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Album Covers: The Art of Records

Updated on February 15, 2018

Alex Steinweiss

Alicia de Larrocha Granados: Danzas Espanolas Decca Records w/ Alex Steinweiss Cover Art
Alicia de Larrocha Granados: Danzas Espanolas Decca Records w/ Alex Steinweiss Cover Art | Source

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.

Jim Flora

Various Artists "Mambo for Cats" RCA Victor Records 1063 LP Vinyl Record (1955) Album Cover Art & Design by Jim Flora
Various Artists "Mambo for Cats" RCA Victor Records 1063 LP Vinyl Record (1955) Album Cover Art & Design by Jim Flora | Source

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

Milt Jackson "Wizard of the Vibes" Blue Note Records BLP 5011 10" LP Vinyl Record (1952) Album Cover Art & Design by Paul Bacon
Milt Jackson "Wizard of the Vibes" Blue Note Records BLP 5011 10" LP Vinyl Record (1952) Album Cover Art & Design by Paul Bacon | Source

The Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers" 1971

The Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers" Rolling Stones Records COC 39105 12" LP Vinyl Record US Pressing (1971) Gatefold Album Cover Art & Design by Andy Warhol
The Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers" Rolling Stones Records COC 39105 12" LP Vinyl Record US Pressing (1971) Gatefold Album Cover Art & Design by Andy Warhol | Source

"The Jazz Odyssey of James Rushing" 1956

1956 Jimmy Rushing "The Jazz Odyssey of James Rushing Esq" Columbia Records 963 12" Vinyl Record (1956) Album Cover Art by Tom Allen Design by Neil Fujita
1956 Jimmy Rushing "The Jazz Odyssey of James Rushing Esq" Columbia Records 963 12" Vinyl Record (1956) Album Cover Art by Tom Allen Design by Neil Fujita | Source

Bud Powell "The Bud Powell Trio" 1953

Bud Powell "The Bud Powell Trio Vol 2" Roost Records 412 10" LP Vinyl Record (1953) Album Cover Art & Design by Burt Goldblatt
Bud Powell "The Bud Powell Trio Vol 2" Roost Records 412 10" LP Vinyl Record (1953) Album Cover Art & Design by Burt Goldblatt | Source

Billie Holiday "All or Nothing at All" 1957

Billie Holiday "All Or Nothing At All" Verve Records MG V 8329 12" LP Vinyl Record (1957) Album Cover Art by David Stone Martin
Billie Holiday "All Or Nothing At All" Verve Records MG V 8329 12" LP Vinyl Record (1957) Album Cover Art by David Stone Martin

Charles Mingus "Ah Um" 1959

Charles Mingus "Ah Um" Columbia Records CL 1370 12" LP Vinyl Reocrd (1959) Album Cover Painting by Neil Fujita
Charles Mingus "Ah Um" Columbia Records CL 1370 12" LP Vinyl Reocrd (1959) Album Cover Painting by Neil Fujita | Source

The Rolling Stones "Some Girls" 1978

The Rolling Stones "Some Girls" Rolling Stones Records COC 39108 12" LP Vinyl Record (1978) Album Cover Art & Design by Peter Corriston
The Rolling Stones "Some Girls" Rolling Stones Records COC 39108 12" LP Vinyl Record (1978) Album Cover Art & Design by Peter Corriston | Source

Top 30 Album Covers

Eugene Smith

Thelonious Monk "Monk" Columbia CS 9091  12" LP (1964) Album Cover Design by Bob Cato, Photo by W. Eugene Smith
Thelonious Monk "Monk" Columbia CS 9091 12" LP (1964) Album Cover Design by Bob Cato, Photo by W. Eugene Smith | Source

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

The Jazz Messengers Columbia Records CL 897 12" LP Vinyl Record, White Label Promo (1956) Album Cover Design by Neil Fujita Photos by Don Hunstein
The Jazz Messengers Columbia Records CL 897 12" LP Vinyl Record, White Label Promo (1956) Album Cover Design by Neil Fujita Photos by Don Hunstein | Source

Herbie Nichols "Herbie Nichols Trio" 1956

Herbie Nichols Trio Blue Note Records BLP 1519 12" LP Vinyl Record (1956) Album Cover Design by Reid Miles, Photo by Francis Wolff
Herbie Nichols Trio Blue Note Records BLP 1519 12" LP Vinyl Record (1956) Album Cover Design by Reid Miles, Photo by Francis Wolff | Source

Kenny Burrell "Introducing Kenny Burrell" 1956

Kenny Burrell "Introducing Kenny Burrell" Blue Note Records BLP 1523 12" LP Record (1956) Album Cover Design by Reid Miles Photo by Francis Wolff
Kenny Burrell "Introducing Kenny Burrell" Blue Note Records BLP 1523 12" LP Record (1956) Album Cover Design by Reid Miles Photo by Francis Wolff | Source

Fats Navarro "Fabulous Fats Navarro, vol 2" 1956

Fats Navarro "Fabulous Fats Navarro, vol. 2" Blue Note Records 1532 12" LP Vinyl Record (1956) Album Cover Design by Reid Miles, Photo by Francis Wolff
Fats Navarro "Fabulous Fats Navarro, vol. 2" Blue Note Records 1532 12" LP Vinyl Record (1956) Album Cover Design by Reid Miles, Photo by Francis Wolff | Source

