The Art of Rock and Roll
We’ve titled this piece ‘10 Album Covers Suitable For Framing‘ because ‘10 Compact Disc Inserts Suitable For Framing‘ does very little to stimulate the imagination and has zero visual appeal. That’s due to the fact that record albums are collectible while compact discs are ‘stackable’. Does anyone put their CD collection out on display? Probably not. And if you choose to get your music via digital download you are left with nothing tangible. No album cover, not even a jewel case, it’s entirely untouchable! But when it comes to a collection of albums, you actually have two forms of art: audio and visual.
Framed album cover artwork will look great in almost any location. Just the rock and roll genre alone has many splendid records fit for display in your home or office. Why not have a framed album cover in your office, cubicle, or shop? Comments and extended discussions would surely ensue.
We realize that there are more than ten album covers suitable for framing, and we have considered and re-considered dozens and dozens of fantastic examples of beautiful albums. We did limit the selections to those released prior to 1995, and still, the choices are staggering.
The selection criteria we used to come up with the list of suggestions was quite basic: stunning artwork with very little distractive text. A couple of the records have three lines of text however it seems to “fit” and not offer too much distraction from the artwork. The choices include a Jefferson Starship album cover, a Carlos Santana album cover, and other choices for classic album covers framed. We offer our choices for a collection of ten album covers suitable for framing.
1. Asia – Asia
Asia was formed in 1981 as a supergroup with four former members of progressive rock bands: bassist John Wetton (Roxy Music, Uriah Heep), keyboardists Steve Howe and Geoff Downes (both ex-members of Yes) and drummer Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer).
Asia’s debut album was released in March of 1982 and achieved widespread success, spending just over two months at the top of the album charts, selling over four million copies in America. The album has sold over 10 million copies worldwide and since its release, it has never been out of print. Two singles from the album, “Heat of the Moment” and “Only Time Will Tell” rose to become Top 40 hits, aided by significant airplay of their videos on MTV. Additionally, both of the album tracks went on to become stadium favorites at sporting events in the United States.
Billboard and Cash Box reported that the debut album was the biggest seller in the United States during 1982. Asia was certified a quad-platinum album in the U.S. by the R.I.A.A. in February of 1995, thirteen years after being released. In the band’s native U.K., Asia did not fare so well, having peaked at the 11th slot during a 38-week stay on the U.K. Albums Chart.
The band has experienced assorted lineup shifts during its history, but the original lineup reunited in 2006. In 2013, the original line-up was broken once again when Howe retired and was replaced by guitarist Sam Coulson. After years of hiatus due to his health, John Wetton died of cancer on January 31, 2017, and bassist Billy Sherwood of Yes was added to the lineup. For more detailed facts and to find out the latest events and news visit the Original Asia website.
2. Yes – Tales From Topographic Oceans
As with the Asia album cover above, this Yes cover was designed by famous artist Roger Dean. This was his fourth and best Yes album cover; in 2002, readers of Rolling Stone magazine voted the album’s cover as the best cover art of all time. The stunning double-wide cover depicts a small school of fish circling a waterfall below constellations of stars, with the moon and a pyramid in the distant background. Yes began to produce longer pieces of music on Close to the Edge, their previous studio release. Tales From Topographic Oceans contains just four tracks, and it was at the top of the charts in the UK for two weeks and rose to number in the U.S. The album sold well at first but dwindled and did not reach platinum levels. The album was remastered for CD in 1994 and again in 2003.
Yes have headlined annual series of progressive rock-themed cruises since 2013. The event is known as the Cruise to the Edge and has featured many popular classic rock outfits. Their discography spans 21 studio albums, and in April 2017, Yes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The enshrinement was presented to current and former members Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Bill Bruford, Tony Kaye, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, Alan White, and Trevor Rabin.
The band is still touring and recording, with Like It Is: Yes at the Mesa Arts Center from July 2015 as their latest release. The group has more interesting stuff on their web pages and Yes fans and anyone else is welcome to take a look.
3. Nazareth – Hair of the Dog
When the sixth Nazareth album hit the stores the cover “stole the show”. The record itself was the band’s biggest-selling album, with total sales of two million copies worldwide. The cover art came from David Roe, a student of the Royal College of Art in London. (In the early 80’s the artwork was sighted on the side of a Dodge van!) The album title has been considered to be a shortened form of the phrase describing a famous hangover cure, “the hair of the dog that bit you”. As explained by vocalist Dan McCafferty, the title is a play on the phrase “heir of the dog”, i.e. a “son of a bitch” (“now you’re messin’ with…”). This was the title the band wanted for the album, not the song, but A&M Records nixed it and changed the name.
Various Nazareth incarnations continued to make studio albums and tour throughout the 1980s and 1990s, although some albums no longer received either a U.K. or a U.S. release. In 1991, Billy Rankin returned to replace Manny Charlton on the No Jive album, remaining with the band until 1994.
