This elaborate classical sleeve turned up in a branch of Oxfam at less than a fiver (they’d had it in for £14.99) so I finally cracked and bought it. (I guess I shouldn’t moan – they had several Ikea storage boxes for sale at more than they cost new in Ikea).
Dating from 1957 RCA really went to town on the packaging for this recording of Prokofieff’s music for the ballet Romeo & Juliet. The sleeve is a glossy laminated fold over affair, like a thin gatefold, with the album removed from the top. An eight page matt paper booklet is neatly glued to the left hand inner gatefold.
It was the illustrations on the sleeve (and throughout the booklet) which sold it to me. They were drawn by Eugene Karlin, another of those hard working American illustrators who were quite happy to tackle the new fangled medium of record sleeves as well as more traditional outlets such as magazine work (from Sports Illustrated to Plaboy), advertising (an advert for a perfume called Dana which he drew seems to be all over the web) and book illustration.
Born in 1918 Karlin began his career after college as an illustrator at Fortune Magazine in the 1940s before later going freelance. He was also a fine art painter and teacher. Finding other examples of his record cover work hasn’t been easy; not being a big name I suppose a lot of dealers don’t feel he is worth mentioning on listings. However the sleeve to Swan Lake is clearly his, again making good use of the limited colours available.
Karlin worked for both RCA and Columbia and his covers are both distinctive and usually signed. There is certainly a hint of the pre-Raphs in his figures, but he very much developed his own clear pen and ink style. He worked with very simple lines, with no shading, except where on the Romeo & Juliet cover he has added just a few areas of faded colour to the image, mirrored in the typography.
Karlin died as recently as 2003.