"I'll steal it from this very earth."
February 25, 2013 12:39 PM   Subscribe

A timeline of Blue Note jazz album covers.
posted by dobbs (36 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cool. I'll toss in this blog post: How Blue Note Records became the biggest brand in jazz.
Then, as the 12", long-playing record was launched in the mid-'50s, Blue Note hired 28-year-old art director Reid Miles to design its cardboard sleeves.

Reaching its apotheosis with John Coltrane’s Blue Train in 1957, Miles’s cover designs combined tinted versions of Wolff’s black-and-white, in-studio photos with prominent typography.

“Reid Miles’s designs were magical,” advertising veteran and host of CBC Radio's Under the Influence, Terry O’Reilly, tells me in an email. “When I look at them, I have always felt they look like the music sounds. They ‘feel’ like cool jazz…. He used type as a major design force, not just as an element. His type has movement. His font choices are bold. Jazz moves; so do his album covers.”
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:49 PM on February 25, 2013


Oooh, there's even an instrument filter! Swanky!

Instruments: Ephonium - "There are no albums for those filter options."

THEN WHY DID YOU GIVE ME THE OPTION?!

To be fair, it's not as exciting of an instrument as I had hoped. Now, if there was a cover with a double bell euphonium, I'd be impressed.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:53 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is pretty cool, but I'm not sure this is actually a timeline of the covers per se. The earliest covers here are actually to reissue CDs. The recording sessions were just pre-War, but I don't think the music was actually issued as LPs at that time. The later ones are covers. They all look great!
posted by OmieWise at 12:54 PM on February 25, 2013


Note: no Pocket Trumpet cover art, either.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:54 PM on February 25, 2013


THEN WHY DID YOU GIVE ME THE OPTION?!

It meant there are no albums *for the years you chose* that have that instrument. For ephoniu,, choose the 60s. Freddie Hubbard and Hank Mobley.
posted by dobbs at 12:57 PM on February 25, 2013


filthy light thief: “Instruments: Ephonium - ‘There are no albums for those filter options.’ THEN WHY DID YOU GIVE ME THE OPTION?! To be fair, it's not as exciting of an instrument as I had hoped. Now, if there was a cover with a double bell euphonium, I'd be impressed.”

Yes, there are, actually. Note that the chart only shows a given time span. Change the time span. Hint: Bernard McKinney played euphonium on Freddie Hubbard's first two albums.
posted by koeselitz at 12:57 PM on February 25, 2013


Actually, I might be wrong. Discogs shows at least one 1939 issued 12" 78RPM Ammons disc from Blue Note. No cover shown.
posted by OmieWise at 12:58 PM on February 25, 2013


The 1939 discs were 78 rpm singles. Even the 12-inchers. But for sure they were putting singles in four-pocket albums with illustrated covers by 1945.
posted by Longtime Listener at 1:01 PM on February 25, 2013


Longtime Listener: “The 1939 discs were 78 rpm singles. Even the 12-inchers. But for sure they were putting singles in four-pocket albums with illustrated covers by 1945.”

This is true; and unfortunately this discography is a bit spotty on those first few years – all of the discs pictured seem to be later 33 rpm compilations. Which is a pity, because it means we don't see what really gave Blue Note its kickstart, financially and musically: the exceedingly good and very popular 1939 recording of Sidney Bechet playing "Summertime," which catapulted the label to national acclaim almost overnight.
posted by koeselitz at 1:08 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's terrific.

Answer a question for a region exempt Spotify dummy; Those of you that the powers deign can access Spotify are able to listen to the albums using the Spotify button that appears when hovering over the album picture?

I hope not. So unfair. I hope clicking on the button give you gastric distress or a punch in the face rather than the ability to stream Blue Notes catalogue on any device at will. Jeez that would be so unfair if you could.

Make Spotify happen in Canada, Goddammit.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:10 PM on February 25, 2013


Those nitpicks aside, this is a thing of beauty.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:10 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


BlueNote Records are designed simply to serve the uncompromising expressions of hot jazz or swing, in general. Any particular style of playing which represents an authentic way of musical feeling is genuine expression. By virtue of its significance in place, time and circumstance, it possesses its own tradition, artistic standards and audience that keeps it alive. Hot jazz, therefore, is expression and communication, a musical and social manifestation, and Blue Note records are concerned with identifying its impulse, not its sensational and commercial adornments.”
Alfred Lion, 1939, Statement of Purpose of Blue Note Records (via)
Thank You Mr. Lion.
posted by adamvasco at 1:11 PM on February 25, 2013


Unsurprisingly, things got kinda weird in the 60s.
posted by tommasz at 1:16 PM on February 25, 2013


Keith Talent, Clicking the link takes you to a Blue Note app on Spotify that also lets you play the album you clicked on.
posted by hariya at 1:19 PM on February 25, 2013


Yeah, this is really quite incredible.
posted by koeselitz at 1:22 PM on February 25, 2013


That Blue Note app on Spotify is fantastic. It is basically this plus you can directly play/queue tracks from the records.
posted by mountmccabe at 1:33 PM on February 25, 2013


I hate to disappoint Keith Talent, but what actually happened is that I clicked on that timeline, chose 1960-65, clicked the first album it landed on and am now listening to Kenny Burrell - Midnight Blue (1963) which is very nice indeed.

