I’ve written posts in the past celebrating the great cover art of Blue Note, Impulse, and other labels. Coltrane’s Impressions lp on Impulse, the David Hamilton-esque cover of Blind Faith’s iconic lp, the graphic design genius of Reid Miles, Francis Wolff, Chuck Stewart, Izzy Sanabria, and other keepers of the lp cover art flame. Not to mention the immortal photography of Herman Leonard and William Claxton. And don’t forget Mati Klarwein’s visionary cover art for Miles’ Bitches Brew and Santana’s Abraxas (subject of an earlier RP post). Alas, I wax nostalgic.
Album cover art was dealt a mean blow by the advent of cd’s.
The impact of the cover graphic was now diminished, and often the liner notes were poorly scanned and you’d need a magnifying glass if you didn’t want to go blind reading them. And to think of all those liner notes I used to write for lp’s, back in the day. They’re now hidden from view, in miniscule four point type and consigned to the interior of the cd booklet.
Then came mp3’s, ipods, and laptops. Out went cover art for the most part.
I’ve bought albums just for the covers. The ESP-DISK The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, with Sun Ra pictured next to Galileo, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, Copernicus, and other great cosmologists. Coltrane’s gorgeous Impressions cover. Miles Davis with his wife Frances Taylor on the cover of ESP, just after a fight and glaring at one another. Archie Shepp’s strange cover on his album Four for Trane (Coltrane at the bottom of an indoor staircase wearing bedroom slippers).
Now it’s time to look at some bad cover art. You used to get a good taste of it when walking into the sacred portals of Rhino Records in Westwood, RIP. Fortunately we now have Amoeba Music in Hollywood and the Bay Area, which also puts cornball, atrocious, and just plain-old bad taste album covers up on the walls. Some of them are painful, but always fun. Too bad they’re displayed so high up!!