Cocinando – 50 Years Of Latin Album Cover Art

Pablo Yglesias (2005)

Princeton Architectural Press

This 240 page book by Pablo Yglesias, a Massachusetts-based graphic designer and DJ, who also put together the CD ‘Rough Guide To Salsa Dura NYC’, features over 180 album covers in an eight inch square format. Covers – and each page features a single cover, no borders, comments or other extraneous material get in the way – are divided into eight chapters, each with a well written introduction/foreword of its own.

Why you might buy it:
If you enjoy Latin music then you know part of that enjoyment stems from some of the wonderful cover art. If you have grown up in the CD, or worse digital age, then this will give you some sense of why people still hark on about “lovely vinyl” – and why some stubborn/gifted individuals still spin it. This is a very nicely put together book that is a real visual treat – you could decorate a bar or music room very inexpensively with the contents (but will have some tough decisions about which side of the page to hide if you do so). The increasing price of classic Latin vinyl means that this is as close as most of you are going to get to handling the real thing. It features my all-time favourite cover, the Izzy Sanabria graphic Lo Maximo by Hector Rivera which previously I have had to admire in CD form.

Why you might leave it:
You own lots of Latin records and there really is no substitute for the real thing – oh that aroma of classic vinyl! The book would have been even more visually appealing if it were in a larger format, you know, like album size. It is not a ‘read’ as such and you might want more full explanations for more all-round satisfaction. There are tens of thousands of album covers not featured and among them may well be ones you might appreciate even more (I realise that’s a tough position to take but I have to offer some balance here).


Foreword: Izzy Sanabria

Introduction: Deluxe: A Brief history of the Latin record cover

Mambo Mania: Popular dance music 1940’s–1960’s

Cubop: Latin jazz 1940’s-present

Oriza: Folkloric, tipico and religious music 1950’s-present

Viva Soul: Boogaloo, Latin sould and popular dance music 1960’s

Salsa: 1970’s-1980’s

Oye Como Va: Latin Rock 1960’s-1970’s

Oh Meu Brasil: Brazilian music 1960’s-1990’s

Barrio Nuevo: Contemporary Latin music

Discography (more detail on the books featured albums)



Selected extracts (from):

More a photo-feast but here’s an example of one of the chapter blurbs….

(Viva Soul: Boogaloo, Latin sould and popular dance music 1960’s):

The 1960’s were a time of upheaval in the Latin music world, and the advent of Latin Soul – known variously as shing-a-ling, bugalu, jala-jala, and just plain boogaloo – some of the older players of the previous decades had to make way for a new generation of upstarts. Visionary designers like Sanabria, Besalel, and John Murello helped the producers Al Santiago, George Goldner, Morris Levy, and Jerry Masucci capitalize on this new craze that was sweeping the clubs and street corners of New York’s barrios. Covers were starting to openly reflect the changing attitudes towards sexuality and drugs, as evidenced by Orchestra Harlow’s debut for Fania, Heavy Smokin’.


Despite the serious messages and protest songs finding their way into Latin Soul set lists, and the awakening ethnic pride that would lead to a backlash against English lyrics, young Latin musicians kept their raucous sense of fun firmly intact. Juxtaposed with the somber frustration expressed in Palmieri’s Justicia, Orchestra Harlow’s Me And My Monkey makes for a study in goofiness. An anecdote from Larry Harlow expands on just how goofy it really was: “I came up with the idea. We were standing on the floor, and I was trying to keep a straight face. I was naked, and my brother Andy was inside the costume roasting his cookies off. We had the thing for 24 hours: It was costing Jerry a fortune, but we still had another twenty hours left. I said “What are we gonna do with the monkey suit?” So we went up to see [DJ] Symphony Sid, who was stoned all the time, and we snuck in on our hands and knees, under the glass in front of the booth at the radio station. We jumped into the studio and almost gave him a coronary on air; he skipped a record when we popped up!”.

[end of extracts]

Other Reviews: (2005)
Another great collection of classic album cover art from Princeton Architectural Press — this one lovingly devoted to the past half century of the best work for Latin albums! This is easily one of our favorite books of album cover art we’ve ever come across, not just for the wealth of great work, but out of respect for the numbing amount of work that must have gone into exploring such a deep, diverse reservoir of possibilities. Editor/author Pablo Yglesias does an incredible job finding appropriate sections to corral the work, with chapters on mambo, Latin jazz, soul and rock, salsa, Brazil and more — no easy task. Our hat is most respectfully off! 208 beautful paperback pages, with art for artists that include Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Caetano Veloso, Joe Cuba, Mandrill, Jimmy Castor Bunch, Poncho Sanchez, Desi Arnaz and many more — from the well known to comparably obscure. Incredible!

Fuego (2005)
Back in your mami and papi’s heyday, salsa ruled the world, not to mention any house party in El Barrio. An album’s cover art was just as enthralling as the sociopolitical tales sung by Ruben Blades, Hector Lavoe, and Willie Colon. Graphic designer/DJ Pablo Yglesias combines his passion for art and all kinds of Latin music-salsa, samba, mambo, etc.-in his new coffee table book Cocinando: Fifty Years of Latin Album Cover Art. The hand-painted imagery makes any Latin music lover yearn for the good ol’ days. by Midwest Book Review (2005)
Other books have been written on rock album cover art: here’s the first to cover fifty years of the brightest and best album covers in Latin music history – and those who fostered them. Using album covers over the decades, Cocinadndo is an artistic, visual treat of the best Latin record covers from all genres of Latin music, from congo and bassa nova to salsa. Cocinando! is a simply gorgeous, rich presentation with full-page color album covers packing every page. by Stuffed Animal (2005)
Many people who love Latin music and vintage Latin album graphics will snatch up this book. Be forewarned that there are disappointments to be found inside. The author/compiler seems to look down his nose at the garish, exotic, sexy and sensational album sleeves from the ’40s and ’50s that we gringos adore, choosing for the most part to showcase politically correct, bizarre abstract art creations from the 1970s. No me gusta! It’s not that there are none of the earlier variety of album sleeve on display here, but there are not nearly enough. What’s worse, the author interprets “latin music” to mean Cuban, Brazilian and Puerto-Rican-derived product; if you’re looking for reproductions of some great old ranchera, flamenco or merengue album sleeves, you’re out of luck. The richness and diversity of Latin music is missing from this book. COCINANDO! is certainly a groundbreaking collection, but by no means is it definitive. I hope someone follows up this incomplete history with another that presents the Golden Age of latin music from a more unbiased viewpoint. I’d like to take the opportunity here to tout the collectability of vintage Mexican album sleeves; many of them are absolutely gorgeous, and they need to be recognized as the works of art that they are.


One response

11 01 2008
Ana Flores

I LOVE this book! One of my favorite keepsakes. A feast for the eyes. It immediately took me to a visual and audio memory trip back to Spanish Harlem…the Salsa parties at my aunt’s floor-through apt., The Nest after-hours club, a mattress on a fire escape: our penthouse terrace for cooling off in the dog days of summer in Spanish Harlem, conga echos carrying the rumbas beats through the thick of the hot summer night air to all of Spanish Harlem, as our lullaby.

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