Jan 21, 2016: more updates! There seems to be no end to the supply of bad jazz covers. Keep them coming!
Most recent nominations added to end of post. Record number of LJC page views yesterday, must be the effect of holiday- TV re-runs schedules. Gaining traction, not quite yet viral.
UPDATE: Newly added, my nominations for the worst Blue Note covers. My, you’re brave. Foolish really, but someone needs to say it. Just because 800 are brilliant doesn’t mean there aren’t a half dozen below the line) So, nominations closing shortly, poll will follow, all bad things must come to an end.
Everybody loves LP cover art. There are many sites like Birkajazz and LPCoverLover dedicated to the beautiful stuff. There’s also plenty of sites celebrating the awful stuff too, but too much of that cover art is intentionally tasteless modern, mocking religion or less advanced cultures, and isn’t 50/60s jazz. Our sights are set higher.
Truly bad cover art must be sincerely intended, just ineptly conceived or executed, or a bad idea that should never have reached production stage, but somehow got through. Nominations from our esteemed readers, bulked up with a full shovel of cover-manure from me.
I’ve written some tasting notes for a number of the covers, why they strike me as deserving a place in the Jazz Cover Dungeon, but you are welcome to opine differently. I know someone, quite well as it happens, who operates on the ” you say first and then I’ll disagree with whatever you said” principle. Contrarians, do your worst. I couldn’t find any website commenting on covers – they just post them up, like that’s job’s done. That’s the trouble with the Internet: sometimes the description “shallow” is an exaggeration. It’s not that deep..
I welcome more nominations (artist,title and label) , before I go to the trouble of setting up a Poll and have usual suspects tipping up complaining “I can’t believe you’ve missed out (insert name here) after its done. You know who you are.
THE WORST JAZZ LP COVERS
The first tableaux expands on our starter trio of nominations with some nominations of my own.
The Oil and Vinegar cover promotes the aphrodisiac qualities of green leafy vegetables, possibly Romaine, Chard or broad-leafed endive, one for the jazz vegetarians I think. The others are all pretty awful in their own way, though some may curry favour with a few people. The Petersen/Terry Pablo breaks the first rule of photographic composition, where you follow the direction of the eyes, and both, at cross purposes, lead you out of the picture. Complete design car crash.
Mann’s hairy chest falls under the “Too Much Information” category, while the Australian Quartet shows how much the designer knows about Australia. Nothing, except they got kangaroos. Do kangaroos play jazz?
The Evans/Brookmeyer cover is example of an idea that spun out of control. One of the most useful items in any designer’s office is a wastebasket. It’s frequent use is midwife to better ideas. This one wasn’t used enough.
Savoy’s abandoned trumpets, trumpeters all gone off to the pub, the designer should have gone with them. An empty room – the complete opposite of an exciting performance, lazy, but cheap.
The Mel Lewis Gotcha is another pepper pun, seasoning the bird as it struts away, a mixed metaphor mangled. It might have worked given bolder execution, but it wasn’t.
Herbie Mann is in a class of his own. What is it about flute that “inspires” such artwork? The “Waterbed”! Would you admit to owning this? Anyway, somebody must have it.
Girlie covers are pretty simple to execute, so a misfire like a bikini springing out of the shrubbery takes some doing. Looks to me she may have forgotten the bottom half. I just keep thinking, what is on the poor girl’s feet – Wellington’s?
The Mann in the Morning in pyjamas is a classic Prestige title which puts some of his other covers to shame. Still, at least he is wearing pyjamas, the alternative cover a point not to ponder any longer than necessary.
Jazz Eyes gets a nomination in both best and worst. Personally, I like it.
You just have to wince at some covers: imagine the sign-off meeting between the designer of Pepper Pot and the Interlude label boss.
