Tag Archives: Album Art

Michael Inns – An interview with rock photographer & album artist

Michael Inns is a British rock photographer, album designer, and illustrator, who has worked on many great albums and with many legendary musicians over the past few decades. He has also been a part of a number of album art projects with Roger Dean. Along with Karen Gladwell, Mike began Mixed Images Ltd – creating cover art, album layouts, press photos… In this exchange Michael details the beginnings of his career and getting to work with Roger Dean, his work and friendship with the late John Wetton, as well as discuss a number of projects and album covers he created and was a part of. Sadly, Karen Gladwell passed in October of 2019 (RIP), and I’ve included a video Michael created as a tribute to her, set to John Wetton’s classic ballad “After All” – below.

Can you give me a bit of background as to how you got into the rock end of art and photography?

I was a rather reclusive individual struggling for survival at a boys’ Public School in England. I discovered a small darkroom hidden in the basement of one of the school’s art centers. I was interested in photography, so this was my home for the remaining time at school. Photojournalist Penny Tweedie arrived at the school to cover an assignment, I met her, and she was the ‘coolest’ person on the planet – that’s what I wanted to do. I followed her work, inspired by the art of photojournalism which led on to following the work of Don McCullin.

School really wasn’t the place to be, so I managed to take the opportunity to take up a course in Design / Photography for three years. My roommate greeted me wearing a ‘YES’ tee shirt which introduced me to YES and the work of Roger Dean. Roger was the new inspirational ‘cool’ for me and YES became my favourite band. It was the 70’s and Roger ruled supreme as a guiding light to the world of graphics. I remember ‘Relayer’ coming out and seeing the band play the album live in Leicester with Roger’s stage sets and lighting.

After leaving Art College I lived with like-minded British author Freda Warrington and tried to find a way into album design. I remember sending my portfolio to Kate Bush and Jon Anderson. I carried on working as a designer for a local PR company until I eventually left to start ‘Mixed Images’ with my long-term best friend and business partner Karen Gladwell. Karen has been by my side throughout and is a huge part of everything we achieved as well as giving her loyal support and friendship to all the artists we have worked with.

It was at a local ENID gig where I met Robert John Godfrey and Steve Stewart and spent the next few years spending time at their recording studios in Suffolk. I really began my studio photographic sessions with the ENID. It was then that I bumped into Rob Ayling who was at the time managing the band. Rob later introduced me to Dave Stewart, John Wetton and Geoffrey Downes. Around that time Steve Stewart asked me if I could work with Katrina and the Waves on photoshoots, album designs and pop videos. It was a really creative time which developed into a long-term friendship with Katrina and Kimberly Rew. I received a call from promoter Dave Hill soon after to work for Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone.

I had developed a close friendship with John Wetton and Richard Palmer-James. One day John called me and asked me to meet him at a nearby studio owned by Martin Darvill where they were having a meeting to discuss the formation of ‘Qango’ a spinoff of ASIA. I remember arriving with Karen to meet for the first time, Carl Palmer wandering around the car park waiting.  The Qango project led me to forging long term friendships with most of the musicians I now currently work with.

My friendship and admiration for Martin Darvill grew. Martin asked me to work on a photoshoot with Martin Turner as well as Sonja Kristina and Focus. I used to pack my entire studio light system and set up in the basements of various theatres for some of the bands. Other times they would come to me at my studio in Hertfordshire or I would set up at Martin’s recording studio in Buckinghamshire.

Martin Darvill is an extremely skillful and highly regarded manager who gave his time and experience to help artists like Martin Turner, Focus and many others in reformation projects.  Martin notably managed to succeed in getting Steve Howe, Geoffrey Downes, John Wetton and Carl Palmer around the same table to discuss the reformation of the original ASIA.

I later met up with Dave Roberts – who brought together many great bands for his Cambridge Rock Festivals.  I had many wonderful weekends working alongside my inspirational friend and rock photographer John Price.

Whilst the photoshoots were taking up a huge amount of time, I also worked on producing the artworks the various albums released by Martin’s company QEDG.

Martin asked Roger Dean if he would be happy for me to work on the various ASIA projects. Roger agreed. For me it was the most daunting assignment so far. Whilst I worked with many big names in the music business, I would never be judged on my ability to play. When it came to Roger – he was the person who defined my future path in the world of graphics. Over the years Roger has introduced me to some really great musicians.

I have now spent over 15 years working for Roger – where his generosity of spirit has nurtured my understanding of his techniques and work. Constantly juggling an ever-growing array of projects – Roger seems to me like a man who never sleeps.

You’ve done a lot of work [photos, art, layout…] on a number of Asia, John Wetton [and related] releases. Can you give me a bit of insight into some of your work with John, Geoff, and Asia? (Any details or insight to a few specific covers that you had a hand in via art, layout or photos)

I met John Wetton for the first time on a photoshoot with Phil Manzenera at his Gallery Studios. John was in the final stages of production for “Arkangel” with Billy Liesegang. I wasn’t working on the designs – just a few PR shots for the re-release of two ‘Wetton Manzenera’ albums. It was after ‘Arkangel’ that John asked me to work on all his new studio albums.

