Category Archives: Art books

Aspen Magazine #3 – the “FAB” Issue and “Andy Warhol’s Index (Book).

I was first made aware of two of Andy Warhol’s seminal publications the Aspen Magazine Pop Art issue of December 1966 (#3, “FAB”) and “Andy Warhol’s Index (Book)”  late in 2008, when I first saw Paul Maréchal’s “Andy Warhol – The Record Covers 1949–1987. Catalogue Raisonné“, which listed both as record covers. Both do contain records; the former a double sided flexidisc and the latter a single-sided 7” single, but I wouldn’t consider either package to be a record cover in the true sense of the words.

 

Andy Warhol was a polymath–commercial artist, “fine” artist, Photographer, film m,aker, diarist, would be sculptor and, not least,Author, illustrator and publisher. An exhibition at the Museum Brandhorst in Munich from September 2013 to January 2014 showed Warhol’s publications, ranging from one-off illustrated books to his popular mass produced publications. The exhibition was called “Reading Andy Warhol” and included over eighty books and the hard cover catalogue (with the same title) opened with a series of erudite essays on Warhol’s literary career as a publisher of his own books (such as “25 Carts Name[d] Sam and One Blue Pussy“, written together with George Lisanby) or one-offs like “Play Book of You S Bruce From 2:30 to 4:00“. There is a short section on “Andy Warhol’s Index (Book)” in a chapter entitled “Trash, Gossip, and Porn–Warhol’s Transgressions in Photography” written by a professor Burcu Dogramaci, There doesn’t seem to be too much written about the December 1966 Pop Art issue of the Aspen Magazine (#3) titled “FAB“, edited by David Dalton and Andy Warhol. However, the catalogue of the current Warhol retrospective at New York’s Whitney Museum, called “Andy Warhol – from A to B and Back Again” goes some way to rectifying this in an essay by Brandon W. Joseph called “White Light / White Heat“.

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The Aspen Magazine was produced by Phyllis Johnson between 1965 and 1971. It was billed as the first 3D magazine as it was produced as a box containing various printed items and ephemera. Ten issues were published and the third was the Pop Art issue edited by David Dalton and Andy Warhol and published in December 1966. I think it is significant that a publication on Pop Art in 1966 would be entrusted to Warhol as there were numerous other pop artists who could have been invited to compile a box to illustrate Pop Art.

 

But who was David Dalton? I have had to do some considerable research to find out about him despite him being a much published author of rock-related biographies.

Dalton (born 15th January 1945) was a founding editor of Rolling Stone magazine. He is the son of a British physician, Dr John Dalton, and elder brother to sister Sarah. When Sarah was 13 years old (and I suppose David was a couple of years older), the family moved to New York and–according to Sarah began visiting art galleries, in particular Leo Castelli Gallery where they met Ivan Karp

In a The Guardian review (on Sunday 5th October 2003) of “A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol English author and, according to Peter Conrad, writing in  , was co-author of “A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol” together with photographer David McCabe. Dalton, according to Conrad, had been taken to New York from boarding school by his sister Sarah. In fact, as David, himself, writes in the book, he is Sarah’s older brother, and the family arrived in New York together. Both David and Sarah and their father, Dr John Dalton, appear in McCabe’s photos in the book. Exactly how David became one of Andy Warhol’s first assistants is not clear. He stayed at The Factory for over a year. Dalton, by his own admission was besotted with Bob Dylan and managed to get at least six mentions of his hero in the Aspen package. Also included were ten “trip” tickets, A newspaper entitled “Plastic Exploding Inevitable”, 12 pop art picture cards and a 7.-inch flexidisc with Peter Walker’s “White Wind” on the “A” side and “Loop” by the Velvet Underground on the “B” side (more correctly is was John Cale playing the noise).

 

Andy Warhol’s Index (Book)
Published in December 1967 “Andy Warhol’s Index (Book)is primarily a book of photographs by Billy Name (Billy Linich 1940-2016), Nat Finkelstein, Steven Shore and others.It is decorated with several pop-up figures: a castle, a biplane, a can of Hunt’s Tomato Paste and includes the single-sided 7″ picture disc with a portrait of Lou reed on one side. The record plays an interview with Nico while the Velvet Underground play in the background.

