In this work, Ken Bielen explains how album cover art authenticates recording artists in a particular genre. He considers albums issued from the 1950s to the 1980s, the golden era of record album cover art. The whole album package is studied, including the front and back covers, the inside cover, the inner sleeve, and the liner notes. Performers in rock and roll, folk and folk rock, soul and disco, psychedelic, Americana nostalgia, and singer-songwriter genres are included in this study of hundreds of record album covers.
Ken Bielen holds a doctorate in American culture studies from Bowling Green State University and is the retired director of the grants office at Indiana Wesleyan University.
1. From the Early Idols of Popular Music to the British Invasion
2. 1960s Folk Music and the Move to Folk Rock
3. From Sweet Sixties and Seventies Soul Music to Disco on the Cover
4. Psychedelia and Beyond
5. Images of Americana
6. Singer-Songwriters and Song Interpreters
There was nothing like walking into a record store during the LP era and catching sight of an album cover that presented a vision of the artist, the music and a reflection of the times. We listened with our eyes before we tasted with our ears. Are they one of us? The images on an album cover are images of an artist as well as images of ourselves. Or at least the image they want to project is. Ken Bielen looks at album covers and uncovers a history of musical art in his book, Portraying Performer Image in Record Album Cover Art. He invites us to listen to what we’ve seen and see again what we’ve heard. Or dare I say that an album cover is worth a thousand songs?
Bielen exhibits his extensive knowledge and understanding of popular music and its intersection with society in Portraying Performer Image in Record Album Cover Art. I love how he dissects album cover and insert art and explains their relationship to the music and the images that artists and record companies try to project. His analyses are spot on.
An insightful survey of varied performers, times, and musical genres as exhibited and understood through the visuals of popular music record album covers that is a much-needed and long overdue contribution to several fields of inquiry. Fans and scholars alike will find much to enjoy and consider in this close descriptive analysis.