The Pier: Album & Cover Art History Vol. 5
Welcome to The Pier’s Album & Cover Art History – Volume 5 as we take a look at another five iconic album covers and releases with their concepts & back-story.
In this feature, you’ll read how the album’s art has more depth to its meaning than just cool visuals thrown together. They’re cultural statements bringing the visual aesthetics to the music; further branding the band. There are great stories to these covers and the albums. We pulled the curtain back with how the aligning art plays an integral part to the overall meaning of the album.
Enjoy the read below and let us know in the comments which Album & Cover-Art you’d like us to explore in the future! If you find you’re not familiar with or you don’t own any of these albums, then we encourage you to read this feature as a recommendation of what to add to your music collection!
Read all volumes to The Pier’s Album & Cover Art History:
Sublime – 40oz to Freedom
Record Label: Skunk Records / MCA Records
Release Date: June, 1992
One of the most iconic visuals in music today is the Sublime Sun as seen on the cover of Sublime’s debut album: 40oz to Freedom. It was designed by Opie Ortiz, a close friend to the band who described himself as a hang-around who naturally took to providing visual aesthetics for the group. “I was air-brushing t-shirts as a form of income as a young artist growing up,” reflects Opie. “So I was airbrushing t-shirts and if you look in the 40oz to Freedom (booklet), you see the picture of Sublime standing in the street & Brad (Nowell) is wearing an air-brushed t-shirt that I did around that era and that’s the image where we got the idea for the sun for 40oz.”
The end result of that initial concept has become synonymous with the name and sound of Sublime. The visual of this cover art has transcended to posters, t-shirts, hoodies, lighters, shoes, patches, buttons as well as fans recreating the sun in celebration of its continued momentum more than 20 years later.
With so much detail to make up the infamous sun, Opie continues to explain, “I had Mexican Aztec images in my mind when I was doing that, but I had to put it in a modern day twist. So it’s just like, life and death! You look at the flames and they’re kind of like black & white & they look like sperm, almost. Inside is death and life and rebirth and all that. It’s just a combination of images to form a central image. I feel like they were comfortable with me relaying an image that represented them, you know? Miguel and Brad saw that in me! I’m totally admirable to them for giving me that stage to do that art.”
During the time of 40oz to Freedom the official line up of Sublime consisted of Brad Nowell on lead Guitar & Vocals, Eric Wilson on Bass, Miguel Happoldt on Production/Guitar and Marshall Goodman on drums. In fact, Marshall Goodman drummed on 14 of the albums 22 tracks, including drums on Sublime’s first breakthrough single, “Date Rape”. Well known Sublime drummer, Bud Gaugh, wasn’t actually in the band at the time of 40oz to Freedom and the few songs he did drum on were brought over from a previous demo the group released, with Jah Wont Pay The Bills.
The album has quite a few cover-songs with Sublime covering Bad Religion, the Descendents, The Toyes, Toots & the Maytals, and Grateful Dead. Miguel Happoldt explains, “Covers are weird. Bands play them, and then they stop playing them and those covers just happened to be the ones we were playing and the album was basically our set at the time.”
The album was produced by Miguel Happoldt while he was a student at Cal-State Dominguez Hills recording the band after hours. As a result, they managed $30,000 in studio time for free by recording in secret. The album was originally released by Miguel’s own Skunk Records on CD/Cassette in 1992. After re-releasing the album under Gasoline Alley/MCA records, 40oz to Freedom would amass to the sales of over two million copies in the US and is one of the highest-selling independently released albums of all time.
Written by: Mike Patti
Watch: Sublime – “Badfish”
Jimmy Cliff – Struggling Man
Record Label: Island Records
Release Date: 1973
This album comes at a dark time in Jimmy Cliff’s life, right after the death of his long-time producer and friend, Leslie Kong. His deep mourning and sorrow is palpable throughout the album, during a phase when he knew he had to pick his head up and keep on going with life, no matter what.
Without Kong, who had been by his side since 14 years of age, Cliff had to reform his career on his own. During this struggle, he released Unlimited, which was a huge disappointment to the fans. Struggling Man, however, still left the fans discontented, but shows his desperate desire to get back into his sound and old sense of happiness. His battle with deep-rooted nostalgia keeps him stuck in the past, but fuels the emotion and intensity behind the songs.
The title of the album came from a song that he had written to describe the Jamaican music business and the barriers that musicians faced. In his lyrics, he urges the audience to keep moving and fighting no matter what.
“Struggling man has got to move; struggling man has got no time to lose; I’m a struggling man and I got to move on.”
Even though the music isn’t the best work Cliff has done, the album sleeve stands out from his others. The style is busy and requires at least a few glances to take all the details in. The artist, David Dragon, known for his work with UB40 and The Cure, designed the grim looking street scene. The complicated style coincides with Cliff’s complicated view on life during this period of time, feeling the pull between past and present. A solemn-faced Jimmy Cliff is in the forefront of the illustration, placed in a realistic view of a street with various oddities of everyday life. People fill the scene with blank expressions, adding to the darkness.
