When it comes to vinyl, jazz is my first love. With the exception of one or two important album’s of a more contemporary genre from my youth, it was the jazz LPs I kept at that time when the medium was deemed obsolete.
Obviously, there’s no shortage of cool jazz album covers. Jazz begs for cool covers, like a short black hairy schnauzer begs for a Rich Tea biscuit every night around 7pm…as they say. But when it comes to charity shop vinyl pickings, jazz is a bit thin on the ground. And when I say, “thin on the ground”, I mean as thin as thin can be. Thin.
I’ve only been looking at charity shop vinyl since Christmas (since my family bought me a record player and my interest in spinning black discs was rekindled) and I can’t recall seeing any jazz beyond the softcore Kenny Ball and his Jazz Men kind of jazz.
Classical, on the other hand, is present in abundance. Where there is vinyl, there is classical. If there’s nothing else, there’s probably classical. No jazz. Lots of classical. I wonder why that is? What does that say about anything? I don’t know.
What I do know – have learned – is that when classical music record labels were commissioning cover designs, all the good designers were out to lunch…smoking…drinking…and listening to jazz. Leaving those record companies with no option but to stick a photo of the conductor or, if he's out smoking and drinking with his designer mates, a photo of some vaguely related landscape or some random piece of art on the cover.
Finding anything more interesting is quite a task. But not, I'm happy to report, an impossible task, as the examples here demonstrate.
Now, I'm not an expert in the field of classical music LP cover design but Prokofiev seems to fair well, inspiring some great cover art or, at the very least, the use of a Lissitzky painting.
This cover has nothing but Czechoslovakian all over the back so until I finish my intensive lifelong learning class in that particular language I can't tell you anything about the top notch cover design. Bartok is excellent too.
This one, on the other hand, is by Rudolf de Harak. I wasn't familiar with de Harak but a quick Google reveals…well, take a look. Flippin' amazing!
And finally, this absolute triumph from 1964, another from Czechoslovakia, is credited to the mysterious Frantisek Novy who appears to have gone on to become the Pope. Go figure.