Wednesday, July 13, 2016

96. Norah Jones - Come Away With Me

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It was in a mall sometime in 2002 (or 2003) where I first saw her face on a CD album cover. "She's new," I said to myself without even trying to find out how her songs sound like. Some time later in about
the same year I saw a girl on TV who was driving a car in an empty highway and singing a song I've never heard before. The song was "Come Away With Me." The driver was the girl whose face was on the
cover of the CD album that I saw at the record store. I thought that before this, the last album by a female artist that I really treated seriously enough was by Diane Reeves which was a hit in 1987.

Some more weeks later  (in about the same year)  I was in a record store again looking for some 1970s and 1980s  rock albums  that I thought I've missed.  Of course, I was trying to avoid the new releases
with harsh voices singing the leads in the songs, which I blamed (is this the right word?) on the Rode mic (am I correct?).

After some  minutes  of scanning  through the racks I saw  the face on the cover again.  The salesgirl at the store  offered to let me  sample some tracks  from a promo disc.  It was Norah Jones.  With the
headset still on my ears I signalled the salesgirl to wait until I've finished sampling all the songs in the album. Actually I was only listening to "Don't Know Why" from start to finish. This is the opening track
and it has always  been the song that  makes me  remember my first glimpse of Norah Jones to this day, the face on the cover of Come Away With Me.  And of course, the song "Cold, Cold Heart" which I've
been familiar with since I was a child.

It is July 2016 and I am writing some thoughts to go with my tweak of the album cover for my blog. Surfing the web,  I discovered two things.  The first was that Norah Jones is a daughter of Ravi Shankar,
the Indian exponent of the sitar who became associated with The Beatles. The second was that it was a Neumann M49 mic that Norah Jones used to record the song "Come Away With Me." 

Learning about her father I am glad I that darkened the original album cover photo for the work above. She looks more Indian on the monochrome. 

This is Geetali Norah Jones Shankar on the cover.

No. 52, Billboard, The 300 Best-Selling Albums of All Time

Design & art direction by Jessica Novod, photo by Joanne Savio. Album produced by Jay Newland, Arif Mardin, Craig Street & Norah Jones. Blue Note 2002.

Norah Jones' debut is a mellow, acoustic pop affair with soul and country overtones,  immaculately produced by the great Arif Mardin.  Jones is not quite a
jazz singer, but she is joined by some highly regarded jazz talent:  guitarists Adam Levy, Adam Rogers, Tony Scherr,  Bill Frisell, and Kevin Breit; drummers
Brian Blade, Dan Rieser, and Kenny Wollesen; organist Sam Yahel; accordionist Rob Burger; and violinist Jenny Scheinman. Her regular guitarist and bassist,
Jesse Harris and Lee Alexander,  respectively, play on every  track and also serve as the chief songwriters.  Both have a gift for melody,  simple yet elegant
progressions, and evocative lyrics.

Jones, for her part, wrote the title track and the pretty but slightly restless "Nightingale." She also includes convincing readings of Hank Williams' "Cold Cold
Heart," J.D. Loudermilk's "Turn Me On," and Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You." There's a touch of Rickie Lee Jones in Jones' voice, a touch of Bonnie
Raitt in the arrangements;  her youth and her piano skills  could lead one to  call her an Alicia Keys for grown-ups.  While the mood of this record stagnates
after a few songs, it does give a strong indication of Jones' alluring talents. AllMusic Review by David R. Adler

The album won eight awards (Jones won five of the awards) at the Grammy Awards of 2003,  including Album of the Year, as well as Record of the Year and
Song of the Year for "Don't Know Why".  Although she was happy about her success,  Jones felt bad about sweeping the Grammy Awards.  In an interview for
60 Minutes, Jones told Katie Couric:

"I felt like I went to somebody else's birthday party and I ate all their cake. Without anybody else getting a piece. That's how I felt." wikipedia

(A) Don't Know Why - Seven Years - Cold, Cold Heart - Feelin' the Same Way - Come Away With Me - Shoot the Moon - Turn Me On

(B) Lonestar - I've Got to See You Again - Painter Song - One Flight Down - Nightingale - The Long Day is Over - The Nearness of You

"Don't Know Why" music video from emimusic on YouTube.



