Friday, October 29, 2010

U-30599 (1991)

Crackerbash (Imp)

I was never crazy about indie bands appropriating corporate logos, a trend that got a bit out of control in the 90s, but there was something cool about Crackerbash borrowing from Oregon’s own Copeland Lumber. Kind of a formative band for me, though I’m apparently alone in loving the subsequent Jr. High even more. But a nice label for Halloween I think, and a perfectly satisfactory final post for me.

SF-11400 (1961?)

A Varied Program Of Stereo Dynamics! To Scare Hell Out Of Your Neighbors (Stereo Fidelity)

One for All Hallows' Eve-eve, and I like to display the cover outside my front door at this time of year. The label isn’t so scary, nor the sounds particularly dynamic, with only the nationalist chant of the first track “Adolf Hitler” conjuring any shivers. I’ve got a few stereo test records, which I’ve never used for that purpose, though I find they’re most compelling in the way they graphically represent sound. A totally hasty, cut-rate release, but I’m glad they splurged on the color printing for this label.

RR 6521-1 (2002)

Pentagram – First Daze Here (Relapse)

If your band was named Pentagram would you be able to resist filling a round label with this?

(Halloween just ahead…)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

S7562 (1959)

Cecil Taylor Quartet – Looking Ahead! (Contemporary)

Handsome font and a spare design, this is one of my most favorite labels. Later pressings have the same layout, though with black letters on a faint-orange background. Not bad, but you can’t beat black.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

MR0139-7 (1996)

Fu Manchu "Asphalt Risin'" (Mammoth)

This one is so wonderfully direct, encapsulating Fu Manchu’s central preoccupation plainly: badass, tricked out vehicles. The b-side shown is a sludgy, low-gear version of Sammy Johns’ “Chevy Van.” This “three-on-the-tree” is totally rockin’.

Monday, October 25, 2010

MOD3 (1996)

Purple Heart Surgery Vol. 3 (Modern)

While not quite the impressive optical illusion of Vertigo, some labels just look cool when they’re spinning. This one is from a compilation of UK beat and psych called Purple Heart Surgery. The second side is by completely unidentified acts and one of ‘em with a song called “So Hard” should have been a hit (but I guess you need at least a band name for that).

CR-3075 (1959)

The Fabulous Wailers (Golden Crest)

Another colorful one. You'd think the "Golden Sound" of Golden Crest would favor the gold, no?

Friday, October 22, 2010

YV45013 (1967)

The Ugly Ducklings (Yorkville)

The great garage band makes an awkward attempt at blue-eyed soul. The a-side “Gaslight” is over-produced with horns and strings, and the instrumental b-side shown is a more stripped-down blues workout (which is to say, a total snore). I love the abstract swaths of pastel color on this Yorkville label, though confusingly their early singles and LP were released on “Yorktown” (?!).

L-1057 (c.1977) / L-1070 (c.1984)

Pioneers of the Jazz Guitar (Yazoo)
Yazoo’s History of Jazz

Another two-fer. I couldn’t decide between the elegant line-drawn peacock or the more colorful one, so I didn’t. Either way, a fantastic reissue label of early blues and jazz.

RR0278 (1978)

The Residents Duck Stab (Ralph)

Surprised this one hasn’t come up yet, though we did get the excellent Ralph one-off Eskimo. Ralph was The Residents’ Bay-Area label, which also released bands like Renaldo and the Loaf, Snakefinger and Tuxedomoon. They had a few general cartoony label designs, and this one might be the most common, but I think it perfectly reflects the kinds of sounds you’re likely to hear.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

GT-0053 (1979)

Roadrunner (Gusto)

One of the most hideous labels I’ve seen – a loud fanfare of unappealing colors. Fun collection of middling trucker songs though, and the all-American Gusto company still exists.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

ACL 1147 (1963) / AH 116 (1966)

Lew Stone And His Band featuring Al Bowlly and Nat Gonella –
10:30 Tuesday Night
(Ace of Clubs)

Nothing Was Sweeter Than The Boswell Sisters (Ace of Hearts)

