Album Cover Galleries

Jody Harris/Robert Quine “Escape” (Infidelity, 1981)

 

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Talk about an unheralded masterpiece… Escape is a ludicrously under-acknowledged gem from New York City’s fertile early-’80s sonic crucible. Masterly guitarists Jody Harris and Robert Quine had their tentacles in some of the Big Apple’s most important groups of the ’70s and ’80s, including Contortions, James White & The Blacks, Implog, the Raybeats, and Golden Palominos for the former and Richard Hell & The Voidoids, Material, and Lou Reed for the latter. For Escape, Harris and Quine use guitars, bass, and electronic percussion to create a uniquely otherworldly work of rock that has few peers.

The 12-minute “Flagpole Jitters” must’ve boggled freaks’ minds aplenty when it first came out, even among those who traveled in the headiest of No Wave and post-punk circles. Oddly funky electronic percussion pistons nonchalantly while Harris and Quine engage in a frenzied guitar duel that sounds like Television—if Verlaine and Lloyd’s axes were retuned by Harry Partch. The shrill tonalities and frazzling intensity of the playing shove this epic song into a WTF plane of its own, a communiqué from an advanced species recreating rock according to its own utterly bizarre instincts. Seriously, it’s damn near impossible to hear rock the same way after you’ve been exposed to “Flagpole Jitters.”

By comparison, “Don’t Throw That Knife” can’t help seeming a tad anticlimactic; it tones down the extreme timbres and settles into an intoxicating, low-slung cha-cha groove as Quine and Harris brandis pointillist, crystalline six-string origami. The effect is not unlike some of the more tropical cuts on Can’s Ege Bamyasi and, perhaps coincidentally, some of Robert Fripp’s extended and exotic sonorities on King Crimson’s Discipline. Be very excited. On “Up In Daisy’s Penthouse,” relaxed drum-machine rhythms percolate under slanting, clangorous guitar murmurs and enigmatic sighs. It makes me think of Muzak™ that might be heard on Pluto, which is a high compliment.

Escape‘s most urgent, driving rocker, “Termites Of 1938” zips with persistent hi-hat tsss and guitars that bite with the alien causticity of Chrome’s Helios Creed; eventually, said guitars pile up into huge parabolas of barbed wire; voilà, a new kind of raveup. “Pardon My Clutch” ends the album with what sounds like a 11-minute rockabilly pastiche from a couple of futuristic dudes who genuinely respect the style, but can’t help subverting it with slurred slivers of Harvey Mandel-esque guitar ectoplasm that are humorously at odds with the jaunty, canned beats.

I would say seek out Escape ASAP, before mugs read this review and start jacking up the price beyond its current reasonable $10-$15 range. -Buckley Mayfield

 

Project Thirty-Three

The seemingly infinite number of vintage record jackets that convey their message with only simple shapes and typography never cease to amaze us. Project Thirty-Three is our personal collection and shrine to circles and dotssquares and rectangles, and triangles, and the brilliant designers that made them come to life on album covers. Visit the gallery›

Groove is in the Art

Peace, love and Prokofiev! Groove is in the Art celebrates the era that psychedelic graphics and pop art met the mainstream on instrumental and classical album covers in an explosion of line art and color. Visit the gallery›

Technical Spectacle

Is your Hi-Fi delivering ALL the highs and lows it was built to deliver? Are you getting ALL the sound you paid for? Is each component in your Stereo System pulling its weight?

Vintage stereo system test records promise to answer these questions and more while their cover designers, unrestrained by the need to sell a specific artist or title, capture the pure magic of stereophonic sound. Visit the gallery›

Vinylcise!

Aerobicise. Nutricise. Jazzercise. Mousercise. Vinylcise! Spandex meets vinyl in this gallery of vintage exercise records featuring fad workouts, buff celebrities, fitness gurus, yogis, Muppets, the Governator, Body by Jake, and other absurdities, as our never-ending quest for the perfect body continues. Visit the Gallery›

Fresh Fruit (for Rotting Vegetables)

What happens when Andy Warhol’s iconic banana from the Velvet Underground’s classic debut meets other classic (and some not-so-classic) album covers? In the words of Warhol, it’s an Exploding Fantastic Inevitable! Inspired by one of our early banana mash-ups featuring the Dead Kennedys debut, we call it Fresh Fruit (for Rotting Vegetables). Visit the gallery›

Deface Value

Deface Value is home to authentically found and intentionally altered album art. Vintage record sleeves provide the canvas; paint, pencil, ball-point pen, Sharpies, fingernail polish, and elements of collage provide the media. Since many of the covers were found second hand, we won’t always know what provided the inspiration. Visit the gallery›

Stereo Stack

How many ways can you say stereo? Stereo Stack is our continually growing collage, or “stack,” of vintage LP stereo banners. In the words of the banners themselves: it’s a kaleidoscopic-wonderland of hi-fidelity and dual-dynamic vibrancy. Oh, and the best part? You can now shuffle the stack! Visit the gallery›

Symphonie Fantastique

Growing up with rock music it’s fascinating for us to imagine what Debussy and Stravinsky might have sounded like to similar ears a century ago. The cover art in Symphonie Fantastique offers a glimpse of how modern these sounds were before bop and rock by how they were interpreted graphically on early LP covers. Visit the gallery›

Polskie Nagrania

Check out our guest post on our favorite image related blog, 50 Watts. The post features our personal collection of Polish record covers put out by Polskie Nagrania Muza.

Polskie Nagrania “Muza” (Polish Records ‘Muse’) is a major state-owned record label located in Warsaw. It was established in 1956 after the merger of the vinyl record factory “Muza” and the record house Polskie Nagrania (with the history of the latter traced to the Interbellum times). It has been producing a wide range of musical records from pop, rock, jazz, folk and classical.

These sleeves showcase the unique style of Polish graphic design in the mid century including a few poster design heavyweights like Jerzy Flisak and Rafal Olbinski. Visit the Gallery›

Peter and the Wolf

Who can forget the first time they heard the menacing French horns symbolizing the wolf in Sergei Prokofiev’s classic musical tale, Peter and the Wolf? As an avid record collector today, I can trace my love of music and vinyl back to my worn copy of Disney’s version narrated by Sterling Holloway.

Written in 1936, Peter and the Wolf was first recorded in 1938 by RCA Victor on three 78 rpm records. Several decades later we witness the story’s timeless appeal by its many illustrated depictions and language translations on these vintage album covers. Visit the gallery›

Record Needles

As the city with the World’s largest needle, it’s no wonder Seattle has such a strong love affair with vinyl! Jive Time Records pays homage to our beloved Space Needle and our favorite analog format in this gallery of vintage album covers featuring our city’s most famous landmark. Visit the gallery›