Saturday, July 2, 2016

95. Billy Joel - The Stranger

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In this work Billy Joel is  playing chess with The Stranger.  I thought his deep concentration was too much for a harlequin mask.
Well, actually it's just a mirrored image with the reversed letters removed and the chessboard and pieces added.  Some Liquify
filter applications on the pillows and the sheets and. . . , well it looks like a draw.

The real story is told below.

The Stranger’s cover art shows Joel lounging on a bed, glancing down with a look of despondent  contemplation at a (harlequin)
mask.  On the wall  behind  him hangs a pair of boxing gloves  (Billy Joel used to box).  Coupled  with the  lyrics  from the title
track,  a story is  created  that differs from  the other tracks.  Joel ditches  pseudonyms and  third-person  narration  and tells a
personal tale of doubt and identity.  The first words  Joel lets out are,  “Well we all have a face that we hide away forever/And
we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone.”

With this introspective  song and artwork,  Joel “hung up the gloves”  and fell victim to someone  who had a side that was never
shown. The personality from the cover and vulnerability of the song set up the rest of the tracks to undertake a deeper meaning,
transcending beyond entertaining tunes. Review by Ryan Glaspell on Puluche; notes in parenthesis are by Bob Egan on PopSpots

Photo from PopSpots

No. 70,  Rolling Stone,  The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time;  No. 138,  Billboard,  The 300 Best-Selling Albums of All Time;
No. 246, The Virgin All-Time Album Top 1000.

Photo by Jerry Abramowitz. Album produced by Phil Ramone. Family Productions/Columbia 1977.

Joel describes the sessions for the album as "a blast" and as the breakthrough album with four hit singles. The Stranger contains
nine songs.  Songwriting  on "Movin' Out  (Anthony's Song),"  "She's  Always a Woman,"  "Just the Way  You Are,"  "Everybody Has a
Dream," and "Only the Good Die Young"  was completed  before recording,  while "Vienna," "Scenes from an  Italian Restaurant,"
"The Stranger," and "Get It Right the First Time," which originated as short tunes  or musical fragments, were completed  in the

Lyrically, the album's approach is decidedly narrative; each song tells a story. The seven-and-a-half-minute epic "Scenes From an
Italian Restaurant" began as a shorter song entitled "The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie," which became the third section of "Italian
Restaurant." While composing "The Stranger,"  Joel whistled the track's signature theme for producer Phil Ramone, claiming that
he (Joel) needed to find an instrument to play it. Ramone replied: "No, you don't. That's 'The Stranger,' the whistling." wikipedia

(A) Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) - The Stranger - Just the Way You Are - Scenes from an Italian Restaurant

(B) Vienna - Only the Good Die Young - She's Always a Woman - Get It Right the First Time - Everybody Has a Dream/The Stranger (Reprise)

"Just the Way You Are" live from MAXFMTV on YouTube.



Thursday, June 30, 2016

94. Elvis Presley - The Sun Sessions

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This is one of my first works and  it was because when I started, I chose the cover designs based on the  500 Greatest of All Time  listed by Rolling Stone Magazine. And then I realized there were lots of
interesting album covers that were not included in the list but I chose this  one because I am a fan of Elvis.  He was 20 years old when I was born halfway  across the globe from where,  in 1955, he was
becoming popular. We were both born on January 8.

I could not find the proper credits for the photo although I found that this album has other cover designs too.  I chose to work on this one because it is the King in action in his early days. The image of a
record on top of a turntable disc with the tone arm on it and the album sleeve leaning on the upright turntable cover - which I gazed as I listened to the music - this is exactly what I was doing at home. 

