The Bob Seger System, Ramblin' Gamblin' Man

Album Cover of the Week: The Bob Seger System, Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man

Shortly before he became one of the top heartland rock acts of the 1970s and ’80s, and a few decades before “Like a Rock” guaranteed that he would never have to work again, Bob Seger released a pretty great and eclectic debut LP in April 1969. Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man was issued by Capitol Records (ST 172) under the group name The Bob Seger System, one of three records that group recorded for the label.

The Bob Seger System, Ramblin' Gamblin' Man

The Bob Seger System, Ramblin' Gamblin' Man

You might be wondering what that lovely portrait of a young lady in blue standing on an ice shelf has to do with the album title. Fortunately Seger explains on the back cover:

The title of this album up until three days ago was “Tales Of Lucy Blue”. At that time I realized that Lucy Blue is Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man. Thank you Doctor Fine!

I have no idea what he’s talking about either, but it’s still a really beautiful album cover. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find any credits for the painting on the front or the rather funky, psychedelic-inspired illustration on the back cover.

Metal Ballads, Vol. 2

Behold the Strange Beauty of the Metal Ballads Album Covers

I can’t tell if these album covers for a compilation series called Metal Ballads are serious or not, but they are 100% undistilled awesome either way. They were released in Germany between 1988 and 1991, before grunge made things like this look even more foolish than they already did, so I’m inclined to think that RCA Records didn’t realize they were unintentionally goofing on the entire hair metal scene. But still, look at these things.

You could take the title off these drawings and pass them off as the covers to some astoundingly bad romance novels. Ones that take place in a world where shirts are but a distant memory and only the tender, rocking ballads of the Scorpions will see you through another hellish day sharing body heat for survival.

Oh and for the curious, I’ve included the original track listing with each album cover. That should tell you whether nor not RCA was serious or just seriously messing around.

Metal Ballads, Vol. 1

Metal Ballads, Vol. 1 (1988) album cover art

Track listing

1. Whitesnake – Is This Love
2. McAuley Schenker Group (MSG) – Time
3. REO Speedwagon – Keep On Loving You
4. Heart – Alone
5. Darxon – Hungry
6. Phenomena II – Did It All for Love
7. Magnum – When the World Comes Down
8. Scorpions – Still Loving You
9. Gary Moore – Always Gonna Love You
10. Steeler – The Deeper the Night
11. Strangeways – Goodnight L.A.
12. Bonfire – Give It a Try
13. Europe – Carrie
14. Nazareth – Love Hurts

Metal Ballads, Vol. 2

Metal Ballads, Vol. 2 album cover art

Track listing

1. Cinderella – Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)
2. House of Lords – Love Don’t Lie
3. Deep Purple – Soldier of Fortune
4. Quiet Riot – Don’t Wanna Be Your Fool
5. Darxon – Don’t Give Up
6. Poison – Every Rose Has Its Thorn
7.  Bonfire – You Make Me Feel
8. Scorpions – Holiday
9. Kingdom Come – What Love Can Be
10. Gary Moore – Empty Rooms
11. Zed Yago – The Pale Man
12. Motley Crue – You’re All I Need
13. Nazareth – Dream On
14. White Lion – When the Children Cry

Metal Ballads, Vol. 3

Metal Ballads, Vol. 3 (1990) album cover art

Track listing

1. Scorpions – Always Somewhere
2. Great White – Save Your Love
3. Motley Crue – Without You
4. Kix – Don’t Close Your Eyes
5. Warrant – Heaven
6. Accept – Mistreated
7. Roko – Hold On
8. Skid Row – I Remember You
9. Alice Cooper – Only My Heart Talkin’
10. Giant – I’ll See You in My Dreams
11. Deep Purple – Wasted Sunsets
12. Axel Rudi Pell – Broken Hearts
13. Bonfire – Who’s Foolin’ Who
14. Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways (live)
15. Whitesnake – We Wish You Well

Metal Ballads, Vol. 4

Metal Ballads, Vol. 4 (1991) album cover art

Track listing

1. Lita Ford & Ozzy Osbourne – Close My Eyes Forever
2. Robert Plant – Ship of Fools
3. McAuley Schenker Group (MSG) – Anytime
4. Scorpions – Believe in Love
5. Y & T – Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
6. Cheap Trick – Wherever I Would Be
7. Gary Moore – Still Got the Blues (For You)
8. House of Lords – It Ain’t Love
9. Damn Yankees – High Enough
10. Winger – Without the Night
11. Marillion – Kayleigh
12. German Rock Project – Let Love Conquer the World
13. Tyketto – Standing Alone
14. Kane Roberts – Does Anybody Really Fall in Love Anymore
15. Crash N’ Burn – So Close to Me

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Jefferson Starship, Red Octopus

Album Cover of the Week: Jefferson Starship, Red Octopus

As ’70s AOR goes, Jefferson Starship’s Red Octopus is pretty good. Not fantastic, but really solid stuff. But what I really dig about it is the album cover. It comes in a few variations, which we’ll look at together.

