Cha cha cha

Chris Meloche in Canada found this nice Cha Cha Cha album by Cugat in his local thrift store a while back, so I’ve dug out two more on the same lines for this post.  These Latin themed albums were very prolific in the Fifties and into the early Sixties. After they had sold what they were going to sell, the content and sometimes packaging were often then licensed out to budget labels to wring a little more mileage out of material which was beginning to go out of fashion.  The covers all feature a common theme of a dancing girl and / or tom toms, and you knew exactly what to expect once you spotted one.

Xavier Cugat‘s album is unsurprisingly a cut above, with higher production values.  The woman on the front is beautifully photographed in a twisting dance pose, and the titles arranged around her with the “cha cha cha” text given a jaunty feel in three colours. Xavier’s name is somewhat second fiddle to all this, while the nice early Columbia logo box appears top right.  The cover model turns out to be Xavier’s wife, who was also a singer and performer under her stage name Abbe Lane (no connection!). The album came out in 1955 and Chris has been lucky to find a copy with very little wear and tear.  It was also licensed across Europe.  

Latin Heat from 1964 by contrast clearly had much less of a design budget, with a woman just dancing along a line of toms toms.  This seems to be a reissue of an earlier album, it’s hard to tell, but might equally be a low budget recording specially for the cheapo label Presto.  The hand drawn title is quite large and rather fun, certainly hard not to miss in the record rack.  The Latin Big Band and track details seem tiny in comparison.

Lastly comes Mambos and Cha Cha Chas, with percussive instruments surrounding another dancing woman. The recording actually gets a few good reviews on the web, and is by Carlo Peretti. As it was released by the Society and Saga labels in the mid-1960s, it might also be an original.

Needless to say there are zillions more out there on the web, indeed you could happily spend several weeks trying to see them all!

About simon robinson

Having worked as a graphic designer in the music industry, mainly in the reissue sector, I now concentrate on the design and publication of books about popular culture - and even write some of them.
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