A bit of a cheat, sneaking two related labels in one post (sorry Alexander), but I think they're most compelling when viewed together. These reissue imprints of Decca released LP comps of blues, jazz and big band 78s in the 1960s. Apparently, the Ace of Clubs were dedicated to UK acts, and Ace of Hearts covered American performers. Classy design all around, adopting vaguely psychedelic imagery later in the decade, and the covers are protected with the patented “Clarifoil” laminate. But it’s the really spiffy labels that I love, though I’m still baffled by the upside-down catalog numbers featured on the right side of each. About the music: Bowlly and the Boswells demonstrate that pop of the 30s and 40s need not be cloying.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

1703-221 (1972)

Timmy Thomas (Glades)

Two minimalist R&B gems – sounds like simply a drum machine and organ – with a label as comforting and evocative as the name of the company (based in Florida, naturally). The vocal side pictured has been covered countless times over the years. Thanks to JF for this one.

Monday, October 18, 2010

OSR-LPM-5015 (1966)

(Turn On) The Music Machine (Original Sound)

The band’s gimmick of machine-like precision (wearing all-black outfits and no pauses between songs in their live set) carries over to the center label. The small white lines that form the circumference not only look cool, but apparently also aid in calibrating your turntable! If you can’t make out the fine print along the bottom, it says: “When lines appear to stand still record is revolving at exactly 33 1/3 RPM.” It sort of works, but I’m more won-over by the stark font and clean design. Musically, their second album is even better, and I think they are actually much more soulful than the image lets on.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Warp (1996)

This should be pretty instantly recognizable to anyone with even a passing interest in electronic music - side one Aphex Twin's Richard D. James Album. Not just a classic of the genre, but one of those albums that steps up and represents to a wider audience what people deep in the scene have been up to. I could go on about this record, but it's such a monster that it would take too long to begin to do it justice.

I love this label design too. Seems like Aphex Twin liked to push buttons not just with listeners, but also with Warp. Warp has an obviously design-y flavor to their packaging, crisp and elegant. Then the releases from Aphex, the best-known artist on their roster, have all this crunchy, messy, sloppy artwork - the labels for I Care Because You Do are hand-written and barely readable, and I love the hand-drawn Warp logo on that record. And on this label, he copies and pastes (CTRL-C! CTRL-V!) the most unappealing part of the cover image - the pores on his face. And hairs. Yech. The whole thing looks like it took about 5 minutes to do, and then he shipped it off to Warp and went on with his afternoon and did something he was more interested in.

Like so many other great artists, it's attitude that makes Aphex Twin stand head and shoulders above his peers: a combination of insane, self-obsessed, virtuosic technique, offset by moments of seemingly flippant impulsivity and disregard for his work. Does he really care? If he does, he cares because you do.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Counterflow (2001)

Check out this cybernetic dolphin!

This is the 12" single from the Secret Frequency Crew's 2001 record Underwater Adventure Hop Secret Treasure. The album art and design are great: illustrations of this crazy underwater civilization with an army of cybernetic dolphins like this one and futuristic subs and stuff. The music is even better. Instrumental hip-hop with weird sound effects, a watery vibe and crisp production. It's one of those albums that when I'm in the mood to hear it, it's the only thing that will do the trick. Mysterious, shimmery, cinematic, great beats; hard to top it. The followup album to this, Forest of Echo Downs, is also pretty good, but in my book it's this one that's a classic. The 12" also has an Anti-Pop Consortium mix on it for good measure.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chimneyville (1977)

Chimneyville was an imprint of Malaco records, a soul outfit from Jackson, Mississippi. I first saw this nice bricked-up label on a grimy King Floyd 45 I found at a thrift store in Alabama. Man did King Floyd jam me out. I was just getting into southern soul, and that 45 felt so good, like James Brown had run headlong into a nasty, smoked-out, reggae-flavored Stax session. Anyway, this is not that record, but it's a much cleaner label than that King Floyd joint, which looked like it was used for target practice.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Volt (1968)

I LOVE this Volt label. The colors, the geometric layout, and especially the Volt logo. Check out that electricity! Zap! Crackle!

