Robert M. Jones, Art Director, RCA/Victor Records, writing in the November 1960 issue of American Artist:
The album cover demands the services of talented painters, designers, photographers, illustrators, graphic artists, sculptors and typographers.
They work in such varied media as oil, casein, gouache, tempera, drawing, collage, mosaic, cartoon, lithograph, sculpture, woodcut, engraving, and more than any other medium at the present time - the color photograph.
All of these art forms are employed to sell recorded music, the most enriching and satisfying of all home entertainment.
Visual art, like music, is a highly personal, creative process of the mind and spirit. Art used for album covers must assume the secondary, hard-working role of handmaiden to music. Whether treated editorially or as a poster...
... it must command attention.
To be successful the album cover must simultaneously accomplish three different objectives: it must interest, inform, and influence.
The first two "I's" are entirely dependent on the art concept and typography. While the art is an important factor when determining the third "I", the buyer's major interest is the recording artist and the repertoire reproduced. Most phonograph record purchases are calculated rather than purchased by impulse. The buyer of classical recordings generally has a higher level of taste and culture than the "pop" record enthusiast.
It follows naturally that the serious creative artist or photographer is allowed considerable more latitude when the product is directed to a discerning, sophisticated audience.
* Here's something rather exceptional: the Knuckles O'Toole album above is not only signed by illustrator Tracy Sugarman, but he receives a prominent credit line below his illustration. Even more exceptional, Sugarman gets a lavish write up on the back of the album as well -- something I've never come across before.
Jones may have rightly felt the artist and his work played a secondary role to the musician and repertoire, but in this case the artist was showcased in a manner most others could only dream about!
* My Illustrated Album Covers Flickr set.