Album Cover Hall of Fame Special Preview Edition News Release – Jan. 20, 2020







ACHOF Quickie News Update for January 20/21st, 2020

By Mike Goldstein,

Greetings to you all – hope that the early days of 2020 have been good ones for you. While I know that I’m not due for a major news summary for a few days now, I did want to give you some updated news on two important album art-related competitions and, quite sadly, a brief note about the death of a noted album cover designer that’s more than a bit overdue.

Award Announcement #1 – This past November, the Recording Academy announced its list of nominees for 2019 Grammy Awards in the two album cover art-related categories we pay close attention to here at the ACHOF. Since the Grammy Awards are scheduled for this weekend – with the production-related awards handed out at a special ceremony before the big-time TV broadcast – I just thought it important to remind you of who was nominated in the packaging categories:

– In the “Best Recording Package” category, the nominees are:

Anónimas & Resilientes by Voces Del Bullerengue – Luisa María Arango, Carlos Dussan, Manuel García-Orozco & Juliana Jaramillo-Buenaventura, art directors;

Chris Cornell by Chris Cornell – Barry Ament, Jeff Ament, Jeff Fura & Joe Spix, art directors;

Hold That Tiger by The Muddy Basin Ramblers – Andrew Wong & Fongming Yang, art directors;

I,I by Bon Iver – Aaron Anderson & Eric Timothy Carlson, art directors; and

Intellexual by Intellexual – Irwan Awalludin, art director

– In the “Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package” category, the nominees are:

Anima by Thom Yorke – Stanley Donwood & Tchocky, art directors;

Gold In Brass Age by David Gray – Amanda Chiu, Mark Farrow & David Gray, art directors;

1963: New Directions by John Coltrane – Josh Cheuse, art director;

The Radio Recordings 1939–1945 by Wilhelm Furtwängler & Berliner Philharmoniker – Marek Polewski, art director; and

Woodstock: Back To The Garden – The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive (featuring performances by Various Artists) – Masaki Koike, art director

The complete list of Grammy nominees in all of the categories announced today can be found at , with winners announced in ceremonies in Los Angeles on January 26th – a well-chosen date in between the two biggest pro football weekends of the year. As you know I will be working hard to bring you the stories behind the winning works (and the people who created them) after they’re announced but, in the meantime, let’s congratulate all of the nominees for jobs well done and wish them luck next Sunday.

Award Announcement #2 – This past Friday, at an event at the Koppel Project Gallery in Soho, London, U.K., the Best Art Vinyl 2019 Award Winners were announced. Now in its 15th year, this independent competition – sponsored as always by the team at Art Vinyl (a maker/marketer of a very nice record album cover display frame/system) – has become a must-see-and-do activity for fans of album art from all over the world. With thousands of votes cast by those fans via the Best Art Vinyl Awards web site, the Top 3 winning packages represent the best in album cover design from designers and musical acts from countries including France, the U.K. and Denmark:

  1. Francesco Dell’Orto’s design and photography for the French prog/metal band Klone’s album Le Grand Voyage on Kscope Records;
  2. Artwork and Design Tom Dubois/Hingston Studio for veteran rocker Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ album Ghosteen on the Ghosteen Ltd label
  3. Design and Art Direction by Hvass & Hannibal for Danish indie rockers Efterklang’s album on Britain’s 4AD label titled Altid Sammen (“Always Together”)

A full list of the top 50 vote-getters is currently available on the ArtVinyl site at and, once again, congratulations to all of the nominees and winners for bringing fans some of the most-memorable designs and images we’ve seen in quite a while.

And now, the bad/sad news – Vaughan Oliver, co-founder of the design firms 23 Envelope and V23 and, after building a relationship with the independent UK record label 4AD, created a host of notable album covers including those for the Pixies (inc. Come on Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa, Doolittle, Monkey Gone To Heaven and 2019’s Beneath the Eyrie); David Sylvian – Secrets of the Beehive; The Breeders – Pod and Safari; Psychedelic Furs – Until She Comes and World Outside; Lush – Spooky, For Love and Hypocrite and Throwing Muses – House Tornado and Counting Backwards, died at the age of 62 in late December, 2019. In a statement released just after Oliver’s death, Pixies front man Black Francis called their collaboration “the beginning marker for our own artistic journey,” noting that “we saw the first mock-up of the first ‘Come On Pilgrim’ sleeve, quit our jobs and never looked back,” adding that “he loved the look and smell and feel of things and, more than most are able to articulate, which he did most eloquently from deep within his soul’s atelier.”

Frequent collaborator Simon Larbalestier, who shot the wonderful photos that Oliver used on many of his Pixies designs (including his last project for them, Beneath the Eyrie), told me via email that “Vaughan’s death is a great loss to everyone – he was a close friend of 35 years,” while noted record art collector/fellow blogger Richard Forrest shared that he’d “met him and (designer) Chris Bigg in 2001, just when they were re-negotiating their contract with 4AD. Vaughn let me rifle through the company’s archives and take about 20 posters and he willingly autographed several books and records for me.” Richard told me that Oliver, “along with Neville Brody, Barney Bubbles and Peter Saville, were the leading designers of record covers in the UK in the eighties and nineties. Vaughan was a great inspiration for me.“

Born in London in September, 1957 and raised in Sedgefield, England, Vaughan Oliver knew, as a teenager, that he wanted to design album covers. He liked how these images combined art and music (i.e., image and sound) and most-appreciated the ones that showed some imagination in their design.

With a partner, photographer Nigel Grierson, Oliver founded his own design firm called 23 Envelope and found a client in the popular independent UK record label 4AD, a spin-off label run by two Beggar’s Banquet employees named Peter Kent and Ivo Watts-Russell and home of acts including Bauhaus, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and Modern English from the UK and American indie bands including The Breeders, Pixies and Throwing Muses. After Grierson left in 1988, Oliver re-named the company v23 and continued to produce memorable 4AD sleeve designs through the late 1990s, working with a small slate of talented photographers including Marc Atkins, Chris Bigg, Simon Larbalestier, Timothy O’Donnel and others. Other clients who sought out Oliver’s work included guitarist Robert Fripp and singer/songwriter David Sylvian, who hired him to design both record sleeves and covers for his illustrated poem/lyric books (titled Trophies I and II). Recent clients include film-maker David Lynch (2011’s Crazy Clown Time) and musical acts including TV On The Radio, Nyam, Nyam, A.R. Kane and I Break Horses.

In 1994, a comprehensive portfolio of Oliver’s work was organized into an exhibition held at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles titled This Rimy River. The catalog for the exhibition, featuring essays by photographer Chriss Bigg and writers Ian McKay and Rick Poynor, has become a sought-after collectible (also published in book form in 1997). In 2001, Oliver and Poynor collaborated again on an updated career retrospective book called Visceral Pleasures and, in 2010, Oliver presented a lecture (also titled Visceral Pleasures) in New York City hosted by AIGA/NY where he discussed his 30+ year career as a graphic designer and provided some of the stories behind some of his best-known album covers.

Gone way too young.

To see more of this artist’s work, please visit his web site at and to read more about Oliver and his work, I’d like to direct you to the following articles online:

Back to you soon with more. Mike G.

One response to “Album Cover Hall of Fame Special Preview Edition News Release – Jan. 20, 2020

  1. Thank you, Mike, for the generous piece about Vaughan Oliver.