Graham Reid | | 7 min read
Further to previous confessional postings along these lines (here and here), this is another installment in albums bought on the basis of their cover art -- although "art" is perhaps far too lofty a word for most.
Bought out of curiosity about their contents, might be a better way of putting it.
And what better one to start with than this appropriately titled collection . . .
Various Artists: I Didn't Know They Still Made Records Like This.
Back in those madcap Seventies when cocaine replaced common sense and it was all about the Big Sell, many of the major record companies would flick out promotional compilation albums of artists on their roster . . . which made no sense at all in terms of coherence.
This double album sampler from '75 for example has material by Bonnie Raitt alongside Leo Sayer, Cher, Chris Ducey (with the ever-popular hit Hula Rocka Hula), Gregg Allman, Rex Allen Jnr, Rod McKeun . . .
Weirdly they still make albums like this, they go under titles like Now That's What I Call Music.
Ted Knight: Hi Guys.
Okay, let it be said, Ted Knight was very funny in the Mary Tyler Moore Show in the Seventies as the pompous and dumb newsreader Ted Baxter (check season four when the series peaked for humour and pathos).
But an in-character song-cum-comedy album from a man who couldn't sing and had someone else write his lines for him?
Bad idea, bad album.
He takes his faux-macho Baxter voice through May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose, Who Put the Bomp, The Cover of the Rolling Stone, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini and songs which seem to have been written for him as Baxter: the title track, Male Chauvinist Pig and I'm in Love with Barbara Walters.
Who would buy something as awful as this? (Me. $4 in a cut-out bin.)
Torsson: Att Kunna Men Inte Vilja.
Not enough people buy albums by this Swedish group from Lund in the south, but that might be because they have heard them.
Formed in the mid Seventies, they are still around today but we single out their debut recorded in 1980 on the basis of the enticingly appropriate cover because it captures a degree of musical primitivism and what are undoubtedly hilarious lyrics, if you understand Swedish.
Thier humour is evident in how they billed themselves (from which Flight of the Conchords must have learned), "the fourth best band in Lund".
On the evidence of this album, I don't doubt it.
Joe Gordon Folk Four: The Gay Gordon.
Bought for a number of reasons of course, not the least because it contains the ever popular Govan Billiard Hall, Ludgin' wi' Big Aggie, The Wedding of McGuines Tae His Cross-Eyed Pet and Barnyards o' Delgaty.
But also in the collection because of the album title, and because at the time I thought Joe bore a passing resemblance to fellow Scot Jummy Somerville of Bronski Beat (who is gay).
Recorded before a specially invited audience in Glasgow's St Andrew's Hall in the early Sixties (who sing along on Big Aggie), it probably needed to come with subtitles for those who cannae ken wha' he is singin' aboot.
Mariano and the Unbelievables: 25th Hour.
Any album where the cover promises "sensational sounds . . . elemental excitement!" and has that photo on the front should find a home in any senseless collection. And what a track listing, all the mid-Sixties hits like the Lemon Pipers' trippy-pop hit Green Tambourine, the Beatles' Hello Goodbye (how will Mariano do the bit at the end?), the psychedelic Whiter Shade of Pale and those MOR pleasers The Look of Love and Love is Blue.
Straight outta Argentina and having performed to acclaim in the Tropicana in Las Vegas and the Fairmont in SanFran, there was no stopping this handsome harpsichord player. With his band the Unbelievables, Mariano Moreno recorded a number of albums on Capitol (their debut included Wack Wack and Sunshine Superman).
I believe he's still out there today, and a few tracks have turned up on hipper-than-thou lounge compilations. But you really need the album for the cover.
Sensational sounds . . . elemental excitement. On harpsichord?
Hungary's answer to the funky Average White Band (without the funk) and light prog-rockers (without much prog) clearly spent all their money on Varkonyi Matyas' impressive battery of synths and had nothing left over to pay their cover designer Molnar Kalman . . . who took the odd drawing (by Juhasz Istvan) and simply cut wee photos of the band members into it.
Although considered "hard to find" and "extremely rare" by people who try to sell this on eBay and the like, you cannot help but note they don't get many offers and in fact the price seems to fall the longer it is advertised.
