Alex Steinweiss, Inventor of the Modern Album Cover

Just one of countless great covers in this book!

Just one of countless great covers in this book!

As music has been liberated from vinyl and then cds, the album cover has become a thing of the past.  While the net is a visual medium, and art is critical to the experience, regardless of the topic, the process of listening to music and absorbing the album art, its texture, colors and information, ended with cds and 5 point type.  Yet today, art of all kinds – logos, posters, stickers, ads, banners, t shirts, etc. – is critical to marketing.

Kevin Reagan, a three-time Grammy® winner (Madonna‘s “Ray of Light” is one of them, maybe a Bon Jovi?) I worked with at Geffen in the 90s, has just released Alex Steinweiss, The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover.  It’s an amazing book in which Kevin and his collaborator Steven Heller beautifully chronicle the early covers for Columbia, Decca and many other labels as well as Steinweiss’ commercial work.

A few sample images after the jump!

As “music that you can see” goes through a massive transition, it’s enlightening to see what happened at the beginning of the lp.  Looking through over 450 pages of artwork, it’s fun to think of Kevin Reagan’s journey through the past and how his own career might parallel or contrast Alex Steinweiss’.  Even considering the huge commercial impact Steinweiss’ art had on record sales, he was probably left on his own by executives and most definitely the artists, conductors.

I recall Reagan being forced to wait by a phone for an entire weekend (pre-cell phone!) for a call from Axl Rose about Use Your Illusion, so you can see how he might long for a time when there was less involvement from outside parties.  But Kevin Reagan is a pioneer in the history of “making music you can see” like Alex Steinweiss.  He was one of the first people to integrate advertising, web and music design under one roof with his company M80 (later sold to WPP).

At a cost of $500, the Taschen limited edition is too high for me.  But Taschen provides a preview of the entire book at their site, and there are two releases parties: tonight at Taschen, 354 N. Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, at 7pm and on December 7 at the headquarters of Columbia Records in London, hosted by Mike Smith, Managing Director.

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