At the same time, I also remember I was working with Bill Nelson’s “Noise Candy”, Katrina Leskanich, Gordon Haskell and Dave Stewart / Barbara Gaskin.

I remember that most of the albums I worked on were for John, Geoffrey, Carl and ASIA including photoshoots for albums and PR. For the album artworks – Roger Dean is the default artist for QEDG projects such as ASIA, DBA and FOCUS. 

I was already working with Geoffrey Downes before I met John, so I ended up working on every iCon – Wetton Downes project too. We wrote it as iCon because at the time there was a new product on the market called an iPad and thought it might be a more distinctive layout.

John Wetton would just call me to invite me on our next journey together. Another album design. John always knew the direction he wanted to travel but he only knew the destination when we reached it. It was always fun and took us in unexpected directions. John’s dry sense of humor and deep laugh was a constant welcome companion. 

Most of our collaborations were driven by John’s spark of imagination. The cover art was the most important to get right. John would send me the lyrics and a stack of images that defined the essence of each track. I remember seeing a mobile phone for “Finger On The Trigger” and hadn’t realized the track was about a war of love and sending a text message. 

I remember the cover of “Rock Of Faith” – we were sitting in Clive Nolan’s studio in Virginia Water with Martin Darvill – I gave John my notebook for his page-by-page notes. He was overdubbing the bass on “Take Me To The Waterline” at the time so there were a series of squiggles to denote the pages. When I got back to the studio, I thought the squiggle for the cover had a Star Trek feel and had something going for it – so I drew it up.  I noticed later John had a silver pendant made up with shape of the cover image.

Because of Martin Darvill’s heavy involvement with Roger Dean, the ‘Downes Braide Association’ engaged with Roger to work on ‘DBA – “Skyscraper Souls”.

We were in Bournemouth on a cold February day I was with Karen – I remember Roger Dean showing me the proposed cover painting for “Skyscraper Souls” which was in the boot of his car. The painting was wonderful – It was a truly sad day – we were attending John Wetton’s funeral.

Can you give me some insight and stories in to some of the covers you created an or had a hand in – Bernie Shaw / Dale Collins – Too Much Information (where did the album’s image[s] come from? And who came up with the cover concept?)

I had a call from QEDG and asked if I could work on Bernie Shaw / Dale Collins – “Too Much Information”. I think it was Bernie who had already chosen the cover image of a solitary metal sculpture on a snowy mountain. I only had the one image to work with so I tried to find more sculpture images that would help me to create the rest of the artworks.

I found “The Statue of Love” by Tamara Kvesitadze that commemorates the 1937 novel “Ali and Nino” about the love of a Muslim Azerbaijani boy and Christian Georgian princess. The remarkable moving statue became the narrative throughout the booklet.

Another project that we felt required a narrative throughout was a project for Tony Kaye called “End Of Innocence”. Roger Dean had already created a unique cover painting. The album was a personal reflection on 9-11.  It was an amazing concept with the piece starting the night before the attacks and follows the events through the following day and on to the aftermath.

We decided to colorize Roger’s painting for the interior taking the narrative from the calm blues of ‘innocence’ to the reds and blacks of the disaster through to warm yellows representing a ‘new beginning’.

Peter Goalby – Easy With The Heartaches, I Will Come Runnin’ (where did these cover ideas come from? were you familiar with Peter’s work? and was it any different creating cover art for an archived release where there may be no artist photos, or the artist is no longer active?)

I had already been working for Uriah Heep, Phil Lanzon and Ken Hensley on new projects and releases, so I knew of Peter Goalby but had never heard Peter’s solo work. I was asked if I could create a cover for Peter’s re-release of solo albums. The brief was that this should be four completely different covers that could be combined together to create one single image. The concept was difficult enough without even beginning to visualize the production. I decided to use very bold abstract images for each of the individual releases and blend them together to create a single landscape image. I then added more layers across the whole images which were depictions that represented ‘sound’ waves.

If I have a project that is a completely blank canvas with no logo, no images and no music to work from – the only way forward is to create something that is interesting and bold.

Arc Of Life album, featuring YES members

“Arc of Life” for me started with a call from Martin Darvill. Billy Sherwood had got a band together during the Pandemic. These days there is such a long lead time on some of the production processes most artists get very little notice for these urgent projects. Billy was really specific and had a clear idea about what he wanted to see on the cover and for that matter the back cover too. It was a very clear and clever idea with the cover and back cover portraying the same scene – the cover daytime and the back cover night-time reflecting the ‘Arc of Life’.

Although I have worked with most of the members of YES over the years as well as Roger, I don’t actually work on any current YES projects other than maybe the admats for the tours. The ‘go to’ designers (other than Roger) are the well respected, Doug and Glenn Gottlieb who have a history with YES dating back to the 70’s.