That said, there are some nice beats and effects for those into sampling . . . although my copy cost just 50 cents and that seems about right.
Electric Love Muffin: Rassafranna
Actually, this isn't half bad, but you'd only know that if you paid your $2 on the basis of the oddly incomprehensible cover photo and calligraphy and took this home to discover the punchy alt.rock delights of this band from Philadelphia.
This album from '89 -- their second -- came right at the end of their short career and includes their very popular live favourite Venus, a cover of the old Seventies hit which sounds closer in spirit to the ramshackle Replacements than Shocking Blue's original or that by Bananarama.
Other highlights include Sperm of the Moment, Drunk and Horny, Down Easy and The Revolution Comes to North Street.
They were taken too soon.
Pink Lady: Pink Lady.
Not a lot wrong with this really, given the duo of Mie and Kei were enormously popular in the late Seventies and are the only Japanese act after Kyu Sakamoto (with Sukiyaki in the Sixties) to have breached the Billboard Top 100 (with their disco-pop Kiss in the Dark which opens this album from '77).
The were big on "love". Tracks here include Dancing in the Halls of Love, Show Me the Way to Love, Love Me Tonight, Give Me Your Love and Love Countdown. They also do a dance-lite version of Walk Away Renee.
Mie and Kei were idol singers in Japan who did cute dancing (see clip) -- they had unfeasibly long legs which take up the other half of this gatefold sleeve -- and translated that into a career of commercial endorsement, their own television show in Japan, songs in English and even an anime series about them (although, as with the Beatles' Yellow Submarine, others did their voices). They also tried their hand at a television comedy series in the US (tough, given they didn't speak English and had to memorise everything).
They didn't last -- most idols singers don't -- but recently they announced some kind of comeback. I'm happy with just the gatefold of this $2.95 cut-out album with backing vocals by the Pearl Divers.
Pink Lady, Pearl Divers . . . Hmmm.
Dean Martin: Happiness is Dean Martin.
Elsewhere has already noted here that Dean Martin was a man of Herculean indifference to life, talent, acting, the Mob, career, Sinatra . . . Everything except golf by all accounts.
He could and would amble onto the film set and deliver his lines with no rehearsal, and did much the same in the studio. Hand him a song, run through the tune, and he'd sing his way through it then go home. Even the liner note writer here Stan Cornyn says Martin was a man whose driving ambition was "to lead a Life of EPIC Sloth".
This album from '68 came out as he rode that wave of popularity after his television series in which he would "project an alcoholic aura from coast-to-coast, into millions of Puritan homes" (Cornyn again) and has all the hallmarks of being knocked of before a round at the club. Golf club that is.
Certainly no one would are suggest any time was spent on the cover art which relates to nothing in particular. Contains his hit Lay Some Happiness On Me and 11 other songs. But you pick up a copy for the cover.
Turbo Fruits: Echo Kid
On the creditable and credible Fat Possum label -- and in a cover so bizarre as to be indecipherable to Jacques Derrida -- come the Turbo Fruits, whose album I didn't buy because of songs entitled Naked With You, Mama's Mad Because I Fried My Brain, Get Up Get On Down Tonight, Broadzilla or Lotta Lotta Ladies.
I bought it because it was still sealed and about $5.
Anyone buying by the cover and titles (skit titles?) would be forgiven for thinking this was a comedy duo: the straight guy as ventriloquist, the dwarf-sized guy on his lap as his smart-mouthed dummy. That's certainly what I thought.
In fact Turbo Fruits are an alt.rock outfit -- pretty ragged and not that interesting in fact. My research tells me they are from Nashville and of no fixed line-up around guitarist Jonas Stein.
As with just about every album in this and previous columns, I enjoyed the cover more than the contents.
At various places around Elsewhere -- notably at From the Vaults -- there have been other tracks posted from albums in shameful covers. By way of example here are a few you might like to check out: Alfred E Newman's belched out It's a Gas from Mad Twists Rock'n'Roll; oddness from the Star Trek-infected Vulcaneers; the toothy charms of Chad Morgan; cosmic rock from Blue Jeans out of China . . . Enter at your peril.