Music can be more than music, it can also be great art.
Our top album covers of all time are all, at least, as inspiring as the tunes they represent.
We’re sure that you’ll agree.
Collecting albums is also cheaper than collecting art and you can listen to them too!
40. David Bowie – Aladdin Sane
If you close your eyes and think of David Bowie, there’s a good chance it’s this image you see staring back at you.
39. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
There’s no other jazz cover like it. The blend of surrealism and African tribal art is completely unique.
38. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
An Andy Warhol original that won a Grammy for the best album cover.
37. Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick
You have to read this one to appreciate just how clever and funny album art can be.
36. Drake – If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late
A minimalist cover that spawned a thousand Twitter memes.
35. Nirvana – Nevermind
It’s completely iconic and back in the headlines as the baby, now fully grown, is suing for exploitation.
34. Duran Duran – Rio
Patrick Nagel’s cover art was originally done as a 5’ x 5’ canvas that blew the band away.
33. The Who – Who’s Next
The 2001 monolith inspired cover? Or the shock of what they’re doing with their zippers?
32. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
Peter Saville opted for radio waves and it transformed this into a cult classic.
31. Uriah Heap – The Magician’s Birthday
Roger Dean is an all-time great in the album art stakes and this is his most noticeable work.
30. Judas Priest – British Steel
The pure menace of this image leaves it stuck in your mind long after viewing.
29. Cream – Disraeli Gears
Martin Sharp’s psychedelic color explosion gave Cream’s album a truly unique identity.
28. The Roots – Things Fall Apart
Inequality defined by a single image, completely capturing the band’s message.
27. Santana – Lotus
Buddhist imagery and Japanese brilliance from Tadanori Yokoo.
26. The Clash – London Calling
This is a huge shout out to the king of rock’n’roll Elvis Presley, while pretty much redefining rock’n’roll at the same time.
25. 10CC – How Dare You
The “Don’t Hang Up” theme is stacked with visual gags and is unforgettable.
24. Nas – Illmatic
A 7-year old Nas and the projects of his childhood, defined the hip hop star’s route of poverty.
23. XTC – Go2
The most brutally honest cover of all time from Hipgnosis? You decide.
22. Blink 182 – Enema of the State
Both suggestive and literal, you can’t unsee this iconic cover.
21. Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
When Annie Liebowitz takes the photo, it makes sense to build an album cover around it.
20. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Clever, confrontational and era-defining, a rap album can’t ask for more than that.
19. Ramones – Ramones
Roberta Bayley’s photo was transformed by a middle finger and the rest is history.
18. Hole – Live Through This
Empathy and satire in the same shot? A rarity but it’s what makes this such a powerful image.
17. Pixies – Surfer Rosa
Sexy, shocking and startling and full of implicit meaning, it doesn’t get much better.
16. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
60 people plus the Beatles themselves, listen to the tunes, identify the faces.
15. Yes – Relayer
It’s fair to say that Roger Dean’s imagery became the face of prog rock and this is one of his finest.
14. Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley
You may think you’ve seen this before, it’s the one that inspired London Calling, after all.
13. Frank Sinatra – Come Fly With Me
It captures all the cool of the era and the jet-set brilliance of the artist.
12. Public Enemy – Fear Of A Black Planet
When NASA’s illustrator does your cover, you know it’s going to be out of this world.
11. Patti Smith – Horses
There’s no doubt that Robert Mapplethorpe’s photo defined Smith’s image for a generation.
10. Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual
Another classic Annie Liebowitz image and this time around the ultimate call to girl power too.
9. Talking Heads – Little Creatures
Howard Finster’s Southern Folk Art is at its most joyous and inspiring here.
8. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
The cover that launched a million t-shirts and remains among the most distinctive of all time, nearly 50 years later.
7. John Coltrane – Blue Train
The use of blue mood lighting elevated this album’s cover and artist and showed the seriousness of the work.
6. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin
This probably wouldn’t have worked today but the explosion of the Hindenburg is exactly the right metaphor for this band’s impact on rock music.
5. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – Whipped Cream & Other Delights
It’s not actually whipped cream but it sure looks like it, this is 60s sexuality writ large.
4. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready To Die
The contrast between sweet cover and the raging contents is a testimony to how our world can destroy our minds.
3. Big Brother & The Holding Company – Cheap Thrills
R. Crumb’s hippie comic art makes this one of the most legendary covers of the 60s scene.
2. The Beatles – Abbey Road
A cover that, quite literally, stopped traffic and which hundreds of people try to recreate on Abbey Road every day.
1. The Velvet Underground and Nico – Eponymous
This absolutely astonishing Andy Warhol painting is worth the top slot but on the original pressing? You could peel off the banana and find a flesh-color one beneath. Legend.
Final Thoughts On Top 40 Album Covers Of All Time
Did we miss anything? Feel free to let us know, otherwise, we hope you enjoyed this brief tour of the best album art ever.