Art for Art's Sake
I have been both pleased and surprised at the reception of my first hub focusing on great album covers. Since it was so hard to pick out just 25 jackets for that hub, I decided to choose another round of covers and make a second hub. This time I have added a few classic rock choices to the mix with covers from bands like Chicago and Electric Light Orchestra who some would likely not consider hard rock and certainly not heavy metal.
I love hearing everyone's opinions on my choices as well as suggestions for what I have missed or what you might have included instead. I am already planning a third installment, but it may feature what has become known as "New Millennium Vinyl" which is albums that have been released in the last decade or so as vinyl has made a well-deserved if somewhat limited comeback.
Van Halen - MCMLXXXIV
With a beautiful illustration from artist Margo Zafer Nahas, MCMLXXXIV (more commonly known as 1984) sported the best album cover of Van Halen's career. A chain-smoking cherub glancing off at who-knows-what sort of decadence and rock-and-roll debauchery. Needless to say, it generated a bit of controversy simply because Van Halen was so huge at the time, but in reality there were many covers far more offensive on the market -- just not the local Wal-Mart. Other covers by Margo Zafer Nahas include Toto's IV and Autograph's Sign in Please.
Savatage - Gutter Ballet
Once again Gary Smith turns in an astounding cover for Savatage, this time on the classic Gutter Ballet LP. Though this album shares its title with one of the best songs on the record, I still associate the cover with a different song, the masterpiece of the album, "When the Crowds Are Gone." This is one of my favorite Savatage songs and while the lyrics do not match the cover art, the name of the song just seems to fit it perfectly. So much so, in fact, that I always thought that should have been the album's title.
T. Rex - Electric Warrior
Beautiful Vinyl on Amazon
A wise woman (that would be Katharella) once pointed out that sometimes a simple album cover is best because too much complexity can make fans feel there may be too much going on inside. In other words, an artsy metal band like Savatage or a prog rock band such as Rush might do well with elaborate, thought-provoking covers, but more down to earth bands like punk rockers The Ramones and classic groovers such as T. Rex need to keep it a little more toned down -- but without sacrificing intensity.
This cover is the perfect example. Man. Guitar. Amp. Wrapped in the warmth of hippie rock 'n' roll. Only two colors are used and minimal imagery, but it still conveys a message that is loud and clear -- we rock, we groove, we have the power, share the love. Kind of makes you want to bang a gong, ya know?
Megadeth - Countdown To Extinction
I included Megadeth's Peace Sells LP in my first album art hub, but choosing which Megadeth album to include had been difficult. One of the comments on that hub mentioned that while Eddie Repka, who did that cover, was great, the commentator liked Hugh Syme's work on Countdown to Extinction and Youthanasia better. While I prefer Repka's work, Syme definitely does some amazing stuff as well and is certainly worthy of being on any list of great cover artists.
Some people may be more familiar with Hugh Syme due to his association with Rush. In 1975, he designed and illustrated the prog-rockers' third album, Caress of Steel, and has designed all of their albums since. He also has played keyboards from time to time with Rush. In addition to Megadeth and Rush, he has done album covers for Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Great White, Def Leppard, Dream Theater and many more.
Mott the Hoople - Mott the Hoople
Another commentator on my last hub mentioned how awesome cover art featuring artwork by M.C. Escher would be. Escher's Reptiles is the basis for Mott the Hoople's 1969 self-titled debut album though many Escher fans were upset that the artwork was modified with color. There is some question as to whether or not M.C. Escher gave permission for the artwork to be used as it is known that Escher was more inclined to classical music. He turned down a request from Mick Jagger to design a cover for The Rolling Stones' album Through the Past Darkly that same year. He later declined to allow previously published works to be used on other Stones' covers. Other bands have also used Escher works as shown below.
Praying Mantis - Time Tells No Lies
Beautiful Vinyl on Amazon
Praying Mantis' classic NWOBHM debut was impressive from start to finish and from the inside to the outside. With cover art by noted fantasy artist Rodney Matthews, the record stood out among the many metal releases coming out during that time. But a nice cover was just the beginning for this masterpiece. Though the album was never released as a gatefold, it did have an impressive wraparound cover.
