Monday, October 12, 2009

Book Review: Prestige Records - The Album Cover Collection

As part of the celebration of Prestige Records’ 60th Anniversary, Concord Editions has published Prestige Records - The Album Cover Collection. This coffee-table sized book features reproductions of 120 classic LP covers from the legendary jazz label’s rich history. And just to set the proper mood, there is also a nine track various artists CD included with the package.

The early EPs and 10-inch LP covers were pretty primitive, typically consisting of a picture of the headliner and a lot of type, listing the other players on the set. Label owner Bob Weinstock did the early design and photography, then slowly began farming these duties out to others.
Prestige hired some major names early on, including Andy Warhol (1953), and legendary MAD magazine artist Don Martin (1953). Reid Miles, who went on to become art director of Blue Note Records began his career with Prestige as well.

Oddly enough, considering the myriad of duties label head Weinstock had on his plate, he photographed some of the most iconic images associated with Prestige. His picture of the Hackensack River for Miles Davis' Miles LP is exquisite in it’s stark simplicity, as is the shot of Sonny Rollins adorning Tenor Madness.My personal favorite Prestige album cover has to be for Eric Dolphy’s 1960 LP, Out There. It was done by Richard “Prophet” Jennings, and is a great Twilight Zone type painting. Another nice later cover is for Jaki Byard’s On The Spot (1965), designed by Don Schlitten. It is possibly the first psychedelic jazz cover ever.

The last covers in the book came from records issued in 1969, by Houston Person and James Moody. The Person shot in particular reflects it’s time. It is a picture of him blowing the sax dressed not in the traditional suit and tie, but in some vaguely African attire.

The nine track CD included with the book contains some great jazz. Many of Prestige’s finest artists are represented on it, including Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Mose Allison, and Eric Dolphy. A treat for me on the disc is the inclusion of Moondog's “Organ Rounds,” one of the label’s lesser known artists, and one of their finest.

Prestige Records was sold to Fantasy in 1971, which effectively ended it’s operation as an independent. But their legacy lives on, and The Album Cover Collection is a nice way to celebrate their 60th anniversary.

1 comment:

  1. Reading through the blogs on the Prestige Records Album Cover book. I am interested in what's being said because I am the producer of this book with my partner at, Geoff Gans who is the archivist and art director on this book. If anyone happens to read this, I would be interested in how they liked this book and topic. We have other possible books that we will pitch if there seems to be interest in historical and noteworthy merch on such topics as Riverside Jazz Covers, George Benson and other similar offerings. Gary G