Welcome to the October edition of Five Favourites. See below five album covers which have marked me this month, for one reason or another.
Superimposition – Eddie Palmieri (1970)
This is not only an excellent album but also has the most wonderful cover art. The picture itself is of course superimposed on Mr Palmieri’s face and shoulders, which is most splendid. The superimposed image looks like a drug trip dream, it bursts with colour to contrast with the black and white of the artist’s visage. I am as impressed with the art as I am with the music.
Metamatic – John Foxx (1980)
Reminiscent visually and musically of Gary Numan’s The Pleasure Principle, this is a must mention cover. Metamechanics (French méta-mécanique), in relation to art history, describes the kinetic sculpture machines of Jean Tinguely, but apart from this I could not find any dictionary meaning for the title word. The cover is very cool indeed, Mr Foxx, stood smartly with shiny shoes, touching a square of painfully bright light – just excellent. How unsual!
Pink Floyd – A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)
Another excellent album with a wonderful cover. I see I mentioned Floyd in the last Five Favourites as well. I love the endless rows of colourful beds. I imagine the image was computer generated but a part of me wants to think about Sid and Roger dragging all of these up and down the beach. Of course they were both departed from the band by then but you’ll humour a dying man.
Gary Numan – Telekon Live (2008)
It is a wonder to me that Telekon was released in 1980 and the live album was recorded 28 years later. Perhaps Mr Numan ran out of money. In any case this album cover is identical to the studio version with the addition of the word ‘live’ – which is very frugal and economic, which is a tendency I appreciate in a person. Well done Mr Numan!
Grace Jones – Portfolio (1977)
A reference to Jones’ very successful modelling career, Portfolio is an excellent cover art. Almost baring her teeth at us, a flawless young Grace stares out at us in a striking pose, about to unleash her disco stylings, joined with legendary producer Tom Moulton, on the world. They would go on to make three albums together, which formed the initial cannon of her disco works before she moved on to higher things.
There was a sly brilliance to Jones grafting her persona onto the glossy sounds of disco as it prepared to finalize its transition from the underground to the mainstream. Portfolio encapsulates Jones’ keen eye, and ear, for detail and the ability to usurp trends to her own clever ends. Albumism
While watching the excellent documentary series Explained on Netflix, I came across an episode about hurricanes. Within this there was a description of how climate change was affecting coastal communities in Puerto Rico and how their heritage was being lost to climate change. Among the losses feared in the near future was the home ground for Bomba music. This music is both a traditional Puerto Rican drum consisting of a barrel with a goatskin head. and a genre of Puerto Rican dance accompanied by drums and other percussion also : a song sung by a soloist and chorus to accompany a bomba drum. Its origins are rooted in the island’s history of African slavery but today has evolved into a community expression of Puerto Rican culture and is inextricably linked with protest culture in the modern world.
A1 Coje Pa’ La Cola
A2 Chinito Boogaloo
A3 Sorongo (Ritmo Sorongo)
A5 Boogaloo Pa Los Pollos
B1 Sacame De Aqui Written-By – Luis Delgado*
B2 Mini Falda
B3 Que Te Lleven Las Olas
B4 Tiempo De Amor
B5 El Prestamista
B6 Que Se Pare La Bola
Sorongo, the title track is so exciting. The lyrics are simple and reflect a common question – Dimme Sorongo dimme Sorongo, que es lo que el blanco tiene de negro? Which translates as tell me Sorongo, what is white about Black men? The style of drumming as well as the infectious piano lends itself beautifully to bomba dancing, which can be viewed in the video below. It is said that you can feel Bomba music in your soul.
The second song I wish to highlight is Sacame de Aquí which means get me out of here. This is perhaps my favourite song on the album. It is slow and has some of the most touching lyrics I have heard. I shared it with my ex who is fluent in Spanish, as well as three other languages (at least) who was equally moved by it. I listened to this most recently on a train fleeing from Bristol, back to Birmingham, having been chased away by the most wicked cold. The song was highly apposite. The pain felt by Rafael Cortijo is so plain and jarring to me. This track went straight through me and remains as affecting as on my first listen. My Spanish is still good enough to be able to translate the lyrics in my head:
Hay veces en la vida
Que es impossible seguir juntos
Hay cosas en la vida
Que no tienen solucion
Viviendo de la nada
Que nada, nada, nada sacará
Overall this is one of the key albums of the Bomba genre, and a seminal one at that. Although Bomba music has been around for 400 years, it has only been recorded recently. This 1968 album is an excellent place to start and can be found on Spotify. It has invigorated and moved me in many ways over the last few weeks. I recommend it highly.
The time has come again for my five favourite album covers of the month .The below are a collection of covers which I have enjoyed on my musical journey through August. It has been a wild month for me which included much wonderful travelling. I look forward to September even more.
Thomas Dolby – The Golden Age of Wireless (1982)
I – I don’t believe it!
There she goes again!
She’s tidied up, and I can’t find anything!
All my tubes and wires
And careful notes
And antiquated notions
There’s something excellent about the idea of a stamp on an album cover with Thomas Dolby, then slightly less bald than he is now, tinkering with his tools. I have reviewed a Dolby cover in a previous Five Favourites and indeed reviewed The Flat Earth a very long time ago. Even the bottom ‘Fig. 1 Thomas Dolby’ is excellent. This is just great for me, especially the comic book quality present on many of his album covers.
Peter Tosh – Legalize It (1976)
A few Partners and clients of my firm subscribe to this blog so I shall not espouse a view in agreement or dissent with the sentiments of this album cover. However, I think we can all agree a cover this excellent should be illegal. There’s something so honest about the nomenclature of this album but also the idea of Mr Tosh, off his rocker, in the middle of a field of cannabis. I just find it so funny I felt I needed to share it with you. But humour aside it does make the point visually and concisely. A terrific cover.
Tool – Lateralus (2001)
Tool were one of my many re-discoveries this month. On my way back from Hull I listened to Fear Inoculum and Lateralus. The latter cover did strike me as, well, human, and also superhuman at once. There’s something really trippy about this cover. Perhaps the artist took a leaf out of Peter Tosh’s book (pardon the pun). There is something close to Todd Rundgren’s 1974 live masterpiece Utopia about this cover. The kaleidoscope background, prominence of eyes and striking blue which runds through the cover are quite impressive to me.
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
The team devised a concept for the cover involving two men — record execs fashioned in a style suggested by the album’s “Have a Cigar” — shaking hands to seal some unknown deal. Hipgnosis explained a handshake is often seen as an empty gesture, void of meaning or purpose. And the flames? A visualization of people’s tendency to remain emotionally withdrawn (or absent) for fear of “being burned.” Floydianslip
Well if there isn’t a more haunting cover from 1975. Two studio execs meeting in the middle of a row of large hangars which look like film studios, shaking hands on some unknown deal, while one of them is one fire. This is inspired to me. When listening to this album, I did feel like the man on fire. The quality of this record is off the charts, but the cover is also equally impressive.
Grace Jones – Muse (1979)
Produced by disco legend Tom Moulton, the cover of this album is most interesting. This cover was designed by a close friend of Grace’s, Richard Bernstein who created the covers of Interview Magazine from 1972-1989. This is so interesting to me, the scaled effect is repeated on the cover of Inside Story some ten years later. The extreme contrast and colourful ribbons mimic the colours at either side of Grace’s face. This is fun and colourful and excellent, as usual for Grace – though I am biased.
For a long time I have tried to ignore Miles Davis. In my ignorance I found his musical stylings shrill and unpleasant on the ear. My friend Jack sent me one of his most cutting edge experimental live albums, which I appreciated but this was 10/10 Miles and I could not handle it for more than 45 minutes. However, I have acquired the 2021 Edition of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and found myself compelled to listen to Miles’ early works. I heard three Miles albums in one morning and was quite astonished. Honestly, I do not feel worthy to review this album but I shall give it my utmost.
Long held as the jazz album that even non-jazz fans will own, Kind Of Blue not only changed the way people regarded Miles, it changed the very face of music itself. Consistently rated not just as one of the greatest jazz albums but as one of THE greatest musical statements of the 20th century, its 46 minutes of improvisation and sophistication remain peerless. BBC Music
Hitherto in the jazz world the focus was on fixed chord sequencing. Miles was ready to try the modal approach which sees playing within a certain scale. This was seen as freeing for Miles and indeed he pioneered the form to exquisite results. His first saxophonist, John Coltrane, pushed this improvisation even further. This was indeed a step up from the bebop of Miles’ previous recent work.
John Coltrane – Sax
Cannonball Adderley – Sax
Jimmy Cobb – Drums
Paul Chambers – Bass
Bill Evans – Piano (replacing regular Wynton Kelly on all but one track – “Freddy Freeloader”)
Aside from So What and All Blues, which had been played previously, Miles did not give any time for rehearsal to his musicians. He laid out the structure and then went straight to recording, which adds to the shocking result that is the album. This was recorded over 9 hours, in two sessions in Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New York, and resulted in a mega hit, the best selling album of all time and a spearheading evolution of the jazz form.
So What is the mid tempo opener which goes through a variety of styles. Blues in Green was my favourite track on the album. This was haunting and Bill Evans’ piano, which I have been a fan of for some years, joined by the mournful trumpet from Davis combines to make quite an affecting combination. The Hispanic influences of Flamenco Sketches, the only track on the album which needed a second run through (all of the others were done in one take), would be continued in Miles 1960 album Sketches of Spain.
Overall this is a work of supreme beauty and genius. I cannot do it justice in a 500 word review but invite you to listen to it with the above in mind and recognise what a stellar achievement this album was in the world of jazz. I shall listen to it again today, along with Quincy Jones, who is said to play the album every single day.
The below is written by Sister Evelyn, a treasured friend and teacher from my youth in Harrogate.
Fela Kuti was born in 1938 under British colonial rule, but later moved to USA where he met Sandra Izadore, a singer, who became his lover and tried to teach him to educate through music! He was later christened the “Father of Afrobeat”. Tony Allen joined his band as a drummer and other musicians joined them.
