Top 15 Best Album Covers

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March 27, 2009 by MK

Feel sorry for kids raised on mp3’s.  They’re missing out on a major component of musical enjoyment:  Album art.  And great covers almost always coincide with a fitting title and quality music to form an integral part of the whole package.  Viva la vinyl!

Limit 1 per artist/band (I’m looking at you, plethora of awesome Pink Floyd covers!).

15.  Outkast ~ Stankonia

outkaststankonia

You are entering the United States of Outkast.  There’s a Riot Goin’ On circa 2000.

14.  Johnny Cash ~ At Folsom Prison

at-folsom-prison

The Man in Black caught hard at work, mid-sweat.  “Yes.  I am this cool.”

13.  The Strokes ~ Is This It

is-this-it

The original and vastly superior version.  Very Rolling Stones.  If the Rolling Stones were still making good records in 2001.

12.  The Grateful Dead ~ Shakedown Street

shakedown

The perfect companion for the title track – funky, loose and vibrant. The ‘must-be-true’ Wikipedia says:

The album cover art for Shakedown Street was drawn by Gilbert Shelton, creator of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and other popular titles from the San Francisco underground comics scene.

11.  Pearl Jam ~ Vs.

vs

The original title, Five Against One, further illustrates the mindset of the band and the music in 1993.  In-your-face and ready for a fight.  “I will hold the candle til it burns up my arm / Oh, I’ll keep takin’ punches until their will grows tired.”  The ‘must-be-true’ Wikipedia says:

The black and white picture on the album’s front cover is of a sheep from a farm in Hamilton, Montana.

10.  Sufjan Stevens – Illinois

illinoise

Illinois needs to put this on the border as their “Welcome” sign.  The ‘must-be-true’ Wikipedia says:

Because of legal issues regarding the artwork, Asthmatic Kitty Records briefly stopped sales of the album and asked retailers to do the same. Though not stated explicitly in the label’s notice, the cover’s depiction of Superman, a comic book character which is the property of DC Comics, is assumed to have been the source of the legal problems. On the vinyl edition released in November, Superman’s image is covered by a balloon sticker.

9.  The Who By Numbers

bynumbers

Connect-the-dots courtesy of bassist-extraordinaire John Entwistle.

8.  Led Zeppelin ~ Houses of the Holy

housesholy

Zeppelin were masters at packaging in particular (see the 4 “surprise” covers of In Through The Out Door).  The ‘must-be-true’ Wikipedia says:

The cover art for Houses of the Holy was inspired by the ending of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End (The ending involves several hundred million naked children, only slightly and physically resembling the human race in basic forms). It is a collage of several photographs which were taken at the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland, by Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis.

7.  The White Stripes ~ White Blood Cells

white_blood_cells

The best use of the black, white and red color scheme found throughout White Stripes lore.

6.  Nirvana ~ Nevermind

nirvana-nevermind

Captures the cynicism, humor and boldness of Cobain’s approach.  The ‘must-be-true’ Wikipedia says:

According to Cobain, he conceived the idea while watching a television program on water births with Grohl. Cobain mentioned it to Geffen’s art director Robert Fisher. Fisher found some stock footage of underwater births but they were too graphic for the record company. Also, the stock house that controlled the photo of a swimming baby that they subsequently settled on wanted $7,500 a year for its use, so instead Fisher sent a photographer to a pool for babies to take pictures.

5.  Elvis Costello ~ Armed Forces

armed-forces

As the songs within spell out, Love is War.  And it will trample you underfoot.

4.  Pink Floyd ~ Wish You Were Here

wishyouwerehere

There are many possibilities for top Pink Floyd album cover (Atom Heart Mother, Animals and Dark Side of the Moon to name a few), but this iconic image takes the cake.  The ‘must-be-true’ Wikipedia says:

The original vinyl release was intended to be shrouded in an anonymous, all-black plastic wrapper.  Removing this outer wrapper then revealed the proper artwork with its now-famous cover: the flaming businessman, shaking hands with his counterpart. Three other photographs on the back and inner sleeve represented the remaining elements: a faceless salesman selling Pink Floyd products in the desert (earth); a naked female figure in a grove, barely visible behind a windswept red veil (air); and a splash-less diver half submerged in Mono Lake (water). A postcard with an alternate version of the latter picture – and “Wish you were here” written on the back – was also included.

3.  The Beatles ~ The White Album

the-white-album

How do you top the iconic assemblage of Sgt. Pepper’s?  You don’t.  For The White Album, the Beatles simply let the crazy-enough-already music speak for itself.  The ‘must-be-true’ Wikipedia says:

The album’s sleeve was designed by Richard Hamilton, a notable pop artist who had organized a Marcel Duchamp retrospective at the Tate Gallery the previous year. Hamilton’s design was in stark contrast to Peter Blake’s vivid cover art for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and consisted of a plain white sleeve. The band’s name was discreetly embossed slightly below the middle of the album’s right side, and the cover also featured a unique stamped serial number, “to create,” in Hamilton’s words, “the ironic situation of a numbered edition of something like five million copies.” Indeed, the artist intended the cover to resemble the “look” of conceptual art, an emerging movement in contemporary art at the time.

2.  Neil Young ~ On the Beach

onthebeach

If David Lynch did album covers.  Beautifully cryptic, the artwork seems like a series of clues into the psyche of Neil Young in Nixon’s America.  Newspaper headline (below table) reads:  “Senator Buckley Calls for Nixon to Resign.”

1.  The Clash ~ London Calling

london-calling

Rock & F*cking Roll.  The ‘must-be-true’ Wikipedia says:

The album’s cover features a photograph of Paul Simonon smashing his Fender Precision Bass against the stage at The Palladium in New York City on 21 September 1979 during the “Clash Take the Fifth” US tour. Pennie Smith, who photographed the band for the album, originally did not want the photograph to be used. She thought that it was too out of focus, but Strummer and graphic designer Ray Lowry thought it would make a good album cover. The cover artwork was designed by Lowry and was a homage to the design of Elvis Presley’s debut album.

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3 thoughts on “Top 15 Best Album Covers

  1. […] 15 Best Album Covers [Alternate Universe] 21 05 2009 Because the first one has been so popular and there are so many great album covers out there, the Top 15 returns with a […]

  2. Don says:

    You have some very good picks there but, though I love The White Stripes, that album cover is so bad its hilarious.

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