I also want you to know that this post is totally NOT SUITABLE FOR WORK! You have been warned.
Anyway, here are each writer's (who cared to participate) Top 3 covers:
Buchanan, All Understood
It's not graphic or even all that provocative, but it always struck me as amusing. We know what's going on in there, guys. Maybe not the specifics, but...we get it. Lotta steam, too; somebody's good.
Faith No More, Songs to Make Love To
Rhinoceros humping. Indeed.
Rush, Power Windows
Alright, so my musical tastes don't really lend themselves to controversial cover art. You'll have to deal with what I think is cool, then. Hugh Syme has been producing excellent, thought-provoking cover art for decades, and this is one of my favorites.
I'd also like to make a brief mention of another prolific cover-artist: Storm Thorgerson. Not necessarily because he's produced a number of iconic covers, including Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. But because the man's name--his GIVEN NAME--is STORM fucking THORGERSON. I dare you to find me a legit birth name that's more rock 'n' roll than that.
Dwarves, Blood, Guts & Pussy
Yeah, it's totally misogynist, but there are naked women covered in blood and a dwarf acting like he's having sex with a rabbit. It's totally an affront to your sensibilities.
Black Crowes, Amorica
Umm, so yeah. I kind of like the low-brow covers.
A guy dressed up in a bunny suit giving an easter egg to a poodle. Folks, I dare you to find a more fucked up cover than this. Not necessarily a big smack in the head like the first two, but more like "What the fuck?"
STNNNG, Dignified Sissy [Modern Radio; 2005]
I already knew the Minneapolis spazz-punk outfit STNNNG were awesome when I saw them live. It just so happened that an album cover featuring a polar bear viciously attacking armed men cinched the deal for me when contemplating whether to purchase their music. Also, every song sounds like the gruesome act depicted in the detailed illustration, so they get bonus points for appropriately complementary iconography.
I Am David Sparkle, This Is The New [Kitty Wu; 2007]
Okay so the actual visual, especially in JPEG form, of this album is nothing notable. But what makes holding the album cover in your hands so special upon purchasing the glistening and climactic instrumental guitar music of Singapore's I Am David Sparkle is that in order to get to the CD, you have to at least partially destroy its paper casing upon which the artwork is printed. Sewed together on all four sides with black thread, it is impossible to remove the disc from the packaging without ripping its cover, forcing you to work, to undo, to disassemble the art in order to hear the music. Call me a sucker, but I love pretentious shit like this.
Owen, At Home With [Polyvinyl; 2006]
Maybe I'm just an idiot, but I owned this album for a good two months before I noticed the item of mystery behind its cover's photographic composition. There the record sat, in my car's passenger seat, every single day for weeks as I listened to it obsessively on repeat, until one night I parked in my garage, picked it up to bring inside as the dim overhead light helped me catch a new found glimpse of its front side. Suddenly, as I stared, crickets chirping and the engine finally whirring down to a slight whine, I noticed it. Behind the fog, lying on the grass amongst the intimidating sprawling tree and foliage I finally saw it. If you're like me and don't see it right away, look closer. Hopefully when you notice it, it won't be as the automatic light in your car and garage turn off simultaneously and freak you out to the point of smacking your head on the door.
This is probably one of the most iconic album covers of my generation. I mean, you have the triumvirate of power, all captured here in a perversely simple image: money, penis, and swimming pools. (I could get all pretentious here, and talk about the imagery as symbolism for the delicate balance between life and death, but honestly, it's been a long day and I really just want to give this bottle of wine a blow job.)
Ween, Chocolate & Cheese
I had to add my own boobage. Ween and a pro-wrestling reference. I'm Southern. Need I say more? Oh yeah: blowjob.
Aphex Twin, Windowlicker
Sleep tight, kids.