Quality space music takes the brain on a journey, be it in the form of some star-tripping P-funk, a sci-fi DJ mix or some retro synth cheese. But even space music’s most talented musicians go for the eyes first with some killer album art.  So in this post, with the help of the HowStuffWorks staff, I’ve assembled the top 10 cosmic album covers of all time.

Moog: The Electric Eclectics Of Dick Hyman

In 1969, American Jazz Pianist Dick Hyman made history, traveling to the moon in a specialized lunar lander and subsequently cloning himself nearly a dozen times. There, Hyman and his clone babies began work on his first album of Moog synthesizer recordings. He returned alone, leading to much speculation that a race of Hyman clones continue to call the lunar wastes home.

“Cosmic Cowboy” by Barry McGuire

This 1978 album makes some bold promises. Specifically, it implies that singer songwriter Barry McGuire is actually a denizen of a distant galaxy and that he JUST MIGHT have to pull a Hanuman and tear up his own chest to proof the fiery awesomeness of his heart. Has he arrived on Earth as conqueror or savior?

“Holst: The Planets” Sir Adrian Boult

Long before Dr. Dre dreamed of releasing an album about the planets, English composer Gustav Holst was unleashing orchestral space music on the masses. The 1967 edition of this rendition featured a rather un-sexy painting of Saturn FULLY CLOTHED. The next year “Barbarella” invaded theaters with near-nude space absurdity, so in 1970 the record label decided that classical space music was surely just as preposterously sexy. So we got this awesome album cover, in which space opera tights-enthusiasts raise their laser weapons and insist that classical music isn’t purely a genre for dead British dudes.

“Grateful Dead from the Mars Hotel”

Consider if you will, a 1974 Grateful Dead concert so out there that it literally transports the entire venue to another planet — an alternate universe Mars lit by a groovy black light sun and orbited by the moons Phobosybin and LSDeimos. While the Kool-Aid lakes make the possibility of life look slim, we can see a domed emerald city in the distance. Hold this bad boy upside down in front of a mirror and the weird text will supposedly read “Ugly Rumors,” which inspired the name of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s band.

“Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk” by Meco

This 1977 album taught us that “Star Wars” disco covers rule and that galactic butt bumps are a standard form of greeting in the retro future. To quote our tech editor Holly Frey, “I like how it looks both explicit and wholesome at the same time.”

“Mothership Connection” by Parliament

Most of what I can say here is already expressed in my space music post on P-funk, but this masterpiece of an album clearly has a lot to say about the resiliency of George Clinton’s crotch to the intense heat of atmospheric reentry.

“Transcendence” by Crimson Glory

Floridian heavy metal act Crimson Glory displays the future of interplanetary propulsion in this 1988 album cover. Sure, at first glance it may look like a “Lifeforce” knockoff in which naked space vampires emerge from an evil asteroid. But what we’re REALLY seeing here is a future in which space travelers exploit Einstein’s theory of general relativity to achieve near light speed travel. “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour,” Old Alby said. “Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity.” Crimson Glory shows us how through sheer naked ladyness, space-time may be warped to convey ships across the galaxy.

“Don’t Look Back” by Boston

While I’m doubtful that Boston’s classic rock sounds ever took anyone on a cosmic voyage without some considerable assistance, there’s no doubting the power of their signature starship. We can only assume the ship was constructed at some point in the distant future to save the great American city of Boston from cataclysmic destruction. It travels the universe, spreading a “Peace of Mind” doctrine and mandatory enjoyment of custard-filled cakes. Here it searches an alien world for new converts.

“Out of the Blue” by Electric Light Orchestra

It’s difficult to make sense of ELO’s massive mothership and presumed fleet of starships. If Starship Boston’s is a journey of religious conversion and exploration, then ELO’s is clearly one of bloody interstellar conquest.

“Astra” by Asia

Early Asia albums are a cavalcade of crazy extraterrestrial worlds and bizarre aliens that don’t really mesh will with classic rock snooze fests like “Only Time Will Tell.” But here we see a cybernetic being on a trippy world of titanic, space-age architecture. Will this half-mechanical species survive the inevitable theological and militaristic advances of the Boston and Electric Light Orchestra empires? (Plus “Astra Asia,” “Ancient Astronauts” am I right?)

“Space is the Place” by Sun-Ra

Who will make sense of a musical universe in which the Boston ELO galactic war rages on, pulling in Dick Hyman clones and Astra cyborgs alike in a cosmic bloodbath? Who will save us? Not Barry McGuire. Not Dr. Funkenstein? Enter Sun-Ra, strolling onto the cosmic scene like some sort of jazzy space pharaoh. Plus if this album isn’t enough to convince you, just consider his 100+ additional cosmic album covers.

All Images courtesy Amazon.com

So there you have it! Let me know how I got it wrong! You can find the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast on iTunes, Zune and the RSS feed. And don’t forget the free HowStuffWorks App!

Orignally posted at HSW:Space Music: Top 10 Cosmic Album Covers

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