The long lost art of the album cover

Mary Abbe from the Minneapolis Star Tribune has written a great piece on the bygone era of LP cover art in Under Cover: LP covers encapsulate their eras by design (registration required). Every once in awhile I dig out my old LP records and marvel at the double and triple gatefold sleeves on albums like "Woodstock" and "All the World’s a Stage" by Rush. Now I won’t get into the debate as to whether vinyl sounds better than digital (although I will admit that records, especially if you brought them to parties were a pain in the ass to keep clean. I remember getting "Ghost in the Machine" for my birthday at a druken birthday party and by the time I got it home almost every single song skipped, but I digress) but from an esthetic standpoint the sheer amount of space available to the band and cover artist presented much more impressive artistic possibilities than a CD does today. Couple that with the argument that some are making that even the CD will be replaced by digital downloads (I don’t buy it) and we are facing the prospects that album cover art, long a vital and important artistic statement made by musicians in pursuit of their artistic vision might very well be the province of art exhibitions only. After all, how many people actually download cover art when they have the opportunity? My guess is next to no one. Another rock and roll tradition that faces exctinction. I think I’m showing my age.

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