Published in 1997, Album Cover Art of Soundtracks is an 11"x11" book showcasing some of the fine work by the largely ignored graphic designers that worked for various labels as staff or freelancers. Written and compiled by disc jockey Frank Jastfelder and graphic designer Stefan Kassel, the book could easily have run much longer, but the dilemma in crafting a quality publication for a reasonable SRP means keeping the page counts fairly low.
The pair's book is an excellent showcase for the arresting work that reflected the style of the times, and the campaigns that sometimes rebelled against blah conventions, and the reproduced album covers - many full-size - are preceded by an introduction from veteran graphic design pioneer, Saul Bass.
Best-known as the title designer for films, Bass is best-remembered for his titles for Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho, along with almost all of Otto Preminger's films, from the mid-fifties onwards. Preminger, an independent, bullheaded maverick producer-director, knew the value of a good logo, and in his own autobiography, he described the value in designing a logo that was used to identify production trucks on location, and tell onlookers that another Preminger flick was on the go.
Bass' designs often reduced a film's conflicts, story, or key theme to a single image, which in turn became key art for the poster, and a logo discernable from afar. On an album, like The Man with the Golden Arm, Joan of Arc, Bonjour Tristesse, or Exodus, his covers were worth framing.
In spite of vinyl's demise in the consumer market, these beautiful covers are worth saving, collecting, and displaying, and like the old B-movie posters, they've gradually come to be appreciated for their striking images, use of space, their compact ability to tell a film's story, or be appreciated for their sleazy salesmanship in using striking poses of busty babes with torn clothes that never appear in the film. (Not fair!)
As the authors explain, some artists weren't allowed credit, or the chief graphic designer, much like the old Music Supervisor under the studio system, took all the credit. That said, some of the key figures in soundtrack covers are represented in the 128 page book: Saul Bass and his Preminger designs; Bob Peak, who designed the original Our Man Flint / In Like Flint covers prior to his memorable covers for Varese Sarabande and Masters Film Music; David Stone Martin, and his iconic James Dean Story cover of a hand-drawn figure playing with a red car; Maurice Binder, who also designed covers when not involved with the elaborate title sequences for James Bond films; MAD Magazine's Jack Davis and his mass of detailed characters and film highlights that could literally be glimpsed and comprehended from any angle; and Frank Frazetta and his bulbous females.
The restriction of album art to North American releases does limit the book's scope, but the authors have managed to include some of the major covers that are treasured by vinyl aficionados, completists, and fans of specific actors. (Those Raquel Welsh covers, like The Biggest Bundle of Them All, still attract wandering eyes, though maybe the artist was a bit too faithful in rendering those tan lines.)
Of course, it's the overall elements of a cover that attract collectors, and that includes the company logos, and the elaborate banners meant to distinguish stereo LPs from their simultaneous mono counterparts (even though some of the stereo LPs were bogus). Sometimes the art direction extended beyond the cover, and we had boxed sets with textured fabric (Solomon and Sheba), the hexagonal petals that revealed the album of Gil Melle's Andromeda Strain, or the gatefold album for The Grasshopper that showcased two lovers in a shower stall.
The old McNally's Price Guide for Collectible Soundtrack Records (1950-1990) had a decent collection of small black & white cover shots of many 10" LPs, plus many more European pressings that easily deserve their own book. (It's no surprise that European CD labels, such as Harkit, DigitMovies, Dagored, and Cinevox are using the original art on their CD and LP reissues, so collectors can still enjoy replicas of amazing covers like Lizard in a Woman's Skin, or the recent spate of giallo reissues.)
Although the authors didn't publish a follow-up book, both collaborated on the stellar 1996 compilation album for the German Motor label, Mission Impossible... and More! The Best of Lalo Schifrin (1962-1972).
© 2006 Mark R. Hasan