From 1986 Paul Simon’s seventh studio album ‘Graceland’ brought the styings of Zydeco, South Africa and some smart pop to the charts and is his most successful solo album.
He faced controversy for seemingly breaking the cultural boycott imposed by the rest of the world against South Africa because of its policy of apartheid. Following its completion, Simon toured alongside South African musicians, combining their music and the music of Graceland.
Bringing the act Ladysmith Black Mambazo to the wider world, tracks such as Homeless and Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes featured the acclaimed vocal group, couple with videos featuring cut out animations (The Boy In The Bubble) and Chevy Chase (You Can Call Me Al) the album was a smash hit.
The album cover featured an Ethiopian Christian icon from the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum dating to around 1500, here rendered in felt tip pen.
First Take was the debut album from Roberta Flack released in 1969 and it’s one of my favourite albums.
It dips into jazz, soul, gospel and elements of pop and weaves a strange spell on the listener. Taking off with the jazzy ‘Compared To What‘ the album takes in songs written by such diverse names as Leonard Cohen, Donny Hathaway and Ewan MacColl. It was her version of ‘The First Time Ever I saw Your Face‘ by the folk singer which was used in the 1971 Clint Eastwood film ‘Play Misty For Me‘ which helped move the album to a broader audience.Cohens ‘Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye‘ kicks of the second side of the album which also includes ‘Our Ages or Our Hearts‘, ‘I Told Jesus‘ and the plaintive ‘Ballad of the Sad Young Men‘.
If you’ve never heard it then do check it out, here’s the album cover in the felt pen style.
Released in May 1967 The Beatles pushed the barriers of sound in the studio with this majestic album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Based on an ink drawing by Paul McCartney, pop artists Pete Blake and Jann Howarth came up with this iconic sleeve, which is still parodied and pastiched to this day. Featuring some of the bands most original tracks ‘Lucy In The Sky with Diamonds’, ‘Getting Better’, ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’, ‘When I’m Sixty Four’ and ‘A Day In The Life’ it’s stood the test of time and is one of the classic pop albums of all time.
Here’s a felt pen version.
The eponymous second album from The Band was released in 1969. With a host of classic tracks it saw them hitting full stride, with multiple vocal performances and some surprising instrumentation it’s a celebrated album of roots rock.
Across the Great Divide, Rag Mama Rag, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and King Harvest all feature on the LP wrapped up in an evocative portrait image of the group.
The White Stripes crop up here with their album cover for Elephant. The Detroit duo of Meg and Jack White release this, their fourth studio album in April 2003 and again it featured design based around their signature Red, Black and White colour schemes.
Home to the hits of ‘The Hardest Button to Button‘, ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself‘ and the massive ‘Seven Nation Army‘ this release catapulted them into the big league without any doubt. Still fusing the groups blend of rock and blues, Elephant made the Rolling Stone magazines 500th Greatest Albums of all time.
Here’s that cover in monochrome felt pen.
The fifth studio album from Kate Bush was the Hounds of Love. Released in 1985 it was preceded with the single ‘Running Up That Hill‘, which peaked in the charts at number 3. The first side comprised of other tracks which were all destined to be hits including ‘Hounds of Love‘, ‘Cloudbusting‘ and ‘Big Sky‘. The second side of the album was a concept piece entitled ‘The Ninth Wave‘ focusing on a person adrift at sea.
Musically the album incorporated a lot of traditional instrumentation all set off by the Fairlight synthesizer as well as a great sample of Mr Meek the medium, from the classic horror ‘Night of the Demon‘ on the intro to the titular track.
Big news at the moment, Kate Bush has just returned to the live stage with a huge run of shows at the Hammmersmith Apollo in London were she last performed some 30 years ago. Enjoy this felt pen version of her lounging with her two hounds on the cover.
The eleventh album from the American rock band The Beach Boys was entitled Pet Sounds.
Released through Capitol records in May 1966 it is heavily considered to be one of the most influential recording made. Featuring the tracks ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ , ‘I Know There’s an Answer’ and ‘God Only Knows’, Brian Wilson had quit touring with the band to focus on recording and writing the material. With interwoven harmonies and a dazzling array of instruments, Pet Sounds signposted a new generation of rock fans and musicians into a more progressive sound.
The photo shoot for the sleeve was while the group visited San Diego Zoo and sees them feeding a selection of goats.
Queen‘s sixth studio album ‘News of the World‘ arrived in 1977 and included the classic tracks ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘We Are The Champions’, ‘Get Down, Make Love’, ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ and ‘Spread Your Wings’.
Produced by the band themselves the cover was a reworked Astounding Stories cover by artist Frank Kelly Freas. Seen by Queen drummer Roger Taylor who contacted the artist and asked if it could be adapted for the cover art, it depicts a robot holding the bodies of the band members.
Receiving mixed reviews at the time, some critics cited the band for moving away from their progressive rock roots to a more commercial sound, whilst others embraced this expanded sound, heralding the ascent of the band to the world of arena rock.
The second studio album from Mr Zimmerman, ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ was released in 1963. Taken cues from stories of the time focusing on civil rights Dylan uses the album to wiled his own lyrics to the traditional folk tunes, departing from his first album which was mainly cover versions.
Kicking of with his take on the Peter,Paul and Mary hit ‘Blowin In The Wind‘ the album includes some of his finest and well known songs. “Girl from the North Country”, “Masters of War“, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” have all earned places in the music hall fame, the album took Dylan into the position of a spokesperson for the generation.
Promoting the album with radio and concert appearances he turned up at Monterey Folk Festival and duetted with Joan Baez, who at the height of her fame added extra prominence to Bob Dylan’s name and songs. It also heralded the start of their romance, which became one of the most celebrated love affairs of the era.
The album cover features a photograph of Dylan with Suze Rotolo, taken by Don Hunstein at the corner of Jones Street and West 4th Street in the West Village, New York City, close to the apartment where the couple lived at the time. Dylan later acknowledged her strong influence on his music and art during that period. The iconic image has been parodied and honoured in many a fashion and here’s my own addition to that list.
The sixth studio album from Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska is a more stripped back work. Originally intended to be demos for the next E-Street band record, Bruce decided to release them himself and it remains one of the most highly regarded albums in his catalogue. With sparse instrumentation throughout and sombre songs it deals with the ordinary blue collar workers, depicted in many Springsteen songs reaching various turning points in life.
With the cuts State Trooper, Highway Patrolman and the opener Nebraska focusing on criminal tales and the albums closer, Reason To Believe offering salvation, it’s a rewarding, if difficult listen. Steve Earle covered State Trooper and The National included a cover of Mansion on the Hill on their Virginia EP.
The cover depicts a view from an auto-mobile, going down an open road, which captures the mood of the record. Here in felt pen.