Album Art The Enticing Factor…
I wonder just how many of us over the many years have actually gone out and brought an album without even hearing anything from the actual record, and brought it purely down to the fact that the albums artwork enticed us to purchase it?. I know I certainly have over the many decades I have been buying music. No doubt I dare say that quite a few of us have as well. But does every picture tell a story, or even the right story for that matter ?.
One should never judge a book by its cover so to speak, and its certainly true one also does not get what they was hoping to get by buying an album just because the artwork happens to look good. There is no doubt the artwork can draw a person in and even entice them enough to buy the actual album, and it may not always be the music that is the attraction, though I would certainly say the music is, and should be the biggest attraction and not the artwork. Especially in the case of if the album that looked so good on the outside, proves to be so very disappointing with what they actually put on the inside with the material they put on the actual album itself.
Selling music is just the same as selling any product in reality. The whole idea of the artwork is all part of the package, and the better it looks, the more appealing and enticing it is to attract the customer to purchase it. For the vinyl collector it could be said that the artwork is certainly more of an attraction than the music itself in some way I suppose. The much smaller compact disc (CD) is not as eye catching in comparison to the 12 inch vinyl album, even though the sound quality of the recording is just as good, and in some cases much better.
These days nearly all recordings are digital anyway and most old analogue master tapes have been transferred to digital simply because they had to preserve them because tape deteriorates over the years. The only real analogue recordings to be found these days, and chances of getting hold of them, Is by going out and buying second hand vinyl albums from many moons ago I am afraid.
So no doubt the biggest attraction for all vinyl lovers is the size of the albums artwork on the cover. Though in all fairness, both music and art can be seen as ART. Although when buying music I would of thought the music was much more important than the artwork that gets put on the cover. That’s most likely why The Beatles opted for a plain white album cover on their 9th studio album that became known as the White Album. Because to them it was always the music that was important to them, and not the packaging.
Over the many years of buying music I have come across some amazing album covers, that in my opinion are much better than the music that is on the record. A perfect example would certainly have to be Led Zeppelin’s 5th studio album Houses Of The Holy. I also think that this is the best artwork put on any of their albums and is certainly more like something Roger Dean would of done rather than the people who were behind it which was Hipgnosis.
No doubt the artwork we have here would of attracted many to buy it, but for me personally the best thing about this album is the actual album cover and not the music on the album. Even the production work on this album was dire, and the material was certainly not up to the bands usual high standards, and was a very poor attempt of Led Zeppelin trying to go more commercial by writing pop songs. To which in reality were not even in league with the many pop artists who were writing songs in a more commercial way and putting them out as singles back then.
This album really sucked and was amongst one of their worst ever albums. I certainly think more effort went into the artwork than the record. I dare say that if you was to make an album cover like this these days, you may very well get arrested and be accused of being some sort of pervert as well :))))))).
Speaking of these days and how things have changed over the years. This next album done by Magenta’s main man Robert Reed shows how not much thought went into this particular artwork he chose for his first solo album Sanctuary. Now this is a guy who chose to emulate the work of Mike Oldfield with what he does regarding his own solo material. To be honest just like him being a fan of Oldfield myself I love what he does regarding this solo project of his, and this is certainly a case of the music being much better than the artwork he chose for this solo debut album of his.
This particular image I had seen on the internet for more than a decade before it wound up being the cover of his first solo album. Even though the water could be seen as life it’s perhaps not how I would describe “Sanctuary”. I would associate it with more of picture of paradise and some sort of safe haven. Even by glancing at the symbol that is formed with the water here, it’s not the symbol of sanctuary either which is more like this below.
The symbol the water has formed here is perhaps something more like that we seen on Patrick Moraz’s debut album back in 1976. As seen in this artwork of his album below.
To be honest even though the artwork for Robert Reed’s debut album is not as fitting as the artwork done for both Patrick Moraz’s and even Mike Oldfield’s debut albums which may have been more fitting. I personally feel the music speaks better on all 3 albums than the artwork. Though the best artwork of those 3 albums I would certainly give to Tubular Bells as the most fitting to the actual music that is on the record.
Out of the little artwork I have presented here, no doubt the only real artwork out of all 4 of the albums I have mentioned so far. Tubular Bells is certainly the winner when it comes to marrying up the artwork to the music. To be honest it’s very hard to get a perfect match to the music on any album. For example as good as King Crimson’s debut album cover really is, the only song on that album it really represents is “21st Century Schizoid Man“. As for the rest of the material on the album, it says very little in relation to the artwork at all.
