Friday, January 13, 2006

Nine Arresting Covers
Love, Forever Changes. This great record could have only been made in 1967. The cover, true to form, is a true psychedelic relic.

I love covers that tell a story, or at least suggest one -- something to make you sit up and say "What's going on here?" That's the first question on anyone's mind when they first see Bob Dylan's ground-breaking Bringing it All Back Home.

Another kind of story is going on in the cover of Boz Scaggs' Silk Degrees, which almost looks like a still from an Antonioni movie. There sits the love-lorn romantic anti-hero, cowering slightly from the hint of temptation at the opposite end of the park bench. A rather abstract image, and far removed from the well-crafted, hook-heavy commercial pop inside the sleeve.

Nothing subtle about Roxy Music's superfamous Country Life cover. It's a straight male's wet dream: stumbling upon two all-but-naked babes, caught in the your headlights just as they're about to do the deed. Party on, Garth.

On the opposite extreme is the Louvin Brothers' garishly surreal Satan is Real, where the harmonious duo find themselves in the grip off the Evil One. The liner notes of the CD say that the two very nearly got badly burned in this photo shoot.

The debut LP by The Roches is fun, strange, wacky, and as totally original as this cover, which sums up the New Jersey sisters perfectly.

Tonight's the Night is Neil Young at his most darkly brilliant: a gritty, lo-fi masterpiece that pays homage to the drug deaths of former bandmate Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry. It's a dark-side-of-life trip with a certain ghoulish appeal (Whitten actually plays on the record, for one thing) and the cover -- with Young looking like some fucked-up evil pusher delivering a comedy routine -- sums it up. 

The Velvet Underground. No real comment here, except to say that it has a spooky, atmospheric, late night, all-partied-out look.

The songs on Rickie Lee Jones' masterful Pirates are wonderful slice-of-life stories of young love on the run. The classic Brassai photo on the cover -- which dates from 1930s Berlin, if I recall correctly -- nails the mood of hope amidst despair.

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