“Let me see if I get it. Art Pepper – Pepper Pot, yup I got that, scantily-clad broad dangling a pepper..she’s in a pot…sheesh. What do I think? It’s never wrong to have a half-dressed girl on a cover…great! Print me another thousand”
I’m pretty sure that is a pepper she’s got there, banish any other thoughts.
The Parker Story throne has to be seen to be believed, an example of good intentions misconceived, and crass execution. Parker was “Bird”, not a Head of State giving an audience. It is wrong on so many counts you could write a book on it, How Not to Design an LP Cover, People’s Exhibit 1.
Why are Lateef’s band all in hats and rain coats? It’s a sunny day and Rodin’s The Thinker is buck naked. Methinks this is a sly piece of 60’s Civil Rights humour. It’s either very good, or very bad, you decide.
Surf Ride? $50 says she falls off almost immediately.
Many Savoy covers are horrors. People look wooden, posed, uncomfortable and ill at ease. Gum-chewing studio photographer: “Mr Jones, make like you’re playing the piano, you know, like a piano player, not like a piano tuner. Umm, OK, whatever“.
Lateef’s Prayer to The East puts you momentarily in striking distance of highly venomous hooded cobra, so a prayer might be something that might cross your mind.
Nostalgia‘s park bench looks like a Central Park crime scene.
Even the girlie covers are a car crash, How I Play Jazz Piano – “Lie on top, honey. Mr Mehegan, will it take her weight?”
Cannonball = cannonballs (shakes head) At least there are three balls and not two, Ya know what I mean? as Adderley liked to say.
I don’t know Andre Hodair, and I think it unlikely I ever will, as a result of Savoy’s cover. Dreadful. Photographer’s first task is to put subject at ease. Great photographers would even shoot twenty or thirty frames before actually putting film in the camera. Hodair looks so self-conscious, poor man, an era before selfies with their practised false smile
Savoy: “where bad comes fitted as standard”.
Another label synonymous with dreadful cover art is the 50’s Hollywood label Interlude. As well as Pepper Pot (which is so kitsch I adore it), Rudolf targeted a number of other Interlude titles. Poking around in their catalogue I discovered more bodies under the floorboards. Terry Gibbs Esprit de Jazz takes the French Foreign Legion to the Dance of the Seven Veils show, while Victor Feldman takes his mallets to the morgue. You have to admire the crossed legs, presumably tapping to the music ringing on its ribcage.
You would think they might eventually run out of visual puns on pepper, Art Pepper, Pepper Adams, but no, an inexhaustible supply of pepper props. Think of the disadvantage of musicians with a name like Jones. Jones? Which one?
Every designer faces the dilemma of where to set the type. Reid miles built covers around the type, but not this designer, he has a bad idea where to put it. The Legend of Frank Rossalino is a typograpy disaster “Mister Rossalino, make yourself comfortable, relax, cross legs. Now, hold your jacket out please, on one side, full arm’s length. No, not both sides, just your right side. Open wide. I know it feels silly Mr Rossalino, but trust me, I’m a professional.”
The piece de resistance however must be Eddie Costa Quintet, with Eddie cast as Rosemary’s Baby, complete with evil twin mallets.
Amazing how many ladies are attracted to pianos. Pianists maybe, but pianos? Anyway, if in doubt, sit a girl on it. Fred Katz gets the girlie cover treatment, but why is he in his pyjamas, on the beach? One can but wonder.( Thanks to readers explanation, he’s playing on the LP with his “jammers”)
And as for Manny Albam’s “Drum Feast“, a bad idea executed with relish. It’s a turkey. Lionel Hampton strangely disembodied floating head but enjoying Paris by all accounts.
Dutch Sax, wholesome blonde in authentic “kraplap” (maid’s hat), with an album title that requires careful reading in order to avoid disappointment. Jimmy and Wes seem to be going Dutch on the sandwich.
More nominations for worst covers incoming, including some controversial choices some people may like. Me for instance, and Lou Donaldson’s Blues Walk , but tastes differ, it’s not all about agreeing. The poll will settle that.