First up is an original issue from the band’s own Grunt Records imprint (catalog number BFL1-0999). It has a sort of embossed look to it, as the material for the band and album names shimmers based on the light source. Same goes for the “red octopus,” which is a heart with eight legs.

Jefferson Starship, Red Octopus

Non-U.S. editions of the album have the same layout as the original, but ditch the gold leaf effect in favor of a straight red and yellow color scheme. Here’s a specimen from the U.K. (Grunt FTR 2002). I have to say I prefer this scheme over the fancier one. It’s a very striking arrangement  and I dig the typeface as well.

Jefferson Starship, Red Octopus

Graphic design on Red Octopus is credited to the firm of Gribbitt!, and Frank Mulvey is credited as art director. Another fine Gribbitt! entry from ’75 is Parliament’s Mothership Connection.

Jackie Gleason - Tawny (1954) album cover

Top 10 Jackie Gleason Album Covers

I’ve already written about the musical career of the Great One, Jackie Gleason, as well as talked about one of my favorite Gleason album covers (Music for Lovers Only). I thought I’d go ahead and dedicate an entire album cover gallery drawn from Gleason’s catalog of mid-century orchestral pop — aka mood music.

So here’s a collection of my ten favorite Jackie Gleason album covers, drawn from his extensive Capitol Records run (nearly 60 LPs, including soundtracks and compilations, from the early ’50s through the early ’70s). These all come from the first ten years of his catalog, and I think you’ll see why.

#1. Music for Lovers Only (1952)

Jackie Gleason, Music for Lovers Only album cover

Music for Lovers Only (1952)

#2. Lonesome Echo (1955)

Jackie Gleason Presents Lonesome Echo album cover

Lonesome Echo (1955)

This was Gleason’s fifth #1 album, and the artwork was by the legendary Salvador Dali. He described the concept of the painting as such:

The first effect is that of anguish, of space, and of solitude. Secondly, the fragility of the wings of a butterfly, projecting long shadows of late afternoon, reverberates in the landscape like an echo. The feminine element, distant and isolated, forms a perfect triangle with the musical instrument and its other echo, the shell.

#3. Velvet Brass (1957)

Jackie Gleason Presents Velvet Brass album cover.

Velvet Brass (1957)

Love the outfits, love the poses, love the random arrangement of horns. This is so very 1950s.

#4. Tawny (1954)

Jackie Gleason - Tawny (1954) album cover

Tawny (1954)

Well hello there, legs!

At the time of Tawny‘s release, Gleason already had two of the ten best-selling records in the country. As a promotional gimmick, a record chain in Buffalo gave away free pairs of tawny-colored stockings with the purchase of the album.

#5. The Torch With the Blue Flame (1958)

Jackie Gleason - The Torch With the Blue Flame (1958) album cover.

The Torch With the Blue Flame (1958)

#6. Opiate d’Amour (1960)

Jackie Gleason - Opiate d'Amour (1960) album cover

Opiate d’Amour (1960)

I love the evocative pink hue on the smoke here.

#7. Aphrodisia (1960)

Jackie Gleason - Aphrodisia (1960) album cover

Aphrodisia (1960)

I dig the Ancient Greek typeface on this one, as well as the whiter-than-white couple sharing a bowl of something intoxicating.

#8. Love Embers and Flame (1962)

Jackie Gleason - Love Embers and Flame (1962) album cover

Love Embers and Flame (1962)

This cover manages to be sexually suggestive but subtle at the same time. That’s called class, my friends.

#9. To a Sleeping Beauty / Apology at Bedtime (1956)

Jackie Gleason - To a Sleeping Beauty / Apology at Bedtime (1956) album cover

To a Sleeping Beauty / Apology at Bedtime (1956)

You may notice that this selection looks nothing like the other nine. And if you search this out on YouTube you’ll hear that it sounds nothing like the other nine either. This is, as the cover indicates, two narratives from Gleason to fictional sleeping son and daughter. It’s… interesting. But I like the cover, so it goes on the list.

#10. Music, Martinis, and Memories (1954)

Jackie Gleason Presents Music, Martinis, and Memories (1954) album cover

Music, Martinis, and Memories (1954)

I just had to end the gallery with a typical Gleason album cover, right?

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Journey, Look into the Future album cover

Album Cover of the Week: Journey, Look into the Future

Once upon a time, there was a Journey that was not massively successful. I speak of course about the band’s first three albums — which were certainly harder and more progressive than later material, but were nonetheless not very popular.