Alan Simon’s Excalibur IV [from 2017] (and Did you happen to create Alan Simon’s Excalibur V cover that came out late last year? (if so, any insight on that?)

I created the cover for Excalibur IV as well as the latest Excalibur V.  In all I think I have created around seven album artworks for Alan and a series of rereleases. Alan is very clear about what he wants to achieve from concept to production. It is a very similar working relationship to working with John Wetton. Alan sends me a whole batch of his own photographic images which we use throughout the artworks. Alan is a very talented artist, photographer, composer, musician and film maker. Another individual that never sleeps.

The cover for “The Dark Age of the Dragon” evolved from the existing artworks in the Excalibur series. The circle is always a key element.  Although “Excalibur V” visually doesn’t immediately stand out as a circle – the subject actually is a stone circle. The original concept for the cover came from a rough sketch Alan sent me a few years ago.

What would be a couple of your own favorite projects you’ve been a part of?

Each project has it’s own charm.

I have created all the album artworks for Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin over the past 20 years. Dave sets the bar on creativity and constantly raises it a notch every time we exchange thoughts. Like with Roger, the initial brief is always achievable – but is constantly evolving to a higher level and just when you think you’ve made it . . . those are probably the best projects to work on.

I worked with Gordon Haskell on “Harry’s Bar” from which the single “How Wonderful You Are” was released and became the Christmas number 2 in 2001.  The cover image of the album came about in February 2001 when Gordon turned up at my home by surprise along with a studio copy of “Harrys Bar”. We played the first track but Gordon was dissatisfied with the quality, abandoned the CD and proceeded to pick up one of my guitars and perform some of the tracks ‘live’. Gordon wanted an idea of the style of cover photograph he should have on the cover of the album. We were sitting in my dinning room at the time – I had about ten frames left on my film camera – so I took a series of ideas and sent them to him. One of the shots became the cover image.

Working with Katrina and the Waves was another interesting period. I had been working with Katrina for a few years – helping produce album artworks and pop videos. I was asked to work on a version of ‘Walking on Sunshine’ for GMTV. Soon after I got a call to work on a new single “Love Shine A Light” written and produced by Kimberley Rew. The song was put forward for the “Great British Song Contest” and went on win Eurovision 1997.  The cover was actually created from a cartoon sketch supplied by Kimberley.

Recent projects include – photoshoots for Blues Guitarist Ben Poole and two album projects from QEDG for Nathan James, Inglorious.

Five memorable John Wetton albums would include,

Red – King Crimson

ASIA debut

Rock of Faith (Solo)

Battlelines (Solo)

Nomansland (Live in Poland 1998).

10 album covers that inspired me were

Relayer -YES

Tails from Topographic Oceans – YES

Cactus Choir – Greenslade

Magician’s Birthday – Uriah Heep

Court of the Crimson King – King Crimson

Search of the Lost Chord  – Moody Blues

The Táin  – Horslips

Wishbone Ash – Argus

Wish You Were Here -Pink Floyd

Olias of Sunhillow – Jon Anderson

*All images courtesy of Michael Inns

Story Behind The Album Cover: Brownsvile Station’s Motor City Connection, with Michael Doret

American Artist Michael Doret is known for his letterform and image designing, and over the years he has created a number of rock album covers, with his most famous clients being Kiss, he also worked on covers by James Brown, The Blue Hawaiians and The Squirrel Nut Zippers. In 1975 though he was hired to create the cover for Brownsville Stations’ Motor City Connection album. The album was released in August of ’75 and would be the band’s last for Big Tree Records. It would also be their last as the classic trio of Cub Koda, Michael Lutz and Henry “H-Bomb” Weck, as guest Bruce Nazarian would join the band soon after on guitars. The album didn’t fare so well in comparison to the band’s earlier releases, part of which might’ve had to do with their being no single release from it. Motor City Connection is a great harder rockin’ album from Brownsville Station, featuring such favorites as “Automatic Heartbreak”, “Give It To Get It”, “Self Abuse”, and “They Call Me Rock ‘N’ Roll”; an album (like most of the band’s catalogue) which is long overdue for a CD (and vinyl) reissue! Certainly, one of Brownsville Stations’ best, and their most eye-catching cover from Michael Doret who talks about how he created this album’s front cover (the back cover features the logo again, along with credits and band photos; see comments). He also talks about some of this other album covers, notably the 2 he did for Kiss, and other aspects of his career.

Your background in art and your connection to the music world early on?

My background was that I attended The Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture. I thought I would become a fine artist of some sort, but I ended up falling in love with graphic design, realizing that I wasn’t cut out to be a painter or a sculptor. After graduation I held a series of staff positions in the design departments of various companies before going out on my own as a freelance graphic designer. At that point I hooked up with the preeminent airbrush artist of the 1970s—Charles White III. We collaborated on many projects including several album covers, among which were “Chuck Berry’s Golden Decade”, “Chubby Checker—Greatest Hits”, and “Gentle Giant—Octopus”..