On this work the original image is at right. There are seven images in each of the four columns at left, but only one image in each column is a whole. The reproductions of the upper and lower halves of
the image above and below the whole are meant to give the impression of several Elvises dancing in sync, and perhaps deceive the looker that one of the pairs of legs out there is out of sync.

The Pelvis alone is in sync with Elvis.

No. 11, Rolling Stone,  The 500 Greatest  Albums of All Time;  No. 15,  Rate Your Music,  The 100 Greatest  Albums of All Time.

Art direction by Ria Lewerke, design by Pietro Alfieri, hand tinting by Theresa Alfieri-Weinberg.
Album produced by Sam Phillips from recordings at the Sun Studios, 1954-55. RCA 1976. 

The album  features most of the tracks  recorded at  Sun studio by Sam Phillips,  the head of Sun Studios.  Phillips  signed Presley
after hearing a song that he had  recorded for  his mother on his birthday. It includes  "That's All Right" one of the few recordings
regarded as "the first rock and roll record." wikipedia

Many believe  rock & roll was born on July 5th, 1954,  at Sun Studio in Memphis.  Elvis Presley,  guitarist  Scotty Moore and bassist
Bill Black were  horsing  around with "That's All Right, Mama,"  a tune by  bluesman  Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup,  when producer Sam
Phillips stopped them and asked, "What are you doing?" "We don't know," they said. Phillips told them to "back up and do it again."

The A side of Presley's first single (backed with a version of Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky"), "That's All Right" was issued by
Sun on July 19th. It may or may not be the first rock & roll record. But the man who would be King was officially on wax. Bridging
black and white,  country and blues, his sound was playful and revolutionary,  charged by a spontaneity and freedom that changed
the world.  "It's the blues,"  critic Greil Marcus  wrote in his classic book Mystery Train. "But free of all worry,  all sin;  a simple joy
with no price to pay." Rolling Stone

(A) That's All Right (Mama) - Blue Moon of Kentucky - I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine - Good Rockin' Tonight - Milkcow Blues Boggie -
You're a Heartbreaker - I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone - Baby, Let's Play House

(B) Mystery Train - I Forgot to Remember to Forget - I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin') - I Love You Because (First Version) -
Tryin' to Get to You - Blue Moon - Just Because - I Love You Because (Second Version)

"I Love You Because" music video from Frances (kindhearted) on YouTube

Previous: The Prodigy - The Fat of the Land

Next: Billy Joel - The Stranger

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

93. The Prodigy - The Fat of the Land

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The crab is in the attack mode and the blurs suggest it is moving and ready to strike. We don't see animals, let alone crabs on album covers as often as we see people
or something else - and this makes this album cover art one of its kind. 

Having lived by the sea,  I've been familiar with crabs since I was a small boy and I know that even if its claws are raised,  which means that it is  being aggressive, it
does move backward as well as forward,  depending on the situation, or its perception of the predator or the prey.  Sand crabs are lightweight, light-coloured and can
run fast; mud crabs are heavier,  look more calculating and some have bright colours like the one on the album cover.  Looking aggressive may just be a bluff for crabs
can turn sheepish when cornered, but crabs are ambivalent all the time and their claws are always raised when they feel threatened.

Talking of colours,  crabs, like most, if not all crustaceans,  turn orange when heated or cooked.  Crabs that live in hot springs are orange-coloured even when they're
still alive. Talking of cooking,  crabs do remind us of tasty food, and it's the claws, the part that looks most menacing to us that is the fat of the land.  But most crabs
are omnivorous although some are scavengers.  It has been said that it's the  scavenger kind that cleans up the sea of dead matter.  

The album title comes from the old English phrase 'living off the fat of the land', which means living well or being wealthy. wikipedia

So,  who's  living  off the  fat of  the land?

Here's the original album cover art design.

No. 269, The Virgin all-Time Album Top 1000

Art direction, design and photography by Alex Jenkins. Album produced by Liam Howlett. XL, Maverick 1997. 

