There was a time when artists gave almost as much attention to the covers of their albums as the music inside. Not any more, it seems. Take a look at the covers of most new albums (or in the case of digital downloads, the PDF files that come with them) and it’s usually a bland photo of the musician or band.

The cover of Queen's "Innuendo", inspired by the work of 19th century French caricaturist Grandville

If you want an indication of what I’m talking about, take a gander at the Itunes Store page for Michael Buble, a current rage for his covers of standards, and check out the covers of his albums – ALL but one of them feature nothing more than bland mug shots or boring photos of the artist.

Frank Sinatra's "In the Wee Small Hours" (1955)

Some say the art of the album sleeve was dealt a fatal blow with the advent of the CD – after all, the cover of those ubiquitous silver discs is only about 14 percent the size of an LP record. I don’t agree. There have been numerous CDs with terrific covers like Santana’s “Supernatural” or Queen’s “Innuendo”.

The music of some bands is indelibly linked to the artists who designed their album sleeves, like graphic designer Storm Thorgerson’s groundbreaking covers for Pink Floyd and Roger Dean’s spaced out artwork for prog rock veterans Yes. The continuity in the artwork, in some cases, helped identify the bands almost as much as their music.

Storm Thorgerson's iconic cover for Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon"

Then there was the moody artwork of the jazz albums of the 1950s and 1960s, with the smoke-filled black and white shots of the artists giving a taste of the music within even before you played the LP or CD. My personal favourites include the covers of Frank Sinatra’s albums from this period.

Another explosion in album artwork followed the emergence of concept and rock opera albums, prime examples being The Beatles “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and The Who’s “Tommy“.

With most of today’s kids only seeing album covers on the three or four-inch displays of their mobile phones or MP3 players (that too only when they bother to include the covers in the tags when they rip their music), do folks even care about the artwork?

Ah well, may be all is not lost yet. Folks are talking about the resurgence of vinyl. Maybe there’s hope yet for album artwork.

Do you have any favourite album covers? Chip in and do let me know. If you love album artwork as much as I do, you may want to visit Album Art Exchange and The World’s Greatest LP Album Covers.

Advertisements