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The 7″ picture disc in “Andy Warhol’s Index (Book)”.

“Andy Warhol’s Index (Book)” was published in three editions. A hardback edition of (I think( 2000 copies), a Limited edition of the Hardback book signed by Warhol (365 copies) and a soft cover book. The hardcover book cost $12.95 and the soft cover $4.95.

I decided that I should include these seminal Warhol publications in my collection of Andy Warhol’s record cover art, though I do not consider the box or the book to be true record covers. And in January 2019 they arrived.

 

The Cover Design of John Lennon’s “Imagine” Album. Not Warhol after all?

Yesterday I went to a couple of art exhibitions. First I went to Sven-Harry’s to see the excellent Jenny Nyström exhibition and then went on to Bonnier’s gallery to see what was on there. But it’s not the exhibitions that I want to talk about here. To get to the exhibition rooms at the Bonnier’s gallery one has to go through the shop. They usually have loads of interesting books for sale there and yesterday was no exception. I saw Rock Graphics Originals by Peter Golding & Barry Miles with great poster and record cover art and a book Emigre Fonts 1986-2016 cataloguing Emigre Magazines typefaces. I still have two or three copies of Emigre with David Carson’s often confusing fonts.

The third book to catch my eye was Imagine — John Yoko with the famous Imagine album’s cover image on the front. I had not seen the book, published in October 2018, before, so I started rummaging through it to see if Yoko discussed the album’s cover art.

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Yoko Ono’s book “Imagine John Yoko”.

And, on page 190, she goes into explicit detail. There John’s quote is published:
My album front and back is taken by Yoko as a Polaroid. It’s a new one called a Polaroid close up. It’s fantastic. She took a photo of me, and then we had this painting off a guy called Geoff Hendricks who only paints sky. And I was standing in front of it, in the hotel room and she superimposed the picture of it on me after, so I was in the cloud with my head. And then I lay down on the window sill to get a lying down picture for the back side, which she wanted with the cloud above my head. And I’m sort of ‘imagining.‘”

However, collectors of Andy Warhol’s record cover art noticed that a couple of Andy Warhol’s Polaroid pictures of John, sold at Christie’s in 2013, looked suspiciously like the photo used on the Imagine album cover and were advertised as “Two unused and previously unseen photographic proofs of artwork for the front cover of John Lennon’s 1971 album Imagine“. However, it doesn’t specifically state that these Polaroids were taken by Andy Warhol, so they could be Yoko Ono’s.

 

After reading this book I have removed Lennon’s “Imagine” album (and the various singles that use the same picture) from my list of Andy Warhol’s record covers and I credit the cover design to Yoko Ono.

Klaus Voormann’s Career Review–“It Started in Hamburg”.

Klaus Voormann celebrated his 80th birthday on 29th April 2018. He has given his many fans a belated birthday present in the form of a book reviewing his more than 60-year career as a graphic artist. He calls the book “It Started in Hamburg” and is available from his website.

Klaus Voormann‘s career started at art school where he obviously developed a special interest in record sleeve design, making–as he states in “It Started in Hamburg“–with a fascination for the cover art of Blue Note Records. The book features a number of mock ups of record sleeves by jazz artists including Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Guiffre, Sonny Stitt, Bob Cooper and Bud Shank.

Voormann was truly the right man in the right place in 1960s Hamburg. Together with Astrid Kirchner he stumbled on The Beatles playing Hamburg’s Star Club, befriended them and showed one of his record cover designs to John Lennon. He played in the German group The Eyes, designing the cover of one of their singles and designed the cover for British band The Typhoons‘ German release of The Ventures hit “Walk Don’t Run“.

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The Eyes “She / Peanut Butter” single cover drawn by Klaus Voormann.

In 1962 he was asked to design the covers for a series of twenty jazz EPs called “Pioneers of Jazz” on Deutsche Grammophon’s German subsidiary Coral Records. At about the same time he drew the cover for an LP entitled “Ver nie in Bett Programm gemacht“, said to be a recording of a radio programme.

