My favourite post of the month is back. Thanks again to Nick for suggesting this, though he did not realise at the time that this would be a recurring post. Please see below the five favourite album covers for June. These may be covers which I have loved for some time or new albums which I have come to love over the last month.
Weasels Ripped My Flesh – The Mothers of Invention
Now, I know what you are thinking – ‘Zappa, here?!’. Yes I too had doubts. On the whole I find Mr Zappa innovative, charismatic and polarising. His music straddles the thin line between genius and horror music. Which side of the line you fall on is entirely dependent on your personal taste. I shall reserve comment on where I fall on the matter. This cover is fantastic, however. It reminds me of the comic book chic of Thomas Dolby’s Aliens Ate my Buick. I love the colour choice, the classic well to do gentlemen and the absolutely bizarre weasel inflicting gore on him.
Curtis by Curtis Mayfield
What a year 1970 was. We do not deserve 1970. 1970 gave us, among other things, Brian Davison, Neil Young, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, Bitches Brew by Miles Davis, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Funhouse by the Stooges, Morrison Hotel, Abraxas, Loaded by the Velvet Underground… I could go on. But this sensational year for music also gave us Curtis Mayfield’s debut album. The smooth soul chic in the music is matched only by the extraordinary cover. A low angle shot of Curtis wearing a matching yellow suit and flamboyant shirt with beaded necklace, looking forlornly into the sunset (or sunrise). This is just so very cool and stylish. An effortless cover.
Psychedelic Sanza 1982 – 1984 – Francis Bebey
If you have yet to hear the excellent Cameroonian stylings of Francis Bebey, please listen to this album. It follows the extraordinary African Electronic Music 1975-1982, which some consider his best.
That clash and exchange of ideas is exemplified in the chiming, twilit dialogue of opening cut, ‘Sanza Nocturne’, and the strange fusion of Baroque pipes and kicking groove to ‘Africa Sanza’, or to strangest degrees in the freakishly noisy, yet utterly compelling ‘Tumu Pakara’, while we find the more mellifluous Bebey crooning away in the Pygmy Polyphonics of ‘Bissau’ or the deeply spiritual ‘Forest Nativity’. To be fair, it’s unnecessary to draw any lines betweent he material – it’s all the work of a singular genius – but for those more familiar with the last compilation, this set really steps it up and out a notch or three to spellbinding new zones. Boomkat
The cover is also spectacular, three presumably Pygmy people carrying a globe through the jungle with Africa front and centre in the frame. The sky is covered in what looks like zebra print. Aside from anything else it is a beautiful piece of art.
Bebey became the first African musician to place synthesisers, electric keyboards and programmable drum machines at the centre of his music. Vinyl Factory
Runt. The Ballad of Todd Rundgren
If any of the readers have spent more than five minutes in my presence they will be aware that Todd is a firm favourite of mine, in fact he is likely the only man in my pantheon of favourite artists (Grace, Joni, Todd being the top 3 I think). Feta Kuli is making his way up there. Anyway this album is quite different from Todd’s Runt (another 1970 diamond album). This album was released in 1971 and contains songs of a quite different nature to its nomenclature predecessor. Now, the cover. The ides of someone playing piano with a noose is wild to me. Is this his final wish? Todd’s last meal as it were? To play the piano as a final act before being hung is quite a powerful image. And of course it is reminiscent to me of Mel Brooks’ excellent Robin Hood Men in Tights, particularly the scene where the noose breaks as Robin is about to be hung.. “well you know what they say…”
Living My Life – Grace Jones
Finally I should like to close on one of Grace Jones’ Jean Paul Goude covers again. We will eventually get through all 14 of her albums. This is one of my favourites. Following Goude’s image of Grace, he created this precise aggressive cover. This simple, angular cover seeks to maximise Grace’s androgynous beauty. He wrote in Jungle Fever “the ambiguity of her act was that she herself looked like a man. A man singing I Need A Man, to a bunch of men”. This was shocking in 1977, when the single I Need A Man was released and followed by Grace’s debut disco (!) album Portfolio. The beads of sweat only add to what is a striking remarkable cover.
Join me next month for the following instalment of 5 Favourites.