Ozzy Osbourne - Diary of a Madman
For Ozzy Osbourne's second solo outing, he knew his fans were expecting him to have another great jacket to go along with another great album. With Randy Rhoads on board, getting the classic album down was probably no problem. For the cover, Ozzy turned to Steve Joule, who at the time was relatively unknown but would go on the work on Ozzy's Bark at the Moon and Speak of the Devil albums as well as projects for other bands. The cover, featuring a suitably deranged Ozzy, was a fantastic if somewhat more controversial cover than his debut.
Iron Butterfly - Heavy
Though Iron Butterfly never matched the sales of their biggest album, In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida, they still put out some very impressive releases. Heavy features a cover by artist Armondo Busich utilizing photography by Joe Ravetz to create a very 60s-looking masterpiece. The yellow butterfly with its wings encircling the surreal scene of the band on what appears to be an alien world leaves a definite impression. Busich would vanish into obscurity after his work on Heavy though Ravetz is still a well-known photographer to this day.
The Mothers of Invention - Weasels Ripped My Flesh
Artist Neon Park (aka Martin Muller) created the Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention jacket cover for Weasels Ripped My Flesh at the request of Zappa who was inspired by the September 1956 cover of Man's Life. The illustration Park ultimately came up with was a parody of popular ads that for Schick electric razors. Though this was one of the post-breakup Mothers of Invention albums and performed fairly poorly on the charts, it became known as a bit of a cult classic not only for the eclectic selection of music but for the eye-catching cover as well.
Not surprisingly the record label was not thrilled with the cover. Aside from its rather graphic properties, they had to be concerned about possible lawsuits coming from both Man's Life and Schick. Ultimately, however, the record was released with the cover everywhere except Germany and met with very little controversy. No one ever sued and the album simmered in Zappa's catalog slowly gaining infamy as time went by.
Neon Park would end up being more famous as the artist behind the vast majority of Little Feat albums though he also did work for David Bowie, Dr. John and .38 Special among others. His relationship with Little Feat was so close that they named their 1996 live album Live from Neon Park in his honor.
Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers
The original album jacket for the Stones' Sticky Fingers album was awesome in that it included a zipper and belt buckle that opened to reveal cotton briefs. The artwork was designed Craig Braun based on a concept by the legendary Andy Warhol. Billy Name did the photography for the project and though there is some debate as to who the model was, it definitely was not Mick Jagger as many believe. This was also the first album that featured the now familiar Stones' tongue logo, though it was only used on the inner sleeve and not used on the cover.
Motörhead - Orgasmatron
Artists Joe Petagno originally created the Orgasmatron art for the album when it was known as Ridin' With the Driver. After the band changed the album's name, there was not time to create new artwork so they stayed with the train design that was already completed. In the end, it worked out well with this being one of Motörhead's finest album covers. And while the song "Orgasmatron" is an anti-religious tune that never mentions a train, the train motif works well for the song's them of religion destroying humanity like... well, a runaway train.
Blue Öyster Cult - Agents of Fortune
These days, Lynn Curlee spends his time as an author-illustrator of children's books, but some of his best known work appear on the only two album covers he ever did. One was the infamous "smoking angels" cover that graced Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell album while the other was this, Blue Oyster Cult's Agents of Fortune. The High Point, North Carolina, native made his mark on rock history with these two memorable jackets, but has since turned his attention to other interests.
Mötley Crüe - Too Fast for Love
Though Mötley Crüe became known as a "hair band," many would say their sound was better illustrated by the cover of their debut record than that somewhat generalized label. Originally self-released on the Leathür Records label, Too Fast for Love was the record many credit with the start of glam metal's big breakthrough, setting the stage for the big hair bands in the 80s. From Poison to Guns N' Roses, Skid Row to Winger, they all owe a debt to Mötley Crüe. And yet Mötley would be the first to admit they had their own influences -- most notably Hanoi Rocks and the New York Dolls.
