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The Worst Classical Album Covers Of All Time. Ever. Really. Part I

Posted By: Brian Lauritzen · 11/16/2011 3:00:00 PM

Recently I received a copy of the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s latest CD, The Greatest Video Game Music, in the mail. The cover art features a soldier in full military garb playing a flaming cello against the backdrop of a vast war-torn wasteland.

The inside photo is equally disturbing.

This got us thinking. There are plenty of bad album covers out there, but what are some of the Worst Classical Album Covers of All Time? Jamie Paisley, KUSC’s music director, and I mined the music library and came up with these top picks. One record label was far and away the King of Bad Cover Art. We begin with several choice examples from the Westminster Gold Series.

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times: nothing says Brahms like a cast iron skillet full of bacon and eggs.


Oh…busts…I get it.


Is it just me or is this a little bit insensitive, racially.


This makes me a little squeamish. I cannot explain why.


What do you suppose are the odds that this album was released just after Star Wars premiered?


At least they got the brand of hubcaps right.


Moving on from the WGS travesties... apparently Angela East needs to learn the hard way that cellos and incoming waves do not the best of friends make.


The concept of castrati is already a little creepy. The cover of Cecilia Bartoli’s album of arias written for castrati takes the creep factor farther. And it doesn't end there.

When you open up the liner notes, Bartoli is... not exactly a castrato.


There is so much going on in this one, it's almost admirable that absolutely none of it makes sense. A gazelle with a human conjoined twin, uh, makes rain on a pregnant naked woman? Dare I ask, "why?"


I could understand a cover like this for a record featuring Beethoven’s Ghost Trio, but these are just a few Haydn String Quartets. Why should they be haunted?


These covers raise so many questions. Like when did soprano Jessye Norman grow antlers?


Is that burst of light coming from his... ?


What does this have to do with the cello music of Miaskovsky?


Jamie and I found even more examples of questionable cover art, but I'm not going to bare all (get it) right now. I'll be back next week with more Worst Classical Album Covers of All Time.

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  1. Dean Calin posted on 11/17/2011 12:03 PM
    These make Bounding Main's cover art seem like lyrical storytelling!
  2. Patrick Crosby posted on 11/17/2011 10:47 PM
    What about that Brown with silver script lettering cover that made it look like the hood of a '39 Packard? It read "Solit Mahler" and was the first issue of the CSO Mahler 8th. And what about those psychedelic Beethoven covers? You shouldn't let all the honors go to the later Westmister issues. :)
  3. joseph summer posted on 11/18/2011 05:28 AM
    My favorite bad cover is Ernest Ansermet's Rite of Spring. Your article made me realize I need to laminate it, today. I'm not alone in revering the cover. After reading your piece I looked around on line and found another lover of the cover. Here's a link to it:

    http://www.unpleasant.org/2006/11/07/stravinsky-rite-of-spring-conducted-by-ernest-ansermet-with-lorchestre-de-la-suisse-romande/

    It's got to be the best, because unlike the Westminster album art, this wasn't tongue in cheek.
    1. Garry Margolis posted on 11/30/2011 09:01 AM
      @joseph summer I bought this mono album when I was a teenager. Fortunately, my parents had no objection to the image of a bare female breast.

      London (Decca) Records must have had second thoughts, though. The cover art on the stereo version was altered by strategic airbrushing.
  4. liz posted on 11/18/2011 02:25 PM
    i must say, i really appreciate these, they display a progressive visual commentary on the interpretation of the music. Its nice to see something other than a tree.
  5. Matthew posted on 11/18/2011 08:14 PM
    That Gustav Holst "Planets" cover, truth be told, is one of my favorite album covers, and I'm really glad it was included in this list!

    But, I don't think "Star Wars" was the inspiration. According to Westminster Gold's website, it was released in 1976, a year before "Star Wars." Discogs.com lists it as 1970, while the October 31, 1970 issue of "Billboard" also lists this album on page 25. So, I'm going with 1970, and 1976 as a possible reissue.

    Considering the year, I think "Barbarella" is a more likely candidate for this album cover's inspiration. First off, it was released in 1968, just two years before the likely date of this album's release. And second, the woman on the album cover definitely bears a resemblance to Jane Fonda in the movie poster:
    http://www.canmag.com/images/front/moviesetc/barbarella.jpg
  6. John posted on 11/21/2011 06:06 PM
    you're on crack, the Brahms and Dvořák covers are brilliant. I'll go along with you on the rest though.
  7. Richard Lewis posted on 11/22/2011 11:38 AM
    Too early for Star Wars and probably too late for Barbarella.

    I suspect that the true inspiration for this marvelous cover was the holy grail of cheap, tacky 1970s sci-fi, the unwatchable yet curiously unmissable BBC series, Blake's Seven !
  8. jo posted on 11/25/2011 04:02 PM
    Thanks for an entertaining series.
    I agree with all your choices except the Auryn Quartet's image superimposed over Haydn's.
    It came across to me as if they believe they interpreted Haydn so well,
    they and Haydn were I, so to speak.
  9. Daniel posted on 11/30/2011 10:51 AM
    Anything by Centaur could make the cut
  10. Eugene Sedletsky posted on 11/30/2011 01:59 PM
    Hahah... wonderful. Some of those were just plain mind-blowing, like the Call of Duty cover with the flaming cello and the "busts." Though the top I've gotta say goes to the Star Wars -esque cheapness for "The Planets." My, oh my.. :V
showing 1-10 of 15 comments · show all comments
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