Back in 1980 this compilation was issued of live recordings from the first Monsters Of Rock festival in the U.K. Originally Rainbow planned and prepared a double LP of their full set, but this was shelved when drummer Cozy Powell and singer Graham Bonnet left the band in quick succession. Instead Polydor U.K. decided to recoup some of their recording costs with a ‘best of’.
The cover is a real in your face affair, using the logos of all the bands and the word ROCK writ large, just in case you assumed these were all folk bands. This was also the first time the festival had been staged, so the name was not as familiar as it would become.
The logos were all set against a contrasty cloud-covered landscape, hand tinted to give the idea of a setting sun (the Hipgnosis influence is clear). The sub-Roger Dean dragons from the festival publicity complete the image. The designer was Rob O’Connor at the Shoot The Tiger agency, who worked for a lot of U.K. labels in the late Seventies and into the Eighties. Most of their work was fairly unadventurous due to label restraints, but every so often they were able to do something a bit more exciting. The back was a real hotch potch, cramming in twenty or more small shots of the bands over another tinted image, this time of a crowd.
Despite the flaws though, it’s actually quite an eye-catching sleeve overall and still stands out today. Interestingly Shoot The Tiger used a very similar tinted sky background for a reggae sleeve a few years later which I found on the web (see bottom of the page).
Polydor U.S. had an option on the album and although the festival was unknown there, some of the bands had a bit of profile. They decided to do their own completely different sleeve, designed by Robert Heimall. Robert had worked for Elektra for five years, starting back in the late Sixties, then for Arista, before setting up his own design studio. One of his skills was searching for just the right photo for an album cover (Patti Smith’s Horses, Carly Simon’s No Secrets were both his designs; I need say no more.)
He decided to use photographs taken by Aerofilms Ltd, who have been taking photos of the U.K. from planes for decades, selling them to news outlets, etc. Robert put together four of these, which really gave a good idea of the size of the event. On the back he found a great news photo of a short sleeved Policeman directing traffic. Notice too how the American cover opts to push the venue rather than the festival name, although they spelt it incorrectly (as did the U.K. cover, albeit in small print on the back.) So a more subdued sleeve certainly, but quite a smart piece of work considering it was probably not a priority release for the label.
In the years since this album more excerpts from the Rainbow recording have been added to CD reissues but it still hasn’t appeared in full.