Nichols returns from beyond Antares to grace fans with a few Earthly classics.
Above is a more complete version of an image from our collection of actresses on polar bear rugs—an album sleeve featuring Star Trek icon Nichelle Nichols. The photo we used in the earlier post was just a close-up of this cover. Nichols sings standards on this 1967 platter, making passes at “Feelin' Good,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” and “That's Life,” among other tunes. Yes, we listened to it. We once called her a Renaissance woman in deep space, and she certainly does nothing to harm that reputation here. As she once demonstrated on Star Trek with a rendition of the 23rd century classic “Beyond Antares,” her voice is beautiful. Well, actually it's spectacular, a great instrument with good range and a tone as pristine as a violin. Hers is not the type of muscular singing that has taken over American pop music, a style that uses technique to bludgeon listeners into thinking something substantial is going on. It's a more delicate, more purely heartfelt approach. She's backed by a full orchestra, where we'd prefer to hear her with a jazz trio or quartet, but even so, damn—this woman really had it going on. Check out her version of “Tenderly” here.
Grier looks great fronting b-movie soundtrack.
Above, the front and rear sleeves for the original soundtrack to Sheba, Baby, with music by Monk Higgins, Alan Brown, and Barbara Mason. The tunes are nice, but we'll admit we're just posting this to be completist about Grier. We already shared the photo used for this cover but we wanted to include the nice shot on the back. Okay, all done. We'll take a Grier break for a bit.
I got your soft jazz right here.
Is Sophia Loren flipping off the camera? Sure looks like it, but we'll give her a pass—in Italy a raised middle finger doesn't mean what it does in the U.S. In fact, though Italians have dozens of hand gestures, we don't think a raised middle finger means anything. In any case we love this image of Loren on the cover of Jimmy Smith's LP Memories in Rhythm. We saw this at lpcoverlover.com recently and gave it a much needed clean-up. You can see the original image here. If you're thinking of the jazz Jimmy Smith who performed on the Hammond B-3 electric organ, it probably isn't him. There were many Jimmy Smiths in music and we have no way of knowing which this one is. We do know the record was pressed in South Africa, if that helps. Didn't help us. But there you go.
It's even nicer up here than you said. So where are we again? Like exactly. Like if I wanted to come here with someone else.
Keeping on the lookout for pulp style in unusual places, we ran across this GGA style sleeve for Francis Scott and His Orchestra's Moods for Twilight. It's part of a series of records that include Moods for Starlight, Moods for Firelight, and Moods for Candlelight, but this is the only one with cover art that could front a paperback. We're guessing the couple is supposed to be parked above L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, possibly on famed Mulholland Drive. What's this album sound like? Haven't heard it, but since it's orchestral renditions of pop hits we can guess that it's pretty cheeseball stuff, even for 1952. The artist on this was not credited.
Monroe goes for a spin in Italy.
Marilyn Monroe fronts this RCA soundtrack album sold in Italy featuring songs from the film Follie dell'anno, which originally appeared in the U.S. as There's No Business Like Show Business. There are four numbers written by Irving Berlin here and Monroe handles the vocals. If you want this platter it'll cost you probably a hundred dollars or more, so good luck with that. We're content to enjoy the sleeve. The shot of Monroe turned backward in her director's chair is one we've never seen before.
When the clock strikes twelve Jayne's ready to party.
Curvy Jayne Mansfield stars on these LP covers from the 1960s that caught our eye because of the clock striking midnight on all of them. You would think these are all from the same company, but no—Smashing Hit Parade, for example, is an album that despite its English name actually came from Japan's Union Records. The platters contain songs such as “Hello Mary Lou” by the Brooklyn Bluegrass Collective, and “Tonight, My Love, Tonight” by Dany Locker. Regardless of the musical content, the real attraction here is Mansfield. We'd love to see what she looks like around 3 a.m.
Work hard, play hard, die young, live forever.
Dorothy Baker's hit 1938 novel Young Man with a Horn tells a story inspired by jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, who, along with Louis Armstrong, was one of the most important early jazz soloists, but who drank himself to death in 1931, when he was only twenty-eight. Baker's protagonist is Rick Martin, who gets to live a couple of years longer than Beiderbecke before she knocks him off. Hope that didn't give too much away. The book was optioned by Hollywood and became a 1950 movie starring Kirk Douglas, which we talked about last year. The great cover, our primary interest today, was painted by British artist Josh Kirby, a legendary illustrator who during his long career did fronts for westerns, crime thrillers, James Bond novels, and non-fiction books, as well as creating many fronts and interior illustrations for sci-fi magazines. As you can see, he had a bold vision and a very confident hand. We'll keep an eye out for more of his work. This one is from 1962, for Corgi Books.
One good turn deserves another, and another, and another...
French illustrator Raymond Brenot, aka Pierre-Laurent Brenot painted many magazine covers and pin-ups, and a few paperback fronts, as well. He also painted sleeves for numerous records. You see a beautiful example above for French trumpeter Fred Gérard's Si nous dansions... en 16 tours. The close-up image shows the unique aspect of the art—its mise en abîme element, or what the Dutch call a Droste effect, an identical image within the image, with infinite repetitions implied.
The title of the record translates to “If we danced... 16 turns,” which is weird because there are actually twenty songs. The tunes cover various dance styles, such as mambo, Charleston, foxtot, etc., and we know what you're thinking. You're thinking sixteen dance styles must be covered. No—only nine styles are played, so the 16 tours part of the title is a mystery to us. If you know the answer to the riddle, you know how to reach us. But don't expect an immediate response—we'll be busy foxtrotting.
Update: It is incredibly informative having readers from all over the world. The answer came from Jo B. in France, who informed us: "16 tours is the rotation speed of the record in 1 minute."
A season for Joycing and re-Joycing.
Joyce Bryant is a former jazz singer who was very famous back in the day. When we came across two photos of her and couldn't choose between them, we decided to use both. In the first she's done up in a frosty silver motif, and the second one, below, shows her in normal mode. But maybe it would be more accurate to call her silver persona the normal one—she performed in a silvery hairdo and shiny dresses, and the look earned her the nickname “The Bronze Blond Bombshell,” among others. Her singing career ran from the late-1940s until 1955, when she stopped performing to focus on church activities. That's the condensed version. The long version is she managed to keep the music industry's hustlers, gangsters, and drug dealers at arm's length for years, but the mighty stress of doing that, plus performing nightly, was eventually too much, and she just had to leave. She made a comeback ten years later as a classical vocalist. She's still around at the age of eighty-eight. The year on the top photo is 1953, and on the bottom it's unknown.
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