So for this entry let’s look at one of those three albums, and the one with the weirdest cover — 1976’s Look into the Future.

Journey, Look into the Future album cover

So it looks like we’ve got a little bit of an MC Escher thing going on here, but less complex. It does fit with the vibe of Look into the Future, however, which is definitely more progressive and jazzy than the band would become after Steve Perry joined.

Journey, which was a five-piece outfit for their first album, lost rhythm guitarist George Tickner and was reduced to a quartet. The four band members, shown here as floating blue spirit beings, are (clockwise from the back left) guitarist Neal Schon (and his epic ’70s afro), bassist Ross Valory, keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Rolie, and drummer Aynsley Dunbar.

Information on the cover design is not easy to come by, but from what I can tell the design is credited to Rick Narin and photography is credited to Ethan Russell.

Later CD issues of Look into the Future add a dark red band around the edge of the cover. The scan you see here is from a 1976 CBS Records U.K. release.

Pink Floyd - Obscured by Clouds

Album Cover of the Week: Pink Floyd, Obscured by Clouds

For a long time I thought of Pink Floyd’s Obscured by Clouds as little more than the album that came before The Dark Side of the Moon. And while it certainly doesn’t nearly measure up to the latter, it has its own charms — not the least of which is its album cover.

Pink Floyd - Obscured by Clouds

For reasons unknown to me, this is actually an intentionally out-of-focus photograph of a man in a tree — not, in fact, clouds. The sleeve design is by Hipgnosis, who of course designed several other Floyd albums throughout the years. I really like this one because it suits the rather hazy nature of some of Obscured by Clouds.

The album was intended originally to be the soundtrack for a French film called La Vallée (The Valley). When Pink Floyd later had a falling out with the film company, they decided to call their album Obscured by Clouds. In response, the company re-titled the movie as La Vallée (Obscured by Clouds) to maintain the connection.

The soundtrack reached #1 in France, which is why I’ve chosen the French album cover (Harvest Records 2C 064, 1972). It’s basically the same as the other versions, except for the slightly obtrusive Harvest logo in the upper left. The British version, by contrast, has a much more subtle, green-tinged logo in the same place and no “stereo” marking at all on the front.

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The Vancouver Canucks, Hockey -- With a Little Help from Your Friends

Album Cover of the Week: The Vancouver Canucks, Hockey — With a Little Help from Your Friends

That’s right, the NHL is back! I thought I’d dedicate this week’s album cover post to a hockey-related LP, but I quickly found that there simply aren’t that many out there. There are plenty of covers with a football or baseball theme, but not so much hockey.

What I did find was this curio from the mid-1970s. It’s the 1975 LP from the Vancouver Canucks, Hockey — With a Little Help from Your Friends.

The Vancouver Canucks, Hockey -- With a Little Help from Your Friends

This is just great, whether you love hockey, vintage logos, or funky and weird albums. This isn’t a music album, so don’t go expecting the ’70s hockey equivalent of “Super Bowl Shuffle.” This is a mostly spoken word record, featuring playing advice and tips from Canuck players such as Don Lever, Rick Blight, Bob Dailey, Dennis Ververgaert, Curt Ridley, Harold Snepsts, Phil Maloney, and Theme Tune. Sprinkled in with the spoken parts are some slabs of vintage jazzy instrumental funk.

Here’s a sampling from the album — a track featuring 15-year veteran Don Lever:

With a Little Help from Your Friends (The Vancouver Canucks) by VanCanucks

Awesome, eh?

No idea on the artist or graphic design credits for this beauty. I’d like to thank him for creating that fantastic ghost streak effect on the old Canucks uniforms. Love that color scheme and the stick-in-rink logo. Not much has changed about the Chicago Blackhawks uniform so there’s not much to remark on there, other than the glaring lack of helmets and the old-fashioned goalie mask.

Sammy Sosa album cover

Sammy Sosa — Pinterest Sensation, Music Star!

In case you haven’t already seen, Sammy Sosa — former Major League Baseball star, bat corker, and Hall of Fame wannabe — has undertaken a bizarre strategy for improving his public image. And by that I mean he’s not only Tweeting, he has a Pinterest page. But rather than use Pinterest for its intended purpose — sharing pictures of food and kicky shoes — he’s published nothing but posed portraits of himself. To compound the oddness, every photo bears an identical description: “Sammy Sosa. Yes, I’m the real Sammy Sosa, and this is my Pinterest.”

In looking at Sosa’s pinned photos, featuring him posing uncomfortably either in a snappy blue suit or mustard yellow sweater, I was struck by how much some of the photos looked like the cover to a never-released album of lounge music or easy listening orchestral pop. So I decided to just make that happen, and here’s the result.

Sammy Sosa album cover

Sammy, he sing for YOU!