The Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill captured the hearts and minds of suburban, middle-class teens who yearned for something bold and fresh yet palatable. It was their second album, Paul’s Boutique, through which they gained something far greater: critical and hip-hop community respect. The Beastie Boys expanded their music palette by offering inspired, obscure samples while raising the stakes with their sonic output and dense wordplay. This album’s cover captures the true essence of a bygone era of Lower East Side of Manhattan. It also visualizes their new and improved sound.
Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. was this dynamic duo’s 1964 record debut. Simon and Garfunkel were still a year or two away from becoming a top 40-radio staple hit machine for the remainder of the 1960’s. Paul Simon was still in the process of honing his song craft. A good portion of the record is folk song covers. It does contain ‘The Sound of Silence,’ considered one of his best. The album cover, accompanied with ‘Silence,’ conveys the power of those rare, lonely, New York moments by way of a subway platform.
There was a brief moment of concern for Columbia-grad-students-turned-casual-rock-stars Vampire Weekend. They had a case of the second-record-letdown blues, after the band’s sterling debut. An anxious fan base gave a huge, collective sigh of relief upon hearing Modern Vampires. The new collection is filled with more of the infectious Afro-pop and new wave beat that made the band popular with the public and the critics alike. The cover is actually a famous photograph taken by New York Times photographer, Neal Boenzi. The picture is called ‘Smog Covered Skyline 1966,’ and it gives anyone interested a glimpse into what life was like before the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Aside from the occasional concert tour and promotion, Neil Young never had a much of a connection to New York. Most of his history is aligned with West Coast, particularly California. This 1970 record turned the burgeoning Young into an international star. The album cover photo was taken in the West Village on the corner of Sullivan and West Third Street. The cover shot was the result of an impromptu photo session with a then-18-year-old, photographer, Joel Bernstein. The picture initially contained Young’s sometimes band mate, Graham Nash, but he was eventually cropped out of the photo. The Gold Rush is considered to be Young’s most iconic album cover.
When the family of folk icon Woody Guthrie unearthed some of his long-lost lyrics, they knew they had something potentially special in their hands. With no music to accompany the find, the family began seeking out musical suitors who could possibly compose music do the words justice. After a long process, the family decided upon British folk/punk singer Billy Bragg and alt-country rock band Wilco. Much of the Guthrie lyrics captured his time living in Coney Island, Brooklyn, during the 1940s. Bragg and Wilco were so inspired by the project, they were able to produce a second album of songs, too.