Heart - Little Queen
Heart's Little Queen album features Ann and Nancy Wilson dressed in medieval attire in the company of what appear to be a band of traveling minstrels or perhaps gypsies. It was their first proper release for the Portrait label, having previously only had their debut, Dreamboat Annie, re-issued by the label after its initial release on the Mushroom label. This is such a great cover as it really seems to capture the carefree essence of the band and their commercial hard rock meets traditional folk style of music.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Axis: Bold As Love
The cover for The Jimi Hendrix Experiences second album mimicked a painting known as Viraat Purushan-Vishnuroopam. This Hindu religious painting was chosen as the basis for the cover as Hendrix had requested an Indian motif to represent his Native American heritage. Unfortunately, since the art was being prepared by a British agency, they mistakenly assumed he was referring to India considering the popularity of Indian culture with many musicians such as The Beatles at the time.
David King was responsible for the album's psychedelic day-glo background while Roger Law was the painter who adapted the artwork with the portrait of the band. Jimi was reportedly less than pleased with the resulting cover but it was too late in the process to make changes once he was aware of the mix-up. This initial confusion has not stopped the cover from often being deemed one of the finest in rock and roll history and certainly a fair representation of the band's sound at the time.
Testament - Souls Of Black
The hauntingly surreal artwork for Testament's Souls of Black album was painted by William Benson who had also done the covers for all of Testament's album previously. This cover, featuring five hooded figures floating menacingly above the water under a dark, cloudy sky was as gripping as the music inside the sleeve. Benson has not really done any other album covers that I am aware of, but he is a very well-respected and very much in-demand landscape and portrait artist. Looking at many of he bright and cheerful landscape paintings, it may be hard to believe this is the same artist responsible for the dark style of Testament's covers.
Twisted Sister - Stay Hungry
Bob Defrin, Atlantic Records renowned art director, was in charge of putting together the cover for Twisted Sister's Stay Hungry LP but the concept and design came from Dee Snider and his wife Suzette Guilot-Snider. Mark Weiss Studios handled the photography. Defrin put it all together for a cover that perfectly captured Twisted Sister's over-the-top style. Makeup and costumes were, as always, the creation of Guilot-Snider.
Alice Cooper - From the Inside
With a die-cut jacket featuring opening doors and an inner gatefold photo of the characters from the album's songs, From the Inside is probably Alice Cooper's most personal album. Recorded after a stint in a mental institution in an effort to end his days of excessive alcohol. the record focuses on the many people Alice met inside the facility. Jackknife Johnny, Nurse Rozetta and Millie and Billie all make an appearance both in the lyrics and the rec room shown inside the cover. One of Alice's best sleeves if not quite one of his top LPs.
Electric Light Orchestra - Out of the Blue
The cover for ELO's Out of the Blue was designed by noted art director John Kosh, more commonly known simply as Kosh. He was no stranger to rock album covers having begun his career with the Beatles Abbey Road LP. Kosh would go on to design covers for classic albums such as The Eagles' Hotel California and Rod Stewart's Atlantic Crossing. He designed the spaceship featured on the Out of the Blue jacket with the actual painting being done by Shusei Nagaoka.
Nagaoka was also no stranger to rock and roll album covers. If you have read my first hub on great rock album jackets, then you may remember him from Jefferson Starship's amazing Spitfire cover. He also did work for Pure Prairie League (Can't Hold Back), Deep Purple (When We Rock We Rock and When We Roll We Roll) and Earth, Wind and Fire (All 'N All).
Diamond Head - Borrowed Time
Diamond Head's first album in America was the amazing Living on... Borrowed Time, more often referred to simply as Borrowed Time. For the cover illustration, the NWOBHM band turned to master illustrator Rodney Matthews, a name we have already seen once in this hub and who will undoubtedly be seen again should I do further installments. Having worked with bands such as Nazareth, Asia and, of course, Praying Mantis, Matthews has a wide selection of fantastic covers to choose from.
