Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Album Cover Art

Spirit in the Sky, 2006, Oil on Panel, 16x20

All of this talk about music and Dylan reminded me of an experience I had last week while finishing up school shopping at Target. I was looking through the music section, because you know, the kids do need music to listen to for school, heh, and found myself poring over the CD covers. I hadn't realized how out of date I was on seeing the art on CD's, since I have been downloading most new music onto my iPod for the last year or so. One of the reasons I didn't want an iPod was because I wanted to still have all of the printed material that comes with the CD, but I didn't realize how much I would miss the cover art.

When I was in college I had a lot of record albums, and now, it's true, my kids do not know what record albums are. We had planned to give them that old fashioned experience but our turntable broke down when they were babies and we didn't have the energy to try to find someone to repair it. Besides we were well on our way to replacing our music collection with CD's and don't get me started about how much that pisses me off. Soon my CD's will be curious relics from the past, almost are already, since now I get most of my music from itunes. Which will soon be obsolete as well.

But I digress. Seeing the CD's in real life reminded me of how important the art on record albums used to be for us, especially in when I was in art school. Like almost every college student for a generation before us, we used to sit around for hours and hours listening to music and discussing the meaning and artistic quality of so many of the album covers. I used to buy albums based solely on the art that was on the cover, which is how I ended up with some really crappy music in my collection. As art students, we had a number of school projects that involved album covers and getting that kind of job as an illustrator would have been a dream come true for many of us. A whole 144 square inches, amazing exposure for an illustrator! Then CD's started to take over and while the smaller scale was disappointing, at least there was still something to put art on.

Looking at the current crop of CD's made me feel wistful for the loss of yet another public venue for art and illustration though. Seeing art on album covers, book covers and in magazines really inspired me to be an illustrator and while that ended up not being quite right for me I did keep painting (well, after a few detours, of course).

My favorite album cover ever was Anthology of Tom Waits, with the cover art done by Matt Mahurin who was one of my very favorite illustrators.

What was your favorite album cover?

PS. Doug's favorite was Dead Live (AKA Skull and Roses) because it was cool art and as a double album cover it was perfect for cleaning pot. It was the seventies, after all.


Bart said...

I've got a boring (cause no surprise) favourite: The Waterboys - Fisherman's Blues. (It must be the one - I can only see the front cover on the internet)It contained wonderful pictures (1?) of a not too tight English garden, and with a great green colour around it, it looked beautiful.
Never bought the cd - so I haven't been able to listen to it for years... thanks for reminding me!

Tracy said...

Hi Bart,
I have never heard of the Waterboys! I'll see if in they are on iTunes, as the description of their music sounds interesting. I could only find a picture of the front cover too.

Anonymous said...

We've kept all our vinyl, and continue to buy it. My mp3 player is loaded with over 10,000 songs but they won't last. Vinyl will. We have a section of wall space dedicated to album cover art. I made this frame system that allows us to easily change out a nine record square for theme based displays. Currently up: Moog and "sounds of the future" albums.

Steven LaRose

Tracy said...

Hi Steven, I admire you for keeping your vinyl records. We really meant to but after several cross country moves we just couldn't keep everything. We still have a box of our faves though I doubt they are in very good condition. We have a friend that has thousands of albums and he listens to them exclusively and I consider him to be way cool because of that..

Now I am feeling inspired to get a turntable and start combing the flea markets and yard sales.

But what is your favorite album cover art?

Steven LaRose said...

I was trying to avoid answering that question, but you didn't fall for it. If I make a mental tally of how much time I spent looking at any one cover, Herb Albert's Whipped Cream & Other Delights from my parent's colletion wins hands down.

Tracy said...

Ha! Good cover. Were those hours logged in recently or when you were 15?! That's a rhetorical question-I don't think I really want to know!

meno said...

I don't know if this qualifies as cover art, since it was on the back, but i had a serious thing for that picture of Cat Stevens on "Catch Bull at Four." I probably spent several hours gazing at it and hoping that he'd wait for me to become legal age. But, alas, no.

Tracy said...

Meno, Ooohhh, Cat Stevens was SO hot back in the day. Shame on him for not waiting for you!

The Epiphany Artist said...

Moody Blues- Days of Future Passed- I have almost completed a tribute series of paintings to this music. I had the 8 track ;) Bought The CD. I may go look around on eBay for a real record album to collect.