When he returned to Njgeria and became famous because of his music people either loved or hated him because he was so dictatorial. He set up a communal refuge house (called Kalakuta Republic) for followers who needed refuge. He opened a night club called ” The Shrine” where young people from richer homes danced madly, wearing extraordinary clothes! He became addicted to marijuana. High born girls with money flocked to him and he took them to perform around the world. One was the daughter of Nigeria’s Chief Justice Minister! Fela was sentenced to prison, but. soon released. The Nigerian economy was booming!
Fela on Stage
Soldiers Invaded his home because the government thought he was a danger to the country! His song “Zombie”, which described soldiers as mindless emotionless machines responding to orders without thinking, enraged the government. However, General Yar’ Ardur did give permission for the release of the song. In spite of this, tanks surrounded Fela’s home, but he put up an electric fence to protect his family. Soldiers broke in, attacked the women, Fela’s skull was broken and his mother was thrown from the roof by soldiers. He was heartbroken.
[Cedric: I thought I would add here that Fela wrote a song about the ordeal called Coffin for Head of State, one of my favourite Fela tracks, in which he mourns the death of his mother and speaks about dropping off her coffin at the Nigerian Military HQ rather than at the cemetery, to rebuke their actions in killing her]
With regard to religion he criticised both Christianity and Islam as foreign religions and defended witchcraft and traditional rituals. He married 27 women on one day in a ritual, but the women were beaten and tormented. Remi, his first wife, was enraged but helpless. He set up a new band called “Egypt 80”.
In 1983 there was a coup and a new military dictatorship was established. Fela wanted to escape, but was arrested at the airport on his way to USA.
The AIDS epidemic broke out in Nigeria, but Fela was deep in the “spirit world”, convinced he was immortal, condemning condoms and he finally died of AIDS in 1997.
He lay in state in a glass coffin in Lagos with drugs in his hand. Thousands came to see his coffin and no crimes were recorded in Lagos for the next three days.
An extraordinary life!
[Cedric: you may wish to visit Kalakuta museum, where Fela held his commune / cult, in Nigeria]
Moving into August with my five favourite album covers, we have some cracking ones for you below. Let’s lunge right in, as Lady C often says.
Fela Kuti and the Afrika 70 – Gentleman – 1973
I mean come on. This is superb. I advise you to listen to the track ahead of appreciating the cover. Fela had come back from a trip to the West radicalised against the powers who had oppressed Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Fela was particularly aggrieved by Africans going to the West and coming back with airs of grandeur, dressing in the Western way despite the heat of Nigeria and being generally superior. In this record, he eviscerates those he considers ‘been tos’ in a most excellent way. The cover is a continuation of this, with Fela dressing a monkey in a suit to highlight the idiocy he perceived.
Deee-Lite – World Clique – 1990
I have purchased the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die book. This was one of the first in the 1990s chapter. This used to be one of my favourite albums. I had not realised until recently how excellent the cover art is. One reflects while listening that this is one of the albums which defined the sound of the 90s. The album itself is excellent but the cover is next level. Look at the damn shoes! Look at the colours in the trousers. Look at the facial hair. This is so deliciously whacky.
Julian Cope – Fear – 1984
He’s taken enough LSD to kill lesser mortals, was once photographed naked under a turtle shell on a slag heap for an LP cover… PRS For Music
Julian Cope, wearing a turtle shell, looking at a toy truck, on a slag heap in Alvecote Warwickshire. No further comment needed. The album itself is triumphant but the cover is almost as great. He was nude under the shell, by the way.
Prince – Lovesexy – 1988
Speaking of nudity, this cover by Prince is immense to me. The pride Prince must have had in himself and the body confidence to pose nude on a bed of superimposed flowers, quite blazé, is astonishing to me. Fun fact: I was once in a band. A few of us in high school were in a band called Tokyo Train. One of my bandmates asked me “if the combination of a movie and music is a musical, what would be the combination of a musical and a game?”, “why, a gaysical, I responded”. Thus was born the concept of a gaysical. My bandmate Daniel, who was and remains a man of profound genius, made a game from scratch and added our music to it. I got to choose my character and I asked for a character in the style of the above cover, wearing only white gloves and socks. Daniel pulled through, though my character could only walk backwards. I wish I could find a photograph for you, it was magnificent.
Grace Jones – Warm Leatherette – 1980
Finally staying with tradition, feast your eyes on Grace Jones’ 1980 cover of Warm Leatherette. The stern stance, the piercing stare, the exaggerated arms and the double letters all lend themselves to almost a violent cover. It seems meant to destabilise you. Her skin is resplendent and her hair is precision cut – the holistic visual result of this is very powerful to me. It reminds me of some of the lyrics in Private Life, one of her first breakout hits:
Your sentimental gestures only bore me to death
You’ve made a desperate appeal now save your breath
Attachment to obligation through guilt and regret
Shit that’s so wet
And your sex life complications are not my fascinations
Well that is about it from the August Edition of Five Favourites. I trust you enjoyed!