Sunday, January 6, 2008
Cover Story - an unofficial review
Cover Story - 2007 Wax Poetics Publishing
The new book “Cover Story” from the excellent Wax Poetics magazine out of Bklyn is a lot of fun – there is something liberating about doing a cover book that throws such a wide-ranging net over the esoteric world of album cover art connoisseurship - boundaries are made to be broken and re-configured. When I opened this book and started flipping through I got very excited – I saw some covers I knew and loved, but there were many, many more that were completely unknown to me – I could only wonder about their stories. To that end, there are some cool essays at the front, though much is left up to the imagination, which is as it should be. Some amazed me; some appalled me, some made me laugh, some were moving - the good, the bad, the ugly, the full spectrum. It's like having your own wild record collection available at the flip of a page.
The look, feel, and design of the book is pleasingly simple, and reminded me of my own book (check out the label logos on red – mine were on yellow, but very similar). They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so if waxpo was inspired by some aspects of "Cocinando" then I am happy that the book shares a few similarities with my own; however, they were not really imitating my book, I'm not so egotistical to think that. Debating any similarities really is a moot point hardly worth talking about anyway so I do not even want to bring it up; what I will say is who cares about where "Cover Story" got it great looks from; the folks at waxpo came up with it, worked hard on it, and in the end it is a thing of beauty. I also owe them a debt for indulging me with publishing my article about stories of Latin album cover art in issue 12; they very generously put in 80 covers and also featured some photos of the designers, something which my publisher was not interesed in. FYI, my book’s general layout is not original, for it owes a debt itself to a previous album cover book that Princeton Architectural Press had put out, “45 RPM,” and Chronicle’s subsequent New Wave cover book, “This Ain’t No Disco,” has the same feel and basic layout as mine and "45 RPM" put together! Way I see it, it's like this: with a great idea, it does not really matter where it comes from, there is no origin really; just that the idea serves as a jumping off point, a kernel of possibility; great ideas help creative minds to achieve their goals.
The idea behind “Cover Story” is just perfect. The main guidelines for the 12 collectors who contributed art from their incredible collections was for them to pick covers that spoke to them in some way – visually, or in terms of the music inside, or the juxtaposition of one cover next to the other across the page. I sent a copy of “Cover Story” to Puerto Rico to my friend Charlie Rosario, an artist and musician who made many interesting artworks for Latin covers over the years (he called some of them “sculpture graphics”). He is featured in the book with his wacky psychedelic art for the extremely rare La Fantastica’s “All Ears/Ear To Ear” album on Ghetto records - props to Andre Torres. Charlie was blown away that someone other than me would want to put his cover in a book, and I think it made his day! Charlie is quite a story-teller himself, and of course he has one for that cover; I myself have a story to tell about how I came across the record – but sometimes leaving the mystery is better – that way the viewer can bring to the art whatever they have in their head (or between the ears). That’s what’s so cool about this book – it is the messenger, but the story really is the cover; it is retold by each viewer as they flip through the book. Every album has multitudinous stories to tell – and waxpoetics was there to put it all in an album of memories and revelations. Buy it!
Just for fun, I was inspired to take a look at my own record collection with an eye toward doing a similar “cover story” exercise in selecting LP jackets that are weird, goofy, beautiful, fun, sexy, horrible; covers that speak to me and to each other, covers that tell stories. I may have a reputation among friends as being obsessed with Latin covers, but here I am stretching out into other genres that I also love: jazz, funk, reggae, hip-hop, rock, blues, folk, world, etc. I will be scanning more covers and adding them each week, so please check back periodically. Course I also have a rep of being a motor mouth, so I will be commenting on each cover. Your comments are welcome as well.
Sun Ra: "Jazz By Sun Ra, Vol. 1" (Transition; Cover by Wilson/Reid) Let's start this universe of cover art with the Sun. My papi's roommate and friend Tom Wilson started the Transition label out of his dorm room at Harvard - not quite the Def Jam of the 50s, but still pretty dope! They had so many loud parties in the dorm they got kicked out and my pops had to rent a room in a boarding house just to get some quiet. The record is cracked from the spindle out but it plays fine without any skips - extra thick vinyl with a grooved edge. I must say, the mysterious cover is nice - gold and black - is that a spider web?
