Vinyl Hayride: Country Music Album Covers 19471989
Nashville has long been a printing center (witness the still vital Hatch Show Print), but not an advertising (nor a design) crucible. For record labels, that means that unlike New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago the pool of designers, illustrators, photographers and typographers available to create album artwork has been shallow. And, like the sidemen who played on these albums, many of the cover artists are unknown.
These 250 examples have been chosen from among the Country Music Hall of Fames 200,000 albums. They survey a broad field, all 52 years from the dawn of cover design in 1947 through the arrival of the CD booklet. Assembled largely by historians, Vinyl Hayride paints in broad, somewhat familiar strokes. You will rarely encounter an unknown recording artist in these pages and, given the size of the museums collection, it might have been nice to avoid recently reissued cover artwork.
These are, of course, the quibbles of a fan. Many of the albums pictured are atrociously hard to find, and expensive. The exquisite mayhem of the Don Quest Studios Starday albums is a revelation, deserving of its own book; discovering that legendary Blue Note designer Reid Miles took the cover photograph for Kenny Rogers The Gambler is, well, slightly deflating.