It’s a particularly well done piece of graphic design done by Alex Jenkins, the man who worked with Prodigy
founder Liam Howlett to design the cover.  With some Photoshop voodoo and a little work on the perspective
of the photo, Jenkins made it look like the viewer is being  attacked by an oncoming predator (which was, in
fact, only four inches long).

“I loved this cover,” Howlett is quoted as saying,  “because I thought the picture had real attititude. It looks
like the crab is saying,’ This is my beach.'” Jackontheweb

The Fat of the Land was touted as the album that would bring electronica/techno to a worldwide audience (Of course, in Britain, the group already had a staggeringly
large following that was  breathlessly awaiting the album.)  The Fat of the Land  falls short of masterpiece status,  but that isn't because it doesn't deliver.  Instead, it
delivers exactly what  anyone would expect:  intense hip-hop-derived rhythms,  imaginatively  reconstructed samples,  and meaningless  shouted lyrics from Keith Flint
and Maxim. Half of the album does sound quite similar to "Firestarter," especially when Flint is singing.

Granted, Liam Howlett is an inventive producer,  and he can make empty songs like "Smack My Bitch Up"  and "Serial Thrilla" kick with a visceral power,  but he is at his
best on the  funky hip-hop of  "Diesel Power" and "Funky Shit,"  as well as the mind-bending  neo-psychedelia of "Narayan"  and the blood-curdling  cover of L7's "Fuel My
Fire." "Firestarter" and all of its  rewrites capture the fire of the Prodigy at their peak, and the remaining  songs have imagination  that give the album weight. The Fat
of the Land doesn't have quite enough depth or variety to qualify as a flat-out masterpiece, but what it does have to offer is damn good. Stephen Thomas Erlewine for AllMusic

(A) Smack My Bitch Up - Breathe

(B) Diesel Power - Funky Shit

(C) Serial Thrilla - Mindfields - Narayan

(D) Firestarter - Climbatize - Fuel My Fire

"Fuel My Fire" live from Nick Machiavelli on YouTube.



Previous: Kate Bush - Never for Ever
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Friday, June 17, 2016

92. Kate Bush - Never for Ever

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Some record  album covers  translate okay to a smaller size – whether it be a CD booklet or a computer  thumbnail image.  Others, however, have rich  detail which  gets lost when the image is reduced.
Kate Bush’s 1980 album Never For Ever is one such album.

Painted by artist Nick Price, who had previously  provided the cover art for Bush’s 1979 Tour program, it features a myriad of fantastical creatures flying out from under her windblown skirt.  Symbolizing
dark and light,  a fang-baring bat and a swan are the  most predominant.  Bush described the cover as  “an intricate journey of our emotions:  inside gets outside,  as we flood people and things with our
desires and problems. These black and white thoughts, these bats and doves, freeze-framed in flight, swoop into the album and out of your hi-fis. Then it’s for you to bring them to life.” (Kate Bush Club newsletter, Sept. 1980) Music to Eat

My own personal observation  is that Nick Price  (at the instance of Kate)  was portraying a dreamy surrealism  in the tradition of the Early Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch.  This album cover art
bears semblance  with The Garden of Earthly Delights which is attributed to Bosch.  In the work above, the original album cover art design is at extreme left.  Its right half was flipped and added on the
right in order to mirror itself. The unflipped right half was added farther on the right in order to mirror the flipped half. I would call this a 'Bush flip', somewhat the opposite of but not very much unlike
Bosh triptych.

While the art of the  older masters was  based in  the physical  world of everyday experience,  Bosch confronts  his viewer with,  in the words of  the art historian  Walter Gibson,  "a world of dreams and
nightmares in which forms  seem to flicker and change before our eyes".  In one of the first known  accounts of Bosch's paintings, in 1560 the  Spaniard Felipe de Guevara  wrote that Bosch was regarded
merely as  "the inventor of monsters  and chimeras".  In the early  seventeenth century,  the artist-biographer  Karel van Mander  described  Bosch’s work as  comprising  "wondrous and strange fantasies";
however, he concluded that the paintings are "often less pleasant than gruesome to look at". wiki

Here's the work of Nick Price.

