I recently discovered the wonderful blog The Turnaround which celebrates the art of the album back cover. It's a simple idea really well executed and inspired me to head into the loft and rummage through my old LPs. In doing so I discovered three things; a) I have an awful lot of dodgy heavy metal albums, b) I take really crap photos & c) my loft is not the most comfortable place to spend a couple of hours. Back in the more comfy sections of our house I had a skim through my CD collection and realised there were some better choices in my post-vinyl purchasing history.
1. Beastie Boys "Licensed To Ill" - The debut album from the Beastie's was a bit of a milestone in my musical journey. The front cover seemed slightly incongruous until you turned it over and realised the plane was crashing headlong into a mountain. Apparently the Beastie's weren't that keen on it but it's become something of an iconic image.
2. David Bowie "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars" - It took me far too long to get into Bowie. I used to work with someone who was a huge fan and was related to the photographer Brian Ward who took both front and back images. I like the use of additional colouring that gives the image an other-world feeling.
3. Rolling Stones "Beggars Banquet" - Another simple idea really well executed. Though perhaps not thought so at the time as both the UK and US record companies rejected the design. The band refused to change it causing a delay in the release of the album. Eventually the Stones gave in, allowing the album to be released with a basic white cover imitating an invitation card. However, the Stones were not to be outdone and took out an advert in the music press to encourage fans to buy the original artwork in a form that they could stick over the released version.
4. Marillion "Fugazi" - I had to include at least one Prog album. Marillion were one of the bands that really got me obsessive about music as I rebelled against the prevailing style of pop in the early 80s. Their album covers were full of detail, hints of song meanings and images snatched from the lyrics. I spent hours listening to music whilst studying record covers, a pastime I miss a little but one you can only get away with when you're a teenager and living at home.
5. Black Sabbath "Sabotage" - Managing to be both hilarious and wonderful at the same time. I own quite a few albums that do the reverse image of the front cover thing (Deep Purple's "Come Taste The Band" and Status Quo's "On The Level" were also contenders) but there's definitely something memorable about Sabotage.