Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Annihilator - Alice in Hell

I'm not just fond of this album as a terrific thrash/power metal album that features an actual band behind the name Annihilator, but this creepy and slightly insidious cover hails a slight cheekiness as good metal is capable of, with Allison (perhaps a bit too old to be trailing dollies down the stairs, but hey, it was the eighties and teenage girls sold albums, not eight-year-old tykes) slinking slowly to an unknown weirdness... Ah, fuck it. This is a weird cover and very detailed and that's why I like it. :)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Scorpions-Fly to the rainbow

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Musically the Scorpions have been one of the most consistently good hard rock bands of our time. However, their albums cover been a different story at times. The original cover of "Virgin Killer" was considered very inappropriate in many circles. The "bubblegum on the boob" cover of "Lovedrive" also had some people scratching their heads. The cover above is even earlier and rarely gets a mention. First the figure appears to be wearing a futuristic beekeeper headpiece or maybe it's part of a periscope. The real kicker is the propeller shoes. They look some device that Wile E. Coyote would purchase from the ACME corporation to aid him in his pursuit of that ever evasive roadrunner. Then the artist apparently remembered that the word rainbow was in the album title so they tacked on a few bright bars at the top (as if we couldn't already tell this cover was done in the 1970's).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pet Shop Boys - Fundamental

Pet Shop Boys almost always have good album covers, and Fundamental is no exception. It's probably their most troubled and introspective album, so it's fitting that Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe -- dressed in black and cloaked in the darkness at the right side of the cover -- are only slightly illuminated by the artificial harshness of a white neon light.

Unfortunately, the cover is the best part of the album. You can read my somewhat scathing review of the music at Pratt Songs. </shameless plug>


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

GBH - Midnight Madness and Beyond

This is one of my favorite albums by the seminal hardcore punk band GBH, and also one of my favorite covers because of the surreptitious presentation of various sets of notable or celebrity eyes. In some ways, one might call it a funny tweak on Sgt. Peppers with a who's who game, but really, the album is about GBH's first tour of the United States, particularly New York City, where there were fascinated by the never-ending night life, hence the title Midnight Madness and Beyond.

The set of eyes is kinda intimidating, honestly, as if a large cluster of voyeurs are scrutinizing you directly. Of course, having Adam West's Batman facade lightens things up a bit, but then look out for Charlie Manson's eyes! Creeeeepy....

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Sonics-The Sonics Boom

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In the early and mid 1960's many surf and british rock bands appeared on their covers in bright colors with big grins on their faces and oftentimes holding their instruments. I guess that last bit was to assure us they were really musicians. However, the Sonics from Seattle were a pre-punk, fuzzed out, straight forward garage rock band. So for the cover of their sophomore release from 1966 they appear in stark black and white with no instruments, hands in pockets, no one is standing in a straight line and no silly smiles. It's so appropriate because there's no put-ons because they were just guys that played simple rock, but they played with an attitude an energy that was much needed at the time. I also like how the white section of the cover looks like it's been ripped aside to reveal the band. It may be easy to look past this one because of the simple style, but I think it's a cool cover once you really look at it.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Placebo - Sleeping With Ghosts

Okay, so I'm sure the technique of superimposing photos atop each other is nothing new or innovative in our technologically-advanced society, but I adore this cover because of the sense of lost love at stake here. I think it's absolutely beautiful, if a bit haunting, and most certainly erotic. Of course, I love this album as well.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Johnny Cash - American Recordings

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Johnny Cash had a string of albums throughout the '80s that played up the man's lighter side, his sense of humor, and the variety-show-host side of his public personality. But in 1994, Rick Rubin and Johnny Cash reminded the world about The Man In Black.

The cover of American Recordings forces the viewer to gaze upward at a distinctly menacing Cash. His body is hidden in the depths of a billowing black trenchcoat, and he rests his hands upon a black guitar case as if he were standing at the pulpit. His shock of dark hair blows wildly like the overgrown weeds in which he stands, and the darkness around his eyes frame his fearsome gaze. The movement of the clouds against the tinted sky emphasizes the chaotic drama of the world around us.

