There doesn’t seem like much to do as a music fan these days. Thankfully, I can still order albums over the internet, though the stacks of them flooding my modest apartment make me look much like a hoarder. Organizing music is always a good activity, especially when you find the odd record that you haven’t got around to spinning in over a year or two. I also inevitably spot a few albums where I forgot which version I own, be it a pressing from an unexpected country of origin, one with a cool insert such as a sticker or poster, and, as you might expect me to say based on this post’s title, one with a cover that differs from the norm.
Exodus – Bonded by Blood
This cover seems to get a mixed reaction between love and hatred, but you can’t deny that it has become a classic metal album cover, commonly making cameos in concert crowds in the form of patches on denim vests, t-shirts, or tattoos. The cover painting was by Richard A. Ferraro, whose only other music credit seems to be Tension’s Breaking Point. An abrasive image was, and still is, a useful tool in making an album stand out from the pack at music stores, and this would have surely done the trick. This album had a significant delay in getting released, but I’m sure the bulk of their fans were simply thankful that it finally arrived no matter what was on the cover. My main complaint would be the brightness of the background. It’s not immediately obvious where these Siamese twins are, possibly lying in their crib with the demonic one clawing at the sheets. Other than that, I’m used to ‘80s metal covers having that rough-around-the-edges quality. I’ve even got a soft spot for the Fistful of Metal picture.
When reissued in 1989, someone felt that a new cover was in order.
When I first saw this, I couldn’t tell what I was looking at. Was this one of those 3D images you have to unfocus your eyes to see? Even though that is not the case (and I could never get those 3D things to work anyway), I question why they bothered to change the cover at all. Did they temporarily lose the rights to reprint it? One thing that could redeem it slightly is to change the logo’s colour to make it more legible. In defense of this, it relates much more to the title-track than the original. Here you have an overhead shot of a bunch of moshing metal heads. They may not exactly have been tasting “the sweet blood of one another”, but the violent aspects of those lyrics are obviously tongue-in-cheek. Making the whole image saturated in red to represent blood seems kind of on-the-nose, but assuming that was the idea, the execution could have been better. The original cover was eventual restored on just about any edition that came out from the late-1990s to present day.
In a trend I continue to dislike, Exodus re-recorded the album in 2008 under the title Let There Be Blood. Band leader Gary Holt had his reasons for it and didn’t intend it to completely replace the original, but I think it’s nonetheless worth looking at their do-over with regards to the cover.
This re-imagining by Pär Olofsson (who also did covers for Immolation, Pathology, and Aborted among several others) does have some positives working towards it, namely upping the gore factor and putting more of a horrified expression on the face of the angelic twin. It’s in line with what I’d expect to accompany a revisit of their old material. And if you want to do a comparison of the actual album, here’s the re-recording of ‘Bonded by Blood’ to hold against the 1985 release.
The Residents – Meet The Residents
It’s rather obvious what this cover is paying tribute to. Aside from some defacing, not much really changed, and that’s why I can get behind this concept. You could realistically stumble across this album thinking that you simply found a vandalized version of Meet the Beatles at first glance, and then be in for a total shock once you play it. I can’t help but think of the Monty Python album that looks like a classical record. That one fools me every time I see it in a record bin! Their music has always been an acquired taste, so I think this was a very crafty way to make a first impression.
Considering that the entire title and cover concept is an obvious take-off on the Beatles, it only makes sense for the second version of the cover to continue the nod to the Mop Tops. Some versions have orange text and others have red text.
My 2011 edition’s liner notes describe what occurred with some of the artwork for The Residents’ debut. Originally, the band had created crawfish and starfish-inspired masks and gloves to go with matching suits, and had an extensive photo shoot where they recreated a variety of poses from early Beatles photo sessions. The film reel went missing along with their friend and mentor, The Mysterious N. Senada, who didn’t return it until years later. In haste, one of the band members took a marker and white-out to the back cover of Meet the Beatles to alter them to be fish.
It’s hard to tell how true the story really is considering the level of anonymity the band lived under, but this alternative cover uses a colorized version of that image that was originally used on the back of the album. Meet the Beatles was repressed countless times, so this second cover’s design may have taken from that as well. That font seems very much of the ‘60s or ‘70s at least. I don’t know why the hands of Ringo Starfish are a different colour than his head, but I can honestly say I’ve never met a humanoid starfish to know if that would be the case.
Judas Priest – Rocka Rolla
The name of the album should immediately bring a certain image to mind, even if you don’t listen to Judas Priest.
This moisture-drenched bottle cap cover was illustrated by Bryce Attwell, whose most notable cover aside from this was from Nektar’s Down To Earth. It’s an obvious nod to the world-famous soda pop manufacturer, which Coca-Cola may not have appreciated according to popular rumour. If that is the case, they sat around until the band gained international popularity before doing anything about it.
In the mid-’80s, the cover received a significant face-lift.
Mel “Melvyn” Grant’s illustration was chosen for the above cover. However, it wasn’t unique to this Judas Priest release. It also made its appearance on book covers (The Steel Tsar) and video games (Ballistix). This character is in line with the creations on many of their album covers from the ‘80s and later such as The Hellion (Screaming for Vengeance), the Mettalian (Defenders of the Faith), and the cyborg on Painkiller. The thing is that their debut is not a metal album. Proto-metal, sure, but far more loyal to blues structure than what would follow. It’s definitely removed enough in sound where they didn’t need to have another other-worldly being on the front to synchronize with the rest of their catalog.