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All twenty of Coral Records series “Pioneers of Jazz” released in 1960 with cover illustrations by a young Klaus Voormann.

Voormann moved to London in the mid sixties. In March 1966 John Lennon phoned him and asked him to design the cover for The Beatles’ album “Revolver”, for which he was to win a Grammy. Besides graphic design, Voormann continued his musical career joining Manfred Mann‘s band in 1966 when Paul Jones left and Mike D’Abo took over the role of singer. He designed the cover for the band’s 1966 album “As Is“, released in October that year.

It Started in Hamburg” summarises Voormann‘s career. The 221 pages are divided into two sections: open the book one way and the text is in English. Turn the book over and you can read it in German. However, there does not seem to be any duplication of pictures. A few of Voormann‘s early attempts at producing jazz covers (see above) are included along with thirty-four of his published covers. There are pictures of the covers of ten of the “Pioneers of Jazz” series, along with one of the two Bee Gees covers (“Idea“)he designed and details of how cover art for The BeatlesAnthology” series came about. The limited edition comes with a USB with excerpts from Klaus’s film “Making of The Beatles “Anthology” artwork”, and little additions like an original drawing from the serial “Revolver–Birth of an Icon” and some film negatives.

His poster design and the design for his recent book “Revolver–Birth of an Icon“, about the design of the cover for “Revolver“, are also represented. His graphic self portrait and portrait of John Lennon remind me of some of Chuck Close‘s portraits, graphically breaking down their faces.

It Started in Hamburg” is an important addition to any collection of Klaus Voormann’s art–my copy of the limited edition of turned out to be No. 3/80. I offer my sincere congratulations to Klaus on his 60 years of art and music. May he continue for many more!

“3D and the Art of Massive Attack”–A New Book on Rock Art.

Robert del Naja, a.k.a 3D, is a musician, artist and composer probably best known as being a founder member of the trip hop group Massive Attack. He has also other musical projects. del Naja was born in Bristol in 1965 and has been credited as the the city’s first graffiti artist and Banksy has named him as a major influence–it can be noted that suggestions have been made that del Naja IS Banksy! A real fact about him is that he is colour blind. Something that caused him problems in his early works–painting a self-portrait with green hair and brown Christmas trees.

I really liked the deceptively simple cover art for Massive Attack’s “Mezzanine” album, with its stag beetle image. Otherwise I had not paid particular attention to the group’s cover art. I was completely unaware that del Naja had a separate career as a record cover artist. He admits to have been designing covers for Mo’ Wax records for eight years–I once owned the 1994 Mo Wax vinyl samplers “Headz 1” and “Headz 2” with cover paintings by del Naja, though I then had no idea who he was.

Just recently, The Vinyl Factory published “3D & the Art of Massive Attack” by Robert del Naja and Sean Bidder–a 400 page book of Robert del Naja’s art. There are two versions, a popular edition selling for £50 or a limited edition of 350 signed copies selling for £350. I have the popular edition, which came sealed in cellophane with the Vinyl Factory sticker with bar cove on the outside. The book only contains pictures of del Naja’s artworks with no text apart from a three page interview in a separate 12-page booklet included in the package. Reviews of the book state that Banksy has written the book’s introduction, but I couldn’t find it in my copy–perhaps that’s only included in the limited edition…

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The cover of Robert del Naja’s new book.

I was fascinated to find out that Robert del Naja has cooperated with photographer Nick Knight to produce record cover art. The “Mezzanine” cover is one example.

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The “Mezzanine” front cover. Photo by Nick Knight.

Del Naja again approached Nick Knight for the cover photo for Massive Attack’s “best of” compilation “Collected”.

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Nick Knight’s photograph on the cover of “Collected”.

Nick Knight’s most famous cover photographs are probably David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” cover, Björk’s  1997 “Homogenic” or Nick Cave & The Bad Seed’s “The Boatman’s Call” covers, but he has also photographed Miguel Bosé (see a previous recordart post for another Miguel Bosé album) for the cover of his 1987 album “XXX” among many others.

