TOP 10 ALBUM COVERS
You aren’t a reputable music review website unless you have a top 10 list. It’s what all the kids are doing. So here is our first Top 10 list dedicated to the lost art of album covers. After a lengthy search through the archives and many, many hours of heavy debate, we agreed upon these 10 glorious pieces of rock art. Some of these you have seen before but they were too good to pass up. Others are long lost gems or recent additions. So take a seat and enjoy the tour through the visual side of rock n roll.
Led Zeppelin – I
Oh the humanity!
Crashing and burning their way into rock and roll history is the self-titled debut of Rock’s Loudest Band Ever! The gritty black-and-white photograph of the Hidenberg igniting in flames gives us a true sense of “shock and awe’. Much like every kid’s reaction the first time they listened to a Zeppelin album.
John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band
Late 1970; The Beatles have just broken up, the public is wondering what to do without them, Paul is trying to perfect the art of cheese rock, George is chanting Hare Krishna, and John Lennon is chilling under a tree. Shot with a consumer grade polaroid camera, this lo-fi shot was the perfect lead in to this lo-fi album that became everything the Beatles weren’t.
The Who – The Who Sell Out
Legend has it that Roger Daltrey caught pneumonia from his baked bean bath during this cover shoot (Apparently the beans were ice cold?). Well Roger, it finally paid off as you made the MOR top ten list, just what you were hoping for I am sure. Pete Townsend took things beyond this flippant cover shot to create his first concept album, complete with fake jingles and commercials linking the tracks.
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
“Dark Side” is one of the more recognizable album covers on the list but also one of the most basic. The scientific nature of the triangle prism reminds us that every step of this whacked-out. psychedelic album has been meticulously thought out. While the music itself bends and weaves all over the place, the destination is always in sight. Nothing is random. Much like the infinite particles of space, there is a “method to the madness” bringing together an infinite palette of sights and sounds. Plus it looks cool under a black-light.
U2 – Rattle and Hum
The cover to U2′s “Ode to American Rock” album perfectly illustrates the contrast of the musical landscape. There aren’t many shades of gray in this musical journey through blues, soul and rock. U2 puts the spotlight on many of their American influences from Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix. From Elvis Presley to BB King. And by focusing on social issues such as the civil rights movement, apartheid and war, the album isn’t afraid to make bold statements in pure black and white. The “spotlight” is also on the band themselves as this is the first release after the landmark “Joshua Tree” album and documents their subsequent tour through the American heartland.
The Beatles – Abbey Road
The boys had grand ambitions for the cover shot of their final album including a shot of themselves on the Himalayas or on the bow of a cruise liner. Instead, they opted to step out back, have a smoke and be done with it. Who knew the shot would become one of the most famous and often imitated covers of all time; serving as the definition of an iconic image. But what about Sgt. Pepper, or Revolver you might ask? Well, there is something about this cover and the album itself that serves as an amicable and harmonious end to the great run that was The Beatles.
Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
You can either be one of the pack, or put your head down and fly right into it. This shot of a falcon going head first into a flock of starlings has a simplistic, organic feel to it; a lot like the album itself. The photo won the Wildlife Photograph of the Year in 2005 and appeared in National Geographic; so why not put in on a rock album. I have this record on vinyl and it catches my eye every time in a sea of other great album covers.
Jeff Beck – Guitar Shop
As a member of the Yardbirds Jeff Beck was hand picked by Jimmy Page to replace Eric Clapton. If Jimmy Page is the “wizard” of rock guitarists then Jeff Beck is most certainly “the mechanic”. It is no surprise that this Grammy-Award winning album features the master instrumentalist rolling up his sleeves to get his hands dirty. The cover depicts the often over-looked guitar great in his natural environment. As a true blue-collar musician. So while Jeff Beck never achieved the commercial success of Clapton or Page, the man still knows his way around a guitar.
Hellacopters – High Visibility
As the only Swedish rock outfit in our Top 10, the Hellacopters’ fourth album “High Visibility” manages to successfully combine two of my favorite things: Dueling guitars with angel wings. Two things you don’t normally see together, but should. Like a bizarro-painting from the Renaissance the long-lost masterpiece brings new meaning to the phrase “a choir of angels”. No harps in this outfit, just a slew of power chords, heavy distortion and few face-melting solos.
The Clash – London Calling
Truth be told, this album cover just barely beat out WISH YOU WERE HERE by fellow Brit rockers Pink Floyd. While I’m a sucker for anyone on fire, this cover really set the tone for a much larger movement. Yes this album cover is iconic. Yes it’s a middle-fingered response to Elvis Presley’s debut record. And YES it captures bassist Paul Simonon right before smashing a guitar to bits. But what really sets this cover apart from all the others is that it’s one of the first album covers in history where a British musician finally looked tough.
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