In February of 2008, The Newz was released on the Hamburg-based label, Edel Entertainment. The release of the album coincided with Nazareth’s fortieth anniversary tour, which visited most of Europe. A follow-up album, Big Dogz, was released in mid-April 2011.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone is the latest from the group, their twenty-third album, released in June 2014 by Union Square Music. It is their last album with original singer Dan McCafferty who left the group before its release. The band is still active and you can visit them here.
4. Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell
Meat Loaf (born Marvin Lee Aday) recorded Bat Out Of Hell in 1977. Bat Out of Hell has been certified by the RIAA as a Platinum Album some fourteen times over. It is considered to be an example of influential and iconic artists and music in rock history, and its songs remain as classic rock perfection. It is the fifth best-selling album of all time, with the latest figures putting total copies sold at 43 million. The release also became the basis for another pair of Meat Loaf albums – Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell from 1993, and Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose which hit record stores in 2006. In recent years a television commercial by an American company featured an autographed photograph of Meat Loaf as a sight-gag.
Though the album was slow to catch on, Bat Out of Hell went on to sell 43 million copies worldwide, including 14 million in the U.S. alone. It lived on the charts in the U.K. for 474 weeks, and in a true rock and roll conflict, its enormous financial success led to a bunch of legal fights and some bad blood between Meat Loaf, Steinman, and the various affected record labels. Meat Loaf and Steinman would continue their difficult working relationship thereafter, and Meat Loaf’s next album, 1981’s Dead Ringer, would tank in America, though it sold respectably in the U.K.
The musical version of Bat Out of Hell is onstage in various locations including the current production in Toronto. The performance is based on the rock music blockbuster album and was originally conceived by its songwriter Jim Steinman for the stage in 1975. In fact, it was performed once, under the name Neverland, in 1977. The latest album from “Mr. Loaf” is Braver Than We Are and is available from the Meat Loaf website.
5. Jefferson Starship – Spitfire
A founding member of Jefferson Airplane, the iconic San Francisco acid-rock band formed in 1965, Paul Kanter passed away in early 2016. He died on the same day as ‘Airplane’ co-founder Signe Toly Anderson. Kanter had once said “Music has the power to transport us to other places, other times and sometimes even to other worlds. Let’s go together, right now.” Kantner reformed the band in 1992 with the new name “Jefferson Starship – The Next Generation,” an acknowledgment aimed at Star Trek: The Next Generation, a popular television series.
In 2012, longtime ‘Airplane’ guitarist Slick Aguilar left the band in his attempt to fight off Hepatitis C, and he was replaced by Jude Gold. Following Kantner’s death in 2016, Jefferson Starship continued to tour with a line-up consisting of remaining members and some new faces and voices too. The current line-up is not to be confused with Starship, an offshoot group that is fronted by former vocalist Mickey Thomas.
6. Santana – Abraxas
Following their debut album Latin rock band Santana, riding the crest of popularity following a seminal performance at the Woodstock Festival, the follow-up album, Abraxas, was released in 1969. The album cover is from a painting by Mati Klarwein. The art and culture magazine Juxtapoz wrote about him, “the man literally responsible for every great, legendary record cover you’ve ever seen — if he didn’t do it, he inspired it.”
Santana’s 1970 follow-up to their Woodstock-propelled smash ’69 debut found leader Carlos Santana further expanding his San Francisco group’s already broad musical boundaries. To wit: two hit singles that emanated from opposite ends of the spectrum–“Black Magic Woman,” originally written and recorded by English blues-rock guitarist Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac, and New York Latin percussionist/dance music king Tito Puente’s infectious “Oye Como Va.” Tying blues, rock, and salsa together in one pancultural package, Abraxas also featured such standout tracks as “Gypsy Queen” and “Singing Winds, Crying Beasts.” The latter underscored the growing Eastern sensibilities of guitarist Santana. –Billy Altman
In 2003 the Santana project received noteworthy praise when it was ranked at number 207 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
In early 2016 the entire album was selected for preservation and recognition in the National Recording Registry due to its “cultural, historic, or artistic significance.”
The review of Abraxas on AllMusic earns five stars and has some insight into the superb artwork from Santana:
“The album cover features the 1961 painting ‘Annunciation‘, by Mati Klarwein. Carlos Santana saw a reproduction of the Annunciation in a magazine and wanted it for the cover of his all-time best selling Abraxas album.
The way it was painted was, in fact, a provocation of the traditional Biblical meaning of Annunciation. A winged and tattooed Gabriel is depicted astride a conga drum, pointing heavenwards to a Hebrew Aleph symbol (signifying beginning), with a dark-skinned and naked Mary surrounded by images of fertility.
