ART OF THE DESIGN – OBVIOUS AND NOT-SO OBVIOUS ALBUMS DESIGNS LABELS WANTED TO YOU TO KNOW IT’S THEIRS.

You really like that album art?  You and everyone else who fell in love with the work.  Well, here are my top 10 interesting things about album art that you can see and other things you really couldn’t see or didn’t pay attention to.  I’m only counting the 12” vinyl album cover work as it relates to the label, so album covers by Yes won’t be counted here since it pertained to one particular group and not the label per se.

10. ALMOST LIKE ADIDAS (Phonogram)-On their albums, labels that were under Phonogram began sprouting barely-there three thick diagonal stripes located in the upper right hand corner on the cover where the record comes out.  Primarily focused on Mercury, Philips and Vertigo labels under Phonogram, these stripes usually blended in without being conspicuous.  Some labels like Casablanca and Capricorn didn’t get this treatment.

9. DIAGONAL STRIPES AND VERTICAL NUMBERS (CBS/Sony)-In the 1970’s, CBS began doing extreme diagonal stripes below the album’s serial number on the spine of the cover.  There were very few exceptions where the diagonal stripes were omitted, but it was the norm until 1984 when the stripes were done away with completely and the numbers were vertical.

8. SIX STARS (MCA)-Like CBS/Sony, the spine gave it away that the release was/belonged to MCA.   They had three stars on the top of the spine and three stars at the bottom.  The information was situated in-between.

7. IN THE CORNER (Montage)-Montage was a very short-lived label that was handled by EMI under an autonomous deal, which in this case, they kept the same pricing scheme but different numerical sequence.  Their logo was a woman’s hand peeking over window blinds with the label’s name written in red.  Whereas labels would make a secondary logo for the cover with just the name, Montage made their logo fit into the upper right corner, effectively making it part of the cover design.

6. MULTICOLORED WORLD (Real World)- When Peter Gabriel founded WOMAD, he began world music powerhouse Real World, he did something that tend to escape a lot of music labels that tried to do world: put multicolored bands on the back cover which represented the continents and parts of continents where the artist would come from and then would write the name of the country in the corresponding color stripe.  On vinyl, the label was colored the same way.

5. NORMAN MOORE ERA (Private Music)-If you want to know about Norman Moore, he is a graphic designer and chances are if you picked up nearly any cover from Private Music, he was their main designer.  Moore’s designs were very layered and gave you the mood of what you were about to buy.   He gave new age a contemporary edge.

4.  WHATEVER THE MUSIC IS (Narada)-In the late 80s, Sacramento used to have a radio station called The Point, and The Point was a breath of fresh air for its’ time.  It played contemporary jazz and new age.  One of these labels that benefitted with The Point as far as airplay was Narada.  And Narada divided their music under three different labels and designs to match.  Narada Lotus was new age acoustic, Narada Exquinox was contemporary jazz and new age and Narada Mystique was electronic new age.  These labels had their own distinct designs (Lotus resembled Windham Hill, Equinox had the main photo in a square with the title on top and bottom of the square, Mystique had an illustration in the middle of the cover with a sandstone-like backdrop).  They got contemporary in the mid-90s and switched under one moniker when Narada went from MCA to Virgin.

3. RAISED SCRAPBOOK (Meadowlark)-This short-lived new age label (not the hip-hop label under the same name) set itself apart by making their covers look like a raised scrapbook using water paper with the main cover photograph torn around the edges.

2. A WALK THROUGH A PHOTO GALLERY (Windham Hill)-Windham Hill’s covers were like going through a photo gallery in the record store.  Primarily the covers would be bathed in white with a photo on the front and back to represent introspection, sometimes even with an illustration.  So bold was this label they even had their own section in the record store with each artist having their own index cards.

1. JUST ABOUT ANYTHING GOES (ECM)-From day one, ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music) is the boldest in its’ cover designs because just about anything goes.  From using nice photos to just having the artist’s name on the cover by itself with the title.  From using regular fonts to actually using a typewriter (no joke) for some of their covers, ECM pretty much was at the forefront of groundbreaking design since 1969.  Photos used on their covers spawned two photo books.  And they still write their name plain on the front cover.ecm covers