Paul McCartney, Wings Greatest Full Album Zip High Quality
The power of "Nilson Schmilsson" is just how utterly, absolutely unassuming it is. From the smarmy, sarcastic album title to the fact that Harry Nilsson is just standing there in a bathrobe, staring off into the middle distance, "Nilsson Schmilsson" looks like a record that was perhaps recorded at home in a basement instead of produced by the legendary Richard Perry with full orchestrations. While the album would go on to become a Grammy-winning success with some of Nilsson's biggest and most memorable songs contained within ("Gotta Get Up,' "Coconut,' "Without You,' "Jump Into the Fire"), the cover served as a remarkable tool for disarming expectations, with Nilsson coming off as a regular guy who just so happened to be a pop music savant. To top it all off? The photo was taken by Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean fame, further connecting Nilsson to a lineage of rock 'n' roll greats.
Paul McCartney, Wings Greatest full album zip
Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were no strangers to distinctive album sleeves, from the charming nostalgia of "Pretzel Logic" to the pop art explosion that is their debut effort, "Can't Buy a Thrill." Yet when the boys fully committed to jazz fusion for "Aja," it ended up serving as their calling card. Primarily black with careful hints of white and red, photographer Hideki Fujii caught model Sayoko Yamaguchi in a variety of poses, but the white and red hints on her garment in the take chosen for the album art provides a distinct, striking symmetry. Advertisements at the time referred to "Aja" as "a place in your mind," and when you glance at the cover of the record proper, it's hard to not to be transported there.
You may not think of it as much at first glance, but the photo of Minor Threat's debut EP (and later recolored for a full-length 1984 compilation of the same name) was a quiet revolution. The lonely skinhead, head down and fully distancing himself from the world around him while sitting on a stair helped showcase that even among the hardcore punk rockers, anyone could be vulnerable. It was remarkably humanizing given the thundering pound of the Ian MacKaye songs contained within, but it immediately set the D.C. band apart from its peers. Over the years, this album cover would be imitated (by Rancid, no less) and ripped off by many others, but the original photograph proved to be profoundly disarming, helping put the D.C. hardcore scene on the map in short order.
In a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone, Bruce Springsteen revealed why his butt graces the cover of his most popular album: "We took a lot of different types of pictures, and in the end, the picture of my [rear end] looked better than the picture of my face; that's what went on the cover." While Springsteen has always been associated as a man who wrote anthems for the working class, this photograph, wonderfully captured by Annie Leibovitz, showed Springsteen in blue jeans with a baseball cap stuffed in his back pocket, all while standing in front of the bars of an American flag. Perhaps unintentionally nodding as the exact inverse of the Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers," this denim-clad posterior was simply leading you to Springsteen's most considered and popular record, representing the fact that you might already look the part of someone living the American dream.
Unfortunately for Richie Bucher, the band fronted by his girlfriend, Courtney and the Crushers, never really took off. He was, however, asked to come up with the artwork for "Dookie," the third full-length album from pop-punkers Green Day. Crass and clever in equal measures, monkeys and dogs are throwing poo at various celebrities across Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue, with a jet pilot doggo pulling focus by dropping "Dookie Bombs" (which, for those who don't know, is a slant-reference to diarrhea). Chaotic and colorful, this drawing represents everything you need to know about Green Day: raw, immature, pop culture aware and energetic. One can argue that Billie Joe Armstrong's songwriting is more intellectual and nuanced than the cover would let on, and you would be absolutely right. Yet Green Day are punk rockers at heart, and this cover spoke to an entire generation raised on junk TV and sarcasm. If you were to predict then that Green Day would only get better from here on out, well you might just be a basket case.
Starting out as a band as equally obsessed with grunge as it was with dream-pop, The Smashing Pumpkins made such gigantic artistic leaps between albums that some fans had a hard time keeping up. Following up the alternative-rock smash album "Siamese Dream" would be no easy feat, and Billy Corgan and Co. did so with the sprawling, overambitious double album "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness." Indulgent to a fault, the Pumpkins fit every style they could into this grand multi-disc release, ranging from their darkest hard rockers to some campfire singalongs to orchestral triumphs. For a record this opulent, there needs to be a cover to fit, and thankfully for the Pumpkins, collage artist John Craig managed to come through, turning Corgan's crude faxed sketches into a compelling cover inspired by early 20th-century futurism and fashion. The star girl concept later informed the band's genius music video for the single "Tonight, Tonight" (which was an explicit recreation of the 1902 Georges Méliès standard "A Trip to the Moon") and still remains the artistic aesthetic most closely associated with the group.
Given that Aphex Twin's early albums were "Selected Ambient Works," some fans were surely caught off guard with Richard D. James' fourth album titled... "Richard D. James Album." Although drum 'n' bass aesthetics had been a part of his midtempo creations before, this marked his turning point when he began embracing "drill 'n' bass" as an aesthetic goal, merging quick programmed beats with aggressive, industrial tones and timing, something that became fully realized on his 1997 nightmare-inducing single "Come to Daddy." While "Richard D. James" album is full of pleasant and melodic moments, his darker side begins emerging here, realized to its fullest extent with its unbelievably creepy cover. Shot and manipulated by James himself (although he credits Johnny Clayton as well, despite Clayton saying all he did was teach James how to use Photoshop), that cruel, devious smile would soon inform the most popular of James' output, especially in the form of his Chris Cunningham-directed music videos for "Come to Daddy" and "Windowlicker." No matter how you look at it, this cover still haunts our dreams.
Deceptively simple, the cover to OutKast's "Stankonia" features Big Boi and André 3000 posing in front of a black-and-white American flag. From here much symbolism can be derived: Do they think that the American dream is dead? Are they saying that there's a separate America for black people? Or is this to be perceived as a potential representation of Stankonia itself, the fictional world that OutKast is speaking of on this album? It's hard to say for sure, but seeing the duo with their clearly defined individual styles together makes for one hell of an invitation to visit "Stankonia" time and time again. Lensed by Michael Lavine, "Stankonia" joins a long line of great OutKast sleeves, and, outside of a greatest hits compilation, this was sadly the last time they shared a cover photo together; every record since then was merely a composite of the two in different setups, together but clearly apart.
El-P has been one of the underground's greatest rapper-producers for several years running, and the opening slate of releases from his legendary (and now defunct) Definitive Jux imprint helped launch the careers of Aesop Rock and Mr. Lif, to say nothing of his work bringing Cannibal Ox's "The Cold Vein" to life. Yet his work with Dungeon Family member Killer Mike has been nothing short of a tour de force, with the two playing off each other with wit, charm and absolute ferocity. The name Run the Jewels has been given a simple two-hand gesture, with one hand holding the jewels and the other in the shape of a gun, telling you everything you need to know about the duo's sense of urgency. This gesture has so far been the staple of the guys' three albums, the aesthetic slightly changing with each one even as their popularity grows. Finger gun to our head, our favorite would be the iteration on their second full-length (artwork by Nick Gazin), where the backdrop is a sharp red, the hands are wrapped up like mummys, and the duo's sense of immediacy can be instantly felt.
While the big, mammoth McCartney reissues come with books, memorabilia and hours of unreleased audio and video, this new reissue is a welcome addition to his vast canon. Although there have been many reissues of his Wings and solo albums, hopefully this single, vinyl album half-speed mastering process will be used on other releases, with Ram, all his Wings albums and Thrillington leading my wish list.