Sunday, January 25, 2009

More Classic Cover Art by Charlie Rosario

Charlie Rosario always brings a sense of humor and playfulness to his work. Here has invented a great title for the record - putting together two Spanish words that describe the music and the band: 'tipica" and "picante" - what a goof! He ended up illustrating it with a mix of flying orchestra instruments from the typical charanga set up, and a bunch of very hot looking chili peppers!

Like every Charlie masterwork, this album comes with a long story about how the custom plexiglass lettering and the plastic violins were made - and how Charlie came up with the idea. Suffice it to say it involves the chance meeting of a cousin in the street who had a violin under his arm and something to do with a sign shop. Anyway, as usual, the artists was thinking outside the box - waaay outside the box! This was before Photoshop could give you all sorts of 3-D effects - so you had to just go out and construct your type in real dimensions if you wanted it to look like this.

Charlie knew a lot of musicians back in the day (still does) and one of them was the talented singer Tito Allen. This cover - Tito cooking up Superman in a skillet over a "fire" of Kryptonite - is a satirical take on the story of how Allen left Ray Barretto's group (after the album "Indestructible" that depicted Barretto as mild-mannered Clark Kent beginning to change into Superman). "Maldades" are those nasty little things people do...

This one just oozes funky 70s New York apartment life - it's like Marero, a sexy crooner, has a second apartment where he takes his part-time lovers while the wife's back home. Looks like the start of a sleezy porn flick you'd love to see - just for a little history lesson, a la "Deep Throat."

This one is just so cool. Again, before Photoshop effects, it was all done with actual lighting and lense effects - imagine that!

Charlie was so into this band he wants you to experience the power in all it's 3-D glory - too bad 3-D glasses didn't come with it! Looks a bit Andy Warhol.

Charlie actually carved this head out of a tree stump and then set it on fire. It's still at his sister's in Brooklyn, holding up a table in the kitchen. Somehow this manages to capture the wildness and rebellion of the "cimarron" - a runaway horse or slave in Colonial Spanish lingo.

Speaking of burning, this reissue of the Marin record employs a photo Charlie took of a fire down the street from his place. The original LP cover displayed a silly picture of Marin as a fire man - this one feels a lot more real - including the singed bit at the upper corner. Charlie himself suffered the trauma of an apartment fire where he lost just about everything, including a lot of art. I asked him if he took pictures of that fire and he said no way, it was in the middle of the night and way too scary!

This was another reissue. Interesting how he takes the old time image of Machito and makes it look modern. The tracks on this are from an old Roulette release of Latin Jazz, but Charlie's design goes a long way to fooling you into thinking it's current material.

Raphael Ithier, leader and pianist of El Gran Combo, told Charlie that this is the album that revived the band's sagging career in the 80s - and the intriguing and humorously titled cover helped sell it in no small measure. Once again, Charlie also named the album. This time, he had been photographing interesting shadows and light in his apartment and he liked how a just painted chair looked in the light coming from the window. Later, designer Chico Alvarez, who was doing work for Combo Records, called him up and asked Charlie if he had any nice art or pictures to put on the latest EGC album cover. Charlie showed him this and Chico was into it right away. Charlie mentioned that the music is so hot, no one will want to sit down - just like on the chair with wet paint! Chico laughed, and was inspired to creat the beautiful script logo for the title.

This is one of Charlie's freaky photo/paint collages, done with some amazing pre-computer visual tricks. Again, this album was a case of a label - Harvey Averne's Coco - attempting to sell old product in a new, "hip" package. Charlie was just the man to see. The original cover, on the Mary Lou label, is actually quite nice as well, but very dated. But this one still looks fresh and somewhat bizarre, in a good way!

Now this was a contoversial cover for some - a stinky, paint-spattered pair of old Champion sneakers on the cover of a brand new Cortijo album? What were they thinking? The label eventually did away with the cover art and stuck the portrait of Cortijo (that was formerly on the back cover) in its stead. The audacity of Charlie is demonstrated here, and it really pays off. Because the shoes may look dirty and old, but they are actually just regular work-a-day, humble tennis shoes spattered with the artists's paint, evidence of humility and creative activity - just like Cortijo. He might have been old, out of favor, without much of a career while his old band, El Gran Combo, rose to new hights. But Raphael Cortijo was actually making music that was much more cutting edge at this stage of his life, and at the same time much truer to his Afro-Boricua roots than EGC (who had forsaken bombas for just straight salsa). Thus the Champion sneakers - it's like how Jackson Pollack used to paint his drip paintings to Machito and Dizzy Gillespie albums!

Ah, Andrea, que linda eres! So, this is just a classic - great photo by the Italian former monk, Dominique - who mysteriously disappeared, owing Joe Cain a lot of money - and some nice type work and layout by Charlie.

That's it for now. I hope to have more art soon to show you all. If you want to contact Mr. Rosario for comissions, design work, exhibitions, or album cover art, please do so. The man is blessed with talent and an unbeatable spirit. Call him at: 787-529-6114.