Album cover of the week: Dressed to Kill

Anyone who knows me at all could have guessed that I’d find a way to get Kiss included on this feature sooner or later. But can you blame me? Whatever you think about their music, Kiss had its share of memorable album art back in the day. But for a slight twist, I went with one that I don’t usually see called out as one of the group’s best – 1975’s Dressed to Kill:

Kiss - Dressed to Kill (1975)

In contrast to the more popular covers for Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over, and Love Gun, which seem to imbue Mssrs. Simmons, Stanley, Frehley, and Criss with superhero or demigod status, this cover opts for a more down-to-earth visual. Oddly enough, the genesis of this photo came from an earlier comic designed to show Kiss as superheroes.

Basically, the idea was that they swooped into town to save music fans from the horrors of a John Denver concert, and ended up changing out of their suits in a phone booth à la Clark Kent. A photo shoot was staged using that as inspiration, and one of the photos ended up as the cover to the band’s third album.

The idea of classic Kiss as larger-than-life figures is so cliché by now that the notion of them in regular garb just appeals to me.

Oh, and here’s the back cover:

Kiss - Dressed to Kill (1975)

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Queen - News of the World

Album cover of the week: News of the World

I was absolutely fascinated by this cover as a kid and I still think it’s awesome:

Queen - News of the World album cover

What gets me about this is the look on the robot’s face, which says “Oh crap, did I do that?” The blood drop on the finger is also a very nice touch. The only part that doesn’t thrill me is that Brian May (the one with the curly hair and puffy shirt) looks like a bit of a dandy.

As it turns out, interestingly enough, this wasn’t exactly a new painting. The October 1953 issue of Astounding Science Fiction featured the original art by Frank Kelly Freas.

Astounding Science Fiction (October 1953) feat. artwork by Frank Kelly Freas

Queen contacted Freas and asked him to adapt his work for their album cover. He agreed, and his updated killer robot appeared when News of the World was released in October 1977.

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Album cover of the week: Wish You Were Here

All too often it happens that an album with great artwork is full of forgettable music. Luckily that’s not so with Pink Floyd’s 1975 classic, Wish You Were Here. For my money, this is the ultimate Floyd album and one of the ten best albums of all-time.

Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

One of the really appealing things about this cover – aside from how surreal it is -is how ambiguous it is. There may be a definite story or scenario behind this photo, but it’s vague enough to allow you to make up your own. I know I’ve made up more than a few.

This is one of many memorable covers designed by the famed design group Hipgnosis, whose work will undoubtedly pop up at least a few more times in future installments in this series.

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Album cover of the week: The Sounds of Jimmy Smith

Starting today and running every Monday until I lose interest, I’m going to feature one album cover that is notable for either being well-crafted, visually striking, humorous, or all of them at once. I am old enough to remember when vinyl still held sway as the dominant format for music delivery, and I’ve always lamented the decline of the format for reasons other than the ones usually trotted out (i.e. it just “sounds” nicer than compact discs).

Back in the day (yes, that dreaded phrase), album covers served as the last chance for a record to sell itself. Would-be owners spent hours thumbing through record racks, waiting for something to pop out at them. A lot of great (and lousy) music was discovered this way.

So with all that out of the way, here’s your album cover for the week of May 12, 2008:

The Sounds of Jimmy Smith (1957)
The Sounds of Jimmy Smith, Blue Note, 1957 (photo by Harold Feinstein)

Fans of the venerable Blue Note record label recognize what came to be the imprint’s signature cover look throughout its heyday – an image of the artist cast in a distinctive color (like this). 1957’s The Sounds of Jimmy Smith took a slightly different direction, as it didn’t show a picture of the legendary jazz organist at all. To be honest, I’m not really certain what the image is supposed to be, but it looks like something Nikola Tesla probably invented. Also, it’s really cool.

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