Though you do get commercial interruptions (in Dutch even) in between tracks, so that might just be as bad as a kick in the stomach...
posted by MartinWisse at 1:37 PM on February 25, 2013


I found this at a thrift store for a dollar. Actually it was just volume 1, and the writing was pink/red instead of blue. I haven't listened to it much but always loved the cover. I'll give it another listen tonight...
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:38 PM on February 25, 2013


If you do have Spotify, and click through to the Blue Note app, along the top there is a link for "Blue Break Beats". Clicking this takes you to a list of the original songs, and the songs that sampled them, queued up to the right locations. Which then takes you into a different rabbit hole that I just climbed out of.
posted by hariya at 1:43 PM on February 25, 2013


Yay! The Wayback Machine! What memories! Although Blue Note album covers may be the one thing that sucked about the Sixties.
posted by kozad at 3:00 PM on February 25, 2013


Absolutely love the '55 to '65 Blue Note designs. Surprised a "current albums re-imagined in classic Blue Note style" design collection hasn't appeared online yet. Has it?
posted by davebush at 3:17 PM on February 25, 2013


Oh, damn you, and I have work to do.

If I could listen to nothing but 50s and 60s Blue Note for the rest of my life, I'd be happy, especially if you let me slip a few items from their greasier, funkier rivals Prestige in. But if I went deaf and couldn't listen, I'd still like to spend my time with these covers.

For starters, besides the terrific photography and typography, there's the thrill of seeing a bunch of brilliant, dead-serious, ice-cold black men turned out in sharp suits and snap-brim hats. I wish I looked a tenth as cool as Larry Young or Jimmy Smith.

I also like the funny ones. And don't miss the Andy Warhols.
posted by Fnarf at 3:46 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, there's Wu-Note Records.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:23 PM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


@davebush, I downloaded these as my Wu-Tang cover art files in iTunes. Wish there was a mass movement that broadened the scope beyond just Wu, but I love these designs nonetheless.

The only one I didn't replace was ODB's first album, as that food stamp card cover is genius already.
posted by GamblingBlues at 4:25 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dammit, @The Card Cheat!
posted by GamblingBlues at 4:26 PM on February 25, 2013


Although Blue Note album covers may be the one thing that sucked about the Sixties.

That's a really odd way to spell "The Doors"
posted by thelonius at 7:53 PM on February 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Although Blue Note album covers may be the one thing that sucked about the Sixties.

On a scale from zero wrong to infinitely wrong, you are so much closer to the infinite side that's it's difficult to quantify with an actual number. It's like that Churchill quote, Never was so much owed by so many to so few except that it's more like never did so few do much with so little. You're complaining that the Egyptians only carved in stone, such a pedantic medium. The history of graphic art and how it relates to advertising in America during the mid 1950's is a cool subject, but I won't massacre it here more than I already have.

The aforementioned few made absolutely iconic album covers with little more than an obscure photo and some stenciling. A close friend has that 'Miles Davis, Vol 1.' as a print in his house and you simply can not look at it without thinking about the songs.
posted by Sphinx at 8:22 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those Wu Note covers are really well done.

A close friend has that 'Miles Davis, Vol 1.' as a print in his house

Unless the print is enlarged or something, why not spend $40 on a nice copy of the record and frame that? It's like having the "original", uh, mass-produced object. Anyway that's what I did and have a pristine-cover copy of Time Out on my wall.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:12 PM on February 25, 2013


I wish I looked a tenth as cool as Larry Young or Jimmy Smith

Or Hank Mobley! I link to this in every Blue Note album cover thread but how could I not? Compared to this cover, photos of the Rat Pack look like the press kit for Icy Hot Stuntaz.
posted by No-sword at 1:30 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


This was a very old-school Metafilter post - something interesting on the web. Thanks! I had been meaning to check out Spotify and this nudged me into doing it; I had no idea that the whole Blue Note classic era was streaming there.
posted by thelonius at 5:04 AM on February 26, 2013


Man, this Grant Green dude had a lot of Blue Note albums in the sixties, why have I never heard of him until now?
posted by e1c at 5:41 AM on February 26, 2013


This is great, but I would love to see the liner notes included.
posted by HumanComplex at 10:04 AM on February 26, 2013


Man, this website is amazing and I love these album covers.

Also, I´m jealous of e1c just finding out about Grant Green.
posted by saul wright at 10:05 AM on February 26, 2013


Or Hank Mobley!

This is the album I started my Blue Note collection with, way back when. (In the current century, I've been into this one.)

Those nitpicks aside... I would love to see the liner notes included...

You people are a tough audience. I remember getting exciting just to be able to read all the names of the albums in order, in the back of the Blue Note biography. That timeline is fantastic.
posted by LeLiLo at 1:15 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it is kind of an embarrassment of riches, LeLiLo – and not to mention that we can just click a button and listen to the albums, too. I've been spending all my time with this thing since yesterday.
posted by koeselitz at 1:19 PM on February 26, 2013


Currently, I've been obsessing over the Blue Notes catalog from 71-76 when the Mizell Brothers were in full force. In particular, Bobbi Humphrey's albums are mind blowing and ripe with sample material.

Bobbi Humphrey - My Little Girl
Bobbi Humphrey - Harlem River Drive
Donald Byrd - Onward Till Morning
Donald Byrd - Lansana's Priestess
Johnny Hammond - Star Borne
A Taste of Honey - Do It Good

Some of that isn't Blue Notes...whatever, jam on some grown & sexy music.
posted by cloeburner at 3:16 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


« Older Our Story in 2 Minutes...  |  The sex lives of octopuses is ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments