"design artwork for a shrinking album cover" by steven heller @ wired documents the lamentable demise of the 12" canvas once enjoyed by album art — real estate that now seems glorious compared to the 500x500 pixel graphic (at best) that accompanies most digital music these days:
in the late '80s and '90s, when the cd replaced vinyl as the format of choice, the new 5.5- by 5.5-inch jewel case was a far less luscious canvas.
... when the mp3 gained popularity in the late '90s, it seemed that the album — and its cover — would join the moldering 45s, 78s, and 8-tracks in the format graveyard. the first incarnation of napster made no accommodation for album art at all, and itunes shrank covers into dispiriting splotches.
... happily, technologies like cover flow, the visual navigation interface apple dropped into itunes in late 2006 — not to mention the iphone and ipod touch screens — have given album art some renewed prominence.
as heller notes, cover flow made me a bit happier if a bit more obsessive: of the nearly 5800 tracks on my ipod, comprising nearly 1160 albums, all but 2 albums have cover art, all of which i spent months hunting for, or scanning myself. the few tracks that never had any art to begin with got a picture of the artist. now if there were some way to rescue liner notes ...
a few favorites:
in the court of the crimson king, king crimson (1969)
unsettling and mesmerizing, by barry godber.
are you experienced?, jimi hendrix (1993 rerelease)
hendrix and crew beam-in from outer space. scifi-kedelic.
born to run, bruce springsteen (1975)
i had to reformat this one, including new titling. if there is a good reproduction of eric meola's full size gatefold cover on the net, i've yet to find it. it would be nice to find a decent print to scan, sans crease. update: finally — decent art found!
a million in prizes: the anthology, iggy pop (2005)
iggy looking like he was carved from granite.
aqualung, jethro tull (1971)
great drybrush technique, by burton silverman.
blues for allah, grateful dead (1975)
one of the dead's finest covers, by philip garris.
because the night, patti smith (single from the album easter, 1978)
rare cheesecake, by lynn goldsmith, for the high priestess of punk, who usually did everything she could to not look sexy. she usually succeeded.