Kenny Burrell in New York’s floating awning, yes, I forgot how naff that looks, considering what a great live set it is. Clark Terry’s Spanish Rice, good choice. How many times have I seen that in stores. Can you imagine the expression on their faces if you took this to the guys at the counter? Barely concealed pity.
The Farrell/Hayes cover is simply unbelievable – a girlie cover epic fail, as is the Byrd/Gryce, looks like sheer desperation on the part of the record label. Tom Scott is lying uncomfortably in a field with weeds growing out of him. The Artistry of Hubbard is a great album but why so glum and miserable, Freddy, with tracks like Happy Times and Summertime?
Coltrane’s Expression – what can I say? It’s not so bad.
Doctor’s orders! The good Dottorjazz has given the thumbs down to a block of Miles building-covers, and a Dolphy which beggars belief: an artist of god-like stature like Eric and all they can think of is a girl spinning a ’60s craze hula hoop. I could weep.
A bit harsh on Miles Collectors Items, but that Porgy and Bess cover always makes me think – cystitis? May be that just me.
Bink’s bunged in a bundle of bozos, including creatures from the ’70s: Faerie Fusion gets a slap, deservedly so, Chick’s no longer chic. And we thought it was all so great at the time. Eddie Harris don’s the mantle of Herbie Mann, with some
lemons oranges. What’s this? Sacré bleu! My favourite label that can do no wrong (read that again, slowly) takes another direct hit, on Lee Morgan’s Candy. First Blues Walk, now Candy.Anyone else think they are man enough to take on my favourite label Blue Note?
The Hubbard I find completely incomprehensible. The less said of the Miles, the better.
Home straight now, just a few dozen more.. a couple of Riversides I’ll throw in. Blues for Dracula, neat idea but trying too hard, bat hanging off one stick, blood stained other. How’s he going to to keep time? Blue Mitchell Out of the Blue I’ve had for several years and I still can’t figure out what the nut and bolt has to do with anything. May be the Organissimo forum has a thread on it.
Red Mitchell’s Rejoice! obviously a photoshoot out-take, mistakenly sent to the printers. Elvin’s Summit seems to have taken an overdose of laughing gas, or an exceedingly good spliff, while Dave Brubeck’s far eastern tour was clearly sponsored by an international airline – just can’t think of the name of it at the moment. Delta… United .. It’ll come back to me.
Hot on the heels of Eddie Harris’s oranges, more fruit, from the hippest of pianists, Jutta Hipp (L&R 1980) Is there a Frankfurt connection I detect here?
Having laid down a challenge to find Blue Note’s worst, there are so many outstanding great covers, I did struggle. I pick my own least favourites, light blue touch paper and run, as its sure to cause offence to someone’s favourites.
The Lou Donaldson’s Goodness Gracious is a reader nomination. To my mind, from a ’60s cultural perspective, strictly non-PC, it’s of its time. Men have always liked to look at curvacious ladies. Otherwise, many of us wouldn’t be here today.
All Mr Natural needs is a chalk outline around the shadow, showing where the body of Stanley was found, sax still in his mouth. A bad idea is always a bad idea. For the rest, they have little or nothing to do with the music, just a missed opportunity to create another great cover. Poor Joe Henderson gets sponsorship from Specsavers.
Airto’s Seeds on the Ground appear to be planted on quicksand, quick, radio for help. Hell, no hurry, contact the sheriff’s office when they re-open after the weekend.
Joe Harriot joins Freddie Hubbard in the ranks of Les Miserables. Photo editors seem to have some difficulty distinguishing someone feeling blue from someone head in hands, despondent, and about to call the Samaritans.
More readers picks below, no shortage of bad ideas.Remember Saxophone Colossus? See what they did with Rollins Falling in Love With Jazz.
The Joe Morello cover is a tad insensitive given Morello had eyesight problems from childhood, with cataracts so severe in adulthood he was effectively blind.
