One of my favorite things about collecting vinyl is the album art. As much as I enjoy kicking back to enjoy the mahogany tones of a well kept record long after the sapphire tipped cutter has etched the sound into what was once a blank vinyl disk, the experience wouldn’t be half as engaging without the visual stimulation of the art.
Believe it or not, beautiful artwork did not always come with vinyl records. Before 1938 all records came in brown paper wrappers. Geeperz, that must have been boring! That was until 23 year old Alex Steinweiss – a designer working for Columbia records – had an idea to use art work as a way to encourage people to buy their albums.
Suddenly the record business changed and a whole new world was born: visual art covers, inseparable from the music they hold within.
Walk into any vinyl store and it won’t take long for you to realize there are an uncountable amount of albums, covers and art, something for everyone’s taste.
I own albums that have the most unappealing art but great music, then I have those with crappy music but orgasmic art work, and of course the ultimate pleasure: superb music and fascinating art work all rolled into one. Ahhh, bliss!!
So, I wanted to put together a list of favorites, of not just mine (although I am biased to some on the list) but those of family, friends, and online forum buddies. Where I could, I have added the designer’s name. This is a work in progress, I’ll be adding to it over time. Where I could I added links to the Amazon page where the album is available, and if you make a purchase through those links I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.
Here’s the final result, in no particular order, not even alphbetical! I hope you enjoy, and please comment your favorite album covers that are missing from this post!
17 of the Coolest Vinyl Album Covers You Should Own
Cheech and Chong: Up in Smoke (Movie Soundtrack)
Release Date: December 1978
Label: Warner Bros. Records
Movie: Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke
The Grateful Dead: Anthem of the Sun
Release Date: 18 July 1968
Label: Warner Bros. – Seven Arts
Producer: The Grateful Dead and David Hassinger
The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers
Release Date: 23 April 1971
Label: Polydor Records
Awards: Grammy Hall of Fame Award
Album Sleeve Design: Craig Braun
Producer: Jim Miller
Led Zeppelin: Zeppelin III
Release Date: 5 October 1970
Album Sleeve Design: Zarcon
Producer: Jimmy Page
Beastie Boys: Licensed to Ill
Not readily available on vinyl as of this writing
Release Date: 15 November 1986
Label: Mercury Records
Album Sleeve Design: World B. Omes (David Gambale)
Producer: Rick Rubin, Beastie Boys
Alice Cooper: School’s Out
Release Date: June 1972
Label: Warner Bros.
Album Sleeve Design: Craig Braun
Producer: Bob Ezrin
Release Date: November 1970
Album Sleeve Design: From a Paining by Mati Klarwein
Producer: Fred Catero, Carlos Santana
The Beatles: Abbey Road
David Bowie: Diamond Dogs
Release Date: 24 May 1974
Album Sleeve Design: Guy Peellaert
Producer: David Bowie
Depeche Mode: Violator
Release Date: 19 March 1990
Album Sleeve Design: Anton Corbijn and Area
Producer: Depeche Mode, Flood
Depeche Mode: A Broken Frame
Release Date: 27 September 1982
Album Sleeve Design: Martyn Atkins
Producer: Depeche Mode, Daniel Miller
Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Brain Salad Surgery
Release Date: 19 November 1973
Album Sleeve Design: Hans Rudolf Giger
Producer: Greg Lake
King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King
Release Date: 10 October 1969
Label: Island (UK), Atlantic (US)
Album Sleeve Design: Barry Godber
Producer: King Crimson
Pet Shop Boys: VERY
Release Date: 27 September 1993
Album Sleeve Design: Daniel Weil
Notable information: The cover features 3D raised bumps
Producer: Pet Shop Boys, Brothers in Rhythm, Stephen Hague
Small Faces: Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake Tobacco
Release Date: 24 May 1968
Album Sleeve Design: Nick Tweddell, Pete Brown
Producer: Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane
The Beatles: Revolver
Release Date: 5 August 1966
Album Sleeve Design: Klaus Voormann
Producer: George Martin
Frank Zappa: Ship Arriving too Late to Save a Drowning Witch
Release Date: 3 May 1982
Label: Barking Pumpkin
Album Sleeve Design: Classic Droodle depicting ‘Z A’
Producer: Frank Zappa
What is your favorite vinyl album art?
So, what do you think? Like them, loath them – leave a comment with your thoughts and own suggestions.