Less is More (?)

(Mostly) great music behind minimalist album covers

What do you think when you see an album cover that says practically nothing? Do you reckon that whoever released it, simply didn’t care about the visual aspect of their project because they were so focused on their music? Or are you intrigued and tempted to check if under that plain, sometimes almost boring album artwork there´s a hidden musical treasure?

While sometimes this path may be a bit misleading, there are quite a few album covers that instead of screaming with colours, shapes and nudity, simply wink at you and gently tempt you to check what’s inside.

The list below is a mix of surprises and disappointments in terms of minimalist covers.

Steely Dan – Aja

Steely Dan - Aja album artwork

Three colours, two fonts and one woman. That’s it. You’d think that if someone is planning to put a photo of a model and actress (Sayoko Yamaguchi) on their album cover, they will at least show her face… But Steely Dan knew that their music was so far from simple or obvious that the album cover had to have a bit of mystery to it, too. What you find inside is the result of a collaboration with almost 40 session musicians so there’s a lot to unveil and discover…

John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band - Live Peace in Toronto

Live Peace in Toronto - Plastic Ono Band album artwork

With all due respect to John Lennon, I will put as much effort into this comment as himself and his wife put into the creation of this album and I’ll simply… quote Wikipedia:

‘Live Peace in Toronto 1969 is a live album by the Plastic Ono Band, released December 1969. It was recorded at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival. John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono […] assembled a band in a very short space of time to play at the festival, which was due to start the following day. The group had brief rehearsals before appearing on the stage to perform several songs; one of which, "Cold Turkey", was first performed live at said festival. Eventually returning home, Lennon mixed the album in a day.’

I guess Yoko Ono took this photo with a matchbox, on the way home. Nice shade of blue, though.

Bee Gees - Odessa

Odessa - Bee Gees album artwork

Now, this is an album cover you can pull off only after you’ve released 5 successful albums and only once you’ve made sure that 95% of the population have been conditioned like Pavlov´s dogs to sing ‘Night fever, night feveeer, we know how to do it’* whenever they hear or see the name Bee Gees. We’ve got the name, the title and the promise that inside there’s a catchy tune you’ll be singing in your head at least till the end of this article (don’t thank me, dance;)

The Beatles – The White Album

The White Album - The Beatles album artwork

We can only guess what the conversations about this album cover looked like among the band members:

We almost killed one another in the studio so the cover should look like a white flag.

There are thirty songs to write and record. We’ve no time to think about the album cover.

We ran out of colours after ‘Sergeant Pepper’s’ so we should just stick to plain white.

Whatever the real reason was, this simple, white cover of The Beatles’ hugely successful album became legendary and was as widely talked about as their music.

The Who - The Who by Numbers

The Who by Numbers - The Who album artwork

There seems to be a ‘before’ and ‘after’ in the album covers of The Who and the… erm… 'artwork' created for The Who by Numbers seems to mark an end of an era. To be precise, it looks like an end of paid album artwork era. This powerful, two-toned piece of artwork has an incredibly intricate design and was created by John Entwistle – one of the band members. Why? Because it was his turn… This album turned out to be one of the least awarded and acclaimed works from all the releases by The Who. Coincidence?

*Yes, I know that Night Fever was released a few years after Odessa album, but I wanted to put that song in your head:)

Would you like to see more minimalist album covers? In Covercrush catalogue, you'll find a section dedicated to minimalism. Have a look! Who knows... maybe you'll get a crush on one of them and it will become the cover of your next album!

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