Prestige, as it has never seen before, through the alternative covers of the British Esquire label. Unlike previous collections of Esquire covers, this series is seen through the release schedule of the original Prestige titles, left, and the Esquire equivalent, right. Following the order of Prestige catalogue numbers, it tells the artistic evolution of Prestige as much as about Esquire. The early releases of the giants, Miles, Monk Mobley, Coltrane, McLean, Byrd and Rollins, through to the power-tenors and soul jazz in Esquire’s twighlight years, searching for a commercial formula that would stave off its final collapse, to no avail.
Uniquely among US overseas releases, Esquire Records were pressed in the UK with original US supplied stampers and not re-mastered locally, so are sonically the same as Prestige, in most cases showing van Gelder stamp and originating US matrix and plant codes. What differs are the alternative covers, a mixture of quirky native whimsy, kitsch graphics, alternative duotone colourings, and line-drawings based on the originals: sometimes you can see the original as inspiration, while others clearly start with different cultural reference points, the denizens of London’s smoke-filled Soho clubs and 52nd Street New York., two jazz-loving communities separated by only approximately the same language. Potayto, pottato. That is one of the things that make Esquire covers so intriguiging.
Why are covers of interest (umm, packaging, old-fashioned concept)? Well, what don’t downloads and The evil Silver Disk have? The cover is sort of the menu, that helps you decide if you want to eat here. It is the equivalent of the smell of the food arriving, before than the taste, it is part of the experience of consuming analog music. More interesting still they are a view through two different windows of the same thing.
This guide is fully on-line. You can scroll fairly quickly through a hundred or more album cover pairs, every pair enlarges to full screen, though the quality is variable where the best source is of poor photographic standard. The world’s ownership of cameras far exceeds the ability to use them effectively. Some of these records are very rare, and decent pictures of them rarer still.
Cover pictures are sourced from my own collection of seventy five Esquire titles, or the best I can find on the net, heavily retouched and resized 800×800 pixel to “art illustration” standard emphasising graphic design and not physical artefact. Defects rips tears, ringwear or blemishes, removed as best I can. Some of the most rare titles the picture quality is based on stretching a blurred thumbnail and not very satisfactory . If you have better, send me.
PART 1 – PRESTIGE / ESQUIRE
PART 2: NEW JAZZ/ ESQUIRE