‘Drums were always used to announce something,’ Mati said. ‘They were a medium of communication in Africa.’ To the left are three Wodaabe Charm Dancers, perhaps representing the Three Kings, and an image of Mati himself.“
7. Led Zepplin – Houses Of The Holy
Houses of the Holy is the fifth Led Zeppelin release yet it is the first of their albums that contain entirely original material and became a pivotal juncture in the life of the band when they began to record tracks that utilized new layering and production techniques. Recording took place during the spring of 1972 at the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio in Hampshire County, England. In 2012, the disc showed up in the 148 position on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It was a huge success, certified a Platinum Record by the R.I.A.A. in 1999. The double-wide cover was inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End.
During the album’s final minute the music is joyful, a pitch-perfect goodbye that could be taken as the unofficial farewell to rock and roll itself. It feels like you’re going over the hills and far away. Into California sunlight and warm rain. An album like Houses of the Holy has the potential to grow on you and dedicated Zeppelin believers consider this to be one of the greatest albums of all time.
Although rumors persist about a possible reunion, and a recent copyright lawsuit is back in the news, the band also has a dedicated website. We have taken the liberty of using the album title for our April article about the concert halls in our journey to classic rock venues.
8. Blue Öyster Cult – Agents Of Fortune
The fourth album from Blue Öyster Cult, Agents of Fortune, is probably their most popular release. The song “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” is a tune that has seen cover versions by artists ranging from The Beautiful South, Wilco, Big Country, Evanescence, HIM, and The Goo Goo Dolls to Elliott Smith. Since their formation in 1972 BOC has sold over 24 million albums worldwide, including 7 million in the United States. The band’s music videos, especially “Burnin’ for You”, received heavy rotation on MTV when they premiered in 1981, anchoring their contribution to the development of music video influences within modern pop culture. Concert tours were much more successful at this point in their career due to the airplay of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” which to this day is a constant member of FM classic rock station playlists.
Martin Popoff, a heavy metal journalist, says that Blue Öyster Cult is one of his favorite bands. He’s written a book titled Blue Öyster Cult: Secrets Revealed and it covers the band’s discography. It is a track-by-track breakdown of the entire output of the group that uses interviews with band members and others that were or are still close to the band.
“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” appears in the horror film classic, Halloween, in the opening sequence of the TV mini-series The Stand, and the single is covered by The Mutton Birds for Peter Jackson’s 1996 film The Frighteners. In addition, the appeal of the song led to its use throughout the film “The Stoned Age” and it plays a contributing role in the movie’s storyline.
9. 10CC – Deceptive Bends
Deceptive Bends was the beginning of the end for 10cc. After the album came out the band line-up expanded, however, their quality experienced a lull, and they never managed to recapture the enchantment of the past. The future would include the threat of punk rock and a life-threatening accident for Eric Stewart that would put him out of commission for months
But now the year was 1977 and Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart regrouped and came back with a beautiful pop album that showed a subtle change in the 10cc sound. The first single from the album, “The Things We Do for Love”, got as high as Number Six on the U.K. Singles Chart, and ended up at Number Two in Ireland and went to Number One in Canada. The interesting thing is that for all the wonderfully quirky pop art that filled the first four albums that included Godley & Creme, the music was still alive with fresh ideas and inventive productions, just a bit less cerebral. Deceptive Bends has so many infectious melodies and grooves that it intensified what made this band so attractive in the first place. While not a major commercial success, Deceptive Bends is the finest example of 10cc without the Godley and Creme lineup and it is certainly well worth a spin. For a look at their awesome photo gallery or more band information, head your browser to the 10cc World page.
10. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of The Moon
Our look at album covers ends on The Dark Side of The Moon, which Pink Floyd recorded beginning in May 1972 and ending in January 1973, with masterful engineer Alan Parsons running the show at Abbey Road Studios. And what else can be said about a record that has been discussed and analyzed and examined over and over? The album was an immediate showstopper; it topped the Billboard chart for just one week but astonishingly it remained in the charts for 741 weeks, a constant presence from 1973 to 1988. With estimated sales of 50 million units, it is the band’s most commercially successful album and remains one of the best-selling albums worldwide. It has been remastered, re-released, and has been covered by other acts. With two solid singles, “Money” and “Time”, it certainly is one of the greatest albums of all time.
In May of 2012 British Prime Minister David Cameron told his nearly 166,000 followers on Facebook that ‘Dark Side’ is his favorite album. It came in an announcement as part of a celebration of Great British Music. Political commentators noted that his choice seemed a fitting choice as he battled several political crises and claims that he is “out of touch” with British voters.
Pink Floyd could be the most commercially successful and influential rock band of all time. Their current sales are more than 250 million records, with over 75 album sales units in the United States, and 37.9 million albums sold stateside since 1993. Each band member is considered to be one of the wealthiest musicians on the planet, with a recent survey puts Waters in spot 12 with an estimated fortune of £150 million ($182 million USD), Gilmour checks in at number 27 with £85 million ($103) and Mason follows up in 37th place with £50 million ($61).
We hope that our suggestions for a list of ten album covers suitable for framing contain at least one or more of your favorite musical (and visual) offerings. With so many other possible choices of iconic album covers to choose from, we could soon compile the second edition of more of this fantastic music and graphic art packages.