Various / The Sound Of Switzerland
Having just got back from a few days in the country (part work, part holiday) I couldn’t resist adding this cover to the site, which in turn inspired me to hunt out a few more sleeves from the archive that struggled to get beyond the stereotypical image of a foreign country. All the covers in this gallery are for albums of music themed (often very loosely it has to be said) from a specific country, and all were handled by designers on a day where inspiration was either slow coming, the art director fancied going through a book of female models, or the deadline was fast approaching.
So, Switzerland. How about a piece of cheese with holes in? “Add a little Swiss flag in case anyone doesn’t quite get it.” Not CBS’s finest sleeve moment, but the sheer blandness of what they went with did make me smile. The could of course have gone for cows in a hillside pasture, or milkmaid, or both (I saw none of these, or indeed any fancy cheese.)
As the album also has a ‘sounds of the world’ logo on, I assume they may have done other countries, but disappointingly I cannot find any reference to them on the web, so do not know what national symbols they picked for anywhere else (a scrunched up newspaper full of fish and chips for the UK I assume.) Which might indicate that the sleeve design wasn’t the sales generator they expected!
I haven’t dared play it yet; the word Alphorn Solo at the top of the cover is very worrying.
Percy Faith / Continental Music
This album was repackaged at least three times in the US alone, beginning with an early Fifties scrapbook type design, then a classy monochrome image, and finally ending up with this full colour photograph when the label design was updated. This particular edition seems to be a budget reissue post-dating the CBS era as their details are blocked out with eye-catching grey panels.
The lead track is Madamoiselle de Paree, which seems to have inspired the uncredited (as far as I can see – I can’t get to my copy right now as we’re decorating.) cover shot. Continental women? Sophisticated, glamorous, and clearly set to tip the glass over you if you make a wrong move! Percy Faith’s bachelor pad style easy listening records nearly always featured glamour covers of one sort or another.
Various / Here’s To The Irish
Irish compilation? Hairy armed local holds out a glass of Guinness against a green photo studio backdrop. Job done, Ireland summed up, let’s finish the crate! This astonishingly dull cover was for a Transatlantic label album back in 1968. They had tapped into a large niche market judging by the long list of the Irish music releases listed on the back, which this compilation was designed to promote.
101 Strings / East Of Suez
“Space age easy listening jazz pop” according to whoever did the Discogs entry for this album! The 101 Strings crew cover ten tunes with Middle and Far Eastern connotations. Given these details, the American art director immediately thought ‘dance of the seven veils’ and the studio photo shoot was organised accordingly. And it’s not a low budget shoot by any means. The package was later licensed out to the UK’s Golden Guinea mid-price label in 1960, who kept the same slightly risque (for the times) cover photo seen here.
I’m sure that wire bikini top turned up on a budget Scheherezade sleeve too. And in the first Star Wars film.
Cambridge Language Series / Spanish
That’s Cambridge, Massachusetts. I have looked at language tuition albums on the site already, but this one just fits the stereotyped sleeves theme so perfectly I don’t mind repeating it. Spain? Bullfighting. Spanish blokes? Haughty. American tourists? Patronising. And always carrying a camera. There are lots more in this great American series to look out for; the Italian one has a mad looking couple on a scooter running over a local; the French one a confused couple trying to get directions off a local Gendarme, and so on. The shots are very ad-land in the set-up, while the typography and format is the same on each title.
The Islanders / Caribbean!
An early World Record Club musical repackage from 1963. The cover is very much a Caribbean cliché; a naked black model, carefully screened by a large gaily painted drum, with a few dried out palm leaves fringing the photo. Oh, and a pair of castanets lying on the floor if you look.
But as a sleeve it is very much in the WRC mould, a simple striking image, with only the album title (in a nice decorative font) on the front. I like the jaunty exclamation mark at the end of the word. We’ve looked at this UK based mail-order label before on the site if you want to see a few more, add World Record Club to the search box to bring them up.
101 Strings / Italian Hits
The same light pop orchestra riffing on Italian themed material circa 1961. The girls on the cover look more like hip young Americans propped up at a mocked up seafront bar to me, perhaps on an unused film lot? It certainly doesn’t give off much of an Italian vibe, but at least they haven’t got the leaning tower of Pisa in the background as some would have gone for. So perhaps it doesn’t really fit the gallery theme after all, but it is a great fashion shot, and I’ve cropped it and colour corrected it now!
George Shearing / Mood Latino
George’s cover designer gets everyone in the Latin mood … by using a topless model, and a Gypsy Hollywood 1961 style hair-do. Plus a few loose robes and an embroidered blanket. Nearly all Shearing’s covers featured sultry women on the cover as part of their marketing strategy. The photo here is credited on the sleeve back but I can’t get to my copy right now (see above). The autumnal colours from the studio shoot are matched by the typography and even the Capitol logo is printed in an orangey brown hue. The end result and the overall look of the sleeve is quite clever.
The Oriental Ensemble / Music of The African Arab
Let’s go out with a really over the top example. The people at the original Audio Fidelity label in America spent a lot of time on ensuring the quality of their recordings and pressings, and as much time again on often elaborate cover shoots. This typically lurid sleeve manages to squeeze in so many stereotypes, both real and imagined, it’s hard to know where to begin. Amazingly singer Mr. El-Bakkar who led the ensemble has his own website (even though he died in 1959) and sells CD reissues and fez logo boxer shots. So I’ll leave the last word on it to him: “Here in this recording is a realistic musical portrait of Islamic expression. It is not by any means complete, nor is it intended to be. But in these selections are mirrored through music visions of veiled women, the passion of love translated into musical expression, the humorous interplay of the two sexes, and many subtleties of Arabian life and custom. All are part of the incredible Arabian world.”