Andy Warhol, (The Velvet Underground, The Rolling Stones), Mati Klarwein (Santana, Miles Davis), H. R. Giger (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Debbie Harry), Rick Griffin, (Grateful Dead), Frank Frazetta (Molly Hatchet), Derek Riggs (Iron Maiden), Jamie Reid (The Sex Pistols), Howard Finster (R.E.M., Talking Heads), Al Hirschfeld (Aerosmith), Gottfried Helnwein (Marilyn Manson), Rex Ray (David Bowie), Robert Crumb (Big Brother & the Holding Company), John Van Hamersveld (The Rolling Stones), Shepard Fairey (Johnny Cash), Alan Aldridge, (the Beatles), Martin Sharp, (Bob Dylan, Dononan, Cream), Peter Blake, (The Beatles, The Who) Derek Boshier, (The Clash, David Bowie, Roxy Music), Karl Wirsum (Screamin' J Hawkins), Reid Miles (Blue Note Records), Paul Bacon (Blue Note Records, Riverside Records), Gil Melle (Blue Note Records), Neil Fujita (Columbia Records, Blue Note Records),
Milt Jackson "Wizard of the Vibes" 1952
The Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers" 1971
"The Jazz Odyssey of James Rushing" 1956
Bud Powell "The Bud Powell Trio" 1953
Billie Holiday "All or Nothing at All" 1957
Charles Mingus "Ah Um" 1959
The Rolling Stones "Some Girls" 1978
Top 30 Album Covers
The Art of Photography
Album Cover Design
Photography legends have also produced some of the most iconic graphic album covers of the vinyl age including David Michael Kennedy (Muddy Waters, Bruce Springsteen, Blondie and Bob Dylan), Mick Rock, (Queen, Syd Barrett, Lou Reed ), Karl Ferris ( Jimi Hendrix, Donovan, The Hollies), Robert Mapplethorpe ( Patti Smith, Peter Gabriel), Drew Struzan ( Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Iron Butterfly, The Beach Boys), Annie Leibovitz (John Lennon, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen), Richard Avedon (Whitney Houston, Teddy Pendergrass), Norman Seeff (Aerosmith, The Band, Kiss, The Rolling Stones), David LaChappelle (No Doubt, Elton John), Anton Corbijn (U2, The Killers, Depeche Mode), Francesco Scavullo (Diana Ross, Edgar Winter), Francis Wolff (Blue Note Records)
The Jazz Messengers 1956
Herbie Nichols "Herbie Nichols Trio" 1956
Kenny Burrell "Introducing Kenny Burrell" 1956
Fats Navarro "Fabulous Fats Navarro, vol 2" 1956
Tommy Flanagan "Jazz ...It'S Magic !" 1957
Miles Davis "Round About Midnight" 1957
Lenny Bruce "The Sick Humor of Lenny Bruce" 1958
John Coltrane "Impressions" 1963
Elvin Jones & Richard Davis "Heavy Sounds" 1968
Pink Floyd "Ummagumma" 1969
Album Cover Do It Yourselfers
As you might expect, there are a number of recording artists whose talents are exhibited in the artwork they produced for their own recordings whether it be paintings, photographs or graphic design, some examples include Freddie Mercury (Queen I), Bob Dylan (Self Portrait), Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin IV), Chris Mars (Replacements' Pleased to Meet Me and others), John Entwistle (Who By Numbers), Marilyn Manson (Lest We Forget), Michael Stipe (REM's Accelerate), Thom Yorke (various Radiohead), Michael Brecker (Ringo Rama), Graham Coxon ( most solo albums), Mike Shinoda (various Linkin Park albums), Joni Mitchell (most of her albums as well as for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young So Far).
Led Zeppelin "Led Zeppelin IV" 1971
Queen "Queen" 1973
Cover to Cover
The Album Cover Construction
The heavy stock envelope 'wrap-around' or 'flip-back' sleeve initially became the standard packaging method for vinyl record albums during the 1950s. In the wrap-around packaging method the front cover is able to be printed in color and is laminated whereas the back cover features only black text on a white background and is usually not laminated. These type sleeves are constructed in two parts: a laminated front section is wrapped around a separate back panel. Three 'flaps' are used to fix the front and back panels together on the outside. As the un-laminated cardboard back cover section is prone to discoloration or tanning due to exposure to natural light, in some instances a single printed sheet containing the back cover information is pasted over the entire back panel, covering the 'wrap-around' flaps but not reaching the outer edge of the sleeve, thus allowing some of the laminated 'flaps' to be exposed. While discoloration still occurs with this method, it is often less evident than when the cardboard back cover alone is exposed. LPs are universally packaged in cardboard covers with a paper or plastic liner known as a dust jacket which usually has additional artwork, photography and or lyrics, this dust jacket helps to protect the delicate surface of the record when sliding in and out of the cardboard sleeve.
The New and Improved Album Cover
In the Vinyl Age
Towards the end of the 1960s advances in printing and packaging technology led to the introduction of a 'fully laminated' record sleeve. Rather than the two-part construction of the 'wrap-around' sleeve, this method consists of a single component part, which is printed in full color and is completely laminated with the 'flaps' tucked inside the back sleeve section. This is the method generally used for all subsequent releases in the vinyl age and is considered superior not only because of the additional ease allowed in the use of a single component, but also because the fully laminated finish offers far better protection from discoloration caused by exposure to natural light. With the advent of long-playing records, the album cover became more than just packaging and protection, album cover art became an important part of the music marketing and consumer experience.
Todd Snider & The Nervous Wrecks "Incarcerated"
T-Rex "Bang A Gong"
Fleetwood Mac "Go Your Own Way"
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