International Guitar Month, Pt. 2: Artistic Vinyl Record Covers Featuring Guitars
It's still International Guitar Month, and Victrola is not done celebrating. Earlier this month, we took a look at some of the most iconic vinyl record covers featuring guitars, images that are burned into our brains and are near synonymous with the artists holding the instruments. Today, we want to make note of some album covers that incorporate the guitar into the artwork of the album. Maybe it's the way the instrument is staged, or painted. Maybe the guitar has been there the whole time, right under your nose. Here are some of the most artistic vinyl record covers featuring guitars.
Jeff Beck was a truly unique guitarist, separating himself from his '60s and '70s contemporaries with a style all his own. Initially associated with the likes of Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page in the British blues rock scene, Beck began incorporating elements of jazz fusion into his music, making heavy use of the tremolo bar and his guitar's volume knob to create an almost bow-like effect. Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop was another step in his constant development, as he abandoned his guitar pick in favor of the fingerstyle playing he would become associated with for the remainder of his career. Beck served as a source of inspiration for the more avant-garde guitarists who came after, including a couple appearing on this list.
Boston's self-titled debut album almost immediately established them as one of the most successful rock bands of their era. As arena rock grew in popularity in the late 1970s, Boston was leading the charge, with guitarist and bandleader Tom Scholz becoming known as a master producer who often clashed with other engineers on recording technique. The album cover is iconic, featuring a spaceship emblazoned with the band's name. Look a little closer, and you'll realize the spaceship is an upside-down acoustic guitar, an artistic trend that would become the band's calling card on all subsequent releases.
72 Seasons is the latest album by heavy metal legends Metallica, featuring nearly 80 minutes of music, and a striking, high contrast album cover. The album's title refers to the number of seasons that occur during the first 18 years of our lives, meant to focus on the development and trauma of our childhood and adolescent years. The artwork is a collection of childhood items, charred black. Among them is a burned, deconstructed guitar, a reminder that music is what helped shape each member of the band's respective lives.
The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body (2015) — Kaki King
Kaki King is one of the more innovative guitarists on the scene today, using the instrument as something that goes far beyond the boundaries of power chords and guitar solos. The Neck is a Bridge to the Body is the accompanying soundtrack to her multi-media project of the same name. King sought to use the guitar as a visual medium to tell her story, having it function as a projection screen, a blank slate to tell a creation myth. The idea behind the project was to physically manifest how versatile an instrument the guitar can truly be, able to create virtually any kind of music its creator desires.
As mentioned before, Steve Vai served as something of the heir apparent to Jeff Beck. A true virtuoso in every sense of the word, Vai combined heavy tremolo use with an inventive two-handed tapping technique, developed during his time playing with Frank Zappa. Flex-Able was his debut record, with the album cover meant to showcase the way he viewed and played guitar. Vai was able to bend it to his will. Though just as fast and skilled, if not more, Vai was not simply a shredder. Thanks in part to his tutelage under Zappa, Vai injected his eclectic personality into every aspect of his playing, and also a vial of his blood into a limited line of signature guitars.
One of the aforementioned Steve Vai's most frequent collaborator, Eric Johnson delivered his own brand of guitar artistry. Influenced by Texas Blues, jazz and classical guitar, Johnson's sophomore effort Ah Via Musicom was arguably him at his best. Renowned for his uniquely clean, reverb soaked guitar tone, Johnson dazzled with speed as he paid homage to those who came before, with tributes to Wes Montgomery and others.
This Is Me (1990) — Emily Remler
Emily Remler is one of jazz music's most tragic "what-ifs." Even in her early 20s, Remler developed a reputation as a brilliantly talented guitarist, with some even dubbing her the next Wes Montgomery. Remler released This Is Me in 1990, meant to act has her transition from traditional jazz into a more mainstream jazz-pop fusion style. It was the culmination of her nearly decade-long career, combining her jazz chops with a newly developed pop acumen, setting herself up for future stardom. Unfortunately, Remler would be unable to fully explore her new sound, dying months before the album was released at age 32.
There haven't been many musicians as wonderfully weird as Frank Zappa. Zappa was able to combine jazzy progressive rock, virtuosic musicianship, and his signature brand of humor on every release, and Cruising with Ruben & the Jets is no exception. Ironically, the album is probably Zappa's most straightforward, "normal" album, as he and his band take on the role of Ruben & the Jets, a fictional group. Zappa, in his commitment to the bit, faithfully executed an album influenced by '50s doo-wop, both satirizing the genre and creating a genuine rendition of it.
The legendary bandleader of The Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia also released several successful solo albums. Aptly titled Reflections, the album's artwork features an image of Garcia with his guitar in place of his head, symbolizing his dedication and love for his craft. True to form, Reflections was Garcia simply doing what he wanted to do. Some songs were recorded with his solo band, while others featured the entirely of the Dead. Garcia was at his best when the record ended up sounding like him jamming with his friends, and Reflections is a perfect example.