I have had this coffee table book for at least 7-8 years. My wife knows of my love for music and she got me this book on album covers that mostly covers the 50’s to the 70’s. Thankfully, there aren’t that many words and it is mostly a picture book as that is all I can really handle.
Album artwork was really at its peak in the 70’s and the book commemorates that era with this great collection of album covers. The collection was first released in 1977 and has been updated many times since. This edition from 2008 was the newest edition at the time. They included a Preface by Peter Gabriel and an additional Foreward by John Wetton of King Crimson.
One of the coolest things about the book is it is edited by two of the masters of album artwork. First you have Storm Throgerson, the founder of the company Hipgnosis and they were famous for their album covers for Pink Floyd among others. He also does an additional Foreward.
The other editor is Roger Dean whose dreamscape images adorned the album covers of Yes. Both were able to blend the album artwork and actually make it a part of the music.
The book walks you through a brief history of the record and then takes you through how the album jacket came to be in existence. It is an interesting story of how it developed over the years and how each genre had its own style as well as how the time period definitely is reflected in the artwork shown. I actually would have enjoyed a more in depth look into the matter as it was fascinating.
After reading the book and viewing all the artwork (and it is artwork), I have a whole new appreciation for what goes into the album jacket. One of the things that I learned (or had forgotten and now remember) was that Andy Warhol had done some artwork for album covers. He did a couple covers for Kenny Burnell albums, but I think the two most famous are probably ‘Sticky Fingers’ by the Rolling Stones and that banana on the cover of Velvet Underground & Nico’s album. Once I saw that particular album cover, I was like…duh, of course Warhol did album covers. I had just forgotten (sucks getting old).
The book is broken up into 7 different sections. They are as follows:
- Jazz – This covered the 50’s as the Jazz covers were where the real artwork began on album jackets. It wasn’t until rock became prominent in the 60’s until there was any other artwork matched the beauty of the jazz covers.
- Psychedelia – It is the 60’s and this style defined an era. It was colorful, very abstract at times, and you probably needed to be doing some serious drugs to understand or even see what was being shown.
- Golden Years – This section covers the 60’s & 70’s. This section is celebrating the beauty of the photography, graphics and overall design of the album jacket regardless of what the music. One of my favorite album covers is in this section. The Emerson, Lake & Palmer cover for ‘Brain Salad Surgery’
- Influence & Coincidence – This part of the book focuses on album covers with similar designs, themes or coincidental approaches to design whether it be cars, naked women, portraits, or really any subject matter. The last page are album covers that are ‘rock nightmares’ as they say in the book.
- Miscellany – This section covers various packaging strategies which includes logo themes carried out from album to album or even the stylized lettering used on the albums.
- Portfolios – Here they cover 8 different designers and do little portfolios on each.
- Devices & Disguises – The 70’s saw a lot of ingenuity of the album cover design, such as The Who’s ‘Tommy’. These album designs are outside the box thinking and changing things up from the simple album jacket. They take the artwork to the next level and bring all the creativity they can muster.
For a casual music fan, this book will do nothing for you. However, for those of us that love everything about music, this book is an exciting look back through the history of album artwork. With the resurgence of Vinyl today, this is one of the main reasons that form of music listening is still enjoyed and appreciated today. The book is large as it was purposely made to be the same dimensions as a typical vinyl jacket, only much thicker with all the pages. You will have over 155 pages and 600 album covers to explore and enjoy. If you see it, pick it up as you won’t be able to put it down.