Russell Woollen - "Quartet For Flute & Strings" (Transition) At one point Papi had all of these Transition records at his pad, including a very early Donald Byrd; dad was there for some of the sessions; the Sun Ra & Woolen are all that remain. Tom Wilson might have designed the cover - it's signed "Wilson." Tom went on from cutting edge jazz to produce acts like Dylan, Zappa, and The Velvet Underground.
Various - "Noman Granz Presents: Jazz At the Philharmonic, Vol 12" (Mercury 10") A fave of my parents; they used to go to a lot of these jazz gigs in Boston, New York, Providence, Havana. this little ten inch uses a peppy modern art museum style: a mixed-media urban look, like Pop-Surrealism or something. Great old-school hand-lettering. Those were the days of paste up. Record showcases jam sessions with the likes of Roy Eldridge, Ray Brown, Bird, Buddy Rich, and Pres.
Slim Gaillard - "Slim Gaillard Cavorts" (Clef Records 10"; cover by Hubley) My dad & I used to laugh at this clowning trixter's tunes, especially the Cuban themed ones, when I was a kid; I caught Slim's live show in London in the early 80s and was floored by his raw guitar, piano antics, funny lyrics, and vodka screw-driver intake. Bless you Norman Granz for giving this cosmic clown the benefit of a doubt. The cover is kind of Picasso-esque. Voot-o-rooney!
John Berks "Dizzy" Gillespie - "Dizz Over Paris - Vocals by Joe Carroll" (Roost 10"; cover by Burt Goldblatt) One of the dopest jazz covers ever by the great Burt Goldblatt, who whipped up a stunning combo of graphics (map) and illustration (Dizz) giving you the feeling of transport - long before Photoshop and Illustrator. Sonically snappy, and featuring the fabulous hipster vocals of Joe Carroll!
Redd Foxx - "Mr. Hot Pants" (MF Records; cover by Foxx) Well I just had to. I mean it's another great example of mixed media album cover design...really! Not to say Redd is claiming the right to wear Mr. Dynamite's Hot Pants as Soul Brother #1. Not hardly. I just love Redd's f.u. attitude and jaundiced eye. Plus Foxx makes me think of funky black humor of the 60s & 70s and the theme song to his show - you know the one by Quincey Jones. I just love Redd as a cultural relic; not that he is a favorite comic of mine really - I leave that honor to the one and only Richard Pryor, R.I.P.
Juanucho Lopez - "Aha! Let's Pachanga with Juanucho Lopez" (Estacy Records; cover art by Abel Navarro) A great example of mixed media usage, this time from Nuyorican advertising designer Abel Navarro - a really fun cover, the text excitedly trumpets "Let's Pachanga!" - so it was no doubt part of the 'pachanga' craze that was sweeping New York in the ealy 60s (also see other records by Johnny Pacheco, Charlie Palmieri, and Tito Puente). Lopez, a timbales player, was originanally from Spain, and like Xavier Cugat he was way into the Cuban sound, though he also did merengues it would appear.
Various - "Norman Granz Presents: Jam Session, Vol. 1" (Mercury) David Stone Martin's "x-ray style" lines are still exciting all these many years later. Big influence on many designers (see next cover!).
Various - "Alegre Allstars, Vol. 1" (Alegre) Abel Navarro may not have been aware of Martin's jazz covers, but the general 'line drawing' style was definitely well known in the illustration world. Though he is Latino, and went to high school in the Bronx with people who would later figure importantly in the Latin music scene, Navarro was not himself into Latin music until he started designing on spec for Al Santiago's label. Abel was married to Al's sister, that's how he knew Al; he was called in to design for the label - though he was in the much more lucrative field of advertising at the time. He worked from photos and visited the studio. An instant classic - spare and effective.
Special AKA - "In The Studio" (Crysalis/Two Tone, 1984; photographs by Davies/Starr; design by Jerry Dammers and David Storey) Another studio cover. Copping the Blue Note look a little before it caught on in trendy London; riffing on the ska music of yesteryear - which had it's second and third resurgences in the U.S.A. years later; a form of music that is still popular all these years later. A smooth cover, great LP, excellent band. Ska/punk/soul/jazz/world beat/new wave - part of the sountrack to my 80s. See the real thing below.
