Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

A look back at illustrated album covers old and new

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

Pedro Bell

The Parliament-Funkadelic experience remains as much visual as musical, and no non-musician had as seminal an impact on the collective's aesthetic as Pedro Bell. The Chicago P-Funk fanatic contacted the Mothership in the early Seventies just as Funkadelic sought a new graphic direction. Assigned the band's 1973 opus, Cosmic Slop, the untrained artist delivered a crazed cornucopia of Afrocentric sci-fi imagery that equaled the madness in the grooves. Standing on the Verge of Getting It On (1974), One Nation Under a Groove (1978), and Bell's erotic masterpiece The Electric Spanking of War Babies (1981) laid out the group's worldview through Bell's word balloons and band credits soaked in acid-funk superhero mythology. The odyssey continued after the empire's collapse, with Bell designing sleeves for George Clinton's solo oeuvre and related projects by the INCorporated Thang Band and Axiom Funk. Most recently, the ailing Bell illustrated Funkadelic's 2014 LP, First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate. – Michael Toland

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

Roger Dean

UK illustrator Roger Dean's work remains synonymous with British prog outfit Yes. His first forays into LP art adorned late-Sixties work by the Gun, Atomic Rooster, and Osibisa, but Dean's otherworldly landscapes for fourth Yes album Fragile in 1971 became a near physical embodiment of the band's complicated music and cryptic lyrics. Breakthrough for the band, the disc included biggest hit "Roundabout" and thus exposed the artist's surrealism to millions and led to more work with English acts, including Gentle Giant, Uriah Heep, and Yes offshoot Asia. Dean's work appears on many Yes releases, from the foldout monstrosity that is Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973) to latter-day attempts at New Wave like Drama (1980), but he also did the cover for Boston post-punks Birdsongs of the Mesozoic's The Iridium Controversy (2003). Besides album art, the now 71-year-old visual brand expanded into a variety of media including logos and video game covers (Tetris Worlds). – Jim Caligiuri

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

H.R. Giger

As a boy, Hans Rudolf Giger (1940-2014) dragged a human skull around the streets of Chur in Switzerland. Later, when anarchist punks reckoned themselves transgressive, they shelved the Dead Kennedys' Frankenchrist (1985) with the surrealist nightmare monger's phallus-filled Landscape XX on display. The biomechanical engineer's artistry wasn't in his airbrush, but in striking chords of terror, unease, and sexuality. No wonder European proggers like Walpurgis and Magma came knocking at his spiked door, yet metal's maelstrom most suited his dark magic. Celtic Frost's Tom G. Warrior was so grateful for the master loaning him Satan I to envelop 1985's To Mega Therion that he later became the artist's personal assistant. Giger even reworked his own slithering, sexual Meister und Margeritha to include the Danzig skull for How the Gods Kill. They're fused now forever, his sense of organic satanic doom as definitional as any riff. – Richard Whittaker

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

Mati Klarwein

Born to Jewish parents in 1930s Germany, Mati Klarwein (1932-2002) fled with his family to Palestine after the rise of Hitler, later traveling the world and studying art in Paris. His unmistakable psychedelia, cascading an earthy Afrocentrism and erotic mysticism, graces more than 50 LPs ranging from Gregg Allman to the Last Poets. The art adorning Miles Davis' Bitches Brew (1970) teases the album's radical new direction; a gatefold dichotomy reflecting light and dark, sea and stars, fire and flowers. Klarwein's cover for Carlos Santana's 1970 chart-topping Abraxas was originally part of a temple he constructed on the Spanish island of Majorca. A friend and disciple of Salvador Dalí, Klarwein draws on nature for his imagery, including volcanoes dotting Buddy Miles' A Message to the People (1971) and a wildfire Afro consuming Jimi Hendrix on a painting originally commissioned for a never-released Hendrix-Gil Evans collaboration that was later slapped on a 1974 Christmas single. Lord knows Klarwein was a voodoo child. – Thomas Fawcett

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

Raymond Pettibon

Fast, loud, violent: Raymond Pettibon's illustrations mirrored the burgeoning early-Eighties American hardcore punk scene. Born Raymond Ginn, brother to SST commander Greg Ginn, Pettibon briefly thumped the bass in an early iteration of Black Flag, but proved more useful as the group's art director, designing the ultra-iconic "four bars" logo and all of the band's album covers from 1979 until 1985, with the exception of Damaged. 1984's Family Man depicts a living room homicide, while 1979's essential Nervous Breakdown EP renders a teacher using a chair to fend off a berserk student. Reminiscent of comics and lurid pulp novels, Pettibon's vision conveyed the blind rage of punk, even for the less-raging Minutemen. For their sophomore LP, What Makes a Man Start Fires?, the artist drew a comic of a child torching a bed. In 1990, he cribbed a tabloid image of David Smith and Maureen Hindley, whistleblowers to the Moors murders in the Sixties, to craft another epochal cover for Sonic Youth's major label debut, Goo. – Kevin Curtin

