Graham Reid | | 6 min read
Further to the previous selection of bad taste or just plain awful album covers, comes this batch . . . kicking off with PIL playing the old Magritte card with their album That What is Not.
Rene Magritte was the Belgian surrealist who painted a pipe and added the words "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (This is not a pipe), the point being it wasn't a pipe, but a painting of a pipe.
The PIL cover of a work by Italian artist/adman guru Armando Testa is therefore not what it looks like either of course.
It suggests, but isn't
It is that what is not.
But enough of thinking about things, this is much more fun . . .
Cerrone: Love in C Minor
The Italian disco-era star made a brief appearance in this article about Italian pop and rock, and since then I managed to locate a copy. Yep, $2.
Of course it was never about the disco -- which is actually not bad at all - but about the cover where he manages to make a dressing gown almost sophisticated and cool.
Helped too by the woman looking slightly annoyed by the photographer's interruption.
On the back cover Cerrone lounges in his dressing gown (with a cigarette) while behind him three girls straight from their gym class do some kind of workout, which necessitates one of them thrusting a fine pair of bottocks towards the camera.
Yes, it was pure class.
Bisera Veletanlic might be one of the greatest jazz and pop singers to come out of the old Yugoslavia -- and this album recorded in '75 finds her in especially good form on dark ballads and ambitious songs with fluid guitars by Kornelije Kovac -- but no one thought it was worth spending much time on the cover art.
This is often true in Eastern European countries.
As with bellydance which can package up astounding music in covers shot as an afterthought, you would never judge an album from the region by its cover.
Here Bisera looks like a mildly alarmed young Cilla Black.
Rusty Warren: Banned in Boston?
Warren wasn't banned in Boston as the cover concedes. "She rode out of town on her own steam. Naturally she was being chased. Rusty hasn't been chaste since . . ."
Yes, this was bawdy stuff by the nightclub comedienne recorded in the Surf Club in Revere Beach where the convention of the Knockers Up Political Society was held.
Jokes about knockers abound, she sings rude songs and then there is something like an open forum about sex to the sound of martini glasses being clinked.
"I don't like to drink but it makes me get drunk enough to do it."
The "sinsational" Warren recorded any number of albums, but this one with photos of people lined up to see her is the only one you need. Probably one more than that, in fact.
Various Artists: Alaska Hit Singles
If the cover art by Jane Terzis isn't seduction enough, titles like Ballad of the Yukon, Get Up Dogs, Lady of the Chilkoot, The Fisherman's in Town and Alaska Flag Song are certainly persuasive, surely.
Of course these aren't hit singles at all, the album is just a collection of songs about Alaska - from acoustic balads to western swing -- which John Ingalls (of John Ongals Productions) pulled together from 400 submitted for inclusion.
Some aren't bad and there is actually one genuinely famous musician here. The great and late Native American jazz saxophonist Jim Pepper on the thoroughly funky Polar Bear Stomp where he sings like Captain Beefheart and makes strange growling sounds.
Worth the price of admission, which was $4 if I recall.
Frances Yip: Frances Scores Hits
Nothing on this astonishingly cheap cover suggests the greaness of Hong Kong-born Frances Yip who has recorded almost 100 albums sung in about half a dozen languages.
She tours constantly, a Chinese New Year's Eve concert broadcast from Beijing was seen by around 400 million viewers and she was chosen to co-present the ceremonies when the British flag came down over Hong Kong in '97.
She is still touring and you could have caught the 65-year old's MOR act -- songs by the Carpenters etc -- at Sydney's Rooty Hills footy club earlier this year.
She has sung jazz with Patti Austin, performed with symphony orchestras all over the world and is widely considered Asia's first lady of song.
She's a bit casual with her choice of songs however, on this album without a trace of irony she sings Cher's Half Breed: "My father mnarried a pure Cherokee . . . the white-man always called me 'half-breed'."
A huge star, and one who can bang them into the back of the net too.
Sharie Lynn and Her Show-fers: Keepin' It Country.
Not to be confused with babilicious Canadian country singer Shari Lynn, this tiny singer -- take away the hair and heels, you'll see what I mean -- is very much in the mold of Dolly Parton but on this album generously shares the space with her band members, all of whom get to sing a song apiece.
But Sharie is certainly the star on ballads like Hold Me where she nails it, with a nice echo.
Never seen another album by her or know anything other than this, bought because of the Elvis-Vegas outfits worn by her Show-fers and that pink outfit topped by all that hair. She had me at "tassles".
Various Artists: title impossible to write
If you were to produce an album of Macedonian folk songs I imagine you too would want to wrap it up in a cover which suggested the best of Soviet architecture.
This is a building which looks designed to be home to thousands of faceless bureaucrats.
I have guessed that it is perhaps the Radio Skopje building . . . because this collection of folk and revolutionary songs was recorded for the station's 40th anniversary in 1984.
Nicely garish colour too.
Almost a Talking Heads' cover, without the irony?
Earl Nightingale: The Strangest Secret
The Tony Robbins of his era, Earl Nightingale was a motivational speaker who had been a radio commentator in Chicago who famously retired at age 35 in 1956.
He was also a survivor. He'd been on board the battleship Arizona when it was bombed in Pearl Harbour in 1941. He was only of 12 out of the crew of 100 who got out alive.
He won awards for his salesmanship and this album came with cover recommendations from J King, president of the Auckland division of the New Zealand Institute of Management, and J Alcorn, president of the Auckland Sales Executive Club.
It was designed to help men -- it is all about men as the breadwinners -- to become successful salesmen.
The strange secret? As far as I can tell from all the great names he quotes throughout it is "We become what we think about" and "think positively". Believe and be successful.
I did. I didn't.
Chunky A: Large and in Charge
Perhaps this is cheating, putting a comedy album in here.
But when I picked this up for a couple of bucks I didn't know that Chunky A was in fact Arsenio Hall and this was a collection of funky and hip-hop parodies.
To tell the truth, first time through I still didn't hear it as a parody. Hip-hop was going through an odd period in the late Eighties and songs with titles like Ho is Lazy, Skank Breath and Dope, The Big Lie didn't seem so far out of contention.
Certainly the front cover was no different from many others at the time. Of course the back cover photo was the clue. It was Hall's butt crack poking out over the top of his pants. Yeah, boooowy!
Elsewhere has a number of columns along these lines, click the title for the following
Five Odd Albums No One Should Own (but I do)
and there is probably much more . . .