I was disappointed with the book at first, but it lead me to start looking for more examples of Robert del Naja’s record covers and that has proved to be an interesting journey. I will have to try to contain my interest and NOT start collecting his covers.

A History of Swedish Music Posters from Gröna Lund.

Gröna Lund is a permanent attraction in Stockholm with exciting rides, restaurants, bars and an important concert stage on which most of the world’s more famous artistes–ranging from Birgit Nilsson via Chuck Berry to The Clash–have performed.

Posters for events and concerts at Gröna Lund have become highly collectible. Between 1971 and 1988 they were designed by one man, Nils Sture Jansson–who produced about 800 individual posters, sometimes with incredibly short deadlines. In 2012 Premium Publishing produced a book containing 200 of Nils Sture Jansson’s poster designs edited by Nils Sture Jansson’s son, Jonas, and Gröna Lund’s own historian Andreas Theve. The book rapidly sold out when it was published–but I was lucky to find a copy in Söders Bokhandel– a little, but extremely well-stocked bookshop in Stockholm. The book has  also become highly collectible.

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The book’s cover. The cover picture is of The Ramones (see poster below)

Nils Sture Jansson’s relatively simple illutrations capture the spirit of the artists and, according to the introduction, were much admired by them. Only a few were unhappy–and that was sometimes due to the fact that his or her name was misspellt.
Here are some samples (posters for artists I personally like):

Jansson would be supplied with photos of the artist(s) and deconstruct them to make his poster designs.

Kristian Russell has taken over and is continuing the tradition of Gröna lund posters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art Record Covers – a new book.

As you all know by now, record cover art has become highly collectible. The long player, invented by Columbia Records in 1948 allowed graphic artists a 31 x 31 cm canvas on which to apply their art.The arrival of the compact disc in 1982 was predicted to banish the LP forever and, in the mid 1990s many artists had abandoned the format. However, the vinyl LP didn’t die; it faded away for a time, but has made a dramatic recovery in the last few years and artists are once more releasing albums on vinyl. And this has made designers and artists return to the medium and produce many great works of cover art.

Some record covers by famous artists now change hands for extraordinary sums. Nowadays, collectors will only pay top buck for a record cover if it is in pristine condition and preferably for an original pressing. One can only congratulate those who bought some of the rarer records when they were first released as the cover art has proved a surprising investment.

There have been many exhibitions of record cover art over the past thirty or so years. The first one I heard about (and visited) was produced by Aarhus Kunstmuseum in 1981 (shown there from 5th September until 4th October 1981), which then transferred to Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, where it was shown from 24th October  1981 until 17th January 1982 and later to Bildmuseet in Umeå. I saw both the exhibitions in Stockholm and Umeå (and lent 30 covers to the Umeå exhibition) and I still have the exhibition catalogue and even a poster from the Stockholm exhibition, signed by Andy Warhol!

Many books have been published illustrating “great” record covers, “The 100 (or even 500) best record covers of all time” or just plain record covers. There have been a few good books on the history of record cover art. My favourites are Steven Heller‘s, Alex Steinweiss‘ & Kevin Reagan‘s “Alex Steinweiss Inventor of the Modern Album Cover“, Nick De Ville‘s “Album: Style and Image in Sleeve Design” and Richard Evans‘ “The Art of the Record Cover“. There have been even fewer books devoted to a single designer: Paul Maréchal‘s pioneering “Andy Warhol–The Record Covers 1949-1987. Catalogue Raissonné” from 2008 and updated in 2015 as “Andy Warhol–The Complete Commissioned Record Covers 1949-1987” and, again, the “Alex Steinweiss Inventor of the Modern Album Cover” are wonderful examples. Fewer books focus on the artists behind the record covers.

