Yikes! A look at the 4 worst album covers in my collection

Worst Album Covers

There are some album covers that stand out among the rest for their spectacular album art … and then there are some that stand out for being flat-out horrible. These are the four worst album covers that I personally own …

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Zuma (1975)

Neil Young Zuma

Young has had his share of ugly album covers over the years–and a few all-time classic as well–but Zuma is certainly the worst of the bunch. It leaves me with so many different questions. Why is that bird so angry? Where is he going on that woman’s back? Where are her clothes? Why is she so small? Or is the bird really big? Is that a cactus or someone’s middle finger?

Also: that font is horrendous. And the one lowercase letter drives me absolutely bonkers. If you insist on making a terrible doodle your album cover, at least stay consistent with the capitalization, OK?

… But how’s the music?

Zuma is an outstanding album. It might not be quite as good as After the Gold Rush, Harvest, or Rust Never Sleeps, but I’d take it over any other albums from Young’s long, storied career. He and Crazy Horse deliver one great song after another, highlighted by the dirty and rugged “Don’t Cry No Tears,” the beautiful “Danger Bird,” and “Cortez the Killer,” arguably my favorite song Young has ever recorded.  

As bad as that cover may be, this is still an essential record. Highly recommended!

Daryl Hall & John Oates – Daryl Hall & John Oates (1975)

Dary Hall John Oates

Oh, Daryl. Oh, John. Who did this to you? Who allowed you to go through with this? This is the kind of cover photo that will keep people from taking the music seriously and giving it a shot. I think Oates’ check is the very worst detail on an album cover littered with embarrassing details, but I suppose one could also make a case for their hair or the serious looks on their faces.

… But how’s the music?

It’s a Hall & Oates album, so obviously the music is fun, catchy, and well-produced. Try to make it 30 seconds into opening track “Camellia” without a smile on your face; I dare you!

Daryl Hall & John Oates is one of the duo’s finest efforts, highlighted by “Camellia,” the legendary “Sarah Smile,” and “Gino (The Manager).” I’m also a huge fan of the drum track-backed “Soldering,” which finds the guys attempting to sing reggae, but that one may not be for everyone.

REO Speedwagon – Nine Lives (1979)

REO Speedwagon Nine Lives

This one is a mess, folks. When you type “trying too hard” into a search engine, maybe it should just shoot you back the album cover for REO Speedwagon’s Nine Lives. Women in revealing cat costumes? Check. An ugly-as-can-be set that is supposed to resemble an alley? Check. Mesh shirts with white suspenders? Oh, you know it!

It’s also worth noting that REO Speedwagon has its fair share of bad album covers. Nine Lives is the worst of the bunch, but it does have some legitimate competition.

… But how’s the music?

Nine Lives is sandwiched between REO Speedwagon’s two most successful records: 1978’s You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish and 1980’s Hi Infidelity. But is it any good? Well … no, not really. The band wasn’t exactly putting forth enough fresh ideas to merit putting out a new album every 12 months, but that clearly didn’t stop them. I do like some of the songs here“Meet Me on the Mountain” is rock solidbut overall, Nine Lives is far from essential.

Black Sabbath – Born Again (1983)

Black Sabbath Born Again

The Born Again album cover is the stuff nightmares are made of, and it is rightly considered one of the most dreadful covers in music history. I can appreciate that guitarist/band leader Tony Iommi liked the idea of a demonic baby on the cover of a Black Sabbath record, but this demonic baby is just the worst. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I might be sick …

… But how’s the music?

I have already documented on this very site that I’m fairly obsessed with the original Sabbath lineup, and I even love most of the Dio years. Born Again with former Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan, however, can be a pretty rough listen. “It’s OK!” is the most positive review I can come up with at the moment.

A lot of this has to do with the album’s mixing and production. Sabbath albums never sounded all that particularly dynamic, especially the band’s earlier material, but a lot of Born Again sounds like the tapes fell in the mud before being scraped clean with a rusty pocket knife. Iommi’s trademark guitar sound is missing, and Bill Ward’s drumming has none of the personality fans had come to expect over the years.

Still: there are a handful of solid songs here, namely “Disturbing the Priest” and the slow, menacing title track. (Iommi’s solo on “Keep it Warm” is pretty great as well.) It’s hard to find too much to like about some of the other songs, though, including album opener “Trashed” and “Digital Bitch.” 

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