The Jazz Messengers - "The Jazz Messengers" (Columbia; photo by Don Hunstein) A classic record, and a cover that has served as the blueprint for many designers over the years, most recently inspiring the cover of Greyboy's "Soul Mosaic" on Ubiquity (the Sharon Jones joint on there is ILL!)
Bud Powell - "Jazz at Massey Hall...The Amazing Bud Powell" (Debut 10" 1953; photo by Bob Lang) Historic Canadian live summit recording of power trio: Powell, Mingus & Roach. Amazing Bud, the high priest of bop piano; the tragic Bud Powell, on Mingus' Debut label. Just look at the rapture on his sweaty dripping face - the cover puts you there where he is. I owe all my knowledge of bop to my pops. (R.I.P. Max Roach).
Leadbelly - "Rock Island Line" (Folkways 10" 1953; photo by Jim Chapelle) My parents were part of the bohemian bop/folk set that straddled the 50s/60s, and there were a lot of great old blues documents around the house, this one being highly influential on my little ears. Leadbelly's dignity and experience shines out from his 12 string and big-hearted bellow in this documentary portrait that feels like I dug it up from a time capsule.
Fela A. Kuti "Sorrow Tears and Blood" Another great portrait album cover, this time by my favorite African cover artist, the super-talented Lemi Ghariokwu, who is a Nigerian painter and graphic artist. He has created some 27 classic Fela covers and recently has done some for the new generation of afrobeat-inspired musicians. someone should do a book on this man!
Buari - "Buari" (RCA, 1975) A nice afro-funky disco album - and a happy portrait with cool cowrie shells. Sidiku Buari is a vocalist and hand drummer from Ghana, and he has Bernard Purdie joining him on drums - a plus in my book!
Alhaji Bai Konte - "Kora Melodies from the Republic of the Gambia, West Africa" (Rounder) Another great African portrait. The album that launched me on the quest to discover more about the griots of West Africa and the beauty that is the kora. From 1973. Dug out of my dad's dusty record shelf.
Dr. John - "Babylon" (Atco, 1968; photo by Norton; Stanislaw Zagorski) The psychedelic swamp priest zapps you! A very sick album if you can find it. Babylon - a lesson to us all!
Irma Thomas - "In Between Tears" (Fungus/BASF, 1973) Also from The Big Easy, Queen Irma Thomas. Freaky circle shaped crying moon art on the cover, beautiful R & B music inside, rumored to be with Duane, the Allman Soul Brother #1 on guitar, & produced (with piano) by the first dawg of soul, Mr. Swamp Dog, Jerry Williams, Jr.!
Jim Pepper - "Jim Pepper's Pow-Wow" (Embryo, 1972; photo by Joel Brodsky, design by Haig Adishian) More circles, this time the drum circle and the cry of the tenor saxophone; deep spiritual jazz meets ritual drums and Native American history. "Wichi Tai To" is an essential mantra for clensing the earth of all the Bad Spirits brought by the White Man, and is a song of basic thankfulness that we all should remember in this age of shop-till-you-drop consumerism and cluster bombing for oil.
Milly Jackson - "Caught Up" (Spring/Polydor, 1974; album concept by Millie Jackson; cover by David Wiseteltier) Another circle shape like the Jim pepper, and it kinda makes me think back to the Sun Ra album above. Well known record from back in the day of relationship rappin' funk & soul by the dirty talkin' diva Ms. Jackson, but still and all, a worthy cover. Caught my eye first time I seen it!
Cold Blood - "Thriller" (Reprise, 1973; cover design and 'execution': George Hunter and Herb Greene) Pulp fiction and macho violation meet blue eyed funk and acid rock with a Latino twist in 1973 - and graphically speaking, the back of this LP is even more of a killer in a way, perfectly imitating all those cheesy 50s detective magazines. A real funky version of "Kissing My Love" to boot.
Muhammad Ali & Friends - "The Adventures of Ali And His Gang v.s. Mr. Tooth Decay - A Children's Story " (St. John's Fruit & Vegetable Co.) Side 'A' of this rediculous but touching album (courtesy of Dynamite Records, www.dynamiterecords.com). I just fell out laughing when I clapped my lamps on this - but I do love it - and it makes me want to eat my fruits and vegetables!
