To look at the varying trends in illustration one has to look no further than their own CD collection. Today in the world of album art, photography is predominantly featured on the covers of CDs. And it’s usually just a nice shot of the musician his or herself. But thirty, forty years ago, illustrators held much more stock in that market. It wasn’t uncommon at all to see records on the shelves with elaborate illustrations and highly conceptual photographs as their album art. So let’s look back on just a few of the more illustrative album covers of the 70s.
Molly Hatchet is a Southern Rock band that started up in 1975. Their most famous song is called “Flirtin’ With Disaster.” Their iconic album art is just as famous in the art world. Frank Frazetta’s illustration was featured on their very first record. All of Molly Hatchet’s albums feature barbarian viking men on their covers – Frazetta’s specialty. And it’s probably no coincidence that the albums his art was featured on were the ones that sold the best. Check out the dark and moody atmosphere of his illustrations. This is the cover of Molly Hatchet’s self-titled album.
Supertramp is a progressive rock band that was popular in the 70’s and one of my favorite bands. You may have heard some of their songs on the radio before. “The Logical Song,” “Breakfast In America,” and “Take the Long Way Home” are just a few of their more popular tunes. Rather than using a painting or a drawing for their album artworks, the group did use photography but in an illustrative way. This is especially evident in their album art for Crisis? What Crisis? The photo is arranged and driven entirely by concept. As the city in the background is being overtaken by waste and pollution the man under the umbrella remains blissfully unaware. Illustrative photography is a really interesting thing to look into. Capturing a story with just one photo is quite the challenge. The geniuses behind this brilliant shot are Fabio Nicoli, Paul Wakefield, and Dick Ward.
Everyone knows the words to “Carry On My Wayward Son.” And they probably know the guitar parts too. This song is off of Kansas’ 1976 album Leftoverture. It features an illustration by the ever quirky Dave McMacken who has done a number of covers for other musicians as well throughout the span of his career. I remember sifting through my Dad’s record collection as a kid and gawking at all the pretty pictures. The intense pout on the old scribe on the cover is something that has always stuck in my mind. Not surprising that illustration was my chosen career path.
Are there any album covers that you’ve fallen in love with? Do a little digging and find out who the artist is. And consider submitting your artwork to your favorite band. You never know what might happen.
And hey. Don’t disregard your parents music. It’s actually pretty rad.