I personally feel that the artwork that was done for King Crimson’s much more later album The Power To Believe was certainly more fitting when you are taking onboard all the albums tracks that were written for the album, and not just a single track like “21st Century Schizoid Man” that really pinpoints and focuses the albums artwork on that track alone, and that is not even the albums title either. So how does the artwork done for their debut album really say a thing about the albums title In The Court Of The Crimson King. It doesn’t, no matter how striking it looks.
Whereas the artwork for their 2003 album The Power To Believe is much more fitting and not only suits the albums self titled track, but the rest of the material that was written for it as well. If you are going to match the music to the artwork The Power To Believe is the real winner out of these 2 albums. But that is not to say that the music is better than what we have on In The Court Of The Crimson King and that really is a classic album and one where many would consider even its artwork to be the best. But you cannot deny the fact that it does not fit the albums title and certainly not the biggest majority of the music on the album.
Roger Dean as always been one of my favourite prog rock artists, but not even most of his artwork genuinely suits the music that’s been put on a lot of the albums he done the artwork for. He does not just do artwork for prog rock artists ether. For example this artwork was done for the so called British Afro pop band Osibisa who were formed in London England back in 1969 and consisted of four expatriate African and three Caribbean musicians. Some may even say they was progressive rock but they had more of a feel for funked up jazz with a load of African percussion thrown into the equation for good measure.
I would even say these guys had a lot of soul in their music too, and was not a bad band at all. But even though they resided in England they very much tried to bring the African Jungle to it judging by Roger Dean’s artwork and this is quite fitting to their self titled debut album. I very much think that Dean had heard the music beforehand to get the right feel and inspiration for the artwork and it works.
Roger Dean’s most noted work would of certainly been for the band Yes. His futuristic vision is bang on for the futuristic music the band present to you in the style of symphonic prog rock. Yes music back in its heyday from The Yes Album up to Relayer certainly sounded like something that was way ahead of its time and came from another planet, simply because there was nothing else quite like it on this planet.
Roger Dean’s work for the bands triple live album Yessongs was certainly breathtaking and fitted the music right down to a tee. The same could be said of his works on the albums Close To The Edge. Tales from Topographic Oceans and Relayer.
They are all pretty much outstanding fine pieces of art to which the art of the music they was put to, said it all very much spot on. Both the artwork and music was very much a perfect marriage. My least favourite artwork from the Yes albums I mentioned would have to be the artwork done for Fragile. Though no doubt the fact that it showed a planet with pieces breaking away from it, it did very much fit the albums title.
Although just as colourful as the artwork Dean done for Steve Howe’s debut album Beginnings. The music Howe did on that album did not really match the beauty of the artwork. Though I do quite like the album a lot and it’s cover is Fantastic.
I would even say that Dean’s artwork he did for the rock band Budgie was not exactly fitting to the bands music. But nevertheless they was amazing covers especially my favourite album of theirs Never Turn Your Back On A Friend.
There is no doubt all these works of art done for these albums certainly benefited more on the vinyl album rather than the miniaturised versions of them you get on a CD. Some works of art even gave you something that bit more special being released on vinyl too, such as this classic album of Jethro Tull’s from 1972.
Although the album looked the same size of a conventional vinyl album. It had a newspaper inside and a folded flap to open it up into a full size newspaper just like you would buy in the shops back in the 70’s. It was also the same size of your Evening Standard to which were much bigger than they are these days.
The whole album Thick As A Brick was very much a spoof of a concept album just like the newspaper was a complete spoof with its main headlines about little Milton, and was all done in the same humorous style of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Both the album cover and album went together like two peas in a pod and was a perfect example of some of the quality you got with the vinyl album.
I would even say that if you did not enjoy the music that much, you still got your money’s worth out of the comical satire that was printed in the newspaper. But for me personally this as always been my ultimate favourite Jethro Tull album, and it’s not all about the rather funny newspaper either, and it’s the music that speaks to me the most about this GREAT! package. But no doubt the album cover was certainly a massive bonus.
For my final look at album art and how it marries up to the music on the record. I thought I would return to the same album art designers that I opened up with Hipgnosis. By the looks of things on this album released back in 1973 they was perhaps “Shaping” things up to the music that was put on the record :)))))).