Muhammad Ali & Friends - "Ali And His Gang v.s. Mr. Tooth Decay" (St. John's Fruit & Vegetable Co.) Side 'B' of this corny platter - the 'gang' consists of Ol' Blue Eyes hisself, plus Ossie Davis & Richie Havens, with Howard Cosell doing the play by play, no less! One surmises this is even better than the 'Rumble In The Jungle.' The inner sleeve advertizes that the next Ali LP will be dedicated to fighting drugs: "The Fight of the Century: Hey kids our next story is "Ali and His Gang" Vs. "Fat Cat the Dope King" and his Sidekick Peter Pusher" (yikes).
Cassius Clay - "The Greatest" (Columbia Records; cover by Bob Cato) Yes he is the greatest - and this album is really something - perhaps one of the original rappers? Anyway, an important cultural artifact from a historic figure of pride and power - one of the most well known and loved icons of the 20th Century. For Black History Month.
Various artists - "Swing Latino" (Fania Venezuela, 1979; cover art by Daniel Jaimes) Has that art brut/prison art/home-made comics look to it - totally brilliant salsa joint put together in Venezuela - you can tell. Wack LP jacket to be sure - that's why I love it.
Funkadelic - "Tales of Kidd Funkadelic" (Westbound, 1976) Hard to pick which P-Funk jam to throw up here, but I love this one - had to be a cover by the original cosmic afronautical comic strip artist, Pedro Bell, Sir Lleb of Funkadelia (though the first couple of photographic covers are ill too). You can spend hours gazing at this crazy gatefold, the drool drippin from out your lip, making you smirk and guffaw, or squint and scratch your head, reading the "fabulous literary rap-manship" of Ileb (Bell backwards), a job where minutes that can seem hours, you dig?
The Barkays - "America, Do You See What I See" (Stax/Volt; cover art by Jack Martin; art direction: the Graffiteria/David Krieger) Gatefold soul. Yes, the Barkays did have their Funkadelic phase, and this obscure, as yet un-rereleased LP from '74 is really brilliant, full of social comment & acid drenched funk-rock. Scary clown cover award!
The Barkays - "America, Do You See What I See" So you can see the cover more close up, Amerikkka!
Osibisa - "Heads" (Decca, 1972, design by David Howells/Carol Smither; painting Abdul Matti Klarwein) No album cover collection is complete without at least one Abdul Matti Klarwein - this is one of his freakiest. Plus the LP has an African version of "Che Che Cole" from around the same time as Willie & Hectors - and it's good, too.
Rufus Thomas - "Funky Chicken" (Stax, photo: Joel Brodsky; design: The Grapheteria/David Krieger) Chicken albums are a favorite delicacy of mine; this just happens to be the one with the best cover - don't care if it's well known. On here is one of the stankiest way-back-yonder fonk tunes, Rufus' version of "60 Minute Man" - making love all the way back to Africa.
Randy Weston - "African Cookbook" (Atlantic, 1972) Speaking of Africa, Randy Weston used to have a night club in North Africa - where people like stevie wonder and Don Cherry rubbed elbows with tribal muscians of Jujuka and the Gnawa trance healers. Weston is a gentle giant of the ivories, and this is his illest cover. I smell you cookin', circa 1964, Mama Africa! The uncredited painter was really doinf something brilliant with this art - too bad they didn't list any info on this!
Orchestra Makassy - "Agwaya" (Virgin, 1982) More African art. Picked this up in London (during the whole explosion of so-called 'world beat') in the early 80s when it came out and loved everything about it - the folksy shebeen painting on the cover, the dubby remix of "Mambo Bado," and the unbeatable mix of Congolese/Kenyan/Cuban vibes throughout.
Mor Thiam - "Dini Safarrar (Drums of Fire)" (Rite Record Productions, 1973; cover by Phillis Commons) It really freaked me out to read in Wax Poetics the blurb about this record - it seemed incredible to me that someone else knew this album aside from a small circle of people whose lives had been personally touched by this Senegalese master drummer's music. I mean this record is OBSCURE, dude. I got this a number of years ago during my quest for African funk; it was lent to me by a good friend who's parents were friends of the musicians on it (indeed it is dedicated to them by conga player Billy Ingram on the cover). I fell in love with the music on this when I first heard the first cut "Ayo Ayo Nene" at a party, sight unseen, knowing nothing about it. Imagine my excitement to discover the players - Mor Thiam, who I had been in a production of street theater with down at the WTC in the early 90s; Oliver Lake who's music I discovered through Kip Hanrahan's ecclectic records of the 80s like "Conjure"; Oliver Sain, incredible jazz/funk/blues sax player and producer, and my free jazz hero, Lester Bowie. And to top it off, the clincher: a great homemade looking cover!
