Friday, June 29, 2007

Album Art

We gained a lot when we went from analog to digital recording, when we went from vinyl to cd....and we lost something,too. Let's face it. Album art has never been the same since. There was something magical about going home with an album, exploring it and the music simultaneously. I know that some cds have little booklets inside, but its not the same. Trust me.

If you aren't old enough to remember the first time you purchased something like Sgt. Pepper's, then let me describe it for you. First you took the shrink wrapped package from the bag and peeled it off. It clung to the outside of the album and to itself, static electricity. Then, after staring at the front forever, and with Sgt. Peppers, there was a lot to stare at, you opened the album. Inside, more pictures. Vibrant. And when you slipped the album sleeve out, to remove the vinyl for the first time, sometimes those sleeves had more art and lyrics on them, sometimes the lyrics were on the inner cover. And once the music was playing, once you had settled back with your favorite recreational drug, then you could explore the cover again at your own leisure, letting it become part of the musical experience. Oh....oh yeah.

And then there were the interactive covers. Rod Stewart's "Ooh La La" (the eyes and mouth opened and close when a tab was pulled);Led Zepplin's third album had a wheel inside the cardboard so that you could turn it and watch different pictures pass by cutout windows (you had to be there);Jethro Tull's "Stand Up" album had...well....a picture that stood up when you opened the album. I'm not saying this was brilliant, but it gave you something to do while waiting for the lava lamp to warm up.

I love mp3 and I love cds. But I miss the album art.

Here are some of my favorites for you. I'm not calling them the best, just my favorites. Enjoy them. Then, go to this website...it's well worth the visit.

21 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I have that Uriah Heep album. I agree with you about the album art. It was a cool part of buying the music. I always like the albums for "Yes," myself.

Stewart Sternberg said...

The Yes artwork was fantastic. There were tons of others, and I think you'll be entertained by that link I included.

Some other covers that come to mind: "Tommy" by The Who, "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" by the Mood Blues, "Seventh Sojourn" by the Moody Blues..."Black Sabbath"...Black Sabbath (that original cover with the girl off in the distance seen through a haze...used to chill and fascinate me..reminded me of "Turn of the Screw"....

Sometimes I would buy an album, swayed by really cool art, and then get home and find the music didn't live up to the design of the sleeve.

BeckEye said...

Amen. Usually when I make mix CDs for myself or other people, I get really into the packaging of them. I don't like just writing on the CD with a Sharpie and throwing it in a blank case. Booooring.

When I was a kid, I loved the cover of Kansas's "Point of Know Return." I just thought it was awesome. And I was kind of obsessed with the Stones' "Some Girls." I had a ball changing all the faces in the wigs.

Jon said...

My vote? Janice Joplin's Cheap Thrills.

DesLily said...

"Cover Art" of many kinds, has often helped or hindered sales.. Book cover art works the same way.. it draws you to the book/ record... anyone who thinks the art work doesn't matter is crazy.

Donnetta Lee said...

Love to see the Sgt. Pepper cover. Yes, I also love the album art. My younger brother always gave me an album for Christmas. Usually, a Beatles album as I was so in love with them. Ah, those were the days.
Donnetta

Cappy said...

Hey, where's Firesign Theatre and Pure Prarie League?

Travis said...

I unpacked my albums not too long ago for the first time in over 10 years. It took me days to organize them because I had to look at all the art again.

miller580 said...

One of the most controversial Album covers was"Sticky Fingers" by the Rolling Stones. Collector versions (first pressings I believe) even had a working zipper. I remember the owner of Record Time (back when the store was as small as a closet on ten mile) found one...it was a bit tattered around the corners, but he didn't care. He had one.

Even though cassettes and cd's were the music delivery of choice, I would buy used records so that I could tape (duct tape no less) them to my wall.

Yet one more art form lost.

Christina said...

I've seen some pretty interesting album art, but nothing is coming to mind, which is odd because I'm sure it wasn't to long ago that I was looking at albums...

I know a lot of people who were inspired to write novels based off of album art.

ramon said...

The smell always got me!
great post, man!

Irene said...

What fabulously cool covers! I wish I had my own collection.

etain_lavena said...

Love the last one....really kewl....:)

avery said...

I was in high school when CDs came out. My taste in music prior to that was that of the teenage hive mentality (we're talking Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, even -- and I get nauseous thinking about it now -- Huey Lewis), so my albums were not stellar, to say the least. I never had any of the cool vinyl.

There are still some new bands that put out vinyl, though. It's hard to find, but well worth it when you can.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Beckeye, I like when someone gives me a mix..anytime I presented with new music and with old music revisited, it's a pleasant surprise.

Jon, I was going to add Janis to the mix and pulled up at the last moment. I was looking over the covers again, and it is interesting that so many of what I like are so dark.

Deslily, I can't tell you how many times I have sheepishly bought something because of the container.

Donetta, it is easy to become nostalgic over this. Cappy, I could have added Firesign, I have always been a big fan of their antics. You should check out their web site.

Travis, you're lucky. I wish I still had my albums. I remember giving away a box of them to a girlfriend at one time. Shoot me.

Jimbo, I thought Sticky Fingers was a cool album, but I'm not going to say anything more about it and I'm hoping it wasn't something you stared at while high.

Etain, the one with Giger's artwork, which is Emerson Lake and Palmers' Brain Salad Surgery, is great. I love Giger's artwork. He designed the creature for ALIEN and has given us some of the most disturbing images imaginable.

Christina and Avery, ah youth. CDS...they just don't have it. But one thing that the next generation had that my generation didnt..is non stop music videos of their favorite bands. All we had was THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL on Saturday night

SQT said...

I always think of the "Sticky Fingers" album cover when this subject comes up too. It got so much attention that it's hard not to.

I find it interesting when album covers draw as much-if not more- attention than the album itself.

Stewart Sternberg said...

You know, another one which received attention for the appearance of a phallace shape or shadow is Lou Reed on his Transformer album. I think it's the inside of the cover where he appears in drag, then as a macho cruiser, shape pressed hard against the zipper of his pants.

Clifford said...

My all-time favorite performer is Ani DiFranco...the last few years she's won Grammy's for best cover design. One in particular, Evolve, has an outer sleeve (with cutouts to images on the inner sleeve), images inside, on the CD itself, and a booklet with more pictures and lyrics.

Good stuff. But still, it doesn't engender the magic of those old LPs. Hmm...I'm looking at the Evolve CD now, and realize that I spent very little time absorbing the content. Almost none. This makes me think it may not be totally the new media's fault. Maybe we, as adults, have lost a little of the magic we imbued on those LPs...after all, the LPs remembered fondly here are pretty old, and don't don't seem to really reflect the end of an era, but rather high points of our youth? When you're a teenager, music takes on near mythical importance.

Clifford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tammie Jean said...

I have three copies of that Led Zep album with the wheel. I was lucky enough to inherit my parents' entire album collection, which included everything that was cool from the 60's and 70's. I actually just got all my grandfather's albums - mostly big band stuff. The covers aren't as cool but I'm interested to give them a listen.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Cliff, I don't think it's about youthful memories. I still listen to new music (currently John Mayer, The Kaiser Chiefs). And I think the covers of albums added something, another dimension, something tangible to link you to the artist.

Tammi, I sometimes wish I had kept all my albums, but then I just don't know where I would have kept everything over the last several years.