Written by: Erin Walsh
Listen: Jimmy Cliff – “Sooner Or Later”
SOJA – Get Wiser
Release Date: January, 2006
Record Label: Innerloop Records
Formerly known as Soldiers of Jah Army, SOJA’s second full-length album, “Get Wiser,” was a huge success for the Northern Virginia/Washington DC area based band. Released under Innerloop Records, the album debuted in the Top 10 Reggae Albums on iTunes and has stayed relevant in the Top 100 since its release in January of 2006.
Get Wiser was co-produced and recorded by Jim Fox at LION and FOX studios. It also features a guest appearance by the legendary Junior Marvin from the original Wailers on two tracks. The album’s release party took place on January 6th, 2006 at The State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia. The show consisted of two sets. The first set showcased older songs while the second set had SOJA performing the entire album of Get Wiser, from front to back. The performance was recorded and eventually released as the Get Wiser Live DVD on November 21st, 2007.
The album cover artwork is simple, yet it holds much meaning. Consisting of an outline of the World’s continents, the words “GET WISER” are in very large font, with the cover being displayed like a book, with the back-cover showing the track-list under the title of “Table of Contents”. The group was clearly sending a message to its fans, to wake up and as you listen to the songs, you are sure to gain knowledge from the conscious messages portrayed throughout the album.
Written by: David Garcia
Listen: SOJA – “Can’t Tell Me”
The Green – Hawai’i 13
Record Label: Easy Star Records
Release Date: August 20th, 2013
Releasing their third album in four years, The Green released Hawai’i ’13 on August 20, 2013. With their roots deeply dug in Hawaii, The Green have gone on to represent their home on the mainland, and solidify their place in reggae music.
After gaining so much success with their first two albums, the band took a different direction with their third, and brought in producer Danny Kalb and drummer Joe Tomino (Dub Trio & Matisyahu). Even with an outside producer and five different songwriters on the album, The Green came out poised and re-energized on Hawai’i ’13.
Featured on the album cover are the words “Hawai’i ‘13”, which were handwritten by The Green’s Rootfire Management with Curtis Bergesen as Hawaiian artist, Kamea Hadar, did the rest of the artwork. Kamea also did the art for the band’s first two albums, The Green (2010) and Ways and Means (2011). Born from Japanese and Israeli parents, Hadar has studied in Hawaii, Paris, Madrid and Tel Aviv, creating his global education and inspiration. In response to the significance of Hawaiian music, Hadar shared: “To me, Hawaiian Reggae music has many similarities with its Jamaican Roots. There is something about island people and their outlook on life that is special. Sun, ocean, love and happiness are everywhere. During my time in Jamaica, I saw that the country and its people have many more hardships than in Hawaii, but our sunny outlook remains eerily similar. Here in Hawaii, we call it the ‘Aloha Spirit’, and you can feel it in every one of The Green’s songs.”
For this specific album, Kamea found inspiration, “…between tradition and change, between knowing where you are from and where you are going. I try to mix iconic Hawaii images like ti leaves, flowers, and elements of the ocean and combine them in more contemporary compositions.” He continues: “I wanted to create art that draws the audience in, provokes interest but would not allow anyone to judge a book by its cover. If someone wants to know what The Girl in The Green represents I want them to listen to the music and then draw their own conclusions on what it means to them.”
Written by: Andrew McClatchy
WATCH: The Green – “Good One” (The Pier’s Live Acoustic Series)
Less Than Jake – Hello Rockview
Record Label: Capitol Records
Release Date: October 6th, 1998
“Last one out of Liberty City, burn it to the ground” are the first words heard on Less Than Jake’s 1998 release Hello Rockview, their second record on Capitol Records. Many of the tracks, including “Five State Drive” and “Al’s War” are anthems for misguided youth, inspired to leave the confines of their small hometown to explore the freedom and risk of the open road.
The cover art for Hello Rockview is reminiscent of the 1950s “Dick Tracy” style cartoons used in advertising and old-time comic books. The designer, Steve Vance, has worked with Less Than Jake for song artwork of “The Ghosts of Me and You” from their release, Anthem. The image, set in the evening, depicts a man in a blue suit and red tie, diving into a backyard swimming pool with an infectious smile across his face. A woman, eyes closed, stands above him at the side of the pool. Her closed eyes imply laughter as she holds a tray with two martini glasses. The liner notes and lyrics are set up like an old time comic-book.
It appears that the man centered on the cover has had a hard day at work and defies all social norms by jumping in the pool with his business suit, before he can have his first drink. Perhaps sick of the normal nine to five work day, the subject of the image has stripped himself of all care.
The tone of the cover perfectly depicts the feeling of the album itself. It is a fun-filled journey with non-stop energy & lyrics by drummer, Vinnie Fiorello, promoting independence and adventure that encourage listeners to explore the open road, while staying against the grain.
Written by: Blake Taylor
Listen: Less Than Jake – “History of a Boring Town”
Read The Pier’s Album & Cover Art History Vol. 6 by clicking HERE!
Read all volumes to The Pier’s Album & Cover Art History: