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  1. #1

    What Are Your Favorite Motown Album Covers?

    The discussion about the Miracles' early LP covers in another thread prompted me to start this one.

    What is your favorite Motown album cover? Also, is it also one of your favorite albums musically speaking, or is it just the cover you love?

    To make it easy, let's say you can pick one from the early days of Motown or 'Golden Age," and one from the latter days or 'Silver Age.' Or, if you can't even decide on two, just let us know which ones you especially love!

    I'm sure mine will be no surprise to anyone.

    I love the "Playboy" album cover by the Marvelettes. So innocent, and charming. After all, who knew that the Marvelettes all lived together? Although we should have figured it out from the earlier "Please Mr. Postman" album cover when it was obvious they all shared the same mail box!

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    My pick for the Silver Age is also of the Marvelettes, the notorious "Return of the Marvelettes." I love the concept and believe the photograph shows great artistry, even though it doesn't really picture the Marvelettes.

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    I love the music on both albums. Even though "Playboy" is early and the Marvelettes are not yet polished, I love the exuberance of their young vocals, and also love the fact that we haven't yet had the Andantes, whose sound to me was always somehow antiseptic even though I had no idea they weren't the real group. Likewise, even though "Return" is really a solo vehicle for Wanda, with the exception of the two tracks from "in Full Bloom," I absolutely love the album and never get tired of it. I do believe it would have benefited from a few more upbeat numbers, such as "Uptown" and the uncharacteristically raucous vocals by Wanda on "Someday We'll Be Together" and "Our Lips Just Seem to Rhyme Every Time."

    So have at it, guys!
    Last edited by kenneth; 03-14-2021 at 01:30 PM.

  2. #2
    "Hi, We're The Miracles" will always be my favorite. I love the outfits, the colors, the idea to have them hold the letters, and the fact that the cover is laminated/glossy. The cover is very poorly constructed though... It took me a long time to find a copy that didn't open like a book.
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  3. #3
    I love the vibrant colors and close-up shot of Marvin on this cover; have never heard the album though.
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  4. #4
    Love the cover and the album!

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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by lockhartgary View Post
    I love the vibrant colors and close-up shot of Marvin on this cover; have never heard the album though.
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    I am not sure at the time Marvin was quite ready to tackle some of the standards on the album but it has grown on me over the years. It was available on CD for a while and I don’t think it was very high priced. I think I only paid perhaps $12 for it.

  6. #6
    For me the cleverness of The Miracles "Greatest Hits From The Beginning" as all the Miracles have shared with me was intended as a nod to "in the beginning there was a Miracle" and so it's a very spiritual - front and back.

    "Going To A Go-Go" next for me.

  7. #7
    All the Diana solos, the post-Diana Supremes Right On and Touch, GSntP If I Were Your Woman, Standing Ovation and Neither One of Us, the Four Tops Nature Planned It

  8. #8
    Not to change the subject of my own thread… But… Did anyone ever find this cover controversial and somewhat offensive? I mean I get what they’re trying to say, but to me it looks like they’re really going out of their way to show the rising cause of black pride and such, but at the expense of the old man pictured at the bottom of the steps. This was after all the era where “black is beautiful” was still a new concept, but this seems particularly insulting to the old man pictured and, well, to whites in general.

    I mean this kind of thing makes me wonder if there was such a photo ever done in reverse it would raise a well-deserved protest and screams. Of course, one only has to go to old movies still showing today on Turner classic movies and lots of other images in history to know the reverse was very common. Still, I don’t think two wrongs make a right.

    does anyone agree? Did anyone ever wonder about the tastefulness of this cover before? I don’t wanna raise a ruckus but I’m dying to ask.

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    Last edited by kenneth; 03-14-2021 at 08:53 PM.

  9. #9
    This is just my take as a Tops and Motown fan who did not grow up in that era - if you released that Changing Times cover today, I would think it was a bit blunt, but still not offensive. The way minorities have been portrayed in media over the years [[and decades, and centuries, etc.), I think the presentation is quite tame in comparison and the sentiment is well intentioned. Blunt, but well intentioned. Trying to put it in the context of the time it was released, I imagine it was a pretty bold statement coming from a label like Motown that actively worked to be palatable to as many demographics as possible.

    Musically, those Frank Wilson albums are some of my favorite material to ever come out of Motown!

    For some more album cover favorites, What's Going On is one of my all time favorites. Also, although the "flower growing through cement" imagery is a bit cheesy, I like the Tops' Nature Planned It album cover. I'd bet that was a fun photoshoot!

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    Not to change the subject of my own thread… But… Did anyone ever find this cover controversial and somewhat offensive? I mean I get what they’re trying to say, but to me it looks like they’re really going out of their way to show the rising cause of black pride and such, but at the expense of the old man pictured at the bottom of the steps. This was after all the era where “black is beautiful” was still a new concept, but this seems particularly insulting to the old man pictured and, well, to whites in general.

    I mean this kind of thing makes me wonder if there was such a photo ever done in reverse it would raise a well-deserved protest and screams. Of course, one only has to go to old movies still showing today on Turner classic movies and lots of other images in history to know the reverse was very common. Still, I don’t think two wrongs make a right.

    does anyone agree? Did anyone ever wonder about the tastefulness of this cover before? I don’t wanna raise a ruckus but I’m dying to ask.

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    I did not grow up in that era either. When I look at that album cover, what comes to my mind is an older man who simply cannot understand the world changing around him, much like his parents probably felt when he was younger. His body language suggest this in an effective way.

    Your take does raise an interesting thought though.

  11. #11
    Thanks for your perspectives which are well taken.

  12. #12
    for simplicities sake...I love the look of the early Motown/ Tamla live LPs...Miracles, Marvin, Marvelettes and Mary Wells....they remind me of the era's jazz LPS with the monochrome shading.

    Where Did Our Love Go? is a classic....A' Go Go definitely suited the times.
    Tempts sing Smokey...and Puzzle People
    Martha Reeves/ Vandella's Black Magic
    Supremes TOUCH...my fav group LP, love the Neon color spray, just wish the gorgeous photo had a bit more color to it...Cindy Birdsong looks drop dead beautiful here. my fav CB photo
    Supremes '75....the style and concept are soft, and wonderful...the photo is, however, too over filtered.

  13. #13
    I think this is one of the coolest Motown album covers ever.
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  14. #14
    I've got a Long list of favorite Motown album covers;

    The Miracles-Hi! We're The Miracles, Cookin' With The Miracles, The Fabulous Miracles, Going To A Go-Go, One Dozen Roses
    The Contours-Do You Love Me
    Martha & The Vandellas-Watchout!, Black Magic
    The Marvelettes-Playboy, Sophisticated Soul
    The Supremes-Where Did Our Love Go, More Hits by The Supremes, The Supremes Sing H-D-H
    Stevie Wonder-Music Of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfullingess First Finale, Songs In The Key Of Life, Hotter Than July
    Marvin Gaye-M.P.G., What's Going On, Let's Get It On
    Four Tops-Four Tops Second Album, Still Waters Run Deep
    Mary Wells-My Guy
    The Temptations-The Temptations Sing Smokey, Temptin' Temptations, Gettin' Ready, Cloud Nine



  15. #15
    I have so many favourite covers but one that always sticks in my mind is the UK Motown Chartbusters Volume 5. Such a vibrant and happy cover at a time of significant success for Motown in the UK.

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  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    Not to change the subject of my own thread… But… Did anyone ever find this cover controversial and somewhat offensive? I mean I get what they’re trying to say, but to me it looks like they’re really going out of their way to show the rising cause of black pride and such, but at the expense of the old man pictured at the bottom of the steps. This was after all the era where “black is beautiful” was still a new concept, but this seems particularly insulting to the old man pictured and, well, to whites in general.
    My take on this cover has always been 'the young' & the 'changing times' [[exemplified by The Tops at the top of the stairs) taking things over from 'the old ways' [[the old man at the bottom of the stairs). I don't think that Motown would've produced an LP cover that could slight White [[or Elderly) listeners.

  17. #17
    1. Where Did Our Love Go
    2. Meet The Supremes [[1965 blue cover), even though the "left-to-right" identifier line from the original red cover, with Mary on the left and Florence on the right, was not updated when the blue cover repositioned the group with Florence on the left and Mary on the right.
    3. More Hits By The Supremes, even though the alternate photo of Mary, as shown on the Expanded Version booklet, was much better.
    4. A Bit Of Liverpool
    and1. Diana Ross [[1970), which let everyone know that this was a whole new Diana
    2. Touch Me In The Morning

  18. #18
    My favourite is "Four Tops On Top" and side one is magic.Sorry I`m unable to show it.

  19. #19
    Join Date
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    1. DR and the Supremes double album Greatest Hits. The artwork is magnificent.

    2. Love Child. I stared at it for hours.

    3. The first few DR solo album covers. Loved them all.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Polhill View Post
    My favourite is "Four Tops On Top" and side one is magic.Sorry I`m unable to show it.
    It is a great look. Very bold and modern.

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  21. #21
    Many thanks Kenneth. "Then" must be one of least played songs by the Tops as it comes at the end of side two after all the standards.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Polhill View Post
    Many thanks Kenneth. "Then" must be one of least played songs by the Tops as it comes at the end of side two after all the standards.
    is it the same song that was performed by The Supremes with the Temptations?

  23. #23
    Yes it is. We`ve recently a version by the Temptations and there`s version by the Supremes on "Reflections".

  24. #24
    The only album I have framed on my wall. [[I have limited wall space).
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  25. #25
    There are a lot to choose from, and not trying to be clever, however I just can't choose one! Methinks the greatest album covers ever issued by Motown are "Introducing Paula Greer" & the "Irresistable Tammi Terrell". They are so similar in design and outlay with the jet black backgrounds and the vivid colours.
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  26. #26
    a couple of mine are

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  27. #27
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  28. #28

  29. #29
    Visually rich, autobiographical front and back covers of the 1974 classic. But who did the art work? Anyone know?
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  30. #30
    This one must be my favorite:
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    With this as a close second [[regardless of the missing beads, lol):
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  31. #31
    Not sure if this is correct, but Discogs has this credit for the Stevie album: Design [Cover Design], Illustration – Bob Gleason*

  32. #32
    I love the "A Gas..." cover of Jr. Walker. It had to be the same artist who designed this one.

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  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by thommg View Post
    Not sure if this is correct, but Discogs has this credit for the Stevie album: Design [Cover Design], Illustration – Bob Gleason*
    Spot on, thommg. It is indeed Robert Gleason. Found this:-

    http://gleasonart.com/

    Thanks

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by rovereab View Post
    I have so many favourite covers but one that always sticks in my mind is the UK Motown Chartbusters Volume 5. Such a vibrant and happy cover at a time of significant success for Motown in the UK.

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    A favourite of mine, too, and for the same reasons.

  35. #35
    That truly sounds like a stretch. I don't know how one could be offended by that cover. It's a new vs old generational theme. That's in no way compares to racist covers in the past. It wasn't long before that when Blacks could not even be on covers for their own music.

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by lakeside View Post
    They look like three teenage girls that are totally unrecognizable.

  37. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by soulster View Post
    They look like three teenage girls that are totally unrecognizable.
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    I think that's actually what I always loved about this photo. This was the first album I ever bought by the Supremes after the two Greatest Hits albums. I was raised in Detroit so of course I knew Diana Ross was no longer in the group, but I really wasn't much aware of the comings and goings. To me, this lineup just seemed younger and hipper than the earlier lineups. I always felt this translated into their TV appearances as well, though perhaps less choreographed than the earlier incarnations, it was nice to see them in more varied contemporary costumes and not always in the same identical gowns.

    Although I've always loved Ross and appreciated Jean Terrell's contributions, I felt this lineup with Scherrie singing most of the leads was simply a standout. This cover really seemed to signal a major shift in the group dynamic. It was nice to see Mary take "center stage" in the photos, though this group pose likely had more to do with hiding her pregnancy than seating her on the couch with what seemed to be her two ladies-in-waiting in attendance at her feet. Still, it seemed to foreshadow that she was finally going to share lead vocals with Scherrie [[and later, Susaye).