In January 2017, Taschen published Francesco Spampinato‘s “Art Record Covers” edited by Julius Weidemann. This book with over 400 pages provides an overview of artists who have produced record cover art, ranging from the early days of record cover art with covers by Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol to currently active artists including Banksy, Jeff Koons, Karin “Mamma” Andersson and with in depth interviews with Tauba Auerbach, Shepard Fairey, Kim Gordon, Christian Marclay, Albert Oehlen and Raymond Pettibon. Thereafter the bulk of the book, over 300 pages, is an alphabetical presentation of, I guess, 500 artists with selected illustrations of their work.
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Spampinato must have an enviable collection of record cover art! Many (most?) of the photos are of records from his personal collection. The book is beautifully produced, being almost LP sized (30 x 29.5 cm) and on heavyweight paper. Many of the covers are reproduced almost full size.

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Banksy’s Blur covers.
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Jeff Koons’ “Artpop” cover for Lady Gaga.
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The only two Peter Blake covers.

Do I have any criticisms? The book concentrates on artists not affiliated with record companies, so there are no Reid Miles or Vaughan Oliver or Peter Saville, or even Alex Steinweiss covers. The covers chosen for the book are all art works and there are no photographic covers. there are a couple of artists that I miss: Anton Corbijn has designed loads of covers for U2 and Depeche Mode that aren’t purely photographic. And there is Klaus Voormann who has designed record covers for over fifty years for artists such as The Bee Gees, Manfred Mann and, not least The Beatles‘ “Revolver“. These are really only petty quibbles though. The “Art Record Covers” is a magnificent book and a snip at its recommended price of £49,99. So, go out and buy it! But be warned, it’s heavy so take a cart with you.

 

 

TOTAL RECORDS – Photography and the Art of the Album Cover.

I just found out that I had missed yet another major exhibition of record cover art, this time in Arles in southwest France. The exhibition, called “Total Records” was first presented at Les Rencontres d’Arles from June to September 2015 and is said to be travelling round France. The exhibition catalogue has just (October 2016) been published as a free-standing book also called “TOTAL RECORDS – Photography and the Art of the Album Cover”.

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The cover of the “Total Records” book.

I bought the 448 page book as it promised an introduction to how photographers and the record covers they took photographs for came together. However, the short introduction in English at the start of the book doesn’t live up to the promise. You have to turn to the end of the book for the full stories but, unfortunately for me, this section is only in French. Quelle horreur! Zut alors! and all that.

The book is divided into twenty-five “chapters”, some devoted to a single photographer and others more thematic with titles such as “Below the Belt” and “B-side America: Riverside, Bluesville and Yazoo”. There is a section called “Photo-Copy” which shows how some cover art has spawned plagiarism (The Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers“, The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“.)

But the photographs are great. Most pages picture a single cover. Not surprisingly, as the exhibition is French, there are many French covers. Johnny Halliday and Sylvie Vartan figure prominently alongside less well known French artists including a lovely cover of Catherine Deneuve’s “Souviens-toi de M’Oublier” with cover photo by Helmut Newton. There are also Newton’s photographs on the cover of Sylvie Vartan’s album “Au palais des congress“.

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The first cover pictured in the book is Alex Steiweiss’ “Smash Song Hits by Rodgers and Hart“–Steinweiss’ first picture cover for Columbia Records from 1940.

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Alex Steinweiss first picture cover for Columbia Records “Smash Song Hits by Rodgers & Hart” from 1940.

The first two chapters in the book, “The Sound I Saw” and “Aural Reappropriation” act as an introduction to the variety of photographs in record cover art and include covers by a multitude of photographers and make up nearly 30% of the book. These include cover photos by Andy Warhol (“This Is John Wallowitch“),  Nobuyoshi Araki  (Björk’s “Enjoy” and “Possibly Maybe” and Mango Delight’s “Conglomerate of Crazy Souls“), Annie Liebowitz (Cyndi Lauper’s “Change of Heart“, John Lennon’s “Interview Disc” and The Jim Carroll Band’s “Dry Dreams“), Herb Ritts (John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John “Two of a Kind” and Madonna’s “True Blue“). There is even Arthur Doyle’s “No More Crazy Women” with its Cindy Sherman cover photo (see my previous post on Cindy Sherman’s record cover art). Robert Mapplethorpe is represented with the classic Patti Smith cover for “Horses“, Taj Mahal’s “Taj” and Laurie Anderson’s “Strange Angels“.

Following these introductory chapters are sections/chapters devoted to individual photographers. First off are Jean-Paul Goude and Anton Corbijn. Corbijn is, of course, well known for his covers for Depeche Mode and U2. Jean-Paul Goude is best known for his cover photos of Grace Jones and eight of them are pictured in the book. It is a selection of Corbijns photos for U2 that are featured–mainly from the “Joshua Tree” sessions.

Next are eight of Jean-Baptiste Mondino’s covers, including covers of albums by Madonna, Björk, The Eurythmics and Prince.

The chapter after is reserved for Andy Warhol’s photographic covers. “This Is John Wallowitch” appeared in the first section of the book and this section includes the covers for “The Velvet Underground & Nico“, Miguel Bose’ s “Milano/Madrid“, Paul Anka’s “The Painter“, “Silk Electric” by Diana Ross and the cover of the “Muscles” single from the album and finishing with the cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Love You Live” album with a page devoted to the polaroid pictures  on which Warhol based the cover design. “Sticky Fingers“, the other Stones album Warhol designed, appears in the section Photo-Copy along with several pastiches.Obviously, in a book on the photography and the art of the album cover, I wouldn’t expect any of Warhol’s graphic covers to be included–and there aren’t any, with the possible exception of “The Velvet Underground & Nico” cover. I’m not sure how much photography was involved. Did Warhol actually photograph the famous banana?

More chapters are devoted to the work of David Bailey (more Rolling Stones covers), Lucien Clergue And Lee Friedlander’s photography for jazz artists on the Atlantic label. The jazz theme is logically continued with a chapter devoted to some of the Blue Note label’s photographic covers with photography by Frank Wolf. And the label theme continues with a chapter on covers from the ECM label photographed by a variety of photographers. Other labels highlighted include Brazil’s Elena Records, ESP-dosc and a chapter devoted to the American Bluesville, Riverside & Yazoo labels before moving on to a chapter of Hipgnosis designs including the usual Pink Floyd covers (but happily, not the “Dark Side of the Moon” cover which I feel has become a cliché).

In the next chapter, aptly titled “Transartistic” there are covers by Robert Rauschenberg (Talking Heads’ “Speaking in Tongues”), Paul Bley (“Paul Bley Quintet“) and Andy Warhol’s “Index” book with the Lou Reed flexidisc. Even Jeff Koons’ cover for Lady Gaga’s “Artpop” and Damien Hirst’s cover for Dave Stewart’s “Greetings From the Gutter” are included.

One of the best chapters is entitled “Propaganda and Slogans” which includes thirty eight covers ranging from the clenched fist on the cover of The BlackVoices album “On the Streets in Watts” to Rage Against the Machines album with the self-imolating buddhist monk on the cover.From this provocative chapter with covers portraying Che Guevara, Charles de Gaulle,Malcolm X and Martin Luther King the book goes “Below the Belt2 with a selection of “racier” covers such as The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s ” Electric Ladyland” (The British cover with the nude models photographed by David Montgomery), Roxy Music’s “County Life” and more Rolling Stones in the form of both versions of the “Beggars Banquet” cover (the originally released version with the white cover which simply stated the group’s name and the record’s title as well as the version The Stones originally wanted with the lavatory interior scene, first released in 1986.

The final three chapters, “A life on Vinyl:David Bowie and Johnny Halliday”, “Word and Image” with many spoken word albums (Allen Ginsberg, Albert Camus, Jack Kerouac, etc.) and “from Grain to Groove”, a homage to the Soundtrack album cover, round off this nice book.

I think this is one of the nicest books on record cover design which I will keep alongside Alex Steinweiss’ “The Inventor of the Modern Record Cover“, Nick de Ville’s “Album: Classic Sleeve Design–Style and Image in Sleeve Design” and Richard Evan’s “The Art of the Album Cover“. I would have been thrilled to see the exhibition and have been able to see the covers full size. But the covers in “Total Records” are beautifully photographed by Romain Riviere and do them justice.