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

William Schaff

Okkervil River wove a long-Austin-based whimsy and roots into a rock & roll discography of its own accord, and cover artist William Schaff has likewise played a paramount role by contributing a handicraft feel. Introduced to group frontman Will Sheff because their names were stupidly similar, the 43-year-old Rhode Island-based illustrator conceived all of the band's LP artwork. 2002 debut Don't Fall in Love With Everyone You See bears a clean, eccentric illustration, a fitting introduction to the band's playfulness and weirdness. 2005's Black Sheep Boy, a dark album steeped in sentimentality, holds an eerie black-and-white illustration wherein nightmares meet fairy tales. The Stage Names (2007) and The Stand-Ins (2008) boast careful, colorful, graphic embroideries as covers. Schaff's bold work remains both peculiar and unmistakably handmade, unique to each album's sound, while his dark folk aesthetic is reflective of Okkervil River's own overarching explorations. – Libby Webster

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler


Draw the Line (1977)

Boston bad boys Aerosmith released Draw the Line in 1977 at the peak of their depravity – and the beginning of their creative downfall. Legendary New Yorker caricaturist Al Hirschfeld's LP art captures the essence of each band member during the miserable recording sessions: downtrodden Brad Whitford, irritable Tom Hamilton, skeptical Joey Kramer, arrogantly aloof Joe Perry, and of course, the pouty, pissed-off Steven Tyler. No member fights for the spotlight, just as none fought their demons to churn out another classic record. On an album plagued by meandering instrumentals, drab production, and a crushing sense of apathy, Hirschfeld's illustration remains Draw the Line's clearest artistic statement. – Bryan Rolli

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

The Beatles

Revolver (1966)

Bookmarking 1965, Rubber Soul was the last in a string of campy Beatlemania in both cover and content. Its follow-up, Revolver, touched off a new era for the Liverpudlian quartet, and not just one in which their cover art graduated from the walls of teenage fan girls to the stuff of any respectable hippie den. Although the 35-minute LP bore signs of the Beatles' hallmark pop sensibility ("Taxman," "And Your Bird Can Sing"), German artist, bassist, and longtime friend of the band Klaus Voormann's cover inspiration came from the Eastern drone and sonic psychedelic trip of "Tomorrow Never Knows." – Abby Johnston

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

Big Brother & the Holding Company

Cheap Thrills (1968)

Initially called Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills before Columbia Records balked, this chart-topper made good on the promise of Janis Joplin and Big Brother's career-making 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. The LP-closing live rendition of Big Mama Thornton's "Ball and Chain" showcased the Port Arthur-born singer's gifts in exclamatory fashion. Having rejected the label's cover art, the band paid underground cartoonist R. Crumb $600 to create a profanely vivid, amphetamine-fueled depiction of the track listing. Although Crumb intended the illustration for the back, Joplin lobbied to put it front and center. This and subsequent Crumb covers were compiled in a 2011 hardcover anthology. – Greg Beets

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

Chance the Rapper

Coloring Book (2016)

Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book is the gospel album Kanye West wanted to write. In the hourlong mixtape, the Chicago MC shared a personal homily that resonates even with the least evangelical. To capture his caricature-like effervescence, cover artist Brandon Breaux colorfully depicts the rapper nestling his baby daughter, but excludes her from the frame. A roster of collaborators, from Justin Bieber ("Juke Jam") to the Chicago Children's Choir ("All We Got") and Chance's cousin Nicole ("How Great"), assist him in painting spiritual imagery through boasting R&B and hip-hop and horns. The endgame? A feeling of carefree contentment, just like the bright grin on the cover promises. – María Núñez

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

Guy Clark

Old No. 1 (1975)

Guy Clark's blue denim work shirt doubled as a fabric of the Texan himself. The shirt was a statement of Clark's work ethic and roots, and he was rarely seen without it. Standing beside his wife Susanna's painting of the shirt on the cover of his 1975 debut, the songwriter's directness and own physical sturdiness remain mirrored in the album art. Clark, already a respected storyteller by his debut, famously played host with Susanna to a creative expat insurgence in their Nashville home, and her artwork would eventually grace albums by Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, and Nanci Griffith. – Doug Freeman

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

Jimmy Cliff

Struggling Man (1973)

Album sleeves for XTC, UB40, Wire, and the Cure trailed UK artist David Dragon's black-and-white illustration of Jimmy Cliff's 1973 LP. A Canterbury College of Art graduate, Dragon worked in the art departments for record labels Decca, EMI, and Virgin before going freelance. His meticulous Struggling Man, an elaborate, line-heavy illustration, contrasts the vibrant cartoon-like design of Cliff's preceding LP, the rocksteady soundtrack to 1972 Jamaican crime film The Harder They Come. Just as that sleeve, done by John Bryant, echoes Seventies psychedelia, Dragon's drawing imparts technical precision. Written following the tragic death of the reggae singer's longtime producer, Leslie Kong, the LP sleeve's subtly somber takeaway reflects its songs' weight. – Neph Basedow

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

The Deer

An Argument for Observation (2013)

