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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Favorite Album Covers, Part 3

In which I look at my fave LP sleeves of pop/rock history. This is part 3, going from 1975 through 1981. Part four will cover the 80s through the present, then I will present my all-time top five, making 45 total covers in all. As always, thanks for reading.

Relatively Clean Rivers, 1975. A psychedelically-inspired 70s album that only sold a few dozen copies, at best, RCR's recent rediscovery is our gain, not least for its stony, well-structured California rock as for its funny and extremely eye-catching and eye-popping sleeve. Who is this guy? What river is this? I want to know!

, Tangerine Dream, 1975. Just a lovely photo.

Blondie, 1976. The standard "pretty girl in front" tactic gets an interesting spin: Debbie Harry is not only in front, she's almost blocking the rest of the band! You can see bassist Gary Valentine--soon to be an EX-Blondie--shifting his head, trying hard to be seen, while the other fellas seem to accept their fate with some resignation. Each album, Blondie changed its typeface, and never had a distinct logo; this is my favorite lettering of theirs and overall my favorite American new-wave cover.

This Year's Model
, Elvis Costello, 1978. I prefer the British image of the album, where you can see him speaking to you as if you are the object. Having him interacting with you, photographing you, while he's being photographed is, I think, the very point of the exercise. One of the most effective and, to me, inviting shots ever on an album. The four-color bar on the right, simulating a photo proof sheet, is a nice little piece of detail.

Jesus of Cool
, Nick Lowe, 1978. Nick Lowe, for many years rock's resident wit, decided to take the piss out of his contemporaries for his first solo album. The American version (retitled 'Pure Pop for Now People' to save our virgin ears, perhaps) had a few different shots.

One Step Beyond, Madness, 1979. This is among the best images to come out of the punk and postpunk movements. It sums up this fine pop band's indomitable spirit of fun.

Wild Planet
, the B-52s, 1980. I like this even more than the shot from their debut album. The electrifying red, which makes everything pop out at the viewer, is appropriate for an album including songs about the Devil, strobe lights, wild parties, nuclear energy, and being lost in space. All five of the '52s look primo, half-real and half-cartoon. The inner bag, of a leopard print on green, is cool too.

Get Happy!!, Elvis Costello & the Attractions, 1980. For a long time I thought this was the best album cover ever. It still holds up extremely well for its perfectly executed palate of bright pop colors and its almost crass triple-portrait of Costello. The ringwear on the British album cover is almost too cute, but it works here because it's all of a piece.

Pretenders, 1980. While the basic leather/black/white/red color scheme wasn't especially new, the quality of the band's faces and poses was jarring enough to be eye-catching, and the art deco lettering kept it from being either too "New Wave" or too retro-60s. Most of the Pretenders' sleeves feature faboo no-bullshit portraits.

The Flowers of Romance, Public Image Ltd., 1981. What is this woman doing with a pestle? Is she going to bash my brains in with it? Don't those thorns hurt? Whatever...I'm intrigued. While it has little to do with the content, this cover image dovetails perfectly with the sometimes amateurish, sometimes aggressive, but very beautiful music inside.


Anonymous Joyce said...

I've really enjoyed this whole series. This group is my favorite so far because a lot of these covers seem to sum up the personas of the bands or singers so perfectly..Blondie, Madness, Elvis Costello, which then invites you into exploring the music.

And I also like the Relatively Clean Rivers one because it's almost like an ad agency brainstormed a 'standard' 70's album cover--and came up with this.

Great reading!

2:45 PM, September 10, 2009

Blogger Bob Purse said...

I'm also enjoying this, even though, or perhaps because - it again shows a real dichotomy in our tastes, and it's interesting to hear you go into detail about why you like certain things. You definately have a more wide ranging palette (sp?) for album art than I do, or at least it goes in a different direction.

I really like that Clean Rivers cover - I love Blue, for one thing - and "This Year's Model" is fabulous, too. A couple of the other ones are really nice, too.

I was struck by your comment about the "Get Happy" cover being your all time favorite at one time, as I've always thought that one looked garish and tossed off quickly! I'd put that at the other end of the scale!

3:08 PM, September 15, 2009


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