Top 40 Best Album Covers Of All Time

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. 

Best Album Covers

39.  Miles Davis – Bitches Brew

There’s no other jazz cover like it. The blend of surrealism and African tribal art is completely unique. 

Miles Davis - Bitches Brew

38. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers

An Andy Warhol original that won a Grammy for the best album cover. 

The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers

37. Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick

You have to read this one to appreciate just how clever and funny album art can be. 

Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick

36. Drake – If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late

A minimalist cover that spawned a thousand Twitter memes. 

Drake - If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late

35. Nirvana – Nevermind

It’s completely iconic and back in the headlines as the baby, now fully grown, is suing for exploitation. 

Nirvana - Nevermind

34. Duran Duran – Rio

Patrick Nagel’s cover art was originally done as a 5’ x 5’ canvas that blew the band away.

Duran Duran - Rio

33. The Who – Who’s Next

The 2001 monolith inspired cover? Or the shock of what they’re doing with their zippers?

The Who - Who’s Next

32. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

Peter Saville opted for radio waves and it transformed this into a cult classic. 

Unknown Pleasures

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. 

The Magician’s Birthday

30. Judas Priest – British Steel

The pure menace of this image leaves it stuck in your mind long after viewing.

British Steel

29. Cream – Disraeli Gears

Martin Sharp’s psychedelic color explosion gave Cream’s album a truly unique identity.

Cream - Disraeli Gears

28. The Roots – Things Fall Apart

Inequality defined by a single image, completely capturing the band’s message. 

The Roots - Things Fall Apart

27. Santana – Lotus

Buddhist imagery and Japanese brilliance from Tadanori Yokoo.

Santana - Lotus

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.

The Clash - London Calling

25. 10CC – How Dare You

The “Don’t Hang Up” theme is stacked with visual gags and is unforgettable.

10CC - How Dare You

24. Nas – Illmatic

A 7-year old Nas and the projects of his childhood, defined the hip hop star’s route of poverty.

Nas - Illmatic

23. XTC – Go2

The most brutally honest cover of all time from Hipgnosis? You decide.

XTC - Go2

22. Blink 182 – Enema of the State

Both suggestive and literal, you can’t unsee this iconic cover. 

Blink 182 - Enema of the State

21. Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run

When Annie Liebowitz takes the photo, it makes sense to build an album cover around it.

Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run

20. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Clever, confrontational and era-defining, a rap album can’t ask for more than that. 

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly

19.  Ramones – Ramones

Roberta Bayley’s photo was transformed by a middle finger and the rest is history.

Ramones - Ramones

18. Hole – Live Through This

Empathy and satire in the same shot? A rarity but it’s what makes this such a powerful image.

Hole - Live Through This

17. Pixies – Surfer Rosa

Sexy, shocking and startling and full of implicit meaning, it doesn’t get much better. 

Pixies - Surfer Rosa

16. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

60 people plus the Beatles themselves, listen to the tunes, identify the faces. 

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

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. 

Yes - Relayer

14. Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley

You may think you’ve seen this before, it’s the one that inspired London Calling, after all. 

Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley

13. Frank Sinatra – Come Fly With Me

It captures all the cool of the era and the jet-set brilliance of the artist. 

Frank Sinatra - Come Fly With Me

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. 

Public Enemy - Fear Of A Black Planet

11.  Patti Smith – Horses

There’s no doubt that Robert Mapplethorpe’s photo defined Smith’s image for a generation.

Patti Smith - Horses

10. Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual 

Another classic Annie Liebowitz image and this time around the ultimate call to girl power too.

Cyndi Lauper - She’s So Unusual 

9. Talking Heads – Little Creatures

Howard Finster’s Southern Folk Art is at its most joyous and inspiring here.

Talking Heads - Little Creatures

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. 

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

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. 

John Coltrane - Blue Train

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. 

Led Zeppelin

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.

Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass - Whipped Cream & Other Delights

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. 

The Notorious B.I.G. - Ready To Die

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.

Big Brother & The Holding Company - Cheap Thrills

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. 

The Beatles - Abbey Road

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. 

The Velvet Underground and Nico - Eponymous

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.

If you want to discover more about music, you could always check out our top essential books about music, our favorite music blogs and the best free music apps out there. Enjoy!

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