Third World - "Third World" (Island, 1976) I love this artist's work - he did all the early TW covers and some others for Island in the mid-70s. Island folk art style - but the group was a very sophisticated Uptown mix - some looked down on them as less than roots, saying dem not heartfelt bredren of the streets, but I say 'bumba clot' to that! They were as legit as the next group, hotter than the rest, who cares about some of their pop syling all the while. I really enjoyed their sophistication and fresh approach - remember their live 'dub orchestra' circa 1985, with the clear plastic cello? On the back cover it says "Enter into this gate with thanksgiving" and I do give thanks for the classic years of reggae and TW's innovations.
The New Aces/Frank Rodarte & the Del Kings - "I Wanna Be a Low Rider b/w "Lowrider Fever" Right on! This little 7" single is a bit of Lowrider history from down San Antonio way. ¡Orale ese! This is some baaad 45, carnal!
The Incredible String Band - "Relics" A really nice piece of 'folk art' style cover; kind of tribal, like Voodooo cut metal from Haiti, or the carvings of the Inuit, or ancient Celtic metalwork.
Crazy José - "Cha Cha Cha" (UA) OK, let the cheescake begin! By the way, when I first saw this at a junk shop, I thought it was some long lost spin off of the New Wave Latino/Soul/Pop outfit Kid Creole & The Coconuts, but no, it's from the mid-50s! Totally out there, man. So square it's hip!
Mohammed El-Bakkar & His Oriental Ensemble - "Port Said - Music of the Middle East" (Audio Fidelity, 1958) What would you call 'cheese cake' from the Middle East? Bahklava? Anyway, bellydance has come around again in popularity - here's an original from the bad old days.
Akido - "Akido" A fdifferent kind of cheescake - Psychedelic African Girl you turn me on!
The Jungle Brothers - "Straight Out The Jungle" (Warlock/Idlers Records, 1988; cover & photography by Ken Kaufman)Man when I came across this record, their first, it was in the most unlikely of places - the Colorado Rockies. It had just come out and an artist friend, Irv Tepper, who I had just met, had all these cassettes with him of the new generation of Native Tongue Posse and other rappers like EPMD and NWA. What a revelation - we used to tool around the dirt roads of Snowmass and Aspen blasting these tunes, scaring away the deer, rabbits, buffalo and the rich dilettante people who had come to study art at the nearby Anderson Ranch. I really enjoyed the home made quality of this record particularly, the rapping, scratching, and figuring out all the samples was a very exciting and fruitful enterprise. As someone who always loved the music called Latin, or anything from the Caribbean, and also New Orleans funk, it was a real excitinmg time to rediscover Mandrill and find Cymande for the first time through the JBs and De La. Dope and humorous airbrush cover art.
Tavin Pumarejo - "Paco En Intimidad" (Koitre) What can I say, a man who loves his horse - the feeling is mutual, it seems. I found this in Old San Juan in a dusty junk shop with a million stories to tell - that used to be a very popular record store back in the day (which incedentally I am old also was pivotal in helping Puerto Rican reggaeton get its start). This is one of those "what the Hell?! covers.
Teddy Fire - "The Fluxing Headset Man" (Sealed Hotel Records, cover art by Teddy Fire) I love you, my brother! Teddy Fire was a kid singer who did all these 4 track lo-fi recordings - real home-made stuff, not for the weak of heart. I, as his brother, helped out on beats and keybs, and Philly Phil 'Nordit' and Bond Bergland are on the guitars & bass. Chimp music, some called it at the time.
Bob Marley - "Punky Reggae Party" (Tuff Gong 12" single; Jamaican pressing; 1977) I loved this 45 RPM Disco record from the first time I put the needle to the groove - the cover alone flipped me. I remembered hearing the live version on WBCN in the 70s in Boston, but this sound was something alltogether different: the "Scratch' Perry sound, mon! I got this little slice of Jamdown from the 'Rasta Van' that used to park on Thayer Street in Providence throughout the 80s. The colorfully painted bead and LP festooned van always had a strong island smell (mix of patchouli, coconut, and of course ganja), and the rasta vibes reverberated all the way down the street to Ras Jacob's home base, a store appropriately named The Lion's Eye.
