Book & Magazine Reviews

Martin Popoff with Ioannis - 'Fade To Black - Hard Rock Cover Art Of The Vinyl Age' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     January 20, 2014    
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A beautiful addition to any book shelf or coffee table.

Published by: Sterling

Metal fans of a certain age will recall the exhilaration of coming across a stunning new LP cover in a record shop's racks – 'Rainbow's 'Rising', perhaps, or Kiss's 'Love Gun' – and buying the album, knowing that you could indeed judge a metaphorical book by its cover. In 'Fade To Black' Martin Popoff, probably the most famous music writer of his generation and a celebrated artist in his own right, and cover artist Ioannis have collected together over 200 eye-catching album sleeves from the Sixties to the Nineties (well, 1990 to be exact) with Popoff adding the commentary with the help of band members and artists to help bring the artwork to life.

It isn't – and fortunately doesn't claim to be – 'the hundred best album covers' or 'the ultimate guide...' or any such hyperbole or we'd be arguing about the inclusions all night (although listmeister that he is, Popoff can't resist running down through his and his colleague's Top 100 album sleeves as appendices); 'Fade To Black' is an honest homage to what could be seen as the lost skill of creating an eye-catching piece of album cover art. Popoff does concede that "we've tried not to be too, too obscure, meaning we've stayed somewhat mainstream," before adding (probably to the chagrin of Fireworks' & Rocktopia's loyalists): "Sure, many readers may think 'who the heck is Legs Diamond'...".

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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As it's a US publication the book obviously showcases American artwork, so Judas Priest's 'Killing Machine' becomes 'Hell Bent For Leather' and Deep Purple's 'Stormbringer' looks all wishy-washy. But on the other hand this does throw up some nuggets for UK fans like, for example, the completely different cover to Uriah Heep's debut or the US version of UFO's 'Force It' with the shagtastic couple being faded into a pseudo-spectral sexual encounter to spare the Mid West its blushes.

Popoff as ever has a lot of serious stuff to say in his fun and funky way, and his musings on, say, 'Sad Wings Of Destiny' or Paice Ashton Lord's 'Malice In Wonderland' (as well as Nazareth's outing of the same name) are deliciously descriptive. Plus there are some great stories around particular covers, like Quiet Riot's 'Metal Health' or ZZ Top's 'Afterburner', probably one of the few acrylic paintings to travel in an airliner's cockpit.

The book boasts some curious inclusions (and don't forget we're talking about the cover, not the album itself) which include 'Piledriver' (Status Quo), 'Loud 'N' Proud' (Nazareth), and 'Live... In The Heart Of The City' (Whitesnake), as well as not one but two selections by The Runaways, presumably in wipe-down PVC sleeves. But firing off at both the collector and the curious, 'Fade To Black' with its textured cover and glorious reproductions is a beautiful addition to any book shelf or coffee table.

John Tucker

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