Painting by Nick Price, direction by Kate Bush. Album produced by Kate Bush and Jon Kelly. EMI (UK), EMI America (USA), Harvest (Canada) 1980.

Never for Ever has Kate Bush  sounding vocally stable and more confident,  taking what she had put into her debut single "Wuthering Heights"  from 1978 and administering  those facets into most of the
album's content.  Bush's dramatics and theatrical approach to singing begin to solidify on Never for Ever, and her style brandishes avid seriousness  without sounding flighty or absurd.  "Breathing," about
the repercussions of nuclear war, conveys enough passion and vocal curvatures to make her concern sound convincing, while "Army Dreamers" bounces her voice up and down without getting out of hand.
"Babooshka"'s  motherly charm  and flexible  chorus make it one of her best tracks, proving that she can  make the  simplest of lyrics work for  her through  her tailored vocal acrobatics.  The rest of the
album isn't quite  as firm as her singles,  but they all sport a more  appeasing and accustomed sound than some of her past works,  and she does manage  to keep her identity and  characteristics intact.
Mike DeGagne for AllMusic; abridged.

(A) Babooshka - Delius (Song of Summer) - Blow Away (For Bill) - All We Ever Look For - Egypt

(B) The Wedding List - Violin - The Infant Kiss - Night Scented Stock - Army Dreamers - Breathing

"Babboshka" music video from KateBushMusic on YouTube



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Monday, June 13, 2016

91. Ramones - Ramones

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On this work, the original album cover art design is at centre. Its bottom had been converted to negative. The uncoverted bottom half was then flipped and pasted on the left and on the right sides in
order to fill the remaining spaces of an 18x10 resolution frame. Finally, the whole image was processed with Angled Strokes.

Initially, the Ramones wanted an album cover similar to  Meet the Beatles! (1964), and subsequently had pictures  taken in that style by Danny Fields  but Sire was dissatisfied with the results. The art
direction was by Toni Wadler and,  according to cartoonist  John Holmstrom,  the Meet The Beatles!  cover idea came out "horribly."  Wadler later chose a photo by  Roberta Bayley,  a photographer for
Punk magazine for the cover.The black and white photograph on the front of the album was originally in an issue of Punk.

The cover photo features (from left to right)  Johnny,  Tommy, Joey and Dee Dee Ramone,  staring at the camera with blank faces.  They are all wearing  ripped/faded blue jeans and leather jackets,
standing upright against the brick wall of a private community  garden called  Albert's Garden, located in the Bowery  neighbourhood of New York City  between Bowery Street and Second Street. The
stance of the group  members in the photograph would influence their future cover designs as well, with  the majority of their succeeding  albums using a picture of the band on the front cover. Music
historian Legs McNeil states that "Tommy [is] standing on his tip-toes and Joey [is] hunched over a bit." 

The artwork became one of the most imitated album covers in music. The image of a band in front of a brick wall dressed in ripped jeans and leather jackets was copied by Alvin and the Chipmunks
in Chipmunk Punk. Ramones's artwork was ranked number 58 on Rolling Stone's 1991 list of 100 Greatest Album Covers. wikipedia

No. 33, Rolling Stone, The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time; No. 52, Rate Your Music, The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time;
No. 100, Entertainment Weekly, 100 Greatest Albums Ever; No. 232, The Virgin All-Time Album Top 1000.

No. 33, Music Radar, The 50 Greatest Album Covers of All Time; No. 58, Rolling Stone, The 100 Greatest Album Covers. 

Photo by Roberta Bayley, courtesy of Punk magazine. Album produced by Craig Leon & Tommy Ramone. Sire (US & UK), Philips
(Europe), 1976.

Nearly 40 years after its release,  one of rock's landmark  albums is reported to have achieved gold status in the US. Ramones,
first released on 23 April 1976 was certified as gold by the Recording Industry of America on 30 April 2014. That means it has
now sold more than 500,000 copies.