Giving this cover a closer inspection, the multiple bombs just hanging there is confusing. Is he dropping all these? It would be hard to accomplish seeing as his right hand is on his sword. Are there other soliders like him that he is blocking from view? Or were they above him, and he’s gliding out of formation? I’m probably over-thinking it. If you ask me, the title doesn’t really work without the bottle-cap cover accompanying it. If not that image, I’d expect something more ‘50s inspired like a jukebox or a throwback-style image of the band like Queen’s greaser look on The Game.
This war-beast (whatever you want to call him) appears on a substantial amount of reissues, including the above image from my Koch Records version on CD. However, the original cover seems to get a good amount of uses once again. They must have cleared up issues with Coca-Cola, if that truly did factor into the decision to change it.
King’s X – Dogman
With King’s X’s fifth album, they took a significant departure in sound. More bass-heavy and aggressive, yet is still recognizably the trio from a songwriting and performance perspective. There’s no invisible fourth member in the form of producer/manager Sam Taylor to speak of either. From a cover art angle, things took a turn as well. Rather than do the expected and return to the familiar, warm imagery created by James McDermott and Randy Rogers, here’s how Dogman was packaged.
Leon Alvarado (a musician himself) is credited with the art direction and design, with Randy Rogers also getting a design credit. Alvarado has done covers for artists including horn player Fletch Wiley and fusion group Brand X. But why the dog, and not some form or dog/man hybrid like I grew up watching on Dog City? As discussed in Kings’s X: An Oral History, guitarist Ty Tabor believes he pitched the idea by asking “Can’t you just put a dog’s face on the cover, and let it be that?” after other proposals were made. It’s rather basic, but I couldn’t tell you what I’d put in place of it.
One notable aspect of this album is that it was released with four different covers. Seeing as there isn’t much difference between Dogman variants, I’ll cram them all into one convenient JPEG.
I own the blue edition of this album, but couldn’t care less if I instead had one of the others. They were meant to be collectable, and I believe the gimmick may have been established since this was the record that was supposed to make them break big. Why not make the potential to quadruple sales? To my knowledge, I don’t think any one of them is that much more scarce than the other one, but I don’t really care enough to research this fact. I usually won’t buy an album a second, third, or fourth time unless I misplace it, damage it, or it is expanded upon in a significant way (bonus music added, improved mix or mastering, etc.). I actually like the way all four covers look combined, so it’s somewhat surprising that wasn’t actually on an official release.
Of note, the top of the CD on my copy has the yellow dog printed on it, which appears to be the case in many of the other versions as well. Maybe the yellow dog is considered to be the primary or alpha-dog of the pack. The eyes have more of a glow to them, like a deer caught in the headlights.
Joe Henderson – Mirror Mirror
Is it just me or was there a pop-cultural obsession with mirrors in the wake of the suspenseful final fight scene from Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon? It seems I’ve seen countless references to it since then, and can’t help but wonder if this cover was one of them. But the title, taken from the opening track, is most certainly a Snow White reference rather than the Mirror Universe episode of my beloved Star Trek.
The image was designed by Studio Icks, but no individual appears to have their name on it. That could be intentional since this cover isn’t the easiest on the eyes, but I’d say it’s a product of the time. It’s more of a jazz-funk look like I’d expect to see on a Billy Cobham or Brecker Brothers cover (except not with Joe Henderson’s picture because that would be silly). The text of the band members on the bottom is a mirror reflection of the names at the top. It’s pretty amusing that “CHICK” will reflect back as “CHICK” if a mirror is held 90-degrees from the page. I’ve never given that any consideration, and likely never would have if not for this cover.
The version of the album I have was released in 1993.
It’s not too bad-looking, I guess, but this could easily be a compilation album. I can’t tell if a photo is authentic to the year of the original release (1980), but I’d like to think that it is. I usually prefer art over a musician’s photo, but there appears to be a bit more to this one. I see some sort of reflection in his glasses to keep with the mirror theme, possibly a mountain range in addition to his sax, so maybe the photo was an image they considered using from the beginning. I’m glad the lineup still gets top billing as this is standard fare for jazz recordings, an incentive for purchase if you want a complete collection of a particular musician’s work. If I was to make a small suggestion, it would have been interesting if the second “mirror” in the title was a reflection of the first. On the other hand, it adds to the confusion to what this album is actually called? I guess it is all pronounced the same, but how am I to write the name. Is it Mirror Mirror, mirrormirror, Mirror, Mirror, or MIRROR MIRROR? Forget it!
I’m not sure why a change was made at all. I hoped the reissue’s liner notes would explain it, but no. The space was instead reserved for a description of each member of the quartet’s contributions and the compositions themselves, which I suppose is more important that a cover, which can often be cobbled together without input from the musicians. I’d recommend this album for the music alone as the crisp recording and chemistry displayed on the session is far too good to be buried beneath all these cover variations.
I’ll say the two above are the best looking covers of Mirror Mirror I’ve seen. The others seem to use the same images of Joe but with a different tinge or other font choices.
Both of these scream “dollar-store disc” to me, and after seeing them, I can look at mine with slightly more gratitude. At least the text isn’t obscuring his face, it’s a sharp resolution, and he’s not washed out in yellow. I mean, he’s no dog!
I’ll need to give my collection another evaluation to continue this Alternate Album Cover Art series, but it will most certainly happen one day, even if I choose to go beyond what I own. Stay tuned!