Bunny Wailer - "The Struggle" (Solomonic Records, Jamaican pressing, 1978; artwork: N.Garrick and C. Jackson) Another piece of carib treasure from the Rasta Van, though on the more serious tip, visually. the Jamaican pressings were always warped and came with built-in crackles and pops. they were never sealed, and the bass sound was off the charts, mon. Neville Garrick is some kind of genius - all of his covers are really something. Had to have at least one.
Various Artists - "La Salsa de Borinquen, Volumen 3" (Borinquen Records, 1974; Cover by Drago) 'Drago' Fernández was a Cuban designer and artist working in Miami in the 70s & 80s who did a lot of cool cvers for Latin albums - and he wasn't part of the Fania mainstream. As such, his work is a little more obscure. This dynamic comic book style is just one of many that he employed in his arsenal.
Grandmaster Flash - "The Official Adventures of Granmaster Flash Sampler" (Strut 45 RPM 12" Disco) I loved the 'Official Adventures' project Quentin did with Flash; this was just one of the related products, a cool 12" with a blistering "Freestyle Mix" on side one and a deconstruction of "Apache" on the other - a recreation actually of what he used to do back in the day I think - live no tricks or overdubs y'all. I liked the graphic style of the cover - Strutt product always looked so nice as well as being top notch musically speaking - I was bummed when it went belly up! The licensing/permissions on this baby were a real headache for Quentin, I remember him saying. Cover art is uncredited.
Pat & Lolly Vegas - "At The Haunted House" (Mercury) Moster rock by two Chicano soul brothers who would later claim their Indian roots and form Redbone (joining acts like XIT and slide guitar wizard Jesse Ed Davis to make 'rez rock' in the 70s). Dig the crazy smokin' beast and the go-go dancer gyrating on it's tongue! Ah, L.A. discoteque culture in the mid-60s!
Frank Chickens - "We Are Frank Chickens" (Kaz Records, 1984; airbrush by Jamie Bettell; sleve by David Thomas; photographer: Yann Sylvane) Crazy Japanese New Wave/Rap! A British production, so it's no suprise that David Toop (of all those cool books like 'Exotica' and 'Rap Attack') plays on it as well as Steve Beresford, Roberto Pla and Lol Coxhill, not to mention Tony Coe. Interesting. Love the retro monster movie poster cover art, man - quite funny. And a very special thanks to Mr. Micro Davies of London and George Hirose on NYC for turning me on the modern Japanese music!
Orquesta Sakamoto - "Orquesta Sakamoto del Japón en el Chateau Madrid" (Alegre) Before Japanese salsa sensations Orquesta De La Luz, there was Orquesta Sakamoto - beat 'em to it by about 20 years! I saw this in a rare Venezuelan Fania catalog at the Discos Viera store in San Juan a few years back; I knew I had to find it - and lo and behold, I did this year - from a Colombiano at the 4th annual Lain record collector's convention in NYC.
The Clash - "Pearl Harbour '79 - The Clash" (CBS Japan, 1979) The Clash discovered in Japan! This was an LP and single with a special paper sleeve that provocatively stated "Pearl Harbour '79" which covered the original cover. I forget my clash history, but I seem to remember that was the name of their '79 tour - many years ago! The album is not from '79 of course - their debut came out in the U.K. in 1977. This edition did come out in '79 however. Nice dynamic design, kinda better than the original in a way! I always loved Japanes imports.
ESG - "Dance" (99 Records, 1982; sleeve by Gina Franklin) - I love slinging the A-Side at clubs - really an up number from the Scroggins gals. "Moody" is also a good cut - see the reissues on Soul Jazz Records, all you younguns. A great E.P. of NYC punk funk by a couple of African Americans and a Latino from da Bronx that was taken up by the down town scene as a cause celeb for a year or two. Love the ultra modern "techno" art on the cover - brings back the arcade games my buddy Dom used to play like Space Invaders, Pac Man, etc. Thanks Carle Groome!
