Friday, April 6, 2012

The art (sic) of classical LP covers

Back in the days of vinyl LPs, 12-x-12 album covers were an art form. (Really – they showed up in coffee-table art books.) At least, sometimes they qualified as an art form. At other times, they were exercises in the misconceived or the deliberately wacky.

Especially, it seems, if the albums were of classical music and released on budget labels. Perhaps the producers assumed that their potential buyers were unsophisticated, or needed some extra stimulus or inside jokery (as above) to make the purchase.

Some covers made it pretty obvious that the designers were clueless about the music within:

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Whatever the reason, weird and outrageous LP covers have become semi-cult items in the classical blogosphere. Norman Lebrecht, the English highbrow provocateur, occasionally celebrates them, as in this post:

Also this one:

And from Lebrecht’s site, we’re guided to more:

And still more:

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None of these reproduce my favorites from the era: the cartoon covers for Crossroads, the Columbia budget label that licensed recordings from Supraphon. In addition to their being among the best buys of the late 1960s, especially for Dvořák, Smetana and other Czech music, their cover art, by Sandy Hoffman, was memorably loony and whimsical. Note also the label’s handlebar-mustached stereo-receiving guy, which anticipated smiley faces and computer emoticons by several decades.

Here are some Crossroads classics, via The Groove Is in the Art, a blog from Seattle’s Jive Time Records (