    One odd thing about the cover was that I simply couldn't recognize Cindy Birdsong on the back cover. For the longest time, I actually thought the photos displayed two different lineups of the group. Cindy is so distinctive looking, especially around the eyes, that I just found her nearly unrecognizable on the back cover photo in the red gowns. Of course now I know that's her but at the time I could clearly identify her on the front, but even to this day I find it hard to recognize her on the back cover.

    I will say though that a good friend of mine seemed puzzled by the cover and expressed some disbelief that it was really the Supremes. Then, when he flipped it over and saw the trio in their red evening gowns, he said, "Now, that's more like it!"

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    Last edited by kenneth; 03-20-2021 at 11:29 AM.

  38. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by NativeNuYorker View Post
    That truly sounds like a stretch. I don't know how one could be offended by that cover. It's a new vs old generational theme. That's in no way compares to racist covers in the past. It wasn't long before that when Blacks could not even be on covers for their own music.
    Thanks for your perspective.

  39. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by lucky2012 View Post
    The only album I have framed on my wall. [[I have limited wall space).
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    Never liked this cover. It looks like blackface.

  40. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    Not to change the subject of my own thread… But… Did anyone ever find this cover controversial and somewhat offensive? I mean I get what they’re trying to say, but to me it looks like they’re really going out of their way to show the rising cause of black pride and such, but at the expense of the old man pictured at the bottom of the steps. This was after all the era where “black is beautiful” was still a new concept, but this seems particularly insulting to the old man pictured and, well, to whites in general.

    I mean this kind of thing makes me wonder if there was such a photo ever done in reverse it would raise a well-deserved protest and screams. Of course, one only has to go to old movies still showing today on Turner classic movies and lots of other images in history to know the reverse was very common. Still, I don’t think two wrongs make a right.

    does anyone agree? Did anyone ever wonder about the tastefulness of this cover before? I don’t wanna raise a ruckus but I’m dying to ask.

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    I see what your concerns are. I don't think I would even notice what the guy's color is . It's kind of ambiguous. But as far as covers go , I doubt this one added even one more additional sale for this Four Tops record. Who's looking for heavy music from the Four Tops?? And if someone was buying it because they thought there was something woke going on , I think they would've been disappointed by the title song ....kind of a sleepy tune all about being true to your lady ! lol!!

    if I cheated on you girl I'd be cheating on myself
    ...can you imagine such a line in a 'song' in 2021??


    NativeNuYorker


    That truly sounds like a stretch. I don't know how one could be offended by that cover. It's a new vs old generational theme. That's in no way compares to racist covers in the past. It wasn't long before that when Blacks could not even be on covers for their own music.
    boy some provocative stuff sure gets thrown around casually around here. .....racists covers of the past ....

    Seriously, not trying to be funny, educate me , about how blacks "could not be" on covers for their own music. Nat King Cole , Ray Charles Little Richard ..... I see them all on their covers ......??? ....
    Last edited by Boogiedown; 03-20-2021 at 12:42 PM.

  41. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    I see what your concerns are. I don't think I would even notice what the guy's color is . It's kind of ambiguous. But as far as covers go , I doubt this one added even one more additional sale for this Four Tops record. Who's looking for heavy music from the Four Tops?? And if someone was buying it because they thought there was something woke going on , I think they would've been disappointed by the title song ....kind of a sleepy tune all about being true to your lady ! lol!!

    if I cheated on you girl I'd be cheating on myself
    ...can you imagine such a line in a 'song' in 2021??




    boy some provocative stuff sure gets thrown around casually around here. .....racists covers of the past ....

    Seriously, not trying to be funny, educate me , about how blacks "could not be" on covers for their own music. Nat King Cole , Ray Charles Little Richard ..... I see them all on their covers ......??? ....
    “This Old Heart Of Mine” by The Isley Brothers features a white couple on the front cover.

    Daft, really, even back in 1966.

  42. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by Sotosound View Post
    “This Old Heart Of Mine” by The Isley Brothers features a white couple on the front cover.