How did Motor City Connection for Brownsville Station in 1975 come about?

That was so long ago that it’s hard to remember all the details . . . but I was contacted by Paula Scher from Atlantic Records who had recently become familiar with my work and asked me to design and create art for this cover. There’s really not much more to this story than that. As a young freelance designer, I wasn’t looking to work in any one particular area, but was interested in all kinds of projects from movie title treatments to posters to book jackets to advertising, etc. As I became more and more known in the design field, I got more and more assignments to solve all kinds of different design problems. Record jacket design was just one area of design for which I was lucky enough to get hired.

Familiar with the band?  How did you approach putting that cover drawing together -where the idea came from? Any band input?

Honestly, I wasn’t familiar with the band, but that really didn’t matter. What is important is that a designer should be able to approach any design project, make themselves familiar with the subject, and be sensitive to what the client wants to project. I was never a big fan of heavy metal, but that really didn’t matter in this situation. What was important was that I create a cover that would call to people from across the record store aisles and attract attention to itself while telling the story that the band wanted to tell. I had absolutely no input from the band (no contact with them either), so I had to rely on what Paula told me about them (there wasn’t much), and my own intuition.

My thoughts on the cover design were pretty basic: design a cover that pulled together some of my favorite elements of automobilia into one cohesive design that spelled out the name of the album and the group: elements like car badges, chrome ornament, monograms, rockets, reflectors, etc. Color was also important to me, and I incorporated the colors of the 1955 Nash Rambler that was my parents’ first car. Combining all these elements was a challenge—but was also a lot of fun for me. So, the idea was to create sort of a collage of automotive elements that together formed (in my mind) the ultimate car statement.

[*Pics below: 1. Michael: “My Dad in our 1955 Nash Rambler. I loved the color of this 2-Tone car and used it for reference for the album cover. 2. Michael: “The “88” photo is one I took of an Oldsmobile ornament, one of the pieces of automobilia used for inspiration on the cover.” 3. Editor: MCC promo w/ hype sticker

A bit about how the cover was done – how long it took, etc.

Today this cover would have been a lot easier to do than it was back in 1975. Today I could have done this cover digitally, and it would have only taken a fraction of the time that it actually took me. Back then it was a laborious process which involved inking all the black linework, and then using colored adhesive films to fill in the color.

Any feedback from the band or label?

Sorry—I really can’t remember. But I can tell you it was one of my favorite pieces at the time (and it still is).

You went on to do Kiss’ Rock n Roll Over — presumably your best-known album cover? Recollections on coming up with that drawing?  As well as reconnecting with them for the Sonic Boom cover after so many years?

Well, I guess the decision as to which is my best-known cover has been made for me. I don’t think Rock and Roll Over is any better than Motor City Connection—or better than any of my other covers. I just think that Rock and Roll Over just got seen a lot more. At the time I did that cover I was pretty much able to get away with doing whatever I wanted. The kind of art I was creating (letterform-centric) was something people hadn’t seen before, and so it was difficult for most people to know how to criticize it. The only changes I was asked to make were minor ones—Gene and Paul had some comments about the details of how I drew their faces—but that was the extent of it. Years later (2009) Paul contacted me, asking if I would be interested in doing another album cover for Kiss. They felt that Rock and Roll Over had become so iconic for them, that they wanted to do something similar for Sonic Boom. One thing I wasn’t crazy about was that this time they did not want me to illustrate their faces as I did on Rock and Roll Over (you know what sensitive egos performers have)—which meant I had to somehow use existing photography because they did not want to do a photoshoot for this album cover. They had Tommy Thayer in charge of their photo archives, so he and I went over all the photos that were available, and I picked a few that I thought could work. When I say “work” I mean that I could mess around with the photos so that they became less photographic and more just plain graphic. I didn’t want to just repeat Rock and Roll Over, so I designed the cover so that it was more or less Rock and Roll Over turned inside-out so that the album name was exploding outward from the center, and the faces were now on the outside perimeter. They loved the new cover, but you know how fans are . . . there was a lot of “Rock and Roll Over was the greatest album cover, but this cover is shit”. Everybody’s got an opinion.

Were you ‘into’ much of the music you created cover art for?

As I mentioned earlier, I never was a big fan of heavy metal. If I was creating a cover for a book, nobody would expect me to be a fan of the book or the author. What’s expected of a designer is to understand the client’s needs and to create something appropriate and which communicates what they want to say.

You did a number of covers – what are some of your favorites (any stories with)?

I mentioned the covers I created with Charles White III—those were done in collaboration with him. But (as with Rock and Roll Over and Motor City Connection) I went on to create more than a few covers on my own. Of all the album covers I’ve done I’d have to say my favorite is “Bedlam Ballroom” for Squirrel Nut Zippers. That one was by far the most difficult to create—and the most rewarding. And that art was nominated for a Grammy (didn’t win). Then there were covers such as “Subway Serenade” for Looking Glass, and two comedy album covers: “The Monty Python Matching Tie & Handkerchief” and “Saturday Night Live”. 

