Sure most times, the album cover tells you about what is going to follow, but not always…those albums are such examples.
1) Automatic Man by Automatic Man (1976)
Not only the album cover, but the band name as well, would make you believe it would be some kind of Space Rock a la Hawkwind. But that’s far from true, since it’s essentially a Jazz-fusion record. A big disappointment at least for me.
2) Chicago 13 by Chicago (1979)
It’s typical for Chicago to use the bands logo in various formats, for their album covers. Like in a chocolate bar (Chicago X) or a Fingerprint (Chicago XIV). But here we get a skyscraper, which is pretty bizarre for Chicago’s Jazz-Rock or Disco sound of this album. I believe the skyscraper would be more in-sync with Chicago’s mid and late 80s albums, where they changed their sound and made it more Hi-Tech.
3) Departure by Journey (1980)
Journey Steve Perry-era album covers have similar themes (apart from Raised On Radio), and Departure is one of them (I chose it as an example). Anyway, the themes on their albums makes you believe it would be more like a Progressive Rock record, but Steve Perry era wasn’t Progressive Rock, but Radio-friendly AOR instead.
4) Ghost In The Machine by The Police (1981)
Being released in 1981, the year when Synth-Pop was at its peak, and seeing the album cover featuring the heads of the band members in seven-segment display, and also the album title including the word Machine, you would swear it’s a record based on Synths. But…here we get the traditional Jazz-Reggae sound of The Police. Although the songs Invisible Sun and Secret Journey, might be more well suited for the theme of the album cover.
5) Honeymoon Suite by Honeymoon Suite (1984)
This album has a very metalish theme. Like the bed of nails, and the way the band’s name is written. But if you’re a Metal fan you’re gonna be disappointed, since this album is a blend of Power Pop, New Wave and AOR.
6) Life’s Hard Then You Die by It’s Immaterial (1986)
The album cover hints something very heave, like Thrash Metal. But here we get a mixture of styles, such as Folk, Indie Pop, Jazz-Funk, Synth-Pop or Post-Punk, but not anything coming from the world of Rock.
7) Now And Forever by Air Supply (1982)
First of all, this album is notable for being the only AS album, not featuring the band members. So it might come as a shock, even to Air Supply fans, expecting something different this time. But OK, forget about the band. Let’s pretend it’s from an unknown band. The colors give you the impression of something more into the AOR/Hard Rock realm than the Yacht Rock/Soft Rock realm, but again this album is just a typical Air Supply record, without featuring any extra edginesss.
8. Sherbet by Highway (aka Sherbet) (1978)
They even changed their name in order to crack America, and they attempted to appear heavier, by choosing this kind of album cover which hints something like AOR or Power Pop/New Wave at least. But unfortunately, they remained the same mellow Pop band, they always used to be.
9) Song For America by Kansas (1975)
Unlike most Kansas 70s albums where they featured retro artwork, more related to the 18th-19th century, in this album the artwork is pretty futuristic, which could give you the impression of being a Space Rock album or something similar, but it has the traditional 70s Kansas sound instead.
10) Tane Cain by Tane Cain (1982)
If an album has a cover of the artist himself/herself doesn’t say much, but sometimes it does. For example in Tane Cain’s case, the theme is very 70s Euro Pop, but it’s mid 80s American AOR (with some New Wave influences) instead.
11) Tao by Rick Springfield (1985)
Seeing the album cover or especially the title Tao, your first thought is, it would be perhaps an album featuring Chinese music influences. But that’s far from truth, since it’s a Hi-Tech AOR/Synth-Pop album. Only perhaps in the song The Power Of Love there are some Chinese music hints, but just hints, nothing more.
12) Teddy Bear, Duke & Psycho by Heaven 17 (1988)
Seeing the band in Cowboy hats and boots, you might pass it as an Americana/Country-Rock album. But not. Although the lead single of the album, The Ballad Of Go-Go Brown shares such influences, and it’s also an album which is different than any album from H17’s catalogue, it’s not an Americana or Country-Rock record. Here they lean towards a more commercial Synth-Funk/Disco style a la Michael Jackson.
13) The Big Lad In The Windmill by It Bites (1986)
More like a Folk Rock album or even Country Rock. But actually it’s a Neo-Progressive Rock album a la Marillion and a very good one too!
14) Toto IV by Toto (1982)
The Sword is actually a Toto’s trademark appeared in other albums too, like the Self-Titled debut or The Seventh One. But if someone came across this album cover, without knowing who Toto are, then chances are he would believe it’s more like a Hard Rock record, which is pretty true for the debut, but not for IV (or The Seventh One as well). It’s more like a Soft Rock record, with Jazz elements, more closer to the sound of Billy Joel or Elton John.
15) Yellow Magic Orchestra by Yellow Magic Orchestra (1978)
The US cover art seems to be more related with the album’s style though. But the Japanese cover doesn’t. The Japanese cover resembles more an album like Year Of The Cat by Al Stewart which is a Pop-Rock record, something miles away from the futuristic Electronic sound of the YMO’s album.