Plus, it's a funked-up soul instrumental of the Beatles, with a fun horn arrangement. Thanks, Bar-Kays!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Epic (1974)

This is a label I'm always happy to see. It's not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of my favorite label designs, but it's a really nice one. That much orange is a bold choice for anything, and the white circles and Epic logo work really well for me. Plus, one of my all-time favorite soul records has this label, Shuggie Otis's Inspiration Information.

This King Biscuit Boy record is not one of my favorite albums. It's one of my least-favorite kinds of music, "white blues," with wailing harmonica and disco flourishes. I picked it up because a couple of credits caught my eye on the back of the sleeve: accompaniment by The Meters and Dr. John, and produced by Allen Toussaint. However, this was back when I was still a naive young kid, before I learned that I usually can't stand The Meters and Dr. John after about 1972.

Don't get me wrong: the first few records by both Dr. John and The Meters individually are just solid gold. Untouchable. Out of this world. But, truth be told, both Dr. John and The Meters are responsible for a lot of pretty stupid garbage in the middle and later parts of their careers. And most of their collaborations take a bad turn pretty quickly. Maybe it's just a question of taste in production; I really don't like the type of sound they turned out together. Pretty unremarkable, middle-of-the-road stuff that doesn't have much of the fun that each had individually - The Meters with their hard-hitting, unapologetic funk, and Dr. John with his smoked-out bayou haze.

OK, I'll walk that back a little. There's one fantastic album that The Meters show up on a little later, The Wild Tchoupitoulas record. Groovy mardi gras indian flavored tunes, check it out.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Atco (1969)

I'm surprised that this blog has gone on for nearly a year without someone posting any Atco labels. Just a peek of this yellow circle coming out of a sleeve sends a thrill up my leg. Probably due to my deep and abiding love of the early Dr. John records that came out on Atco, Gris-Gris up through Gumbo. But I'll give anything on Atco a spin.

Vanilla Fudge don't seem to get much respect, but I think they had something going on. The self-titled first album is great, and most all of their records are a pretty good listen, especially when they're doing covers of soul classics (You Keep Me Hangin' On) or offbeat pop tunes (Some Velvet Morning) in their slowed-down heavy psych style. I feel like there should be a renewed interest in Vanilla Fudge right now, considering how "in" and "hip" screwed stuff has become recently with the kids. Maybe being what amounts to a cover band with a garage-y psychedelic hard rock flavor was an easy way to write these guys off once they faded from popular relevance, but it seems like a pretty damn cool idea nowadays.

Design-wise, it's not really that remarkable of a label layout. The logo makes me think of a stained-glass window. But I do have to say I really love that font used for the title text. It reminds me of the font on a self-inking date stamper.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Nemperor (1977)

This is one of those records that no one seems to know but should be snatched up whenever you see it in the dollar-bin. It's Jan "Miami Vice" Hammer doing some serious fusion jams with his keytar (Kent Lambert, lookin' at you.) There's a few decent tracks on here, but the first cut on side two, "Don't You Know," is just a delight. It was a favorite leadoff-track for mixtapes for me for a while. I think I heard the slightly-wicked-sounding bubbly synth bass intro from that track used as a sample on a This American Life bumper recently.

Anyway, classy design layout for Nemperor here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I do like the absolutely minimal labels, and this with reflective silver ink. Also a fine example of percussive lounge, with accordian too!
Utterly hilarious!

Monday, October 4, 2010


Some elegant design and typography here, and a really good record too- which is surprising given that it is one of those shameless collusions of the record industry with the travel industry. Now, that said, it is by no means legit middle eastern traditional music, but its not just persain tinged lounge either. Fine musicianship as well. And two comedy/novelty numbers, Filmon Wahbi is now on my to find list.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


My last post is for Chicago's Nones. Full disclosure, drummer Sara Jean is a good friend and one time roommate. The label is hand printed as is the sleeve and cover. I really love all the handmade, hand-printed visuals they included in the package. Regrettably, there are too many to post here.

Big ups to Alexander, thanks it was really fun!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Excellent Italian Greyhound - Shellac

One of the things I've always appreciated about Shellac has been their consistently awesome packaging and design. I wish I could post the entire package for Greyhound here because it's a lot of fun.