Album Cover Art – Spring 2017 Edition

Time for some album art! In this batch we have some old stuff and some new stuff, with cover art from Black Sabbath, William Fitzsimmons, The Game, Tones on Tail and many others, so let’s get started.

Our first album cover is for a band we all know, Black Sabbath. This is the cover for their live Reunion album, and it is spectacular. First off, it sort of references the cover of Ozzy’s solo album No Rest for the Wicked. But beyond that, I just love these demon toddlers (probably portrayed by the same model) with their little cloven hooves and tiny wings. That, along with the fact that they’re girls, makes them anti-cherubs, I think. The cover was designed by Glen Wexler, who also did the cover for Van Halen’s Balance that I profiled several years ago (and that Wexler himself commented on). You could almost say this is a counterpart cover to Balance. It may just be my favorite Black Sabbath cover now. Well, it’s a tossup between this and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (front and back), beautifully illustrated by Drew Struzan.

Glen Wexler – Black Sabbath – Reunion (cover)

Glen Wexler Studio (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Glen Wexler

Our next cover is for Relative Ash’s Our Time with You. I really know nothing about this band other than that they formed in the mid-90s and are said to sound something like Deftones (I haven’t listened to them). They seem to have put out this one album and then broken up. If anyone has more info about the band, this album cover or its creator, you are welcome to comment on it. I like the simplicity and the Pandora’s Box symbolism here.

Photographer Unknown – Relative Ash – Our Time with You (cover)

Here are a couple of covers for albums by singer-songwriter William Fitzsimmons. The first featured album, Until When We Are Ghosts, was his debut. An interesting factoid about Fitzsimmons: both of his parents, who were also musicians, were blind.

Photographer Unknown – William Fitzsimmons – Until When We Are Ghosts (cover)

I really love this next cover though. The little equestrienne in her dressage jacket and bowler derby is certainly adorable. The album itself is actually the second of two albums that are thematically linked, with each one being about one of Fitzsimmons’s grandmothers. The sad tale of the singer’s father and his father’s mother (the subject of this album) is recounted on Fitzsimmons’s website if you want to read it. You can find it here.

Photographer Unknown – William Fitzsimmons – Charleroi: Pittsburgh Vol. 2 (cover)

Now here’s an album with a cover featuring the childhood countenances of three well-known country-pop singers, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton, just in case you ever wondered what they looked like as little girls. By the way, if you aren’t aware of it, the young Dolly has been portrayed (wonderfully, I think) by Alyvia Alyn Lind in two made-for-television movies as of this post.

Artist Unknown – Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton – Trio II (cover)

Tones on Tail was a side project of Bauhaus guitarist Daniel Ash that only lasted a couple of years but nevertheless put out several singles, three EPs and one LP, that being this album, Pop. The cover depicts a nude toddler girl balancing upon a wall near the woods, but there is something not quite right about her face/head. It almost looks like she is wearing a mask and wig combo, or at least a wig. That hair just does not look real. If it is, it’s a really horrible haircut. That, combined with the darkness of the trees in the background, invest the image with an undeniable creepiness. The photographer of the image is listed on Wikipedia (and presumably in the album’s notes) as Mr. Atlas, which makes sense I suppose, as he probably didn’t want t be identified for taking a nude photo of a child in the woods.

Mr. Atlas – Tones on Tail – Pop (cover)

And speaking of toddlers with things on their head, our next album cover shows a little girl wearing some kind of warrior’s helmet in addition to her pink princess dress and pink tennis shoes. The album is Take It Like a Man by the Butcher Babies, a heavy metal band fronted by two female vocalists. Obviously the masculine helmet is intended to contrast with the girlishness of the dress and, well . . . the girl herself.

Photographer Unknown – Butcher Babies – Take It Like a Man (cover)

Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf is a compilation album by rapper The Game. I don’t really know much about The Game or this album, but I really liked the cover, with its sassy little girl in red showing a big bad wolf who’s boss. Now, what ever could that be a reference to? 😉

Photographer Unknown – The Game – Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf (cover)

Our next cover is for Unknown Mortal Orchestra‘s single release SB-03, the third in an ongoing series of psychedelic instrumental tracks released by the band every Christmas. The cover was created by Jenny Nielson, front man Ruban Nielson’s wife. The child in the photo may be herself when she little or someone else entirely. I really don’t know, but I like her creative flair nonetheless.

Jenny Nielson – Unknown Mortal Orchestra – SB-03 (single cover)

Anders Osborne is singer-songwriter heavily influenced by the blues. All of his output so far has been released on small labels, most of them specializing in blues and jazz music. Little kids flipping off the camera is nothing new to the internet, but I think this is the first time I’ve actually seen it as an official piece of art, in this case for Osborne’s album Peace.

Photographer Unknown – Anders Osborne – Peace (cover)

Our penultimate album cover is actually the first in a whole series of anthology albums collecting lesser known late sixties pop music. The album series features the exact same artwork, only each one is rendered in different colors. At a guess, I would say the original illustration came from the pen of Aubrey Beardsley, but try as I might, I was unable to confirm that. So, as with most of these, the artist will have to remain unidentified for now.

