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Book Review: Taken By Storm – The Album Art of Storm Thorgerson by Storm Thorgerson

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Taken By Storm – The Album Art of Storm Thorgerson contains exactly what the title says, for the most part: the record album covers designed by the artist, some solo, some with input from others.

Anybody who’s ever come up with an artistic idea finds it difficult or impossible to explain the idea because there is not, so far anyway, any logical way of explaining it that doesn’t sound silly or insane or stupid. “I was in that half-sleep, half-awake stage and I was dreaming of a red desert, and a bunch of balls sitting on the sand.” This is a greatly simplified version of Storm’s explanation of the cover for a 1971 album by The Nice, called Elegy, which is the very first illustration in the book.

The explanation’s grounding is achingly dull compared to what an artist’s eye turned these words into. Who’da thunk it? Balls on a carpet of desert sand as art? Yet the piece is as stunningly beautiful as the words are stunningly dull.

I’m sure that most people under the age of 21 haven’t heard of Storm Thorgerson, but that’s to be expected since the demise of the record album. Some musicians and record companies are beginning to recognize the insulting lack of art and verbiage, not to mention sonic impressions, that used to accompany the music we were buying. The return of vinyl can’t be too soon for many.

Many of us spent hours poring over the album art while listening to the album repeatedly, attempting to comprehend and connect the album’s artistic concept to the musician’s artistic concept. Of course, that’s assuming the musician was an artist in the first place, rather than a noisemaker. In any event, let’s hope that the return of the vinyl album might also bring back creative, thoughtful album art.

This isn’t the first book published with Storm’s art, but it’s certainly every bit as good and beautiful as its forebears. Storm, for those who’ve heard of him, is probably best known for the covers he designed for Pink Floyd, with whom he’s been associated and friends with since long before the band’s first note was ever played.

You can also get a bit of a grasp on Storm’s thought processes by seeing the illustrations he uses to explain the evolution of the cover for The Division Bell.

But Storm’s art does not appeal solely to old farts, those who know and appreciate vinyl. Even in miniature, almost embarrassingly microscopic form such as on a CD liner note, it can sometimes be recognized as art. Storm’s also done graphic design for Mars Volta, Deepest Blue, Umphrey’s McGee, and Muse, as well as other graphic designers such as Believe Media, for a Japanese department store’s exhibition, and for book covers. Anybody who appreciates artistry can’t help but like Storm’s work. Even when those who commission the work don’t like what he’s done, they’ll sometimes go ahead and use his interpretation, for the simple reason that they know the impact and reputation of his work.

He’s also smart enough to turn the tables, using somebody’s else’s ideas, even though he may loathe the idea. (See Pink Floyd’s Animals album cover, with the old Battersea Power Station, which, after Dark Side of the Moon is probably Floyd’s most recognizable cover.)

He uses art, sculpture, photography, real life, nature, mannequins, props, and visual effects, all to transcendingly philosophical, sometimes sublime beauty. He uses industrial ugliness, pastoral peacefulness, silliness. He even used the ass end of a cow as a prop, all with truly astounding effect.

You can’t go wrong with Storm, even it’s a cow’s ass. (Watch for the pig’s ear, coming soon.)

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About Lou Novacheck