Today’s post delves into the world of album cover art. Who misses handling vinyl? We do. Holding the disc, inner sleeve or album cover of your favourite band was a pleasure to behold. Digital music, while having its own irrefutable qualities, has removed the joy of this ritual. Covers are still produced for every record released and the quality of artwork remains high, but these days reviewing this art form is a digital rather than tangible activity. Below we present our top 10 album covers featuring plants. There are some well-known artists and illustrators on display.
10. Phoenix – Bankrupt! (2013)
We start with the most contemporary cover in our collection. The French indie rock band Pheonix turned to illustrator Ben Garvie for a gauzed peach and foliage cover for their 2013 release Bankrupt! We are not exactly sure what the connection is between the title and the image, but it is nice all the same. Ben Garvie is a great fruit and produce digital illustrator, often creating works of the botanical kind.
9. Willie Nelson – Countryman (2009)
This is Willie Nelson’s reggae album. Seemingly a bit bonkers but how wrong can it be with songs like Jimmy Cliff’s Harder They Come. Nelson reportedly has a reputation for cannabis consumption that may well have been satisfied during the album’s recording on the island of Jamaica. The plant Cannabis sativa clearly inspired the album cover artwork, as its leaf graces the front. Apparently, two variations of art work were produced, this one and another, more palatable palm tree one.
8. Pink Floyd – The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (reissue 1997)
Storm Thorgerson who died last year founded the design studio Hipgnosis and from there designed some of the most famous rock album covers of all time including Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and Styx’s Pieces of Eight. Some have suggested the topiary for his image was carried out via helicopter, where as others, more boringly, cite computer aided design. The image is titled ‘Tree of Half Life’.
7. Thin Lizzy – Black Rose: A Rock Legend (1979)
The cover image for this album was created by the irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick famous for the iconic two-tone portrait of Che Guevara that you often see on student t-shirts. His website gives a detailed explanation of how he was inspired and directed to produce this image by his friend and Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott.
6. New Order – Power, Corruption and Lies (1983)
The album cover artwork was produced by Factory records designer Peter Saville who used a reproduction of the painting A Basket of Roses by French artist Henri Fantin-Latour as the front cover. He says of the painting ‘I realised it was such a foil to the literal meaning of the title but such a perfect cipher’. The real thing is held at the National Gallery in London but is not currently on display. A detailed explanation by Saville of his design choices can be found on the design website Upon Paper.
5. k.d. Lang – Hymns of the 49th Parallel (2004)
How could you improve on an album that includes songs by Bruce Cockburn, Joni Mitchell, Jane Siberry, Leonard Cohen and is sung by the heavenly-voiced k.d. lang? The answer is you use a photograph entitled Oaktree Snowball (1994) by the brilliant Andy Goldsworthy as its cover art. Spot the snowball and marvel at how Andy did it. Probably held together with spit or something.
4. The Lightening Seeds – Four Winds (2009)
The first album released since their second coming, this photo seems quintessentially english which seems fitting for a band that is quintessentially english. Anybody that puts a mound with wildflowers on the front of their album deserves to come in at number 4. The image was taken by photographer Pelle Crépin who in the ‘personal’ section of his website has some other lovely, hazy shots of plants too.
3. Beach Boys – Smiley Smile (1967)
Supposedly an homage to the french post-impressionist painter Henri Rousseau, as well as plants it also includes animals and symbolic references to the legendary lost Smile album that was due to precede this one. Love all the lush greenery. Artist is however, unknown.
2. The Velvet Underground & Nico – self titled (1967)
This album, ranked as the 13th best of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, famously featured Andy Warhole’s banana print as its cover image. Early copies of the album had peelable banana skin stickers that revealed a flesh-coloured banana underneath. Imagine that, an album cover that teaches about plant morphology. Reissued editions do not feature the sticker making the originals a highly sought after collector’s item. Copyright disputes have raged on over the rights to this image in the last few years with a settlement finally reached last year.
1. Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden (1988)
One of the greatest bands of the 80s commissioned some of the best natural history inspired album cover artwork. Colour of Spring has the lovely moths and this one has the tree dripping with life’s exotic creatures. Designed by the artist James Marsh it’s just great. And although Plant Curator tends not to comment on things outside of the vegetative world it will make an exception to say that the music is rather magical too.
Further album covers starring or co-starring plants can be viewed on our Pinterest board – Plant Inspired Album Cover Art