Avant-folk locals the Deer make artwork as distinct as their sound. All of the up-and-coming Austinites' artwork is done by lead singer Grace Park. Her takeaway from 2013 release An Argument for Observation came about entirely by screenprinting hand-drawn illustrations and paper cutouts. Its LP inserts were typed out on an Underwood typewriter before copies were then printed on translucent vellum. Park screenprints by hand on cardboard packaging from Stumptown Printers in Oregon. With most album covers being dominated by photographs and digital illustrations, Park's artwork remains simple, fresh, natural. – William Harries Graham

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

Daniel Johnston

Hi, How Are You: The Unfinished Album (1983)

Iconic Drag mural Jeremiah the Innocent began his path toward famed frogdom on the cover of Johnston's sixth cassette. Songs like "Walking the Cow" and "Running Water" captured the imagination of local musicians, landing the onetime McDonald's employee on MTV in 1985. By 1993, Johnston's drawing adorned both the chest of Kurt Cobain and the exterior wall of Sound Exchange. When the legendary record shop closed in 2003, new tenant Baja Fresh planned to demolish the beloved Hi, How Are You mural, but public outcry saved the day. Today, Jeremiah decorates everything from coffee cups to onesies, arguably outpacing Johnston's music in recognizability. – Greg Beets

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

Willie Nelson

Red Headed Stranger (1975)

Willie Nelson's ambitious concept album remains a pinnacle of outlaw country. Dropped by Atlantic after Shotgun Willie and Phases and Stages, the native Texan returned to the Lone Star State after signing a deal with Columbia that granted him full artistic control. Stranger proved controversial from the start for its sparse arrangements, but also begat a commercial and critical success. Monica White's drawn cover portrait of Nelson mimicked Old West "Wanted" posters, while the back art sketched the story arc visually, mirroring the LP's narrative and restrained feel. The portrait became a marker of the burgeoning outlaw movement, Nelson elected its iconic figurehead. – Doug Freeman

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

Pink Floyd

Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

A transparent prism breaking a light beam into its component colors, Dark Side of the Moon's iconic sleeve from the graphic art duo Hipgnosis – Cambridge natives Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell – became synonymous with Pink Floyd itself. The cover art's simplicity breaks into a kaleidoscopic masterpiece mirrored by Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason's rainbow prog: the somber blue aplomb of "Time," green-tinged political commentary of "Money," and red-fury synthesized jam "Eclipse." "It related mostly to a light show," Thorgerson told Rolling Stone of the light beams. "The triangle was very much a symbol of Roger's lyrics. The prism belonged to the Floyd." – Alejandra Ramirez

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler


Road to Ruin (1978)

A cartoon element still feels inherent to the Ramones given their mock-moronic image and Mad magazine sense of humor. Punk magazine founder/cartoonist John Holmstrom contributed much to the Queens-bred chainsaw punks' graphic presentation, from the fumetti gracing the "Blitzkrieg Bop" 45 sleeve to the hilarious "Ramones map of the world" stamping the back of third LP Rocket to Russia. For Road to Ruin, a transitional record marking the exit of original drummer Tommy Ramone and debut of Marky Ramone, featured the closest thing they had to a hit single, "I Wanna Be Sedated." Holmstrom adapted a concept from Scottish fan Gus MacDonald, rendering it more Hanna-Barbera. – Tim Stegall

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

Doug Sahm

Groover's Paradise (1974)

Possibly the most iconic, certainly most Austin-centric of Doug Sahm's recordings, Groover's Paradise maintains a road map to 1974 Austin. Sahm leapfrogged from Atlantic to Warner Bros. to record it, the black-and-white cover inked by Kerry Awn on "a lid of grass and some Big Red." Rife with hippie sub-references, and family and band images, the concept was pure Sahm. "We both wanted to show the world how cool Austin was, [but] it was more about Austin than Doug," says the Uranium Savages frontman. "It was always a groove to work with Doug because he'd give you an idea and then turn you loose." – Margaret Moser

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler

The Who

The Who by Numbers (1975)

Sandwiched between operatic Tommy successor Quadrophenia (1973) and Keith Moon epitaph Who Are You (1978), this UK quartet's seventh LP remains its darkest horse. Pete Townshend's self-excoriation ("However Much I Booze") cuts as personal as a stroke, and the drummer's tidal pounding ("Dreaming From the Waist") matches bassist John Entwistle's connect-the-digits LP art, inspired by one of his son Christopher's children's books. "We were taking turns doing the covers," remarked the Ox, who died an allegedly rock & roll death in 2002 (hookers, blow). Pete's Quadrophenia cover "cost about the same as a small house back then, about 16,000 pounds. My cover cost 32 pounds." Can you find the number one? – Raoul Hernandez

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Adult Play, Pedro Bell, Roger Dean, H.R. Giger, Mati Klarwein, Raymond Pettibon, William Schaff, R. Crumb, Storm Thorgerson, Doug Sahm, Willie Nelson, Guy Clark, Janis Joplin, the Deer, Daniel Johnston, Adult Play 2016

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