You did the lettering (only) for the US/Canada release of Gentle Giant’s Octopus!?

Yes—I designed the glass jar lettering and the lid lettering for that cover, and Charlie did the illustration. That was at the very beginning of my career, and I was quite happy to be involved in such a high-profile cover because I did not yet have the “gravitas” to get that kind of project on my own.

Album covers have only been a part of your career, what else have you worked on that people might recognize your work from?

Well, there was the poster I created for Simon and Garfunkel’s Concert in the Park—which I am very proud of. Lately there’s been a lot of interest in that piece, and I’ve been reprinting and selling that poster. Some people might recognize the logo I designed for the New York Knicks, and others might be familiar with the title treatment I created for Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph. And then there were the covers I created for TIME Magazine.









*If interested in obtaining the Simon & Garfunkel print, contact Michael DoretAlphabetSoup@MichaelDoret.com

*Photo of Michael Doret, courtesy of MD.


Story Behind The Album Cover: Joe Bouchard’s American Rocker by Alan Ayers

American Rocker is Joe Bouchard’s new album, and it tells a number of stories relating to Joe’s past with Blue Oyster Cult, in particular – ‘the golden age’ of the ’70s rock era (see video in links). The album’s cover features stands out with a ’70s-period portrait of Joe, created by American artist Alan Ayers, who is better known for book covers (see the link to his website below). The album’s typeface was created by artist Wallace McBride (aka Unlovely Frankenstein). who also designed those classic looking book covers that appear in the videos for American Rocker. JB: “I did the videos, but I edited a lot of his art into the videos. He also did the typeface for the album cover. He’s very creative. I love his nostalgic approach.” The latest video is for the song “Deadly Kisses”, one of my favorite tracks on the album. Check it out, and check out the links below!

Below, Alan Ayers tells us about his work on the cover for American Rocker, as well as his favorite BOC tunes, and what else he has been involved in.

How you got involved with American Rocker

I was thrilled when Joe contacted me and asked if I would do the cover art for American Rocker. I met Joe through Joan Levy Hepburn, who has been a dear friend for 30+ years. 

As an experienced illustrator, and being of the same generation as Joe, he and Joan felt I would be able to recreate the wonderful energy of ‘70s art. 

Your background, and artwork you’re also known for

I’ve been illustrating professionally since 1979. My early career was as an advertising illustrator, but I transitioned to publishing in 1987. My work now is primarily novel covers. Occasionally I will work on a non-fiction title. I recently completed the cover for Bill O’Reilly’s latest book, Killing the Legends. I’m still managing multiple deadlines and have no plans on retiring. 

​Familiar with Joe’s and BOC’s music, favorite songs

I have very fond memories of early Rock and have been a fan of BOC for many years. There are so many BOC classics, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Don’t Fear The Reaper and Burning For You are two of my absolute favorites. I am nuts for all the tracks on American Rocker, but if I had to pick a fav it would be Deadly Kisses.

How you created the American Rocker cover art

Although I was trained traditionally and created images in acrylic and oil for many years, I’ve been working digitally since 1995. I am very comfortable working with a tablet, and often forget I’m not “pushing paint around”. The American Rocker cover was “painted” digitally, combining reference photos provided by Joe. The trip back to the 1970s style was great fun! My main visual influences were the great Daniel Maffia, with a touch of Warhol’s playful style.  

You were involved in a Rolling Stones’ cover

Yes, I did work on the Stones Bridges To Babylon insert — mostly on the interior desert scene with Gerard Howland. I did do the final adjustments on Kevin Murphy’s wonderful lion painting for the cover. 

My more recent work is on Instagram — traditional illustrations, far different from the wonderful, crazy art of the 70s!




Wallace McBride (Unlovely Frankenstein): https://unlovelyfrankenstein.com/collections/rock-and-roll


JETHRO TULL – Album Artwork Box-Set

Jethro Tull are excited to announce the launch of jethrotullart.com Working exclusively in collaboration with London’s Flood Gallery, Jethro Tull are for the first time offering iconic studio album cover art in two fine art print formats to be released individually over the next 24 months. 

First to be released is the ground-breaking and iconic Aqualung album cover from 1971. Printed in two large format sizes, 24” square (signed edition of 350 @ £120) and 28” square (signed edition of 150 @ £175). The prints are gallery quality giclées printed on 100% cotton rag archival paper stock and will all come numbered and signed by Ian Anderson and embossed with a Jethro Tull stamp. 

The first 14 studio album cover art prints can also be purchased together in a Super Deluxe custom-made box with 2 bonus prints. All prints in the deluxe set are number-matched, signed by Ian Anderson and each print is embossed with a unique ‘Collectors Edition’ JT stamp. The Deluxe Boxes are handmade and only 75 of these amazing box sets are being made available to purchase worldwide (£1,800). 

 The Aqualung print and the Super Deluxe box set will be available for pre-order from 4pm on Friday 25th March and will be shipping from June, visit the site jethrotullart.com for details and     updates. 

