This is the next entry in Best Album Covers, a series begun right here. The first successful long-playing microgroove record for the phonograph was introduced by Columbia Records back in June of 1948. Yet, album covers (the paper board packaging that held them) didn’t come into their own graphically till decades later. Eventually becoming the cultural stamp on the music of the time. Catching the eyes of potential record-buyers and later their ears and minds. Melding the musical experience with the artist into a unique visual form.
Why Compact Disc versions of album art don’t exactly raise the same reaction these days was looked at in this post. Although, music label artistry continues to be noticed and discussed among the material published today. The bits and bytes are looking over their shoulder, though, because vinyl hasn’t entirely gone the way of the dinosaur. Online or at the record shops still out there. Cover art hasn’t lost purpose, either for old and new. Mostly, it’s my contention while digital reigns supreme, its vigor among fans lacks the tactile passion of the past LPs.
Hence the reason for this series. Some register more with me musically than others, though. Yet, the artwork will always take center stage, at least here. Let’s continue shall we?
Square can be so overrated. Or so sayeth the young English rock lords of Traffic. Primarily through the conduit of their sixth album. The daringly titled — the one coined by actor Michael J. Pollard, which made me want to grab and hug my old Beatle Boots ever so protectively — The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. The progressive rock group, imbued once more with Jazz Fusion (hey, it was the 70s), would make a stand-out music and cover appearance.
Allmusic described the work of the Steve Winwood-produced LP thusly:
“…the standout was the 12-minute title track, with its distinctive piano riff and its lyrics of weary disillusionment with the music business. The band had only just fulfilled a contractual commitment by releasing the live album Welcome to the Canteen, and they had in their past the embarrassing Last Exit album thrown together as a commercial stopgap during a temporary breakup in 1969. But that anger had proven inspirational, and “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” was one of Traffic‘s greatest songs as well as its longest so far. The result was an album that quickly went gold (and eventually platinum) in the U.S., where the group toured frequently.”
Sometimes, a 12″ by 12″ square LP cover just wouldn’t do. A number of ‘shaped’ album covers appeared on record store shelves in the early 70s, and in buyers hands. The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys‘ die-cut inside provided another shape-distinct aspect that drew the eye. The Tony Wright-designed album was among the most unique of the era. Mainly because its 2-D artwork was contoured with six sides. But that only helped Traffic‘s album cover give multiple views, via the magic of optical illusion, of a three-dimensional room. Jody called it correctly:
“That was pretty fucking trippy…”
- “Hidden Treasure”
- “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”
- “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”
- “Rock and Roll Stew”
- “Many a Mile to Freedom”
The entire series can be found here.