Album Covers to Remember

Music On Walls picked up its favorite cover album from Widewalls "20 FAMOUS ALBUM COVERS YOU NEED TO REMEMBER" 

Texts are by Matt Randal

The sound is certainly the most essential element of the music album, but the powerful role of cover art cannot be ignored. Designs for famous album covers are so compelling that they strike the same emotional resonance with the listeners as the music on them. Originally just a protective cover for the fragile crackly goods beneath, the album cover soon evolved into a space for artistic expression in its own right. The artistic capacity of the album cover was greatly expanded in the 1960s when artists and publishers started commissioning visual artists for the design of their record sleeves, and as the music changed, so did the covers. From the fold-out gatefolds of the vinyl era to pull-out liner notes in CD jewel cases to the small icon on a digital player, the concept of cover art has changed greatly over the years, but it still manages to greatly impact our listening experience to create a totally immersive one. Even though the hard printed music is slowly being replaced by strings of digits we play on our computers and mobile devices, the art of album covers is stronger than ever as it evolves and moves into a more digital world, while retaining the artistic nature of the medium.

Throughout the history of the album cover art, musicians and bands have often commissioned famous artists to produce the visual image for their music. In the recent years, we have been witnessing a steady rise in a number of album covers created by contemporary urban and street artists. It seems that music and graffiti art go well together and that the medium of cover art provides a great, creative platform for urban artists to become more visible.

D*Face for Christina Aguilera

Bionic is a 2010 electropop album by Christina Aguilera, American singer, songwriter, and all round international music superstar. Creator of the wonderful album cover artwork, featuring a cyborg vision of Aguilera’s face, is D*Face, acclaimed English street artist, illustrator and designer, best known for his metaphorical, socially engaged pop artworks. At first look, the image of platinum haired Aguilera may seem to be missing the famed D*Face imagery, but closer examination reveals a great artistic piece and a true visual treat, which perfectly blends big league music industry and D*Face’s stylish, aPOPcalyptic art. It just so happens that Christina Aguilera is also a noted art collector, admirer of D*Face and a proud owner of several of his works.

Ron English for Chris Brown

F.A.M.E. is a 2011 album by R’n’B artist Chris Brown. The artwork was created by Ron English, one of the most recognizable contemporary artists whose unforgettable images can bee seen all around us, on the streets, in museums and galleries, movies, books and on television. Even though English had previously done album covers for artists such as Slash and The Dandy Warhol, his F.A.M.E. album artwork is a masterpiece of the medium and a true representation of English’s POPaganda style, a visually striking mash-up of high and low culture. Brown and English later collaborated on a limited edition release of Made by Monsters’ Dum English toy series.

Street Phantom for Rage Against the Machine

Joey Krebs, also known by his moniker Street Phantom, is an acclaimed street artist from Los Angeles who has been a longstanding force in the local street art scene. He is widely recognized for his simple, yet powerful spray painted icon silhouettes and provocative commentaries of modern day society and its culture. Such is Krebs’ artwork of The Battle of Los Angeles album cover by the cult American alternative rock band Rage Against the Machine, that features a silhouette of a rebel raising his fist. Enjoyed together, music and lyrics of Rage Against the Machine and Krebs’ cover artwork deliver a strong, overwhelming punch, and a powerful audio-visual experience.

RETNA for Carter

The acclaimed Los Angeles based graffiti artist RETNA, is praised around the world for his hypnotic calligraffiti works, inspired by hieroglyphs and Native American typography. In 2009, RETNA and Mike Reese were commissioned to co-design artwork for The Carter Family Reunion album, by hip hop artist Carter. The artwork, showing Carter’s photograph and RETNA’s graffiti intervention on it, is arguably one of the best examples how graffiti inspired album covers can be turned into great, self-sufficient and widely enjoyed pieces of visual art. RETNA’s instantly recognizable cover design features blocks of his distinctive, self constructed script which writes a captivating visual poetry.

Andy Warhol for The Velvet Underground

Before becoming a worldwide famous band, The Velvet Underground was a house band at Andy Warhol’s Factory – his New York studio complex. For the band’s self-titled debut The Velvet Underground & Nico from 1966, the legendary artist designed the album cover featuring a banana designed in his unique Pop Art style. Early copies of the album featured a peel-away yellow banana skin sticker that the listeners could peel to reveal a flesh-colored banana. Since this artwork needed extra money and a special machine to manufacture, it delayed the album release. Yet, the record label decided to invest in it since they believed that the collaboration with Warhol would be a good publicity.

Shephard Fairey for Led Zeppelin

Besides the above-listed artwork for The Smashing Pumpkins, Shepard Fairey has collaborated with many other musicians and bands such as Led Zeppelin, The BlackeEyed Peas, WILL.I.AM, Sepultura and Joan Jett, among others. In 2007, he was asked to do the package for Led Zeppelin’s two CD one DVD greatest hits package Mothership. He also created a limited run of screen prints. “The opportunity to for me to hitch a ride on the coat tails of such an influential band is an honor and a coup”, explained the artist.