John’s Picks: Judging By The Cover

Normally, we like to share music that we love here – old favorites, or our current heavy rotations.  As an artist, musician and designer, I decided I wanted to share something different today.

I love album art and album design.  For the past 7+ years, I’ve been designing covers for my own music, as well as dozens of friends’ releases.  I also have a bad habit that I must admit to: I buy countless CDs based almost exclusively on the cover art.

For those reasons, I’d like to share some of my favorite album covers and let you judge for yourself.

Pyramid by The Alan Parsons Project was more or less the inspiration for this post.  I ran into the album on the front page of Murfie one day, and it instantly caught my eye.  I’ve never actually heard the album, but that design is undoubtedly ahead of its time.  Pyramid came out in 1978, and you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that the art and cover design is by Hipgnosis.  Sound familiar?  Hipgnosis was a London-based design group that made the iconic art for albums like The Dark Side of the Moon (actually, they did almost all of Pink Floyd‘s art) and Led Zeppelin‘s Houses of the Holy.

112059-largeIf I could just post a gallery of Leif Podhajsky’s work, I would.  In fact, he is something of a design genius, and you should definitely check out his site.  Leif has done the art for tons of modern bands, but most people will recognize his work for Lykke Li (see Wounded Rhymes) and Tame Impala.  I’ve chosen to share Lonerism by Tame Impala as an example of the most subdued his work gets.  Leif often focuses on a balance between intense arrays of color and a counter intuitive desaturation of those same colors.    A lot of his work also features angular mirroring of nature (see The North Borders by Bonobo or another Tame Impala release, Innerspeaker).

39184-largeI couldn’t possibly make this post without mentioning the work of Mati Klarwein.  Though his paintings are largely associated with the psychedelic work of the 60s and 70s, Mati’s style was largely developed before the psychedelic era came to prominence.  In that way, like the folks in Hipgnosis, Mati was ahead of his time.  Luckily for him, progressive artists like Santana, Miles Davis and Brian Eno latched onto his work.  With albums like Live-Evil and Bitches Brew by Miles Davis and Abraxas by Santana, Mati’s iconic paintings became the image of a movement.  If you’re interested in more of Mati Klarwein’s work, there was recently released an amazing new book featuring his art called Mati & The Music: 52 Record Covers 1955-2005.

306990-largeAs an honorable mention, I’d like to bring up the recently-released Jay-Z album Magna Carta… Holy Grail.  I hadn’t heard of the album’s photographer Ari Marcopoulos until I got my hands on an incoming copy of the album here at Murfie.  The packaging for that album is hefty to say the least.  Ari Marcopoulos worked in collaboration with Jay-Z and creative director Willo to put together what they consider an album with an art book.  The packaging includes two thick booklets full of Marcopoulos’ photos, and in an interesting touch, all of the text is “censored” with scratch-off black lines.  To my knowledge, this is the only album Ari Marcopoulos has been a part of, and what a way to kick things off!  For those interested, the cover photo is of the sculpture Alpheus and Arethusa by Battista di Dominico Lorenzi (ca. 1527/28-1594) in the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Music for Mother’s Day

Tomorrow marks the date when folks can celebrate the one who brought them into this world, or whoever they consider “Mama”! For this Mother’s Day 2013, we asked our Murfie staffers what music reminds them of their mother, and we got some great stories along with their picks!

200435-largeTales of Mystery and Imagination – The Alan Parsons Project
Tiffany: My mom has something like 700 vinyl records, so needless to say, I have a lot of memories of my mom and her long-abiding love of rock and roll. But, this one…when I was a little kid and couldn’t sleep, I would ask my mom to play the second side of this album, which is a musical interpretation of Edgar Allen Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher.282907-large

Purple Rain – Prince & the Revolution
John: This album (on vinyl, of course) was the first gift my dad gave my mom when they first started dating.  She must have liked it (or my dad, I guess), because 25+ years later, they’re still together with three goofy kids.

6836-largeSpice – Spice Girls
Toni: This disc was on heavy rotation for me as a kid. The track “Mama” says it all.21613-large

Ultimate Manilow – Barry Manilow
Matt: An all-time favorite of my mom, I learned to recognize Manilow’s distinctive voice on her 8-tracks at a very early age. And, I still occasionally enjoy rocking out to “Copacabana”.

f2002ccc-a455-11e1-bda3-12313d2a0897“Mother” – Glenn Danzig
Jeff: No doubt Glenn Danzig has probably had a rocky relationship with his own Mom, as he was one of the original Goth/Punk/Metal kids, and probably kind of a pain as a teenager. But he has his hit 1988 song “Mother” to thank for being the household name he is today, and the brooding idol of anyone who’s ever gelled their hair into a single horn down the front of their face.MI0003312098

Organ Duets – Charles Harrison
Glynnis: Whenever I need any music that says “mom”, my go-to is organ music! My mom’s a professional organist, and I grew up playing among the pipes of church sanctuaries with my sister while my mother practiced. I can hardly hear any organ piece—particularly Bach—without thinking immediately of Mom.

63108-large“Walking After Midnight” – Patsy Cline
Emma: Every morning before school, my mom would pile us into the car and we would go for a drive. We lived in Alaska, so we’d usually drive to a scenic point overlooking Denali (Mount McKinley). Yeah, the view was pretty and all, but the most memorable part of these trips was the same mixed tape (recorded from NPR I’m pretty sure) of six classic Patsy Cline songs. Whenever “Walking After Midnight” came on, we’d all belt it at the top of our lungs.14021-large

Home for Christmas – Amy Grant
Steve: I can’t count how many times my mom listened to Amy Grant during Christmas!

72315-large“Summer Wind” – Frank Sinatra
Pete: This song always makes me think of my mom (or mum as we say in England) as it reminds me of my wedding day. I danced with her to this at the reception. It was also my parents’ first visit to the USA, and they were always playing Frank around the house back in England when I was growing up.220-large

Songs You Know By Heart – Jimmy Buffett
Kayla: 
When I was a kid, my mom listened to this Jimmy Buffett album in our car all the time, and I made fun of her for it. Now that I’m older, Jimmy Buffett has totally grown on me, and I absolutely LOVE all his stuff! My mom and I even went to see him at Alpine Valley these past two summers, and we had so much fun :-)

Happy Mother’s Day weekend from Murfie!