Thursday, May 31, 2007

Jane's Addiction - Nothing's Shocking

I don't know if there's ever been an album cover as ironic as this one. I would think that if naked adult siamese twins with their heads on fire isn't shocking, then indeed nothing is. I like the realism despite the subject matter (it goes along with the realistic surrealism thing I'd mentioned before). I believe this is one of the truly outstanding albums of all time; one that changed the face of music. It's only appropriate that it should have such a great cover.


Jane's Addiction - Ritual De Lo Habitual

I think the original album cover for Ritual De Lo Habitual is actually pretty silly looking. That's why it's so shocking that it was banned. I just can't imagine that anyone found the paper mache figures to be lewd. The good news is that Jane's Addiction responded with a more powerful cover to replace it by simply displaying the First Amendment. I'm never happy to see censorship, but at least something good came from it here.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Saxon - Crusader

This cover just screams m-e-t-a-l...

Normally such a nihilistic display of barbarism would be a little off-putting, but Saxon uses this in a historical context, which raises the question as to whether they were subtly protesting the English crusades, given the slain oppressed at the hooves, or if they were glorifying it, since that would be the metal thing to do. I have my own suspicions, but I'll let you be the judge...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana brass-Whipped cream and other delights

Well, first I would like to say my fingers hurt from typing that whole album title. I don't own this album and have never heard it. Yet there was a time when you couldn't go to a Goodwill store or a yard sale without seeing a copy of it. The album was a huge hit for Alpert and it sold over six million copies here in the states. Dolores Erikson is the model under the whipped cream. I only had to look at a few reviews to find out that information which means it must have certainly helped her career at least initially. The album was released in 1965 so I guess this cover might have been slightly shocking for the time. Personally I think it's more strange than cool, but that's just me.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pink Floyd - The Wall

The idea was excellent: a plain white wall on the front and back covers, with no text anywhere but the spine. Upon opening the gatefold, the wall is crumbling, and we are given a glimpse of the horrific visions that haunt poor "Pink."

Unfortunately, the design of the plain white wall is, well, a bit cheesy. It looks as if it could've been drawn by a sixth grader with a ruler and a drafting pencil. Inside, bricks are removed in perfect rectangular blocks, and the 3-D rendering is... (need synonym for "cheesy")... craptastic. The CD release is even worse, because some genius decided to put a big "PINK FLOYD THE WALL" across the front cover. What, were they worried that someone would mistakenly think this was the long lost Barry Manilow album about Mandy's descent into madness?

The art inside the gatefold is among the best art on any rock album, ever, period. It's too bad the dismantling of the wall was handled so poorly, especially given the extraordinary talent of designer Gerald Scarfe. Lucky for us, he is much better at portraying madness than portraying basic architecture.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

This may be the most famous album cover in history. It combined a great concept, a game and a bit of intrigue. The idea of including a collage of famous faces as if it was a group picture was a great idea. Add to that the fun of trying to identify everyone and you already have one of the best covers ever. But what really puts it over the top are its clues to the "Paul is Dead" hoax. I had a friend in high school who had a Sgt Pepper's poster hanging upside down on her wall. When I asked why it was inverted, she said, "To make you think about it." It was a good idea, because Sgt Pepper's is certainly something to think about.

The Sgt Pepper's cover has also been copied several times. Frank Zappa parodied it inside the gatefold of his We're Only In It For the Money album. The great punk compilation Burning Ambitions: A History of Punk also lampooned it.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Queen - News of the World

I don't about any of you Gen X'ers or seventies crew, but this album cover scared the living shit out of me as a child. It's cathartic if not ironic that "We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions" was literally my lullaby for most of 1977 as I used to have the radio on and tuned to the local rock station that did a top 5 at 9:00 pm and I'd force my 7-year-old body to stay awake until Queen finished the final note, then drift off.