The Amazing Kreskin - "The Basic Principal's of Kreskin's ESP" (SSS International) From ESG to ESP! Don't stare at this one too long. We used to sit around the dorm and laugh at this one back in the day - then I realized it was totally dope for mixing into a freeform turntablism set on the radio years later.
Lionel Hampton - "Hamp In Paris" (Em Arcy 7") Hamp looks a bit like the amazing Kreskin, doncha think? Nah, you been staring at record covers too long, dude.
Capoeira, an incredible discipline. Geraldo Vandre - a great singer!
Robyn joked that if he autographed this it would make it worthless - so I asked him to sign he back. one of my favorites done by him.
Lame French disco courtesy of my wife from her days in Paris - but awesome album art!
Palmieri, Pacheco, Fajardo - La Charangas (Alegre) Abel Navarro's first cover and an early example of the use of cartoon drawings by Latinos on album art (the first was probably by the Cuban/Spaniard Xavier Cugat who was a fine caricaturist). love the acid green and drawing style. Abel was always great at the hand-lettering thing, too. Many thanks to Don Cristobal Diaz aAyala for sending me this cover!
Maravillas de Mali - African Salsa - charanga to be exact (note the flutes & violins). Nice line drawing. Not sure when this is from - my guess is the early 70s. See my article on the subject earlier in the blog. I got it in Brooklyn, sealed, for a few bucks.
Augie Colón - "Chant of the Jungle" (Liberty) Hot on the heels of his "Sophisticated Savage" LP (those were the days of rampant predjudice and 'Exotica'), Mr. Colon shows us the power of the drum, the call of the chant.
Cyril Jackson - "Afro-Stereo" (Counterpoint, 1958) A very cool title for a really swinging album. Ed Mentken's concentric cover makes you want to play your drum - or your Hi-Fi - or both!
Joe Quijano - "Joe Quijano and his Fantastic Conjunto Cachana" (Cesta) Joe is a great guy (I licensed a track from him for my compilation The Rough Guide to NYC Salsa Dura), and I love this mod cover (thanks to Academy Records in Brooklyn).
'Pello' El Afrokan - "Mozambique" (Egrem) A seminal ritmo from a percussive Afro-Cuban powerhouse. Big influence on Eddie Palmieri. The original LP - love the early EGREM releases for their art too.
Various - "Flamenco Pop" (Belter, 1967) I love this kind of music - Afro - Cuban meets Barcelona gypsy meets Austin Powers - groovy baby, ¡Olé! Reminds me of my time when we were living in the south of Spain my lady & me, in Andalucia to be exact. Me & my girl were painting, teaching, and digging the sights, tastes, and smells of 700 years of Islam & Judaisism that forever left their mark on this region of my forefathers' homeland.
Exuma - "Do Wah Nanny" (Kama Sutra, 1971; cover painting by Exuma) Some very dark freaky voodoo folk from St. Vincent. Kind of like the underbelly of the flower generation - at times Exuma's sandpaper vocals are almost too painful to listen to. the choirs sound kind of cultish, communal like the early swampadelica of Dr. John. Pee Wee Ellis blows sax on the title song. Calypso wierdness - we used to put this guy's records on late at night to scare ourselves.
Gaspar Lawal - "Ajomase" (Cap, 1980; cover weaving by Adesose Wallace) One of my favorite albums by a Yoruba man. Funk, dub, afrobeat, traditional, unclassified goodness - you name it - all here on this illmatic 80s release from back-a-wall London. The crafty crochet cover and hand done lettering on the back really grabbed me with its unassuming folkiness when I saw it in a shop in Camden Town 20 years ago. The back claims the guy has played with everyone from Barbara Streisand to Funkadelic, Ginger Baker to Stephen Stills, and I believe it - Hell, it shows (hah - just kidding). HE influenced THEM, more like it! The title translates as "We All Have To Do It Together." There is no other song out there in afrobeat land like "Kita Kita" - and when I turned Quentin Scott onto this record, he had heard that one song but not the whole LP - he flipped, I burned it for him, and "Kita Kia' ended up on his super-duper Strut compilation, "Nigeria 70."
