Saturday, May 23, 2020

#29 - OK Computer: Radiohead (1997)

Most album covers are representational. No matter how odd they might be (and there’s plenty of odd stuff in this blog), they are very rarely abstract. And that’s why I like this one. 

Now, it’s not totally abstract, of course. But it is rather hard to tell exactly what’s going on here.

The artists include band front man Thom Yorke, along with artist Stanley Donwood (AKA Dan Rickwood). The two met at Exeter University, where they both studied art. Donwood actually has designed all of Radiohead’s stuff (often with help from Yorke), and is considered by some to the band’s “sixth man.”

What was Donwood trying to accomplish here? I’ll let him speak for himself: “At the time I was consumed with thoughts of nuclear winter, denuded trees, dust-filled empty highways and houses with no glass left in the windows and no life left in the rooms. White was the colour of death and no mistakes could be erased; only covered up; only concealed, rather ineptly. Only hidden, but badly. If I had known then what I know now I probably wouldn't have bothered to get up in the morning. The last twenty years have been quite horrific; the fiendish aggression of the Twentieth Century bleeding into the new millennium with a vengeance.”

Whoa! Well, one thing I always did like about the band was its pessimistic and very non-commercial outlook. But really?

The album is indeed a downer. Incredible music, but a very bleak look at our modern world. 

As for that music, the band is surprising popular for a group that has produced some pretty avant-garde stuff. In fact, they often remind me of some of my favorite contemporary classic composers – Crumb, Riley, Penderecki, et al. That said, there is also some stuff of theirs that is definitely a struggle, even for me. Of course, they then go and mix it up with some hard rockers like “Electioneering” and sweet ballads like “In Rainbows.”

Here are some more Donwood album covers I particularly like:

Donwood's also the creator of the famous Radiohead bear, by the way:
Let's end with two shots of the band, then and now:

Saturday, May 16, 2020

#30 - Eat a Peach: The Allman Brothers (1972)

First of all, this album cover has nothing whatsoever to do with Duane Allman’s fatal motorcycle wreck. No less an authority than weighs in that Duane was taken out by a flat bed with some logging apparatus on the back, and not a peach truck.

Same with the back cover:

Berry Oakley, in a second motorcycle fatality for the band, crashed into a city bus, not a watermelon truck. Oh well, they do make for good stories.

So, whence the title? Though some cite T.S. Eliot (are they insane?), it’s actually just a reference to oral sex – i.e., the peaches were of the “the two-legged Georgia variety."

As for the artist, I think he was simply trying to channel the incredible fruit crate labels of yore. That’s how fruit was displayed in markets at one time, with the labels helping sell the produce as much as anything else.

There are plenty of great orange, apple, and other ones out there as well:

By the way, that artist was W. David Powell, and he actually got the idea from some old promotional post cards he had seen in an antique store. I think the idea was that the produce grown down South was so bountiful that it had to be shipped by rail or truck, one fruit at a time. Indeed, the original title of the album had been “The Kind We Grow in Dixie.” 

Of course, we can’t end this post without a nod to the inner cover:

And that was designed by Powell and his brother, James Flournoy Holmes. 

The two actually had their own company, Wonder Graphics.  Powell’s got 6 album credits, and Holmes just over 100. Here’s one I like from Powell, and a bunch I like from Holmes:

The album was one of my faves as a teen – “Melissa,” “Blue Sky,” “Martha” … A Southerner myself, I do appreciate my Southern rock ‘n roll. Among all the Lynrd Skynrds, Marshall Tucker Bands, the 38 Specials, these guys are heads and tails above the rest.

My favorite photo of the band … and arguably the best bad shot of all time:

Butch Trucks, Dickey Betts, Duane, Greg, Jaimoe, all overlooked by Berry Oakley

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Saturday, May 9, 2020

#31 - Disraeli Gears: Cream (1967)

Probably the first super group, Cream had Eric Clapton (of course) on guitar, but also featured Ginger Baker on drums and Jack Bruce on bass and vocals. Only around for less than four years, they nevertheless were immensely popular and influential. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, and won a Lifetime Achievement Award Grammy in 2006.

Ginger, Jack, Eric

Disraeli Gears was their second of four albums. It’s prototypical hard rock, and includes the classic “Sunshine of Your Love.” The title? It comes from a malapropism from one of the roadies for a bicycle’s derailleur gears. It has nothing to do with the 19th Century British prime minister:

The cover is one of the better examples of psychedelia out there. Its creator was Martin Sharp, a pop artist from Australia but a neighbor of Clapton’s in London at the time. 

He actually also got a co-writing credit on the album’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” and would do the cover for the band’s next album, Wheels of Fire, as well:

He has 15 credits total, but none I especially care for. In fact, he was much better known for his posters:

In a similar vein, the rest of Cream’s covers are pretty darn forgettable too:

Oh, almost forgot – the back of the album is almost as cool as the front:

And, yes, it’s definitely famous enough to have generated an homage/parody or two. 

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Friday, May 1, 2020

#32 - Boston: Boston (1976)


Not to be confused with “the boston group”: 
TBG (The Boston Group) is a B2B and B2G marketing communications firm in Boston, MA, with a roster of global clients that define innovation in aerospace ... (Wikipedia) 
The Boston band specializes in classic rock, the kind you used to hear on FM radio 24/7. You know, "AOR" (album-oriented rock). 

The group has actually been around for 40 years now, and has sold over 75 million records worldwide. With a band that’s been around that long, you shouldn’t be too surprised that their list of members has its own Wikipedia pageAnd that page includes 7 current members and 14 former ones.

Early version – Barry Goudreau, Tom Scholz, Sib Hashian, Brad Delp, Fran Sheehan

This was actually their debut album, and features the classic “More Than a Feeling.” They have a couple of other songs out there that sound familiar. Honestly, they all sound kind of the same - and very 70s.

The cover was quite the group effort. Based on an idea from one of their band members, it was designed by Paula Scher, and was illustrated by Roger Huyssen, with lettering from Gerard Huerta.

Paula was a busy bee, knotting over 262 credits. I really like her stuff - some of it pretty well known.

Roger was equally creative, though nowhere near as prolific. He was known for a set of very creative designs for some classical stuff.

Gerard has some 70 credits, almost all tyography. He's the guy behind the original AC/DC logo (as well as HBO, People magazine, Rolling Rock, and many more).

Though the artists would change (both graphical and musical), the band really range the changes on that UFO-kinda thingie:

Kind of amazed I couldn't find any parodies on this classic.

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