In the category of Absolutely Not Crappy Album Covers are those designed by Andy Warhol, especially the early work, before the banana and the Sticky Fingers packaging for the Rolling Stones. I saw an exhibit of these at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh last June, and was surprised by their number, variety and graphic appeal. The New York Times ran a story in April 2009, and there is "a lavishly illustrated, fastidiously documented book" called Andy Warhol: The Record Covers, 1949-1987, by Paul Maréchal, published jointly by Prestel and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
This description is from the NYT piece by Fred Kaplan (April 29, 2009):
These early covers “have pizazz and elegance and a sneaky linearity, like Cocteau with a movement disorder,” said Wayne Koestenbaum, the author of a Warhol biography. “The blotted line gives a jumpy and nervous and emotionally unstable rhythm to the otherwise coherent line, like a dry drunk.”Here are just a few of the early covers, of jazz, blues, ballet, and folk music. The blotted line makes the illustrations look very contemporary, in sync with the distressed fonts that are so popular now. Dry drunk effect aside, there is beauty, ease, and confidence to these early illustrations. I like the sharp little heels on the Kenny Burrell nude, a nod to the shoe ads Warhol did for the I. Miller company, for which he won the Art Directors Club’s highest honor in 1957. Another nice feature: overlays of color juxtaposed against that black blotted line. Just think about the impact of that kind of layering on subsequent design.
I wonder what Don Draper thinks of Andy Warhol? Can't wait until his work makes a (by now overdue) appearance on Mad Men: there were the jewelry and shoe ads in fashion magazines, Tiffany and Bonwit Teller window displays, and finally, the riotous gallery shows and the Here Comes Everybody of popular decadent culture.
Shepard Fairey's work is now on view at the Andy Warhol Museum: a perfect place for it. Interesting that these is no search feature at The Andy Warhol Museum site (unless I am missing something). Maybe that's because there is just so much to search for – the work continues in the archives of Warhol's vast collections.