Various Artists - "Sonic Chimp" (Sealed Hotel; cover by Wes Wallace) One of those newer guerilla sampler records that colonizes old record jackets, feeding on them like a parasite feeds on its host. Lo-fi gems, all home made amature music - my brother Teddy Fire is on one cut. Thanks to Wes Wallace of Providence, R. I. for putting this sick stuff out in the mid-90s. Bless you, brother! Check out his old zine, Wingnut, if it's still around on eBay. Sealed Hotel - get it? the nut house!
Various Artists - "Sonic Chimp" (Sealed Hotel; cover by Wes Wallace) Another one! Freaky.
Various Artists - "Sonic Chimp" (Sealed Hotel; cover by Wes Wallace) so many of these hand-made covers that Wes did back in the day are so fun and cool - I think they deserve to be seen, they are one-of-a-kind.
Kent Gomez & His Orchestra - "My Ghetto" (Mio Records) My Ghetto is: Spanish Harlem, EL BARRIO, circa 1968! These guys are very 'chevere' - totally cool wearing their striped shirts and chinos, they are sooo ghetto fab in the old-school sense. WFMU Record fair is a MUST for finding this kind of stuff - snagged this bit of treasure for a few bucks - I almost wet myself when I saw it flippin through the stacks of Perry Como and polka.
Pucho & His Latin Soul brothers - "Tough!" (Prestiege) I love the varied ramshackle ghetto backdrop and Pucho's furrowed brow denoting the title with a slight tongue in cheek feel. My neighborhood growing up looked a lot like that before 'gentrification.' Thanks to Mystery Train Records for alerting me to this pristine copy.
Culture - "Bald head Bridge" (Blue Moon, 1983; design A. Lewis) Another Joe Gibbs production, the back cover proclaims. A really rootical outing from this tremendous trio, love to see them hanging out on a wall in Kingston Town in their psychedelic dashikis, and the graphic elements on the left are quite nice. Originally recorded in 1976, it still sounds as spiritual and 'dubsonic' now as it did over 30 years ago. There is no voice like Joseph Hill (R.I.P.) backed by his bredren, Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes; hearing them live in London's Dingwall's club around '86 was a mystic experience, lemme tell ya mon. Band that gave the name to the Clash with their debut, "When The Two Sevens Clash." The standout track has got to be the sublime anthem, "Behold I Come," a Rasta Hymn to chant down Babylon.
The Congos - "Heart of the Congos" (Go Feet Records) A lot has been said & written about this mighty Lee Perry production; suffice it to say that for me, it is my favorite. I also dig the cover; brothers with their hand drums is always a heavy theme with me. This is a reissue that may or may not have been legit - and probably came out in the 80s. It says copyright 1978, but that is not when The Beat reissued this. But thank god they did - I found it at a time when you could not find the Jamaican version in Providence where I lived at the time, and the whole sound of t really turned my head around. The luxurious CD reissue package from Blood & Fire was a couple of decades away - big up to them for taking it to the next level.
The Talbot Brothers - "The Talbot Brothers of bermuda - Calypsos" (ABC, 1957; cover by Alan Fontaine/Bob Crozier). All of the ABC Paramont covers from the 50s and early 60s are killer, and top quality (just check out all the ones they did on Candido!). I love this record - crisp, jaunty calypsos that sing of atomic nightmares and freaky sex changes - stuff on every one's mind in the happy 50s, but rarely adressed in popular song. The font treatment for 'Calypsos' is very cool. Not too many calypsos feature accordeon or home made string bass either, so the sound on these is really great.
Ravi Shankar (Regal/EMI India; photo David Farrell) I reckon this is from some time in the 60s; Shankar had already impacted the UK & US when this came out. My pops & I used to fall back of a Sunday morn and listen to this man's ragas - sublime! But the intensity of the cover is what gets me - he is a guitar hero from another dimension - and his expression is kinda "what you lookin' at, honky?"
Floyd Westerman - "Custer Died For Your Sins" (Perception, 1969) Inspired by Vine Deloria Jr.'s seminal work of the same name, this is a great country and western albumwith Indian chants and themes (some would call it 'rez rock' for the music listened to on the reservations out West) by a Native American musician, actor and activst Floyd Westerman (you may remember his part in the Doors movie). Some great funky drumming on the disk too - just waiting for the sample hounds to pick up on this one. From an old girlfiend of my dad's - thank you Abby for turning me on to 70s Native American contemporary music.