It was sad news recently when I learned of the passing of a great artist...No, not Lucian Freud (who was a decent painter)or Amy Winehouse (who was a very young, decent singer)but the less recognised Alex Steinweiss who was art director for Colombia records from 1938.
The reason that the old LP record was called an album is that they literally used to be produced like a traditional photo album, with a leather effect cover, gold inlays and pages and pages of information. Alex went into Colombia with the idea that if you made records more visually appealing and dynamic, then you would attract more people and therefore sell more. His first album cover, and effectively the first illustrated record cover in history, is a stunner and way before it's time visually:
The influence of Walker Evans 'Broadway' photograph (below)is evident, but to apply it to the context of product packaging at this time was visionary. It is not surprising that this early Rodgers and Hart cover should prove to be so inspirational.
RIP Alex Steinweiss (March 24, 1917 – July 18, 2011)
Walker Evans 'Broadway', 1930