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The Art Of Cover Art

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an american prayer

Jim Morrison on the cover of American Prayer

I read a very thought evoking post in Aquarium Drunkard about album covers as appetisers.
When I was much much younger, and CD’s were a futuristic not even thought of concept, there was nothing like listening to a record and looking at the cover.
There was no Internet, and clips were less prevalent than the music. Diving into the cover, spacing out into the artwork, reading the words and the credits and drinking up the photos, was part of the musical experience, at least for me.
Often, when I wanted to here something new, I would choose what to listen to by the cover, and no doubt - I must have missed out on some good music in lousy covers.
But on the other hand, I did find some great music in the same way.... Corney, I know, but I first heard Jim Morrison and the Doors on “The American Prayer” which I chose because of the gorgeous man on the cover.

It turned out to be a great move and one of my favorite albums.


The aquarium Drunkard has a beef with Bob Dylans “Blood on the tracks”

And then there’s Blood on the Tracks. Widely and rightfully considered to be one of Dylan’s best albums, it chronicles his separation from then-wife (and mother of Wallflower Jakob) Sara Dylan and contains many of Dylan’s now-classics (”Tangled Up in Blue,” “Shelter From the Storm,” “Simple Twist of Fate”). It’s an acher of a record: listen to the hurt in Dylan’s voice as he lets her go in “You’re a Big Girl Now” or the lonesome harmonica that kicks off “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” Dig the fierce ramble of “Idiot Wind” and the final kiss-off of “Buckets of Rain” (the despair and confusion in “Buckets of Rain” in particular is enough to make a married man weep). It’s a soulful record, to say the least.

So what on earth is the wet velvet of Blood on the Tracks doing covered by a pixilated, washed-out Dylan and some fuchsia, Nagel-esque graphic design? The sleeve does little to capture the mood of the album, and while it may have been progressive (it predates Duran Duran’s Rio by a good seven years, for instance), it conjures up thoughts of some twitchy Dylan singing through a Vocoder, Trans-style. Biograph, which came out ten years later, is a much more tasteful employment of a similar design aesthetic, one which effectively captures the Bard’s lost, wondering music. Scratch that for Blood on the Tracks; were it not for the record’s epic reputation, I would have most likely never have given it a chance.

I don’t love that cover either, but on the other hand, it does carrying through what Dylan must have been going through at the time. Seperation and drama of that sort can make one feel broken or scattered, and and not quite real, a little hazy if you want...So although it doesn’t do its job in the marketing sense - the cover does work as a continuation of the albums contents.

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment or give me a
.

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