This Harry Chapin album really stood out in the charity shop rack, and looked even better when I realised it opened up as a gatefold. Inside beyond the lyrics and regular credits the last entry was for Design & Illustration : Milton Glaser. A piece of art by Milton Glaser for £2.50! I still cannot quite work out how the original illustration was done. At first glance it looked like a line drawing coloured with paint or felt pen. Looking closely though, the colours are far too even for that, and I’m wondering if Letracolour sheet was used. These were Letraset sized sheets of flat colour with a tacky adhesive, which you could cut with a scalpel or scissors. They were transparent on a light box, so could be cut to very precise shapes. There are clear signs of the piece being built up in pieces, and it clearly took some time to achieve.
Born in 1929 in New York, Milton Glaser is without doubt one of the foremost American illustrators and designers. I first came across his name back in the seventies when I was checking a sleeve by the group Paice Ashton Lord I’d just bought, and wondered where the smart stencil typeface used for the album title had come from. I found it in a Letraset catalogue (most budding designers relied on Letraset catalogues to source and indentify fonts back then, and it was named simply Glaser Stencil.
Glaser founded an art studio straight out of college with friends but in 1974 he set up his own studio, Milton Glaser Inc., in New York. And he is still there working. The studio web site has a small selection of his illustrations and designs, and as a bonus offer some modestly priced signed posters too (that’s my Christmas list sorted). Glaser also came up with the original I Love New York logo and designed a famous rock poster for Bob Dylan too, which reduced his face to an outline with swirling coloured hair – something which is taken still further on this Chapin sleeve.
Three more Glaser sleeves are also shown here; a 1982 album called Love Me Tender by B B King on MCA, which has a great illustration on the front (not so sure about the typography!). There is also another illustration on an album by an obscure group called Honk (I think it’s called simply Honk 2 – what a strange name for a band!), released in 1974 by Epic (the bassist Will Brady has the back on his archive site, credited below). Glaser is credited with the band logo here too. The cover is a bit strange in that the reverse carries the exact photograph (by Tyler Thornton) on which the illustration was based. Last up is an earlier cover for the Columbia Masterworks label, a classical album with a selection of Music For Two Harpsichords, played by Igor Kipnis and Thurston Dart. What’s interesting here is that Milton has reused a little of the Bob Dylan poster face in the illustration. It was issued in 1972.
In more recent years Glaser has done a number of CD sleeves for the Tomato label in America, though for me these don’t have the strength of his vinyl sleeve work.
http://www.miltonglaserworks.com / www.willbrady.com