Artist Unknown – Piccadilly Sunshine, Part One (cover)

And last but certainly not least is this beautifully illustrated cover for Robin Crutchfield‘s Into the Dark Wood. Crutchfield is one of those peculiar souls who has been quietly making his own sort of art and music on the fringes for decades, influencing many but never quite becoming as well-known as those who came after. He began as a performance artist which soon transitioned into music, and then, along with his band DNA, he became one of the pioneers of the avante-garde musical movement known as No Wave. Eventually he began making music eerily similar to (but not quite) Medieval music, of which Into the Dark Wood is his latest. The cover art, I’m quite certain, is by some Victorian fairy artist, though I’ve been unable to pin down who. My hunch is Edward Robert Hughes, but again I was not able to confirm it. I would really love to know who created this piece, so if anyone out there is willing to research this more thoroughly I would be eternally grateful. I would love to feature the original image here, especially if I can get a larger one online somewhere.

Artist Unknown – Robin Crutchfield – Into the Dark Wood (cover)

Glen Wexler: Van Halen

This is an odd one. The cover of Van Halen’s Balance features naked conjoined twins sitting on a teeter-totter. There’s tons of irony in the image, which was actually conceived by Alex Van Halen but created by Glen Wexler. The irony is in the fact that, were the twin girls not conjoined, they would be perfectly balanced and could enjoy the teeter-totter, but because they are connected they must, by necessity, share a single side of the teeter-totter, rendering it useless. Hence their frustration with one another.

This album cover was originally censored in Japan. Not because of the nudity (Japan is generally quite liberal about nudity on book or album covers, as long as the genitalia isn’t visible) but because of the conjoined aspect of the image. Apparently the Japanese have a strong taboo about this; it just goes to show that taboos are not universal. Eventually an alternate version of the cover was created for the Japanese edition of the album, in which only one of the twins remained. This is unfortunate for the Japanese because they are missing out on all the interesting ironies and metaphorical aspects of the original design.

Edit: Glen Wexler, the designer and photographer, graciously wrote to Pigtails in Paint (which can be read in its entirety in the replies attached to this post) to correct several errors and misconceptions about this piece, including several by yours truly.  It is well worth reading. – Pip


Glen Wexler – Van Halen – Balance (cover) (1)


Glen Wexler – Van Halen – Balance (cover) (2) (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Van Halen

Wikipedia: Glen Wexler


From Hugh Ziegler on March 13, 2012
This is actually a boy – Wolfgang Van Halen – son of Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli. The “conjoined twins” image is meant to represent Eddie and Alex Van Halen.

From pipstarr72 on March 14, 2012
Ah, well, it looks enough like a girl to warrant the post. That is interesting though. And it presents a question: which one is pulling the hair, Eddie or Alex?

From Hugh Ziegler on March 14, 2012
Good question!
It’s probably Alex doing the pulling – notice the diifferent lengths of Wolfgang-Left’s and Wolfgang-Right’s hair. A lot of promo pics for Van Halen show Alex with hair just above his shoulders and Eddie with long hair.
Now – if Eddie had a daughter – she would look very much like the child on the teeter-totter anyway.

From pipstarr72 on March 14, 2012
I’ve always assumed these were girls; that they’re boys doesn’t surprise me, but in the context of the design the child’s sex is really irrelevant (as it is irrelevant with Buckcherry’s ‘Time Bomb’ cover, where the sex of the child is even more ambiguous.) So yeah, at that age a boy and girl look pretty much the same absent the artificial social cues we give them (like long hair for girls and short for boys.)

From Glen Wexler on March 14, 2012
As the creator of the images, I thought I would chime in to set the record straight.
First off, the analysis of the piece is spot on. It’s all about the layers of irony.
Warner Bros. was also aware of the Japanese cultural issues regarding deformities in advance of the release, and we created the second version for that market. MTV and other press made a big deal about the album cover being “censored in Japan.” That was simply a distortion to fabricate a “news” story.
The original title of the album was “The Seventh Seal.” I originally worked on concepts to illustrate that title. One of the ideas involved an image of a young child. During the casting session I found this very androgynous looking four-year-old boy. The boy is NOT Wolfie, who was a bit younger at the time. The band came to the conclusion that “The Seventh Seal” was not the best title and we switched directions for the cover art.
When I asked what the new title “Balance,” meant to the band, Alex discussed the turmoil and changes surrounding Van Halen. We settled on the notion of exploring the duality of the human psyche. I produced several rough sketches to illustrate the concept, including the conjoined twins on the seesaw, which would be created by combining photographs of the androgynous child.
Any speculation that one side represented Alex and the other Eddie is just that. It was never intended.

From pipstarr72 on March 15, 2012
Glen, thank you so much for your input! I have long been intrigued by this image, and I confess that I bought the album in when I was in high school specifically because of the cover (not that I didn’t like the band, but as an aspiring graphic designer myself I frequently bought albums and other things because of the cover designs.) In fact, I very much prefer your dualistic symbolism to the story circulating about Alex and Eddie anyway. And I likewise appreciate your setting the record straight regarding Japan’s squeamishness about the conjoined twins. And I have to say, given some of the art I’ve seen produced in Japan lately, the secondary design was probably unnecessary in the end. But, well, it was a different time, so what do I know? Thanks again!

From Hugh Ziegler on March 15, 2012
I respectfully stand corrected then – Thank you!

From Hugh Ziegler on March 16, 2012
One interesting thing I just realized about the way the boy is posing — it looks like he is making a ” V” and an “H” shape with his conjoined body.

From pipstarr72 on March 16, 2012
Hmm, I didn’t notice that before, but now that you point it out . . . Probably not intentional, but still very interesting.

From Glen Wexler on March 17, 2012
That was intentional.

From pipstarr72 on March 17, 2012
Excellent! You definitely put a lot of thought into this design.