‘Art Record Covers’ by Francesco Spampinato

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Want a coffee table book that might actually get dog-eared from friends leafing through it? And did you know that Jackie Gleason, bus driver Ralph Kramden’s alter ego, was a rather elegant recording artist?

Bear with us. This isn’t as disjointed as it seems. It all comes together in Francesco Spampinato’s majestic 448-page coffee table book Art Record Covers.

The book features album covers by such leading-edge contemporary artists as Damien Hirst and Salvador Dali. Jan-Michael Basquiat and Banksy not writing on walls. Unlike your usual classic record album books, these artist-rendered covers haven’t been seen a million times. In fact, even the musicians can be rather obscure. The Basquiat cover was for a San Francisco ska-punk band called The Offs. Hirst designed for The Hours, a forgottenish Brit band.

Which brings us to Gleason. While most of us know him as Kramden in the classic (though perhaps a bit sad and cruel) 1950s sitcom The Honeymooners, did you know he also crooned through a couple dozen albums? One of them was a 1955 release called Lonesome Echo, and its front cover was by the delightfully odd surrealist painter Dali. We can’t vouch for the sound quality of The Romantic Moods of Jackie Gleason or Music, Martinis and Memories, but yeah, we know our Dali. And a butterfly on a stick fits just about any mood.

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