ROCKWIRED PICKS IT'S TEN FAVORITE ALBUM COVERS OF 2008
WRITTEN BY BRIAN LUSHBack when I was a kid it was the visuals of rock music that grabbed my attention before the music did. I knew who BLONDIE was solely on the strength of that unforgettable cover of their 1978 masterpiece 'PARALLEL LINES'. It was an image that leaped out at me at such a young age and has stuck with me to this day; the image of the sneering semi-peroxided bombshell DEBORAH HARRY in a white evening dress with her be-suited, grinning band at her side standing in front of the titular black and white parallel lines. It was amazing all of the things you could fit onto a 78". In an age where getting this song from here and this song from there and downloading it all onto an i-pod (still haven't bought one) is the common mode for taking in music, albums have definitely taken a hit and along with it, the art of the album cover. It's hard to say what the future of the L.P. is going to be, but I am positive that people haven't abandoned it completely. In the past year, ROCKWIRED showcased dozens of new artists, and there were a few notable releases containing artwork that gave me hope that the art of the album is still there.
1. AIN'T IT BEAUTIFUL by ZO2
ARTWORK BY GIL ELVGREN OF BROWN & BIGELOW, INC.
Forget the fact that they have a TV show (Z-ROCK on IFC CHANNEL). ZO2 are a gritty hard rock trio who released 'AIN'T IT BEAUTIFUL' (RIKER HILL RECORDS), a solid collection of hard rock gems that brought back a memory or two of seventies era KISS or the swagger of FREE (especially on the album's title track). Forties-era cheesecake was the only way to go for a cover. Without a doubt, the sleeve makes the CD!
2. THE DEVIL HAS MY DOUBLE by JANE BADLER W/SIR
ARTWORK BY JESS SMITH
With her wide cheekbones, pouty lips, sultry gaze and dark hair, you'd think that ti was a darker DEBORAH HARRY, but its singer and former sci-fi vixen JANE BADLER though with the release of her debut CD 'THE DEVIL HAS MY DOUBLE' (UNSTABLE APE RECORDS) BADLER is just as playful a chanteuse as HARRY with such tawdry numbers as 'I LOVE EVERYTHING', 'WHEN WE GOT HIGH', and 'TRUE LOVE IS A BORE'. On the sleeve, BADLER is the proverbial devil in the blue dress. The image brings to mind the sort of DAVID LYNCH noire that the JESSE JACKSON SHEPHERD penned material succeeds at exuding. It is also SHEPHERD whom BADLER credits for the albums visual direction. "He (SHEPHERD)found this photographer and he created this scenario and came up the most strange locations we went to." says BADLER "He kind of knew what he wanted and we created this alter-ego of the character. It took about a year to do all of the photos because we did it on a very limited budget, which you would never know from looking at the art work. Because it's an independent release, we didn't have access to tremendous amounts of money but sometimes you are forced to become more creative and in a way it's more satisfying."
3. ANONYMOUS by CIAM
ARTWORK BY CIAM/OLGA GOMEZ
Art rockers like CIAM had no choice but to release a CD with a wonderful and eye-catching sleeve given their fondness for modern architecture (the band gets it's name from Congress Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne - a league of architects and designers who sought to modernize Europe to fit the needs of it's people)and the fore fathers of art-rock THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, judging by their revved up cover of 'VENUS IN FURS', The imagery is just as mysterious as the band and their music. "Everyone in the band is well accomplished as a muscian from a very young age." says CIAM's lead singer and guitarist JEFF SHAPIRO. "In terms of architecture and art, these are passions that we are involved in everyday life. It seemed natural, and this band is just an extension of what our passions and interests are. We didn't have to to think about things in terms of what are we going to do and how are going to do it. Art and music are simply a matter of everyday life for us."
4. JUST THIS ONCE by LOS BLANCOS
ARTWORK BY ELLIOT MATTICE
Upstate New York roots rockers LOS BLANCOS issued their sixth album 'JUST THIS ONCE' with their usual mix of blues, folk, and zydeco flourishes, but aside from the music, the image of MARILYN MONROE and ALBERT EINSTEIN riding off into the night shy in a sportscar brought a smile to myself. the sleeve was hand painted by artist Syracuse-based artist ELLIOT MATTICE. "I've never seen a graphic artist like him do so well in such a small town, but then again people say the same about us." says LOS BLANCOS keyboardist MARK NANNI. "It's not like we're living in a musical hub. There has always been great talent here but the town has always struggled, especially now with the economy. COLLIN (ABERDEEN - vocalist and guitarist) has always described the people here as flowers through the pavement, which is what it's like and an artist like ELLIOT is a visual representation of what we are as a band and it's amazing that he is able to continue making his living as an artist. If you look at the cover, you'll see that it's hand painted."
5. THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM by ARDEN KAYWIN
ARTWORK BY ADAM HENDERSHOTT
Singer-songwriter ARDEN KAYWIN's sophomore release 'THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM' was no mere round up pop songs meant o appease the top forty crowd and the alternative batch all at once, but a young artist coming in to her own. So why can't we see her face on the eye-catching sleeve? "The picture that actually ended up with me on the cover had my head in it. It was a full picture." admits KAYWIN who worked with photographer ADAM HENDERSHOTT for the session. "When we were going through the photos and editing things we were cropping different shots to see what we liked and we accidentally cropped my head off. It was never intended that way and as soon as we saw it we were like 'Ooh! That's really cool!' because it had the effect of making me look even bigger than I am. It was a happy accident and it was one of those things where everyone around me was like 'Don't you want to have your face on the cover?' and I was like 'no!'. First of all, I'm not that vein and secondly, it's so interesting because my head is not on it, the photo is that much more interesting."
6. THE WORST KIND OF WAY by DELANEY GIBSON
ARTWORK BY JEANETTE VILLAREAL
In keeping with our theme of female singer songwriters who have managed to leave their heads out of their album covers, DELANEY GIBSON was the young musical prodigy of the year releasing the impassioned debut 'THE WORST KIND OF WAY'. According to GIBSON, she was going for a WIZARD OF OZ motif for the sleeve and the interior artwork. For the cover, she worked closely with photographer JEANETTE VILLAREAL."We're best buddies and she does all of my photo shoots." says GIBSON. "I had a graphic artist out of Montreal who did the layout and design with me going back and forth like 'fix this!' or 'add this!' I definitely wanted the look and feel to have some kind of influence from the WIZARD OF OZ, with the black and white picture of me when I was five years old with the ruby slippers."
7. SUSQUEHANNA by THE CHERRY POPPIN DADDIES
ARTWORK BY TONY FIGOLIL & MARK DIXON, PHOTOGRAPHY BY TONEE HARBERT
In 2008, THE CHERRY POPPIN DADDIES made a quiet comeback with the punchy album 'SUSQUEHANNA' in the hope that listeners would come to realize that STEVE PERRY and the boys exercised multiple genres (aka, punk, rock-a-billy, reggae) and not merely the swing music that they were famous for in the late nineties. The image of a white suit wrapped in barbed wire seemed symbolic of the bands musical ambitions trapped in the vice of an uncertain musical landscape.
8. BURN THIS by STAR OFF MACHINE
ARTWORK BY TOM ANDERSON & ERIC HURLESS
With releases like 'THE DEVIL HAS MY DOUBLE', and 'THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM', 2008 was the year of the 'concept' album at ROCKWIRED. Orange County rockers STAR OFF MACHINE the richly textured 'BURN THIS' - a fine collection of thunderous rock tracks that speak of innocence lost and a sense of self that has been found. A purposeful release with an equally purposeful sleeve. "We worked with a graphic designer company for the CD cover." says guitarist ROBIN CHARLET "They wanted all the information on what the album was about, which about innocence lost and they came up with the idea of broken toys for the cover."
9. SWEET WATER SOUL by FEMI
ARTWORK BY PAUL RUXTON, PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANTHONY TWO MOONS
Sensual and intimate; everything that most top forty R&B isn't yet neo-soul artist FEMI conjures up both feelings not only with her music, but with her flawless skin on this delicious sleeve of her debut CD 'SWEET WATER SOUL'. If we could display the full inner sleeve, we would.
10. SICK OF SARAH by SICK OF SARAH
ARTWORK BY UNKNOWN
If I had only heard SICK OF SARAH's spunky, self-titled debut, I could've imagined the cover looking just like this. At turns playful and feisty, and at others reflective, the music and the artwork go hand in hand.