A couple fo years ago I wrote a post called The King of Elfland's Daughter. I thought I'd take up the fantasy reins again and discuss one of my favourite subjects, 1970's concept album art and prog rock. The King of Elfland's Daughter LP itself , by Bob Johnson and Pete Knight, was graced with beautiful cover art [above] by Jimmy Cauty, a gifted seventeen year old artist from Liverpool. I was far more familiar with the his cover than the music, as Athena International sold Jimmy's fabulous work as posters. They were everywhere at the time and included his similarly iconic renderings for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
Another classic fantasy concept album was Bo Hanssen's Lord of the Rings pictured above. The cover art is instantly recognisable but I don't know the artist. The score is very moogy and trippy and very Seventies and reminded me a little of those progmeisters Camel. I love the artist's illustrations of the white city of Gondor and the swan-like formation of the Nine Nasgul flying. I've often pondered who exactly the buddha-like figure actually is, top right, as I have the corpse surrounded by what appear to be sea anenomes bottom left. Below is a later and more jagged re-interpretation of the album cover depicting one of the Nine, up close and horrible, by Seventies cover king Rodney Matthews. Does anyone have a different cover for Bo Hanssen's album?
Roger Dean also wore the cover King crown during the prog decade and was the album artist of choice for Yes. A classic cover is this gatefold spread for Tales from Topographic Oceans [below], which is easilly one of my top ten albums of all time. The first rather lengthy song takes me straight back to Christmas 1974, when I first got the LP and played it on the family music centre. Like Dean and the album cover,Yes perfected the artform of the concept album; artistry, which Punk Rock was to deconstruct with safety pins at the end of the decade. Fortuitously I liked Punk and New Wave but I was a hippy and my heart was forever Prog's!
Besides concept albums from great prog bands the likes of Yes, Camel, Genesis and Floyd, I loved more traditional rockers too. Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Wishbone Ash, PFM, Montrose and Quo all had space in my stack of vinyl. My favourites were Free, Jethro Tull, Rush and the cream of the bunch, Budgie. Jethro Tull specialised in rural rock and made many great albums including Heavy Horses and Aqualung. But for me their best album and album cover was Stand Up pictured below. I've always loved woodcuts and still do and the cover's rustic style really appealed to me. Every song is brilliant but personally the stand out tune is the wistful ballad Look Into The Sun. Have a listen!
Inevitably as the Seventies faded I entered my twenties and slowly but surely I stopped buying albums. There are many that I remember seeing at friends' houses but never got round to buying. Two, whose cover art is really memorable and returns us back to the fantasy art genre this post started with, are pictured below: Red Queen to Gryphon Three by Gryphon and Olias of Sunhillow by Yes's Jon Anderson. Which are your favourite posters, album or book covers?