But the true brilliance of the cover rests at Johnny's feet. Two black and white dogs sit, panting, one on each side of Cash. They epitomize the love, the fun, the goodness and the Godliness that has always pervaded the best of Cash's music. Both dogs are calm, but their excitement is obvious, a whirlwind of potential energy waiting for the cue to spring into action. The dogs' natural energy is constrained by their training (both dogs are looking off camera, likely at an animal trainer who coaches them from the side), an interesting parallel to the way that Rubin's guidance led Cash to what was arguably the greatest body of work of his entire career.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Picastro - Whore Luck

Much like the music it contains, the cover of Picastro's Whore Luck is almost beautiful. Lying just short of beautiful is disturbing and the cover is most certainly that. The two faces which almost appear to be kissing at first glance have melted (or perhaps smashed) into each other like some schizophrenic nightmare.

Note: This album is not out until September 11, 2007. However, I do have a review posted on my other site.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Big Brother and Holding Company - Cheap Thrills

One of the sixties' greatest psychedelic/acid rock documents, Cheap Thrills by Janis Joplin and Big Brother and The Holding Company is the total package, literally. Never mind the sonic power of songs like "Combination of the Two," "Piece of My Heart" or "I Need a Man to Love," this wonderful cover done by comic and animation legend Art Crumb is a visual fiesta that can give you minutes of fun by sampling each panel. As a child, I was utterly fascinated by this cover and handed it to my mom to play all the time so I could listen to it and study this art closely. Part of the sixties' atmosphere of frustration is captured vividly on Cheap Thrils, but it's done in such a way that there's a San Franciscan artsiness about the thing that allows you to take it lightly. When you open the gatefold, the stage that Janis and Big Brother is on appears larger-than-life, particuarly that boulder-looking thing on the screen behind the band. Utterly wonderful stuff.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Yngwie Malmsteen-Trilogy

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I wonder if a group of art consultants were called in to come up with a cover for this album back in 1986? If so then maybe the conversation went something like this.

Art Consultant 1-What should the cover of the new Yngwie album look like?
Art Consultant 2-Well, the first one had his guitar in front of fire, the second album had him playing his guitar.So this album should have him uh...fighting a dragon.
Art Consultant 1-With a sword?
Art Consultant 2-Don't be silly, he would fight the dragon with his guitar of course. I saw Dio fighting a dragon with a sword on his last tour and he's just a itty-bitty guy so anyone could use a sword. So a rising star like Yngwie would use something cool like his guitar. Besides he's a guitar virtuoso.
Art Consultant 1-Guitar virtuoso? What does that mean?
Art Consultant 2-Dude,that means not only can he play ripping solos, but he could fight dragons by shooting blasts out of his guitar.
Art Consultant 1-I don't know, it sounds cheesy.
Art Consultant 2-Trust me.Yngwie is going to as big as Hendrix or Eddie so he needs a big, exciting cover and this is it. People will love it. It's not like 21 years from now someone will be making fun of this album cover.

Or maybe it went something like that.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mighty Mighty Bosstones/Kiss - Detroit Rock City 7"

The Bosstones always had the ability to mix the serious and the silly, but I don't think they bothered with anything serious here. The front cover features the Bosstones in Kiss makeup to correspond with their cover of "Detroit Rock City."

The back cover features Paul and Gene from the Dressed to Kill cover with plaid suits superimposed. The B-side is Kiss' original version.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Goo Goo Dolls - Dizzy Up the Girl

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I'm not certain that I can explain why this cover resonates with me. The mood is sexy, but dirty, but innocent, but depressing, but hopeful.

The wallpaper is dark, and reminds me of an old hotel room. The black curtain blocks out whatever sun might pour in through the small window. The bed is crammed into the corner, and the room feels oppressively small. The bedspread is old and unglamorous, but it looks comforting and familiar, like something anyone could have in their bedroom.

But the girl... the girl is where this cover gets so interesting.

What is she looking at? Is that a smile at the corner of her lips? Are her eyes really as cold and dead as they appear to be, or is she lost in a nice daydream? Did she fall on the bed, or was she thrown there? Why is she wearing hot pink socks with a green summer dress? Why are the bottoms of her socks so dirty? Is she wearing stockings, or is that the light? Is she lying in her bedroom at her parents' house, or is she between clients in a seedy hotel room in the big city? Is she happy? Is she sad? Is she okay?

(I posted a review of the album at Pratt Songs, if you're interested.)


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Afghan Whigs - 1965

On December 11, 1964, at his Nobel Lecture, Martin Luther King, Jr., said "There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance." The following year, the United States, in its "scientific and technological abundance" launched its first Gemini space missions, one of which is depicted on this album cover. The inside sleeve depicts helicopters in Vietnam as well as a Civil Rights march, a reminder of that "poverty of the spirit" of which Dr. King spoke.

I initially chose this album, because while the music never really stuck with me, the cover always has simply because I like pictures from space, particularly those that have something in the foreground that gives the picture a sense of height above the earth. It wasn't until I was writing this that I made the connection between the outer and inner sleeves and realized how powerful this cover really is. I wonder if they were thinking of Dr. King's speech when they designed the package or if it was just a happy (or not so happy as the case may be) accident.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ratt - Invasion of Your Privacy

Masturbators unite! You know if you were male and into metal and hard rock in the eighties, you enjoyed a nice spank session with this hottie, whose name eludes me at the moment. Some people favor Tawny Kitaen on Out of the Cellar, but for me, this model's swished-down hair, french-cut bikini briefs, breasts straining that tank top and that pseudo-innocuous look of getting caught is just par excellence, as far as eighties sleaze goes. Ratt knew how to pimp the sex and rock angle better than most of their peers back in the day, which is partially why they were so successful. When I interviewed Stephen Pearcy, he told me a hilarious story about the model, in particular that she was one he actually didn't have sex with! My apologies to our female members in our audience, but this one I couldn't pass up...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Iron Maiden-Powerslave

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Iron Maiden's covers were almost as important and cool as the band's music. Their mascot Eddie was quite a sight when he first appeared under a street lamp on the debut. By Killers he had changed a little to the monster we would all know and love. After that he tended to be in whatever setting the band's album title implied. For the band's fifth studio album the setting was ancient Egypt and Eddie was the image on a huge pyramid when many worshippers coming to him. The image is one that I look at quite a bit even twenty some years after I first saw it. Iron Maiden covers were probably the standard by which other metal covers were judged in the 1980's. You might look at another band's album cover and say "it's good, but it's no Iron Maiden cover".

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Jethro Tull-Aqualung

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I think I saw this in record stores numerous times before hearing the whole album. The dude on the cover always creeped me out. It's partially his horrible expression and partially the colors and the painting style I think. Actually this still creeps me out a little. I have it on vinyl now, but had it on cd for years.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Madball - Hold It Down

While this is a fine piece of 90s New York Hardcore, you'd never know by the cover. The image of the NYC skyline superimposed over an aerial shot of the city is okay I suppose, but the band logo looks like it was created in the early days of Power Point. That puts it a full step below the bad Photoshop that shows up so often today. The graffiti style lettering of the album title might fit in with Madball's street image, but it doesn't do much to help this poorly designed cover. I just hope they didn't actually pay someone to design this one. Their earlier album covers may have looked just as cheap, but they certainly weren't this cheesy. They had a certain DIY charm that eludes Hold It Down.


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Exciter - Unveiling the Wicked

I've always loved this cover. It's so metal, and yet there's something a tad different about it. No skulls, no goat heads, no pentagrams, no devil horns, just sheer terror in a mildly gruesome way. I remember yelling out "Exciter!" when Mark and I saw Trick Or Treat in the theater and Ragman's mom is sifting through his albums. Oddly enough, we were the only metal guys in the theater that day. The rest were just horror fans and guys with their girlfriends. Wasn't that crowded, to my recollection. But shit, to see this cover, Megadeth, Exodus and Impaler in that sequence was a quiet triumph for the underground then.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Wishbone Ash-s/t

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This is the cover of Wishbone Ash's self-titled debut from 1970. I think it's a very fitting cover for this album. At first it appears to be very plain and simple, but you can't help but be drawn in to some extent and you begin to examine the details of the image. Much like the band's music as they at first seem simple yet you stay focused and soon enough they progress into some elaborate and incredible musical passages.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Assholeparade - Say Goodbye 7"

This cover is screen-printed on a heavy cardboard sleeve. There were only 1000 made (500 each of two colors of vinyl). I like how the live scenes are subdued with the Nosferatu image more prominent in black. It's a No Idea Records release and their covers and vinyl both are generally beautiful.

I also figured Mark and Ray would dig this one for the horror movie angle.

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