Ramones was greeted  ecstatically by critics on its release, especially in the UK. "As a punk artefact, it separates the men from
the boys,"  wrote Nick Kent in NME.  "If you love  hard-ass  retard rock,  you'll  bathe in every  groove.  If you  pride  yourself on
being a sensitive human-being, this record will gag on you like a gatorade and vermouth fireball."

In the Detroit magazine Creem,  which always championed loud guitar rock, Gene Sculatti wrote:  "Serving its radical function,
the Ramones'  debut  drives a  sharp  wedge  between  the  stale  ends  of a  contemporary  music  scene  bloated  with graying
superstars and overripe for takeover. Right now, the Ramones have their hands on the wheel." The Guardian

(A) Blitzkrieg Bop - Beat on the Brat - Judy is a Punk - I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend - Chain Saw - Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue - I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement

(B) Loudmouth - Havana Affair - Listen to My Heart - 53rd and 3rd - Let's Dance - I Don't Wanna Walk Around with You - Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World

"Beat on the Brat" live from Elias Merida on YouTube.



Previous: Michael Jackson - Dangerous

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Friday, June 10, 2016

90. Michael Jackson - Dangerous

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On this work, the original album cover art design is at centre. Parts of it are mirrored on the left and on the right. The main idea to give emphasis to the eyes in the finished work is manifest
with the addition of the  eyes on both sides of the album cover art.  The whole work was finished with craquelure.

Artist Mark Ryden went all out on the symbolism for the album cover of Michael Jackson’s 1991 album, Dangerous.
The cover features Jackson peering from  behind a circus-inspired foreground.  On the right sits a dog wearing the
crown and robe of Napoleon on His Imperial Throne, while a bird king sits on the left.

Possible Illuminati symbols include the all-seeing eye above exit of the Old Mill-type ride.  The animals who enter
the ride between two Masonic columns with a pirate skull and bones above emerge dead on the other side while a
young Michael and another kid with a ‘M’ on his t-shirt survive.  The world is depicted upside down from how it is
usually represented.

The elephant has a ‘9’ on its  forehead.

The ringmaster has a ‘7’ on his top hat.

It’s difficult to interpret  all the meanings of all the symbols  used on the cover of Dangerous,  especially since the
artist routinely uses tons of symbolism in his work.

The old  man at  the bottom  had been  identified  as PT Barnum,  Aleister Crowley,  and Adam Weishaupt.  In my
opinion,  he definitely looks like Barnum. Illuminati Symbols

Paris Jackson gets her dad's album cover tattooed on her arm.  She was only 11 years old when her father died in
2009. Vanity Fair

This is the original album cover art design.

No. 20, Billboard, The 300 Best-Selling Albums of All Time; No. 325, The Virgin All-Time Album Top 1000.

Original album cover artwork by Mark Ryden.  Album produced by Michael Jackson, Teddy Riley, Bill Bottell
and Bruce Swedien. Epic, Sony 1991.

Robert Christgau gave Dangerous a grade of A-, saying it was Jackson's "most consistent album since Off the
Wall". Alan Light of Rolling Stone described Jackson as "a man, no longer a man-child, confronting his well-
publicized  demons  and  achieving  transcendence   through  performance."   Stephen  Thomas  of  AllMusic
described  the  album  as  "a much  sharper,  riskier  album  than  Bad."  Dangerous  received  four  Grammy
nominations including  three for Jackson including  Best Pop Vocal Performance  for 'Black or White', as well
as Best R&B Vocal Performance  and Best R&B Song for  'Jam',  while Teddy Riley and Bruce Swedien won the
Grammy for Best Engineered Album - Non Classical. wikipedia

(A) Jam - Why You Wanna Trip on Me - In the Closet

(B) She Drives Me Wild - Remember the Time - Can't Let Her Get Away - Heal the World

(C) Black or White - Who is It - Give in to Me 

(D) Will You Be There - Keep the Faith - Gone Too Soon - Dangerous

"Heal the World" from michaeljacksonVEVO on YouTube.



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