Tommy Flanagan "Jazz ...It'S Magic !" 1957

Tommy Flanagan  "Jazz...It´s Magic !" Regent Records 6055 12" LP Vinyl Record (1957) Photo by Berk Costello
Tommy Flanagan "Jazz...It´s Magic !" Regent Records 6055 12" LP Vinyl Record (1957) Photo by Berk Costello | Source

Miles Davis "Round About Midnight" 1957

Miles Davis Round About Midnight Columbia Records CL 949 12" LP Vinyl Record (1957) Album Cover Photo by Marvin Koner
Miles Davis Round About Midnight Columbia Records CL 949 12" LP Vinyl Record (1957) Album Cover Photo by Marvin Koner | Source

Lenny Bruce "The Sick Humor of Lenny Bruce" 1958

Lenny Bruce "The Sick Humor of Lenny Bruce" Fantasy Records 7003 12" LP Record, US Pressing (1958) Red Vinyl Record
Lenny Bruce "The Sick Humor of Lenny Bruce" Fantasy Records 7003 12" LP Record, US Pressing (1958) Red Vinyl Record | Source

John Coltrane "Impressions" 1963

1963 John Coltrane "Impressions"  Impulse Records A-42 12" LP Vinyl Record (1963) Album Cover Design by Robert Flynn, Photo by Joe Alper
1963 John Coltrane "Impressions" Impulse Records A-42 12" LP Vinyl Record (1963) Album Cover Design by Robert Flynn, Photo by Joe Alper | Source

Elvin Jones & Richard Davis "Heavy Sounds" 1968

Elvin Jones & Richard Davis "Heavy Sounds" Impulse Records A-9160 12" LP Vinyl Record (1968) Album Cover Design by Robert & Barbara Flynn, Photo by Charles Stewart
Elvin Jones & Richard Davis "Heavy Sounds" Impulse Records A-9160 12" LP Vinyl Record (1968) Album Cover Design by Robert & Barbara Flynn, Photo by Charles Stewart | Source

Pink Floyd "Ummagumma" 1969

Pink Floyd "Ummagumma" Harvest Records STBB 288 2 12" LP Vinyl Record Set, UK Pressing (1969) Album Cover Design by Hipgnosis.
Pink Floyd "Ummagumma" Harvest Records STBB 288 2 12" LP Vinyl Record Set, UK Pressing (1969) Album Cover Design by Hipgnosis. | Source

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan Columbia Records C2X 30050 12" LP Vinyl Record (1970) Gatefold Album Cover Art by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan Columbia Records C2X 30050 12" LP Vinyl Record (1970) Gatefold Album Cover Art by Bob Dylan | Source

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

Led Zeppelin "Led Zeppelin IV" Atlantic Records SD 7208 12" Vintage Vinyl LP Record 1971 Gatefold Album Cover Design by Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin "Led Zeppelin IV" Atlantic Records SD 7208 12" Vintage Vinyl LP Record 1971 Gatefold Album Cover Design by Jimmy Page

Queen "Queen" 1973

Queen "Queen" Elektra Records EKS-75064 12" LP Vinyl Record (1973) Album Cover Art by Freddie Mercury
Queen "Queen" Elektra Records EKS-75064 12" LP Vinyl Record (1973) Album Cover Art by Freddie Mercury | Source

Cover to Cover

James P Johnson "Stomps Rags and Blues Rent Party Piano" BLP 7011 LP (1951) Album Cover Design by Paul Bacon Photo by Francis Wolff
James P Johnson "Stomps Rags and Blues Rent Party Piano" BLP 7011 LP (1951) Album Cover Design by Paul Bacon Photo by Francis Wolff | Source

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.

Jimi Hendrix 4 "Hendrix In The West" " War Heroes" Barclay Records French 2 LP Set
Jimi Hendrix 4 "Hendrix In The West" " War Heroes" Barclay Records French 2 LP Set | Source

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.

P.S.

Todd Snider & The Nervous Wrecks "Incarcerated"

T-Rex "Bang A Gong"

Fleetwood Mac "Go Your Own Way"

Copyright Disclaimer

I make no copyright claims on the video content or images of drawings, paintings, prints, or other two-dimensional works of art contained with-in this article, the copyright for these items are most likely owned by either the artist who produced the image, or the person who commissioned the work and or their heirs. Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

Keep It In the Groove -- Let Us Know You Were Here Too !!

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    • Fox Music profile imageAUTHOR

      Fox Music 

      3 years ago

      Thank You for Your Interest - Keep Spinin' That Vinyl !!

    • profile image

      Annderson 

      3 years ago

      Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and waetnd to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.Any way Ill be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.Our company provides rapid and safe, free shipping network marketing.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 

      5 years ago

      These are really all classics. Beautiful tour of vinyl record art.

    • CoolFool83 profile image

      CoolFool83 

      5 years ago

      Love the Rolling Stones!

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      Sheilamarie 

      5 years ago from British Columbia

      That record album art really expressed something of the times. I can remember kids and young adults studying the covers carefully to understand the music better. It's fun to see what looked "cool" to different decades, too.

    • steveko profile image

      steveko 

      5 years ago

      Nice lens, I still have all my old albums too. The only reason I have them is for the great covers.

    • AppalachianCoun profile image

      AppalachianCoun 

      8 years ago

      Good detail lens on the history of vinyl. We have ours records from late 60's. They are fun to listen to from time to time.

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