Friday, January 8, 2010



The right album cover is essential. It's often what draws us in or makes us pay attention to something we've never heard before. It provides the images that can summarize the meaning and the tone, the very heart, of the music's story. Can you imagine Avalon by Roxy Music without the cover? The Runaways without the photos? One of the all-time great covers was the first album by the The Durutti Column, which was made of sandpaper in order to scratch whatever record sleeves where next to it. Another great concept was Public Image Ltd.'s Metal Box which was packaged in a metal film canister. Christina Carter's releases on her own Many Breaths Press are all handmade and often come with pages of books, watercolor paintings, tissue paper, and even shreds of her diary in them. There is a long history of artists who have done significant work with album covers, among them: Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Mati Klarwein, Richard Avedon, and Annie Leibovitz, just to name a few. Several artists often work extensively for certain labels or artists. These are the best in the business:

Kim Hiorthøy for Rune Grammofon/Smalltown Supersound
Maya Miller for Heavy Tapes

Dennis Tyfus for Ultra Eczema

Peter Saville for Factory Records

The Designers Republic for Warp

Jon Wozencroft for Touch

Julian House for Ghost Box

Klas Augustsson for Häpna

Hedi Slimane for Phoenix, Gaga, etc

23 Envelope for 4AD

Now on to the covers. Two of the album covers closest to my heart are the Peter Hujar photos of Candy Darling on her deathbed as used by Antony & The Johnsons. For some reason, I just didn't feel right adding them to my list. These 22 images are everything that a great cover should be - iconic, bewildering, mystifying, and not easily forgotten.

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