    Daft, really, even back in 1966.

    who knew 'the man ' meant Motown ! lol!

    [[could be argued the cover was being inclusive .... or is music by blacks for blacks only?)

    I don't think this is an example of : "It wasn't long before that when Blacks could not even be on covers for their own music", do you Sotosound? Trying to imagine Berry Gordy telling Rudolph "No ! You cannot be on your LP's cover, and you know why!!"

    I doubt anybody was being deceived into thinking this guy and this girl were performing music as the Isley BROTHERS..... if that's the rub, ...But , if so.... the real Isleys are shown on the back cover....

    Interesting decision by Motown. I'd call it progressive. Or cynically: intentional "smart" marketing.

  43. #43
    @boogiedown,

    One of the first books about Motown, it might’ve been the story of Motown, I think it was also by Peter Benjaminson who wrote the biography of Mary Wells. I think it was in that book that he said the early covers didn’t picture the artists because then they wouldn’t be sold in the record stores in the south. He was referring to the early albums by the Marvelettes, but even on the first Vandellas album, they’re only pictured on the back, as was also true of the first Mary Wells album.

    But your comments actually made me realize some thing. It seemed to happen a lot more with the female artists than the male. The miracles are on the front covers of all their albums as were the Temptations and the four tops. I’m not sure if it means anything, it’s just interesting I guess.
    Last edited by kenneth; 03-20-2021 at 09:38 PM.

  44. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    @boogiedown,

    One of the first books about Motown, it might’ve been the story of Motown, I think it was also by Peter Benjaminson who wrote the biography of Mary Wells. I think it was in that book that he said the early covers didn’t picture the artists because then they wouldn’t be sold in the record stores in the south. He was referring to the early albums by the Marvelettes, but even on the first Vandellas album, they’re only pictured on the back, as was also true of the first Mary Wells album.

    But your comments actually made me realize some thing. It seemed to happen a lot more with the female artists than the male. The miracles are on the front covers of all their albums as were the Temptations and the four tops. I’m not sure if it means anything, it’s just interesting I guess.
    Yes-Many of Motown's early 60's LPs that didn't feature pictures of the artists on the front covers happened with their female artists. In his autobiography, To Be Loved, Berry Gordy admitted that he did this in order to help get those albums stocked in record stores in the South [[so it was both sexism & racism that drove this).

  45. #45
    Here's an interesting one; Martha & The Vandellas' 3rd Album, Dance Party which had two different album covers.

    The US:

    And the UK:

  46. #46
    Four tops: Nature planned it and Changing times.
    Supremes: Supremes join temps cover and maybe an unpopular opinion but I love the Reflections LP cover.
    Vandellas: Black Magic is beautiful with the blueish white light shining between the girls.

  47. #47
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    I love these covers so much I made them tee shirts!

  48. #48
    @NativeNuYorker,

    No one ever looked finer than the original Tempts!

  49. #49
    In conjunction with posting #44 and the fact that many artists pictures were not shown on their album covers in the early days.

    I am a personal friend of Lois Powell of the Chantels. We discussed not too long ago about their End LP The Chantels. She told me that INITIALLY the album was released with the five members on the cover and they all had white gloves on. But End executives feared that the album would not sell with their pictures on the cover. As a result the album was quickly reissued with a full size jukebox on the cover and a white guy and white girl looking at the selections on the jukebox. Now today the initial album release carries a price tag of $500 or more if you can find one in decent condition.

  50. #50
    Quote Originally Posted by woodward View Post
    In conjunction with posting #44 and the fact that many artists pictures were not shown on their album covers in the early days.

    I am a personal friend of Lois Powell of the Chantels. We discussed not too long ago about their End LP The Chantels. She told me that INITIALLY the album was released with the five members on the cover and they all had white gloves on. But End executives feared that the album would not sell with their pictures on the cover. As a result the album was quickly reissued with a full size jukebox on the cover and a white guy and white girl looking at the selections on the jukebox. Now today the initial album release carries a price tag of $500 or more if you can find one in decent condition.

    I remember those covers from the old Gold Mine price guide.

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