Book Review: Prestige Records: The Album Cover Collection

Very little prestige design here but get a FREE CD with the book

I recently reviewed Graham Marsh's book 'East coasting' where he shows the LP cover art from the three jazz labels: Riverside; Atlantic; Prestige (he had already covered the leader in the field Blue Note with two previous cover art books). I thought in Marsh's book that Prestige had the worst covers and this dreary book confirms it. With 122 covers (reproduced 8.5 inches square) it seems using well designed cover art as a marketing tool to sell the product was the last thing on Prestige owner Bob Weinstock's mind.

Nearly all of them look so amateurish with uninspiring photography or graphics and dreadful typography. The best are by Reid Miles (who did the brilliant Blue Note covers) because he had a feel for graphics and how to handle type in a fresh way. Even a bit of decent lettering could have redeemed some of the silly graphics used on these covers but instead it seems that the style was to use as many different types as possible on cover after cover.

There are some oddities here. Mad's maddest artist Don Martin is credited for the drawings and design of three covers, a photo of Miles Davis in a street has a steam-roller in the background, one of his covers has a blue photo of a river with just the word MILES in white across the middle, one cover with a photo of some hands on piano keys doesn't even have any lettering on it all...I think it might be a Monk album. These covers are bad enough but fortunately none of the backs are shown, they must have looked hopeless. Actually the backs of LP covers throughout the industry always looked like a local typesetter did the layouts. It was only Capitol Records who consistently took the trouble to give the record buyer something worthwhile to look on the back.

The book's production, though well printed on gloss paper, seems to reflect the poor covers inside. The four intro pages to the book have messy colored backgrounds which are overprinted with text. Wait, there's more! You would never know it but the book has a CD of some Prestige artists, just over forty-three minutes of some pretty reasonable jazz (apart from Moondog, who in my opinion wasn't really a jazz player). Concord Editions are so amateurish that they forgot to put some eye-catching graphic on the cover saying FREE CD INSIDE to grab the book buyer and increase sales. It isn't even mentioned on the back cover either.

So, look for the cheapest copy you can find, basically just to get the CD. If you are buying a pre-used copy check with the seller that the CD is in the back.

Prestige Records: The Album Cover Collection is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

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