Album Cover Top 10

There are several easy ways to start arguments among music fans: ask for a list of the most significant albums of all time, or who the greatest songwriters are, or the best bands, or ask which albums sported the all-time greatest covers.

It's that last question Vinyl Record Day founder Gary Freiberg asked via the VRD website, with the cooperation of radio stations around the US. Once the tallies were in, the debate began, erupting even on audiophile message boards.

Freiberg says that he resisted the temptation of using a panel of "experts," preferring to go straight to the public for input. "Hundreds of titles were named," says Freiberg. "The Top Ten winners represent one definite conclusion of the poll; it proved once more that art is in the eye of the beholder—the results were as diverse as the art form itself."

"Considering that hundreds of titles were submitted, it's a little surprising a top vote getter did surface," Freiberg remarks, "but the Beatles Sgt. Pepper led all others as the top album cover of all time." Proving record sales aren't a factor when it comes to appreciating cover art, the next highest vote went to Herb Alpert's Whipped Cream and Other Delights. "The Beatles sold over 11 million copies of their record; Herb's sold just 500,000 copies," says Freiberg. (A little known fact about the Whipped Cream cover is that the model was three months pregnant at the time the photo was taken. There is an alternate shot from the session as well.)

The poll revealed that multiple titles in the catalogs of Journey and The Rolling Stones ranked high in the realm of cover art. The Stones, the only music artists with two LP covers in the top ten were joined by Led Zeppelin, Rush, and Queen for multiple entries. Beatle favorites named include Revolver, Rubber Soul, and the "anti-cover," the Beatles White Album.

Though rock rules the top ten, Freiberg says that voters did not limit their choices to a single genre or era. "Jazz great Miles Davis' Bitches Brew was a favorite, as were the dark and sultry covers for Henry Mancini's Mr. Lucky and Peter Gunn soundtracks." Also cited were the classical music album covers of Alex Steinweiss.

Freiberg notes that the recording artist did not need to be popular for a cover to pull some votes. Covers from Acquavira, Al Sack, and Bob Hurd albums rated, as well as Best Dressed Chicken in Town from Dr. Alimantado. Other mentions included Frank Sinatra's In the Wee Small Hours and daughter Nancy's Boots, with the controversial liner notes. Freiberg adds that lounge-music covers, as represented by the Jackie Gleason covers of hot blondes with cigarettes and martinis, were a favorite genre, as well as Roger Dean's Yes covers.

The Top Ten Album Covers:
1) Sgt. Pepper – The Beatles
2) Whipped Cream and Other Delights – Herb Alpert
3) The Court of the Crimson King – King Crimson
4) Their Satanic Majesties Request – Rolling Stones
5) Abraxas – Santana
6) Escape – Journey
7) Sticky Fingers – Rolling Stones
8) Fragile – Yes
9) London Calling – Clash
10) Led Zeppelin One "Hindenburg Cover" – Led Zeppelin

Stereophile readers can cast ballots for their all-time greatest cover in our current Vote.