Moody Blues - Every Good Boy Deserves Favor
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour was the next-to-last of what many Moody Blues fans refer to as the "Classic 7" -- a string of early albums from the band that began with Days of Future Passed and ended with Seventh Sojourn. With the exception of Days of Future Passed, all of these albums featured artwork by the same artist, Phil Travers. Travers was a well-known artist, but never did much album artwork that was not Moody Blues related. He did covers for the band and a few of their solo projects, but I really have not been able to find any information regarding any other work he did in the music industry.
Metal Church - The Dark
Though the cover concept of Metal Church's The Dark album was not surprisingly the work of bandleader Kurdt Vanderhoof, the actual illustration was painted by the late Don Brautigam, a man whose work was familiar to most metal fans in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Brautigam also did the work on albums by Anthrax (Among the Living, State of Euphoria and Persistence of Time) and Metallica (Master of Puppets and Metallica) as well as bands such as AC/DC, Motley Crue, White Lion, Frehley's Comet and Vicious Rumors.
Outside of metal, he also worked with artists as diverse as The Eagles, James Brown, Herbie Mann and Chuck Berry. Brautigam was also well-known for his book covers and often worked with Stephen King and Dean Koontz, who was a personal friend of Brautigam's. He developed a method for using black paint on the covers of books that revolutionized the illustration industry and is still used today, more than thirty years after he introduced the process.
Black Sabbath - Sabotage
The cover for Black Sabbath's sixth album was created from an idea given to the band by Bill Ward's drum tech, Graham Wright. The jacket was actually put together for the band by the design firm Cream, creators of many album covers throughout the 1960s, 70s and beyond. The Sabotage cover has been one of the band's most talked about with fans either loving it or hating it, praising it or laughing at it. But either way, it definitely stands out as one of Sabbath's most memorable.
Chicago - X
The cover for Chicago X was created by John Berg, the in-house designer at Columbia Records and featured Chicago's awesome logo which had been created for the band by Nick Fasciano. The chocolate bar design with its crumpled wrapper carried over onto the back which was super cool because the jacket was a gatefold design that opened to reveal the remainder of the candy bar. While this would have been the perfect album cover those ballroom blitzers we all know as the Sweet, it was Chicago who came up with it and will go down in history as the band with the "sweetest" album jacket of all time. So sweet, in fact, that it won John Berg a Grammy!
Eric Clapton - Slowhand
The cover of Eric Clapton's classic album Slowhand features his favorite Fender Stratocaster, affectionately known as Blackie. Clapton is shown on the front playing a G Major chord with the image continuing around to the back of the gatefold sleeve where the body of the guitar can be seen. Simplistic though the image may seem, it fit this album perfectly and is easily Clapton's most memorable jacket artwork.
The album artwork was designed and created by Eric Clapton, Pattie Boyd, and Dave Stewart. Boyd was the former wife of George Harrison and would eventually marry Clapton who wrote the hit songs "Layla" and "Wonderful Tonight" for her. Their marriage lasted only a few years, but the album cover they designed is timeless.
Pat Boone - In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy
Who can say what possessed Pat Boone to record an album of heavy metal classics but I think we can all agree it was not his usual muse. But even more than the musical mayhem this album provides, you must admit the cover is something to behold. There is Pat, all decked out in leather, with that evil gleam in his eye... no more Mr. Nice Guy indeed! Now before I get struck with a bolt of lightning, let's move on to the real final cover of this hub...
Gamma - 1
Mick Haggerty created the slightly disturbing artwork for Gamma's debut album as well as their second album, a cover featuring two sharks "swimming" in a lawn. As Ronnie Montrose moved away from the straight forward rock style of his previous band Montrose into a more keyboard oriented pop rock sound, he needed a cover to reflect the transition. This jacket revealing the inner workings of a futuristic man was just the ticket. Sadly, this great band was only able to get three albums under its belt before calling it quits though a fourth album was eventually released under the Gamma moniker on Ronnie's own label in 2000. Sadly, Ronnie passed away on March 2, 2012.
TheHeavyReview on March 25, 2012:
Great job, very entertaining! I've always thought that the "Sabotage" cover was a cross between ridiculous and brilliant. The Twisted Sister album cover is always amusing, as well.