Pink Floyd’s classic album Dark Side Of The Moon may not look that impressive by just looking at the triangular shape and the lines they drew on a black background. If you was to just look at the shape and lines literally and stare them in the face, there is no doubt that it says very little about the music that’s on the record. It’s certainly more boring in relation to the cover done by the same designers who did Led Zeppelin’s album Houses Of The Holy. So just what makes this particular design so special or even interesting ?.
Well no doubt this is an object where one has to use their mind to really make anything out of it, otherwise the shapes we have here are nothing more than your average child would of drawn on a piece of paper at school or at home. Another strange thing that pops into people’s minds about this particular album cover. Is that for some reason in the many TV documentaries and all those who mention the albums artwork. The name Storm Thorgerson immediately springs to mind.
But in reality he had very little to do with the artworks final design we have here at all. But he was the one who got the inspiration for it from this photograph he had seen in a photography book, and the original photo he seen is the one pictured below.
The whole idea in the first place for the albums artwork came from the bands member Richard Wright who suggested to the team at Hipgnosis that he wanted something bold and simple. To be honest the original photo above says a lot more about refracting light from a prism than the flat objects we have on the front of the album cover. George Hardie was also actually the man behind the album covers design and it was he who simplified the original photo that Thorgerson had seen in the book.
Although Thorgerson did suggest to Hardie that the back of the cover should have another prism recombining the spectrum of light. Which basically was an upside down version of front cover as shown in this picture below. (Please note this is not the back of the original vinyl album from 1973 though the image is the same).
Both the albums artwork and the stickers that was originally on the front were done by George Hardie and it was Roger Waters idea to continue the spectrum of light on the inside of the Gatefold Sleeve and the visual representation of the heartbeat sound running through it as shown below.
The albums design is said to represent 3 elements: 1. The band’s stage lighting. 2. The album lyrics and 3. Wright’s request for a “simple and bold” design. Rather strange since it supposed to represent the title of the album, and I guess you have to use your own imagination and eclipse the idea to work out just how that works. No doubt the music on the album is way better than it’s simplistic design. But over the many years other people may have a much better idea of how they see it with some of the designs they have done around it all.
So to conclude my discussion of album art and how it can entice one into buying music because of the effect it can have on some people. There can be no doubt that it does very much play a part in it all. In the past I have found myself walking into a record shop to buy a specific album I had in mind of purchasing before I left my house. And ended up walking out of the shop with something else instead, just because the artwork was indeed enticing and attracting and drawing my attention to it.
Though that was something I would of done many moons ago, and not so much today. But even though I no longer collect vinyl these days and mainly buy CD’s/Blu Ray’s and DVD’s. I will quite often (particularly when I buy CD’s) end up paying more for it just because it comes in a cardboard DigiPak or DigiSleeve rather than buying it cheaper in a plastic Jewel Case. This is basically because both DigiPaks and DigiSleeves do look more like a miniature representation of the vinyl album, and in all honesty you simply cannot beat how the artwork looks on a 12 inch vinyl sleeve.
My main reason for no longer buying vinyl these days, is really down to storage space and I simply cannot be arsed to keep getting up to turn over the record :))))). To be honest I like all music formats apart from the Cassette. And no way could I go back to using those things again, and in today’s world there is no reason to either. But just because any album comes with a bad artwork cover. The music should be the real thing you buy it for, and not the artwork no matter how good it looks. But it’s a bonus perhaps when they both marry up to each other.
2 thoughts on “Lee Speaks About Other Oddities… #3”
The artwork can grab the attention of the interested listener at first, though the music should be the central part of the whole package. I agree with your statement. I suggest, that in today’s musical world, where people skip fast through hundreds of songs the artwork is even more important to let someones’ eye stop at your album. Back in the days, when you had to spend serious money for a CD or Vinyl I thought twice about a purchase and had not bought anything just because of a nice cover. The artwork can be a very important part of the whole concept and I still remember how the YES-fans became upset because of the cover of Tormato.
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No doubt even Yes was upset by the cover of Tormato. The original album was supposed to be called Yes Tor and when they seen the artwork Hipgnosis had done they chucked a load of Tomatoes at it and that’s how it end up with the name. Jon Anderson was to blame cause he fell out with Roger Dean before they done the album Going For The One that came before it. Steve Howe was not happy with Anderson’s decision not to use Roger Dean as well. I remember reading all about it in the Melody Maker before the album was released. Both the artwork and the album was disappointing in my opinion.