This will be followed in the Autumn by another 4 releases – ‘Thick as a Brick’ which this year is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its UK release and also the first three albums, ‘This Was’ ‘Stand Up’ and ‘Benefit’.  All are released as signed limited edition art prints. 

The Jethro Tull album artwork came about in many ways. The first 4 album covers were commissioned and paid for by Chrysalis Records (now Warner Music Group) with subsequent cover concepts from Ian Anderson being commissioned from various artists, photographers, and   designers. 

All copyrights for these prints are owned by Warner Music Group. 

Contact details for further information about the prints and promotion: info@thefloodgallery.com 


Story Behind The Album Cover : Poco ‘s One Night In Nashville


American country-rock band Poco have a long history, dating back to 1968. The band ceased touring in 2014 when lone founding member Rusty Young retired (in 2013). This recording from 2004 also featured longtime member Paul Cotton, who’d left a few years previously. Sadly, both Young and Cotton passed away in 2021.

Now available on CD & blue vinyl, from Purple Pyramid Records, One Night In Nashville features the artwork of Angelika “Angel” Ciesniarska . Like a number of Poco covers, this release features a horse, as created by Angel.

About the artist

“I was born in Poland in 1977, I settled in UK in 2005. I am a self taught artist, doing art in my free time. My other big hobby years ago used to be aviation photography as well”.

About the Art Used On One Night In Nashville

“I created this particular watercolor in 2014. It was my attempt to create nice horse tattoo art.  It was nice to see imy image being used as this album cover”.

This image would’ve been chosen for the by someone at the record company, and added with the classic Poco logo.

“This painting  was always one of my most popular images online so I ended up uploading it on my Alamy account ant that’s how it ended up on Poco’s album”.

Angel’s artwork was used with the famous Poco logo, which first appeared on Poco Seven, from 1974. That cover & design were created by Phil Hartman (RIP, 1998). He had been credited on over 20 album covers throughout his career, including a number of Poco covers. The Canadian artist later became famous as a comedian on Saturday Night Live, and as a voice actor on The Simpsons .

*For more on Angel Ciesniarska’s art, as well as ordering prints check out the links below.



KJ, 02/’22

The Story Behind The Album Cover : A Foot In Coldwater’s All Around Us

A Foot in Coldwater A Foot In Coldwater Blues For You Demo YouTube

Canada’s A FOOT IN COLDWATER released 4 albums in the ’70s, had a couple of hit singles here, then split after the 4th, but reunited on a few occasions. The Toronto band included Alex Machin [lead vocals], Hughie Leggat [bass], Bob Horne [keyboards], Danny Taylor[drums], and Paul Naumann [guitars]. The band’s first 2 albums were released in Canada on Daffodill Records, though the debut was also issued in Australia and New Zealand. But it was the band’s 3rd album All Around Us in 1974 that finally saw the band signed to Elektra Records and get released in the US and the UK. The album included 5 tracks taken from the band’s first 2 albums (notably the hits “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” and “(Isn’t Love Unkind) In My Life”) , as well as new songs. Legendary British producer John Anthony (Queen, Van Der Graaf Generator, Genesis, Roxy Music…) was brought in to co-produce (along with Francis W.H. Davies;, also co-engineering was Mike Stone), with the album being recorded in Toronto and London [UK], and American artist John Van Hamersveld was tasked with the album’s cover art. The logo featured on the cover would be re-used elsewhere on CD compilations and concert shirts (I picked up 1 of each when I saw the band in 2011). *The album cover in Canada would be silver, while the US version would be white with the added ‘Or’ to the title.

Below is John’s words about the about cover for All Around Us, as well as info on his career before and after….

John Van Hamersveld’s background …

In 1967-68 I was a rock concert promotor for my company called Pinnacle Production, putting concerts on for a year. My partners and I booked and heard 43 bands twin a night on a Ltexlancing sound system. I was losing my hearing in the process. (Pinnacle Dance Concerts, which was founded in 1967 by Sepp Donahower, Marc Chase and John Van Hamersveld. Pinnacle promoted the early shows of the Grateful DeadJimi HendrixJanis JoplinTrafficCreamThe Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart and Pink Floyd. The Single Wing Turquoise Bird Light Show did many of the multimedia light shows at the Pinnacle Concerts.)
… I was in the business for 17 years 1967 to 1984, and when the business went digital, I left the industry to work in Surf Subculture, and the re-entry of The Endless Summer Poster into the culture in the 80s.

On getting A Foot In Coldwater assignment…

Elektra Records had their office up the alley from Willoughby street where my studio was at the corner of Las Cienega Boulevard. There was the art director Glenn Christensen who was given 30 to 40 album cover projects to design every 90 days. He had to pick photographs and designs to get the order together. So he called me and gave me the Foot In Coldwater LP cover.
(Glenn Christensen: US art director, graphic designer & photographer for Buddah RecordsElektra/Asylum Records, and 20th Century Fox Records. Glenn Christensen may have made the photograph, the photographer not credited)

Glen gave me the album cover because the group’s manager by contract didn’t with the art director doing the cover and campaign, the manager wanted control.

