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Sunday, April 19, 2015

For The Record: Top 5 NYC Album Covers

In honor of Record Store Day , and in a bout of intense R&R following a day well spent at my favorite vinyl shop, I'd like to celebrate with a bit of a tangent. Instead of photographing places we've all heard of but never seen, I want to discuss those sights we have beheld, thanks again to the artists we love. Here are five of what I consider to be the coolest album covers photographed in New York City: 

1. The Brecker Brothers

The coolness factor of this photograph goes well beyond the double exposure (note a ghoulish but casual pair of Brecker Brothers descending the subway stairs, jazz instruments in hand, you know.) The background photo was taken in the old City Hall station, which has since become sealed and defunct. But do not be scared by those ghoulish words--you can still catch a glimpse of the old vaulted platform by remaining on the downtown 6 train after its last stop, as it loops around the track to return uptown.

2. Augustus Pablo
Born to Dub You, year unknown

It's safe to assume that before there was Photoshop, artists relied very heavily on double exposure to enhance their image (and it totally worked.) This unreleased album by roots reggae legend Augustus Pablo was unveiled to the public in 2014--more than a decade after the Twin Towers, captured in the background of the album cover, had vanished in the tragic events of 9/11.

3. The Brooklyn Bridge

At first glance, this shot looks like it was taken on a pirate ship, so the moment of realization is automatically a bit of a letdown. But the Brooklyn Bridge is almost as picturesque, is every bit as iconic, and is probably more suitable for a band called "The Brooklyn Bridge." Best of all, the bridge looks virtually the same today as it did in the summer of '69, in case readers want to grab the gang and head out to re-enact this epic photograph.

4. Melanie

Another more DIY technique of spicing up an unedited photograph is the classic collaging method. Singer-songwriter Melanie, from Astoria, Queens, graces her own album cover in what appears to be a Central Park pasture overlooking the cityscape (and is actually just pasted quite cunningly atop another photograph.) Melanie shows the spirit of a hippie-fied Maria von Trapp--minus the bevy of children at her feet--which brings a bit of folk charm to an otherwise urban atmosphere.

5. Jimmy Smith

While luncheonettes are largely a thing of the past, and "Kate's Home Cooking" is no exception, Jimmy Smith's album cover offers us a glimpse of the good old days--or at least it impresses us with the appearance of a brave man smiling in spite of the racial unrest that he and other African-Americans faced in Harlem and in the U.S. during this time. The "Incredible" Jimmy Smith was a jazz organist who most likely frequented Kate's luncheonette during his stays in New York even when the camera wasn't rolling. The restaurant, situated nearby the legendary Apollo Theater, is said to have been the "soul station" for many of its talented performers, such as Count Basie and Art Blakey. I like to imagine artists like these winding down from a top-of-the-world performance to a refreshing bottle of Coca-Cola and some conversation.

Thanks for reading! What do you think are some of Gotham's greatest album covers?


  1. Some fantastic albums, and covers. Physical Graffiti is on my list, as well.

    1. Thanks for the response, Dan! I love that one as well, and it's a fun one to visit.