When I saw the cover of News of the World and that cold, emotionless robot dipping his metallic finger into a gored planet and holding the dead bodies of Queen with blood dripping from his steel finger, Jesus wept... I couldn't keep it together when I saw it in the stores. I was so petrified of that murdering automaton, and I laugh now, since at the same time I thought that Gene Simmons with blood curling out of his mouth was the coolest thing ever!

Even more unnerving is when you extend the gatefold to see the rest of the artwork. Obviously the robot served as metaphor, which is sheer genius, but for a child of the seventies, what a stark visual of hell if there ever was one. Of course, my cousins laughed at me when I didn't want to look at their cassette copy. This, as the 8 track was dying out and cassettes were a brand new technology, yikes. News of the world indeed...

Monday, May 21, 2007


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This is the cover of Rainbow's Rising which was the band's second album and it came out in 1976. It was done by Ken Kelly who has also done covers for KISS, Manowar and he has done a lot of fantasy book covers. Fantasy and heavy metal have always gone together. I think this album makes good use of colors, perspectives and the background. I have it on vinyl, CD and cassette and have spent quite a bit of time staring at all of the detail contained in this picture. Rainbow's debut also had a fantasy cover as well. Interesting that as the band became more AOR/mainstream rock their covers would no longer have the same fantasy elements that the earlier ones had.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Mars Volta - Amputechture

One thing I've always loved about Salvador Dali is how he portrays the surreal in a very realistic way. His meticulous detail emphasizes the absurd in his paintings. While Dali did not paint the cover of the Mars Volta's Amputechture album (it was painted by Jeff Jordan), I think he could appreciate both the artwork and the music. The Mars Volta's greatness stems from their ability to shatter musical boundaries (their music is heavily influenced by both punk and prog) while still being pretty accessible to listeners who aren't up the great musical challenges such a marriage could entail. The artwork reflects that dichotomy of odd and normal, surreal and real that is so prevelent in the music.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Type O Negative - Dead Again

To this day, no actor or lookalike can capture the deranged facade of Rasputin, so finding his raggedy countenance on an album cover--particularly from a cold, frosty band like Type O Negative--just seems tailor made in the grand cosmos of dark heavy metal. Dead Again is actually quite the opposite, if you're familiar with Type O Negative, since it's frequently full of energetic bursts of angst, but straying from the record review, their choice to put Rasputin on their cover and give it their trademark green tempora (Note: Every Type O Negative album cover is bathed in green) makes it even more stark than the photo originally conveys.

Even more chilling is the picture of the Romonov sisters on the back of the CD artwork, and trust me, you won't be thinking of the sweetly Anastasia with her talking Slavic bat friend sugared up in the animated film. Are Peter Steele and his horde Rasputin fans? Given some of their snarling and frigied publicity photos, perhaps so. As stylishly tenebrous as Type O Negative's music is, Rasputin suddenly becomes a poster boy for the genre. How is it that only Type O recognized this?

Monday, May 14, 2007

If you have a dog or cat...

Sorry for the unrelated post, but this blog seems to get a fair number of readers and this is an important message. If you have a dog or cat, please take a look at this list of foods that are poisonous for them. My dog Vinny got into a bag of raisins last week. We had no idea that raisins were toxic to dogs. He spent five days in the hospital due to acute renal (kidney) failure and finally died on Thursday. He was only 2 1/2 years old. He was one of the best friends I've ever had and I miss him terribly. I'm just hoping that more tragedy can be prevented by sharing his story. If you have pets, take a look at the list so you don't have to go through what we went through last week.



PS - Don't miss Mark's Holocross post below.

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Okay, it looks like I am going to be the first one to cast a stone and say something negative about a cover. This is the 1988 self-titled debut by Pittsburgh based spped metal band Holocross. The artist has the same last name as one of the band members and it's not a real common name. Doesn't mean they were related, but's it's possible. This cover reminds me of something you might see in about seventh grade. Some kid tells you he can draw and you believe it at first. Then you see him drawing something like this on a piece of notebook paper during math class with his chewed on number two pencil. Then you realize he can't draw anymore than you can. There is no crime in not being able to draw. However, the crime is hiring someone like that to do your album cover and paying them money to do it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Robert Palmer - Pressure Drop

I won't ever forget the first time I saw this album cover. It was 1979, three years after Robert Palmer's Pressure Drop was released. On the outer rim of Baltimore was where I lived at the time, and though it's not there anymore, there used to be a Farmer's Market that had flea markets on the outside, plus produce, products, etc. on the inside. Each booth was fenced in with chicken wire, which was a hilarious effect, and one booth was a record stand. Every time we went, I always gravitated here to listen to the 45s the proprietor spun, and there was one particular day I spotted Pressure Drop with nine year old eyes. Blondie's "Call Me" from American Gigolo was spinning, which is kind of apropos when you look at the laissez faire Palmer standing almost nonchalantly with his nude one night stand peering out the balcony from his playboy apartment. At the time, I was infatuated with the nudity, but now I'm all about wondering what Palmer has on his mind with that remote in his hand. Has he already bedded the model yet? Is he about to? Is he trying to set a mood? Does he even care she's naked?

It's the question of what next that appeals to me about the cover of Pressure Drop. Palmer, who was always projecting himself as a debonair sophisticate, a James Bond of the rock and soul jet set, looks absolutely in control here with only the question of what to do next with a naked vixen in his stead. Personally, I like to think he toys with her and sends her on her way, but most likely by her wet hair, it's the morning after and she wants more time with him while he's already thinking about the rest of his day, which doesn't include her. That dog!

Sunny Day Real Estate-Diary

While it is arguable whether or not Sunny Day Real Estate's 1994 album Diary is the definitive emo album, it is hard to deny that its cover and insert contains the definitive emo album art. The cover and much of the internal artwork features Little People, the smiling toys so many of us remember from childhood, in tragic scenes ranging from a kitchen fire to a serious auto accident. Perhaps my favorite is the two Little People in bed, facing away from each other, with as much space between them as possible, sappy smiles on their faces. Oh, woe is me, even my Little People are sad. (Sniffle...sob...)


Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Alice Cooper-Muscle of love

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This is a good example of a basic album cover that works. Some album covers are elaborate, but still rather bland. So is it the basic lettering that gets my attention? Not exactly. Is it the brown box appearance? Warmer, but not quite. Is it the Fragile stamp? You are almost there. You'll probably read what it says on the cover first, but then your eyes will go to the bottom of the cover. You will wonder "what is that ooze?". This cover really represents where Alice Cooper was at this point. It's slightly dirty and slightly odd at the same time much like the lyrics and the music yet it's more subtle than some of his peers. The album actually comes in a cardboard slip that opens in the middle of the back much like shipping boxes you use for vinyl. The cd doesn't have anything like that, but still a cool cover.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Led Zeppelin-Houses of the holy

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I felt that since we took our blog name from a Zeppelin song that the first cover should be of one of their albums. Whenever Spring rolls around I particularly think of this cover. It just makes me think of the weather getting warmer and things getting greener. Perhaps the greatest strength of this cover is that it's a good blend of reality and fantasy. We have people and a place that are in real proportions, but the colors give it very much an appearance of being a fantasy type world. Something about this cover, perhaps the light or the simplicity of it makes me feel very alive. My old CD copy that I purchased around 1990 has a rectangle with the Zeppelin logo and album title blatantly slapped across a good chunk of the cover. It was like some merchandising genius at Atlantic records was terrified that people were not going to know this was Zeppelin unless it said so. Anyway it's a cover I like a great deal.

***Hope you enjoy the blog. It will be updated about three times a week so keep popping back to check out what covers we are talking about.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Coming soon

Do you like album covers? So do we, in fact we like them so much that we are going to dedicate a whole blog to nothing but album covers. We will have good, bad, strange, obscure and all kinds of covers. Of course we will talk some about them as well. So the first official post will be this coming Monday, May the 7th. So check back then when the fun begins!