Familiar with or meet the band beforehand?

 The politics of the company people at Elektra Records was the art director to guide the will. I don’t think Glenn introduced me.

Creating the band’s logo for the cover….

I presented the idea of a logo as the cover like a lot of bands used in the promotes. The title words were weak. So I thought a logo-like image would be more dominant in the Record Store, and they would hang the promotional logo around the store. 

The wings: meaning… High Flying. Arranging the title words was being abstract in typography. The logo would be the visual trick for the promotion, visually simple, could be on the drum kit, ads, t’shirt, etc. The group didn’t photograph well, no style! They needed style, so the logo became the style.

All that JVH did on All Around Us…

Created the design of the front and back.

The most famous album cover worked on.

Exile On Main Street, by The Rolling Stones!

Other famous and favorite ones John worked on

The Endless Summer soundtrack album from the movie 1965. The Beatles, MMT album 1967, The Jefferson Airplane, Crown of Creation 1968, Bob Dylan’s, soundtrack album Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid 1972, The Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of the Grateful Dead 1974, Steve Miller’s The Joker 1976, and Fly Like an Eagle 1978, Blondie’s Eat to the Beat 1979, Kiss, Hotter Than Hell 1974, The Doors, American Prayer, Jim Morrison’s Poetry album 1978. Claudia Lennear album cover Phew !, 1973 … to name a few.

Other art John has done over the years, and places people can view his work…



A Foot In Coldwater’s first album and All Around Us have recently been reissued on colored vinyl- https://shop.unidiscmusic.com/search?type=article%2Cpage%2Cproduct&q=a+foot+in+coldwater




KJ, 10/’21

DEAN MOTTER: Album Cover Artist & Designer – Interview

Prior to becoming well known over the past few decades for his work in comics, Artist Dean Motter worked on numerous album covers, particularly plenty of classic Canadian albums throughout the ’80s. In this exchange, he touches on his early career and some of the album covers he designed or had a major part in.

Can you give me a bit of background as to how you wound up being in Toronto and working on so many covers for Canadian acts in the late 70s? 

I went to college at Fanshawe in London Ontario and studied Creative Electronics and Recording under Radio Caroline’s Tom Lodge, Marshall McLuhan’s son/collaborator Eric, John Mills-Cockell, neon sculptor Michael Hayden. My thesis for my commercial art course was my first published comic, ANDROMEDA I mounted two multimedia shows and married my lead actress. We moved to Toronto where I worked in children’s books and animation. I did work for the Silver Snail comic shop. I also worked as art director/production artist for CPI’s Cheap Thrills magazine. That led to being art director at CBS Records Canada for 3 years. When I left CBS and struck off on my own I retained them as a client, and picked up Capitol, Attic, RCA, WEA, Ready records and others. 

Did you have much an album collection growing up? favorite bands? Favorite album covers [or artists]? 

I listened to a lot of music growing up. In high school I had a sizable record collection that continued to grow over the years. Moody Blues, ELP, Yes, Pink Floyd, CSNY. I later blossomed into jazz like Weather Report, Pat Metheny etc. These had my favorite covers especially Yes and Pink Floyd. 

The first album you did was Robert Connelly ‘Plateau’.   This one came with a comic  book. How did you come about on this band and what was the concept behind the story and comic?

Connelly came to me via the Andromeda comic book (vol 2) published by the Silver Snail. It was a Chariots of the Gods themed illustration. One of my first airbrush pieces. I didn’t do the comic but was friends with its creator Nick Powlieko. 

Marie Lynn Hammond – did you do her first album [?]

I didn’t do Marie’s first cover I did her second, Vignettes. It featured a hand colored Deborah Samuel photo taken on a vintage biplane. It was subtle but one of my favorites. 

Dale Jacobs Cobra (my first as art director at CBS Canada) – quite the cover shot, with the snake and arm hanging over the couch. Did you come up with the photo concept, and was it inspired by anyone or anything? Was the snake real?  

This was indeed my concept. The snake was real, but it was a python. A live cobra was out of the question, due to its fatal venom and scarcity of antidotes, not to mention insurance. One serviceman wrote me years later. He had spent time in India and was annoyed at the substitution. 

Loverboy –  this was a huge album. What do you recall of the idea behind the cover? the photo shoot? and what are the words typed over the front cover? 

I became fiends with the photographer fine artist Barbara Astman. She had a show of her work -Polaroid photos of herself that she fed through a typewriter. When I saw them I thought a love letter or Dear John letter would be a good idea for the Loverboy assignment I just received. 

Triumph – Thunder Seven –  This cover was connected to the music, correct? Can you explain a bit where that image came from and how closely you worked with the band on this. The other 2 Triumph albums you did were very different – any quick recall on them? 

