Damn you, thumbnail! With the proliferation of MP3 players and digital downloads, the art of the album cover is quickly fading; reducing the beautiful 12″x12″ vinyl covers to tiny thumbnails on your iPod screen. One of the things I love about a great album cover is its function as actual art. Placed in a frame, album covers make great decorations–especially beautiful women covers (e.g. Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream and other Delights). Go into any vintage record store and you’ll find a section devoted to cool covers. Few record labels have produced better covers than Blue Note, particularly in the late fifties, and throughout the sixties. John Contrane’s Blue Train, a quintessential jazz record, was my first taste of America’s music. The cover, of John, tinted in blue and with a pensive gaze, sets the tone for what’s to come: a cool, effortlessly technical musical journey. Cover after cover from that era displays the same hip, original quality that really expresses the character of the musician. The artwork style is so influential that one designer created a series of Wu Tang replicas in the same vein (to great effect). Thankfully you can still find vinyl LP’s, and modern bands will occasionally release their material on 12″, giving the fans artwork to savor. So, I thumb my nose at thumbnails, and urge you to do the same! Go to a record store, ASAP, and buy an old album–even if you don’t have a record player. The cover art alone will be worth the trip.