Nick, neé Saint, tasked me with presenting five of my favourite album covers. Now I listen to a lot of music and see a lot of album covers hence this was a uniquely difficult challenge but I have narrowed it down to 5 favourites (of many). This is a sample range and not necessarily indicative. I have many more to share, which I may do in further posts, but my client instructed me to provide you with 5 and you shall be provided 5. In no particular order then:
The Stranglers – Rattus Norvegicus
I saw a rat on my way home this evening after considering the task Nick had set me and decided it was a sign. Why do I like this? It encapsulates the Stranglers for me. They are in a gloomy country house which is badly lit. Dave Greenfield and Jean Jaques Burnell are at the forefront with Jet Black and lead singer Hugh Cornwell in the background almost. There are four horrifying stuffed animals around the archway which give an added eery feel to the cover. This was what the Stranglers were about, shocking excellence. A much needed and powerful serum at a time when Abba’s Greatest Hits were at the top of the charts.
Peter Gabriel – Plays Live
I bought the vinyl of this album when I was in Newcastle in the Before Time. I bought it on a whim and at my father’s direction. I showed him the cover and said ‘this is pretty cool’, to which he responded ‘this is one of the best live albums ever’. He was correct of course. In and above being a spectacular, colourful, angular and precise cover, with the perfect font, the album is staggering. San Jacinto in particular sticks to mind. What stellar makeup!
ELO – Out of the Blue
Birmingham’s best band, of three, ELO set the bar high for album covers. Frequently space themed and invariably explosions of colour, they rank highly in the spectrum of cover art. I chose Out of the Blue partly because it is my favourite ELO album, with Live at Wembley a close second, but also because this is the first I heard on vinyl. I still have my tattered copy here and listen to it frequently. This is a dazzling, finely conceived, beautiful piece of art, in and above everything else.
Kraftwerk – Tour De France
This was and continues to be one of my favourite albums for revision or knuckling down and getting some work done. Recently I have using Electric Cafe/ Techno Pop as my album of focus but this remains the best album cover of this monumental band for me. The colourful, precise nature of this cover makes it so striking. The brilliant decision of using the colours of the French flag, supporting the Tour de France concept, with the four members of Kraftwerk cycling through the white band blows my mind. Much like the track in the album, the cover is aerodynamic.
Grace Jones – Island Life
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention Jean Paul Goude’s photographic masterpiece cover of Grace Jones’ Island Life. This was the last record of hers released on the Island label and is a compilation of her tracks from her albums Portfolio, Muse, Fame, Warm Leatherette, Living My Life, Nightclubbing and Slave to the Rhythm. This cover is iconic for many reasons, the simplicity of the background, the tiny mike, the shocking red garment and of course the striking impossible pose. Having invested in a number of Goude’s books, I happen to know how Goude made this photograph possible but won’t spoil it for you. I will say that that is not Grace’s bottom… Overall, a stunning gob smacking iconic and unforgettable cover.
My thanks to Nick for this great project.