Thunder Seven. I confess I never quite got the title, so the image had more to do with the hard rock trio, Yes I illustrated it. I was influenced by the work of Alien’s HR Giger. I didn’t work much with the band, more with the management this time. The others- Never Surrender was my concept illustrated by studio mate Ken Steacy, Surveillance was also my concept illustrated by another studio mate Paul Rivoche. 

Anvil – Metal On Metal, Forged In Fire [also did Hard N Heavy, Pound For Pound, Past & Present Live] ?

What can I say about Anvil? They were a favorite act of mine, They were so sincere about the music and addressed me as Mr. Motter even though I was only 30 something. But they were always there, visiting my studio with ideas. 

Santers – Racing Time [also did Shot Down In Flames, Mayday EP] ?

This was a photo taken on a runway on Toronto Island. It was then filtered and posterized. 

The Nylons – One Size Fits All, Seamless [did others] On One Size Fits All, who’s idea and where did it come from –   the shadow figures posing? very cool. 

One Size Fits All was my idea and design, it was derived from the work I was doing on Mister X at the time. Seamless had two alternate covers. One was illustrated by Jeff Jackson, the other photographed by Deborah Samuel. It was pieced together mechanically. 

Honeymoon Suite – HMS – Where was the cover photo taken?

Originally this cover was a variation on my rejected concept for Helix No Rest For The Wicked. We set it up in a furniture store. A new background was airbrushed in. 

The Tenants – Visions of Our Future –  Was this drawing based on or inspired by any place in particular?

This drawing was based on the lobby of the New York News and the art of Hugh Ferris. If you look closely you can see Mister X in the background.. 

The Extras – Bit Parts –   Did this come from the old model kit boxes?

This was indeed based on old model kit boxes. I drew and airbrushed the image. 

Manteca – No Heroes –  this one reminds me of the Nylon covers. 

These came from sitting in the Bamboo Club on Queen Street watching the band and drawing them in napkins. 

During your time in Toronto, were you involved in the music scene as far as going to shows, meeting up with bands? Any favorite bands from back then or lasting friendships? 

I loved being part of the music scene back then. My studio did posters, concert ads, concert programs etc. But as desktop publishing (design) became more common more companies could afford to put art directors on staff and the need for us diminished. I became friends with many of the clients and musicians from the time The Nylons were the closest. But also Matt Zimbel from Manteca. The whole of the Diodes . I even did an album of my music with Jeffrey Morgan soon to be released at last on Bongo records 

You eventually moved on from album art / covers? Can you touch on what you went in to [comics] and where people might recognize your work most from? 

I wrote and illustrated The Prisoner based on Patrick McGoohan’s TV series, and  my own Mister X. went on to be an art director at DC Comics for three years, plus the graphic novel Batman: Nine Lives.

For more on Dean Motter’s art and career, album covers and comics, check out his official site.


Dean Motter | Discography | Discogs

KJ, 07 / ’21

Story Behind The Album Cover – Cactus’ Tightrope

Cactus - Tightrope | Main Street Vinyl

I’m always interested in album art and the stories that go with them. I’d like to add more of these stories in the future, but for a start – Sue Candia gives some feedback and the details behind the album art for the new Cactus album Tightrope. In the past Sue has been credited on Vanilla Fudge’s 2001 album , as well as The Lizard’s 2015 album Reptilicus Maximus – Sue was responsible for the titling and interior of these 2 album designs (and Lizards is cool news to me, as I interviewed Randy Pratt on the band, and now of Cactus many years ago about The Lizards, and I was not aware of this this album).

How you wound up being chosen to do it [Tightrope art]

I began designing CDs, gig cards, and T-shirts for Randy Pratt (the harpist for Cactus) some years ago, and for bands produced on his label Hyperspace Records. I probably worked with the Vanilla Fudge on cd packaging and show promos first, and later on various projects for Carmine Appice, Jimmy Kunes, and eventually Cactus. Cactus is a phenomenal band, and collaborating with them on this particular album cover was amazing for me.

The story or concept behind the cover

I wanted to honor the band’s legacy, and so I felt there should be cactuses in the artwork. I was inspired to explore the challenges we face in the current environmental and political climate. My goal was to reflect the band creatively, in a way that is true to their voice and respectful of their talent and scope, to be both contemporary and historic. Hopefully, that comes across to fans.

Familiar with the band’s music [or just this album]  

I always liked the classic heavy rock style of the late sixties and seventies, so knew about Cactus prior to getting involved with them creatively. But getting to work with such a talented, iconic band, on a double album, for that I’m very lucky and grateful.

The alternate art to the Cactus album at the Behance site

Yes, the band was split on which song to use as the title track and name of the album, Tightrope or Primitive Touch. So they asked me to come up with concepts for both. Ultimately they agreed on Tightrope and chose the concept that I brought to final for the cover. I had a fun time working on the initial illustrations so I decided to post them on my Behance page along with the finished piece. 



Cactus : 2020 Album Cover Concepts on Behance

Susan Candia • NYC Creative Production • Art Direction • Graphic Design

KJJ, 05/’21