50 YEARS OF LATIN ALBUM DESIGN

The Album Covers of Charlie Rosario

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Contributor Mitchel Cohen for State of the Arts NYC met with artist/musician Charlie Rosario on a recent visit in NYC. Rosario created many album covers for legendary salsa and Cuban musicians. Check out his interview with Mitchel and view Charlie’s  graphic designs.

 

REPRINTED FROM BONGOHEAD

I just wanted to show the people out there some of Charlie’s great album covers from the bad old days. He does graphic design as well as original art. Some of his pieces are painting, some are what he calls “sculpture graphics” – there will be more to come in future posts. Dig ’em and let me know if you want Charlie to do your cover, he’s ready, willing, and able!

Tito Puente – The King (Charlie’s first cover)

The interesting story behind this cover is that it started out as a concert poster. Charlie made a big psychedelic poster of Puente in art school (late 60s), and later went to a club in Chinatown, NYC, where Puente was performing. He wanted to sell the poster to Puente, the maestro, to let him know that he was a fan & that he had made this cool poster for him. Charlie Rosario’s brother, the percussionist Pablito Rosario, had recently joined Charlie Palmieri’s group (leaving Willie Colon), and Palmieri was also performing that night at the same club, so Charlie Rosario thought he’d visit his brother and see if he could meet Puente at the gig too. After waiting till the last set was over, he met up with the piano player Charlie Palmieri and asked him if he would help introduce him and show Puente the poster. When he saw it, Puente flipped over it the minute he laid eyes on it, and took it into Tico’s offices where they made it into the cover of his next LP. He paid Charlie about $100 on the spot. The art department at the agency cut the poster down to fit, losing a lot of fun details (Charlie had hidden a lot of humorous things in the imagery) but it still looked great – giving Puente just the image boost he needed with the youth of the day, updating his look for the boogaloo Woodstock Generation. People still to this day go nuts when they see it – but few know it is Charlie’s brain child, his debut into the world of cover art, his first entrepeneurial effort, and a real success with the musicians from the start.

Brooklyn Sounds! (friends of Charlie’s from the hood – Charlie’s poem is on the back)

Growing up in the Barrios of Brooklyn, Charlie used to play congas with a lot of cats and hang with bands. Here he did a cover for his friends in Brooklyn Sounds (a really raw trombone group playing salsa brava) – Charlie artfully used a contrasted-out photo he took of a typical hard-core ghetto tenement fire escape, transforming into an iconic piece of abstract pop-Latino art. Charlie did a few covers for Salsa Records up in the Bronx but soon grew tired of the subway commute, handing over the job to his buddy Angelo Velazquez.

La Fantastica – All Ears (exterior gatefold)
Another art school painting/collage that Charlie turned into a crazy gatefold cover for the short lived (but highly collectible) Ghetto Records.

La Fantastica – All Ears (interior gatefold)
Goes to show what’s good to your eyes on the outside may be good to your ears inside!

Orchestra DJ – Forget It

Orchestra DJ were more friends from Charlie’s neighborhood. Great band, on a tiny label (on Ralph Lew’s oddly named Lew Gas) with a freaky cover – what were they thinking? It’s certainly not your typical commercial Fania, but very effective in its guerrilla tactics, none the less. Charlie always thought outside the box, and had originally intended for the last question mark to be upside-down, but the printer thought he made a mistake and “fixed” it, turning it the ‘right’ side up. I guess the printer didn’t know ¿Spanish?

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