I’ve got it! said the Art Director,♪♫♪ Born to be wi-i-i-i-ld. Mount the bike Joe, the big bike, it’s right in front of you. You’re a drummer right? Hold these sticks, the snare’s in the saddlebags, on with the shades, now you look like you’re Going Places. It’s a wrap, we’re done, call me a cab.
More late entries. That Billy Taylor, you have to ask what was going on in the designers mind. DGMono has thrown in a double helping of dross, including a pop at some dodgy Blue Notes which I had overlooked. Stanley Turrentine is not coming out well – are those red roses a romantic gesture or condolences? And what is that girl doing in Jimmy’s coffee? How did she get in there?
Some of DGmono’s cover picks like the Farmer/Byrd are a guaranteed cure for insomnia, they are so dull. No fan of the quirky Don Martin Prestiges either. I’ve thrown The George Benson Cookbook in for the sheer pointlessness of assembling all those cookers. One could have made the point.
More Late entries. Bley’s Mr Joy looks sponsored by Nurofen. I’ve called for a steward’s enquiry into Wes Montgomery’s Full House, as there is a possible case of mistaken identity, but by way of a placeholder I’ve chosen another Wes Montgomery title, Willow Weep For Me, from the Department of The Bleedin’ Obvious.
Buddy Collette is cursed with the Herbie Mann jinx. Unlucky with his designer, he gets the work experience intern and no budget. I’ve nominated Blockbuster myself, because it is so cheap. No studio lighting or props, just two chairs for group shot, end of the hallway, under a ceiling shade. O.K everybody, I’ve borrowed a camera, now, look mean. As for the Swinging Shepherds I found two covers, not so much shepherds as monks, Walk Like a Franciscan (hands shoo-ing front and back).
Les MaCann’s Jazz Waltz leaves me at a loss for words. Doesn’t often happen.
I thought we might have run out of bad covers, but you all seem to have come up with more corkers. Hint to any budding cover designers out there, a focus on food is almost always a very bad idea. Not that it stops designers from believing that their food idea is a sure-fire winner. Food is personal, ideas are much more broad-based.
Sweep up, editorial discretion applied. Tailoring doesn’t seem Ahmad Jamal strongest suite and Shelly Manne’s drum schtick is enough to put you off these albums. I have a copy of The Stinger which I got very cheap in a record store because someone had stolen the cover – clearly not everyone thought it undesirable. However I doubt if people would be queueing up to steal The Modern Jazz Quartet jacket, from the still life school of portraiture, serious and wooden. Cal Tjader looks like he as accidentally snagged his
pecker schlong on the xylophone and just clubbed it with a mallet. Ouch! Horace Silvers’s shadow seems a pointless design artefact and adding colour to Peterson’s plugs is an example of applying life support to a seriously ill idea, Do Not Resuscitate.
I think we are done here now. Polling will be finalised shortly. It is going to take a while to turn this number of nominations into a poll, there is only me and it may take a little while.
UPDATE: No, just one more found during a current research project on Contemporary Records (more on that shortly) . You would think if you had just won a poll of the greatest jazz musicians I America, the home of jazz, you might come up with something more impressive than a fairground ride?
Exploring the Scene! How embarrassing is that? Happy New Year.
UPDATE: 2016: New Year, New baad jazz covers
John Graas looks like he is desperately trying to remember the security code on that chastity belt. (French horn. Oh, the irony). I’m sure he is a great swinger, but you can’t help feeling there was a moment when a bad career choice was made
What’s it to be John: tenor, alto, or bari? Or how about French horn? Not many of those players, you could be the Number One (in a field of one). Number one? Great! I’ll go with French Horn.
The Marty Paitch cover simply defies description. I think it falls in the “so bad it’s good” category, but it has given me an idea, for a future post: Girlie Covers!
But not of the Jack McDuff variety. That’s gynaecology, not girlie, which is an entirely different train of thought.
More nominations welcome, as you like.