Thursday, August 25, 2011

Your Similar Album Covers of the Week - Smoking Angels

Ah, innocence lost. What a great theme for a hard rock/metal band album cover. A smoking angel is a hilarious contradiction, working with the fallen angel idea on a number of different levels. Dio-era Black Sabbath devised of this idea first for their 1980 album, appropriately titled Heaven and Hell. This was the first album they released after Ozzy was booted from the band, and was a re-birth for them in a number of ways. With Dio's huge, epic pipes blowing Ozzy's nasal whine out of the water, the band speeds their trademark sludgy riffs into a faster, more energized metal that just kills it. Highly recommended.

It couldn't be a coincidence that Van Halen used this idea only four years later for their last David Lee Roth-era album. They do improve upon the concept with a fantastic smirking, impish Cupid-cherub illustration (a play on the classic Raphael painting), though the concept couldn't have been original after Sabbath used it. Regardless, 1984 sold 10 million copies, so most of you reading this knows this cover well, and have probably never seen the Sabbath one.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Your Similar Album Covers of the Week - Sky Fire

This one is pretty self-explanatory. While the past few posts have been more thematically similar, this one couldn't be any more literal: asteroids falling to earth near a lake at twilight, leaving a brilliant trail in their wake. Bam! 70's album cover gold. The image just has a certain je ne sais quoi that whispers class in just the right way...

These albums were released within two years of each other in the mid-70s. Many are familiar with Weather Report, the hugely successful and ground-breaking jazz fusion group, but the band Firefall has been lost to time, probably for good reason. They're the ones who contributed this little ditty to civilization:

You know you've heard it, the melody is definitely back there in your subconscious somewhere. Most likely it was playing while you were shopping for groceries, or browsing the aisles for slacks at Marshalls. The song fits the department store soundtrack criteria perfectly: non-threatening, bland, unobtrusive, and pleasantly innocuous. Firefall has found a lasting place in society right next to Sade's "Smooth Operator," serenading shoppers around the world into a relaxed anesthesia. I wonder if they get royalties for it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Your Similar Album Covers of the Week - Cowboy Hippies

The gorgeous Old West/Norman Rockwell theme of a bonneted, skirt-billowing dame gazing longingly in the distance isn't the only similarity in these two excellent albums. Both these bands emerged out of Bill Graham's ballroom-circuit San Francisco in the late 60s, which produced more than its fair share of amazing music.

While many know of Quicksilver and their virtuoso lead guitarist John Cipollina, fewer have heard of the progressive rock band It's A Beautiful Day, which was a Bay Area staple for a number of years during those halcyon days. During the late 60s, those crazy Frisco hippies developed a widespread cultural obsession with the Old West that permeated their fashion, art, and music. It also made for some righteous album covers. Thanks, hippies, for your awesome contribution to pop culture.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Your Similar Album Covers of the Week - Marketing to Whites

This week we feature two albums from the late 1950s. Both are seminal recordings of the most important and influential black artists of a generation, and both feature white females on their covers. What's wrong with this picture?

It seems that in pre-Civil Rights era America, it was pretty tough to get general white music-listening audience to turn an ear to the "race records" of the time. The solution to this problem was to put pretty young whites on the covers of such records, thus attracting a wider audience of deluded whites, and prompting Miles Davis to ask Columbia Records executive George Avakian "Why'd you put that white bitch on there?" Things soon got better, and subsequent re-releases saw the album covers changed to better reflect the music that was inside. In the following years, Miles and JB were eventually granted creative freedom over their album art, which yielded colorful results. Shit's crazy, though.