The Pier: Album & Cover Art History Vol. 6
Welcome to The Pier’s Album & Cover Art History – Volume 6 as we take a look at another five iconic album covers and releases with their concepts & back-story.
In this feature, you’ll read how the album’s art has more depth to its meaning than just cool visuals thrown together. They’re cultural statements bringing the visual aesthetics to the music; further branding the band. There are great stories to these covers and the albums. We pulled the curtain back with how the aligning art plays an integral part to the overall meaning of the album.
Enjoy the read below and let us know in the comments which Album & Cover-Art you’d like us to explore in the future! If you find you’re not familiar with or you don’t own any of these albums, then we encourage you to read this feature as a recommendation of what to add to your music collection!
Stay tuned as we’ll be back in the fall with more volumes to add to this series…
Read all volumes to The Pier’s Album & Cover Art History:
311 – Music
Record Label: Capricorn Records
Release Date: February 9th, 1993
The official debut album for 311 officially dropped in 1993, and 3 years after their first show. Although the band had recorded several EP’s and at least one full-length release prior to the album, it was Music that propelled 311 into the mainstream for the first time.
The album was recorded in December 1992 and January 1993 at Ocean Studio in Burbank, California, and released via Capricorn Records. The album was certified Gold in 1999, after having sold over 500,000 copies. Music was the band’s first experience working in a professional studio and there was natural excitement among band members. “We were so excited to be in a big studio that we just kept running into the live room and rocking out. Eddie Offord, our producer, said patiently (in his English accent) ‘Gentlemen, when you’re ready, we really need to get this recorded!,” says front man Nick Hexum.
Given the band’s relatively large, and growing song catalog, 311 took a “greatest hits” approach when creating Music. They picked the best songs from the previous couple of years and added a handful of new songs not included on 311’s previous independent releases to create Music.
“… (For a debut album) it’s all of your best ideas from your formative years purged out in one big youthful explosion,” says Hexum. However, even though the album included several previously recorded tracks, nearly all those songs were changed. For example, the lyrics of “Do You Right” were almost completely changed and the breakdown in “Plain” was changed, along with a rearrangement of the song’s lyrics.
Along with the songs that make-up Music, the album’s cover art has stood the test of time. The album cover displays the usual information, like band name and album title—but, it also prominently features a baggy-pant wearing and hoodie-rockin’, Tim Burton-type character. Reflecting on the album art, Hexum shares, “…I do know that a news photo from the 40’s has been unearthed recently that looks eerily similar to the guy on the cover art. We nicknamed the kid on the cover Herb.” “Herb” has not gone unnoticed by fans. A quick cruise of 311’s fan Facebook pages, like 311 Familia, show fans doing their best poses as Herb.
Written by: Kit Chalberg
Watch: 311 – “Do You Right”
10ft Ganja Plant – Hillside Airstrip
Record Label: ROIR (Reachout International Records)
Release Date: January 16th, 2001
10 Ft. Ganja Plant’s sound embodies a 70’s Jamaican roots style with a hint of soul. In order to achieve this authentic feeling, all of their tracks off of this album have been recorded live and then voiced and taken from their original analog masters.
The concept behind the album artwork embodies a scene including a fictional band of “musically minded smugglers, running a secret operation deep in the jungle” as explained by Nate Silas Richardson of 10 Ft. Ganja Plant. The cover features a small Cessna aircraft; several stenciled wooden shipping crates with the band’s name on them, and a “jam shack” with a full set of instruments inside. These key elements were assigned to artist Josh Bard who did a remarkable job drawing the outline of the front and back covers.
After the outline was finished, the next task fell to 10 Ft. Ganja Plant singer Jason Champany (also known as Ras Jay) to bring the album to life with some coloring. The distinct nighttime vibe that the album exudes was a stylistic decision made by Champany, which was: “Something I felt would give it more depth and richness”.
To apply even more depth, he added some small details, such as the craters on the moon and the stars, adding to the mellow nighttime vibe. All of the color work took approximately 15-20 hours to finish. Nate Silas Richardson sums up the scene as follows, “The Cessna is ready to be loaded up, and the guys are taking a late-night break from playing music.”
Written by: Erin Walsh
Listen: 10ft Ganja Plant – “Hillside Airstrip”
Mike Pinto – Mike Pinto
Release Date: November 8th, 2007
Record Label: Independent Release
Following the success of his debut album, Little District (2005), and 2 solo acoustic tours across the U.S., Mike Pinto made his move from his hometown in Philadelphia, PA to San Diego, CA. Without a label, Mike released his self-titled sophomore album in 2007 with the help of legendary producer and musician, Chuck Treece. The album can certainly be considered (under)groundbreaking, with fans immediately requesting an acoustic version of the entire album that was later released in 2008.
After Mike moved to San Diego, he found out he had 3 second-cousins who were famous painters out of Philly in the 1920’s. The 3 brothers were sponsored by Albert Barnes, a wealthy man who collected lots of Impressionistic art from France. Inspired by his new-found knowledge, Pinto went to the Barnes Gallery in Philadelphia to see his cousins’ work. While there, he was drawn to a famous painting by Van Gogh titled, “The Postman.”
Back in Ocean Beach, CA, Pinto linked up with a friend and talented artist named Jimmy Ovadia. After talking about his experience at the museum, the two tried to recreate “The Postman” painting in their own way. According to Mike, “(the cover art) is a tribute to my family members. I never got to meet them.”
Written by: David Garcia
Watch: Mike Pinto – “Bad Luck”
Easy Star All-Stars – Thrillah
Record Label: Easy Star Records
Release Date: August 28th, 2012
Thrillah, which ended up reaching 2012’s and 2013’s Top Reggae Album, stands out amongst the band’s past cover albums. Easy Star All-Star co-founder Michael Goldwasser arranged and produced sessions for the album in Brooklyn NY, Tel Aviv Israel, Sao Paulo Brazil, Birmingham UK, and Kingston Jamaica. In order to obtain the full effect, this album should be played from start to finish like old school albums in order to appreciate the full flow.
The cover album takes several of Michael Jackson’s legendary hits and puts a new reggae-rock-dub spin on them. Other cover albums that the band has produced include ‘Dub Side of the Moon’, ‘Radio Dread’, and ‘Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band’. The inspiration for the cover series came when label co-founder Lem Oppenheimer was listening to a favorite Pink Floyd album (Dark Side of the Moon) and realized the potential for creating something new. Thrillah features a number of Israeli artists to “switch things up” according to Goldwasser, due to his long-standing friendship with international artists.
The album artwork, done by Jim Rugg, embodies a “dread-head meets-zombies” feel to it. It features a Rasta-esque couple strolling out of the movie theater looking a little hesitant about the swarm of zombies closing in and occupying their Jamaican emblazoned car. The clash between the reggae fans and the zombies can be seen as a parallel between the reggae style of the band and the creepy style that Jackson injects in his album. Some guests on the album include Mykal Rose, Steel Pulse, Spragga Benz, The Green, Cas Haley and Mojo Morgan.
Although cover songs can be hard to master due to the preconceived expectations, Easy Star has several songs that will make fans of both Michael Jackson and Easy Star All-Stars, satisfied!
Written by: Erin Walsh
Watch: Easy Star All-Stars – “Thriller” (ft. Mikey General & Spragga Benz)
Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Pay Attention
Record Label: Capitol Records
Release Date: October 6th, 1998
At this point in reggae history, the 3rd wave ska movement had slowed down just a bit, but that didn’t keep The Mighty Mighty Bosstones from producing a killer album. Pay Attention, which has more of a punk and hard rock feel to it in comparison to past poppy tunes, focuses on messages such as maturity and wisdom, personal reflection, and social issues, including post-Columbine contemplation. This album reflects the experimentation the band was undergoing with beachy sounds, to punk sounds, transitioning to the Irish elements that are heard on “Riot on Broad Street”.
Although this album isn’t always the fan’s favorite pick due to the fact that it pales in comparison to their other great efforts, the album art, however, certainly stands out.
The album is the bands last on a major label, but was made known when the first single, “So Sad to Say” was debuted at Fenway Park on Opening Day in 2000. Some of the mature or adult concepts that are focused on in the lyric’s themes can also be seen reflected in the cover artwork, conceptualized by Dicky Barett. Barrett has also been involved with the artwork process of several other Mighty Mighty Bosstones albums such as Question the Answers and Live from the Middle East.
Courtney McGlynn designed the album which includes several hands holding up tools of the modern adult’s life. Some of these objects include a wrench, an eight ball, a razor, and a cigarette — certainly vices of the common grownup individual as the group tells you to Pay Attention.
Written by: Erin Walsh
Watch: Mighty Mighty Bosstones – “So Sad To Say”
We’ll be back in the fall with more volumes to add to this series!
Check out previous Volumes to The Pier’s Album & Cover Art History: