Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Album art that told a story (usually a scary one)

As a child, I loved thumbing through my father's record collection. He is a fan of blues and old-school hard rock, so mixed in with BB King and Johnny Winter I would also find Blue Oyster Cult, 70s-era Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Nazareth, White Witch, and The Who.

The album art to which I was most attracted was anything that was a bit dark and ominous. You could gaze not at the album cover, but INTO the album cover, finding your own story within. Usually it wasn't too pretty.

Consider Priest's Sad Wings of Destiny cover or Rainbow's Rising album art. All beautiful and scary at the same time.

I would spend hours with these records, studying and pondering the story behind each one. The old building on Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti and Alice's green face when he Goes to Hell.

Throughout my dad's entire collection, no cover had the impact on me like the Medusa album from Trapeze.

This cover art literally scared the crap outta me.

While older folks who gaze at the cover for the first time might not see any reason for such a dreaded feeling, you have to look at it through the eyes of a 5 or 6 year-old kid.

First of all, the album is titled Medusa. Even at that young age I remember seeing a painting of the beheaded snake-haired woman with a look of anger and terror frozen in her eyes and open mouth. Just the word Medusa was scary enough to me.

Then we have the cover art: a stained glass horror. Triangular shapes piecing together to form an angry face, seemingly screaming at another face below. The angry face became a character all its own to me, and not one that I would ever want to meet. It embodied nothing but anger, highlighted in its eyes and cartoonishly crooked mouth.

The emotion I took away from the front cover made the back cover all the more disturbing. The art work appeared the same, just a bit more ethereal. Within the swirling colors, I could make out another face showing off what appears to be a smile and a wink. The happy emotion is mixed in a surrounding atmosphere of new age, storms, and fire. Any peaceful offerings hinted at on the back cover is a facade.

As terrible as I make it sound, the entire cover, both front and back, are genuinely beautiful expressions Trapeze's music. There is a story in there and my past 6 year-old self looked hard for it and loved every minute of it.

Even if it did give me nightmares.

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