Havana 3 a.m.

Above is the elegant cover design of a UK pressing of the Cuban bandleader Perez Prado’s 1956 album Havana 3 a.m.: a recent vinyl acquisition. The original cover featured a scantily-clad dancer and a percussionist, which may have been a bit much for the buttoned-up Brits of the day. Even so, it is (I think) a better representation of the frequently raucous & unsubtle music on the disc than the image shown here.

While it’s not without its elegant moments, the main musical ingredients are blaring horns and insistent percussion–combined in forceful, spacious arrangements, accompanied here and there by piano, and punctuated by the grunts and whoops of Prado himself. It’s music made for the intoxicated & sweaty half-dressed reveller, and to my mind has more in common with, say, James Brown than it does with Frank Sinatra.