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?
Will confess I’ve placed some focus on the singer-songwriter Michael Franks over the years on this blog. Happy to admit this the impact of the woman I married on my musical tastes. A crossover artist who defied easy categorization on airwaves and record store shelves, meriting a following of college students and those listening to the FM dial during the ’70s. His seventh album, though, represented a change, as noted by Stephen J. Matteo in his AllMusic review:
“Again, Michael Franks switches gears, this time back to a more romantic, thoughtful approach. The result is Objects of Desire, a natural follow-up to Tiger in the Rain. Steve Khan adds a distinctive touch with his guitar work as does Rob Mounsey with his keyboards; yet neither takes away from the orchestrated grandeur of some tracks. Primarily produced by Franks, the album was his most personal statement musically up to that point.
“Love is the pain you can’t refuse”
Franks forged a distinct impression upon his listeners, even those like me who latched on late, with his Julie London-like vocal work and mellow but clever lyrics. Accompanied by some of the best jazz fusion instrumentalists the era had to offer, the appeal resonated with the genre’s enthusiasts. What can I say? We were legion…and still are. Exemplified by the disc’s Tahitian Moon track1 that still holds me fast, it brought the eye back to Object of Desire‘s distinctive cover art.
Loads of album designers, as noted, have retasked well-known photographs (see examples 1, 2, and 3) to make statements or elicit reaction. Relevant for original illustrations, as well, and usually in keeping with the musical content and/or artist’s intent for the LP, or later CD. A number of others inspired by famous paintings for their sleeves, yet this particular jacket among the very few for reusing one. Franks’ preference for lyrically placing many songs in exotic venues, key.
Art designer Simon Levy captured Michael’s predilection by casting Paul Gauguin’s2 “Two Tahitian Women” on the cover. Meaning to gather listeners’ awareness through another’s artistry with oil on canvas3; transfixing the vibe to a warmer, more passionate climate in the bargain. Although cropped to juxtapose its titles, the graphic buoyantly balanced one of Gauguin’s most famous last paintings vivifying serene Tahitian locale and beauty, with another’s intent seeking same via music.
- “Ladies’ Nite”
- “No-Deposit Love”
- “Laughing Gas”
- “Tahitian Moon”
- “Love Duet”
- “No One But You”
The entire series can be found here.
- The work of alto saxophonist David Sanborn drives Tahitian Moon, along with the backing of Randy Vanwarmer, Neil Jason, Andy Newmark, Rob Mounsey, Nick Moroch, and Michael Colina. ↩
- French painter, printmaker, and sculptor Eugène-Henri-Paul Gauguin, (born June 7, 1848, Paris, France—died May 8, 1903, Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia) who sought to achieve a “primitive” expression of spiritual and emotional states in his work. ~ The Met ↩
- Taschen would also use Two Tahitian Women for the sleeve of its Basic Art Series 2.0 hardcover on the artist. ↩