June 29, 2016 That Sweet Soul Music

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101 Strings, Best Of The Soul Series, Alshire S-5069, 196?

Looking through a bin of $2 Soul records I found this delight of something so obviously misfiled that I had to buy it.  The 101 Strings Orchestra was famous for, well, really nothing but making low budget easy listening records that were mostly sold through discount retailers.  I’m sure the large SOUL on the cover is why this whitest of white records ended up where I found it, but it’s very much the opposite end of the spectrum from Rick James.

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It’s always a hallmark of a discount record to have a simple, no color back cover.  True to form, 1/3 of this album is nothing but a promotion for the 54 101 Strings albums that preceded this one.  One third of the top is a stock write up on the orchestra, and the rest is the song titles and logo.  Just swap out the song titles next time, and the back cover is ready to go!

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Musically, it plays just as you’d imagine The Polish National Anthem would sound by a faceless studio orchestra.  There is absolutely nothing redeeming about listening to this record, despite the inner sleeve telling me how magnificent it will sound.  The cover however, is just so damned fun that I’ll probably just keep it.

Today’s Summary:

Cost: $2, $949 Remaining

June 28, 2016 An Artful Dodge

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Davy Jones, David Jones, Colpix CP-493, 1965

“I saw The Beatles from the wings of The Ed Sullivan Show and the girls were gong crazy.  I said to myself, this is it, I want a part of this”.  So said 18 year old David Jones about his February 9, 1964 appearance on what became the most watched show in TV history when it aired.  He was appearing on Broadway as The Artful Dodger in the cast of Oliver!, for which he would earn a Tony nomination.  With every American record company looking for British singing stars to sign in the wake of that night, it’s no surprise that young David Jones was signed to Colpix RecordIt was a fine pairing actually.  Colpix was the record division of Screen Gems, the television arm of Columbia.  In 1966, it would evolve into the Colgems label and sell a bazillion Monkees records.  But in 1965, Colpix’s new teen sensation was given some really lame material to try to sing.  None of these songs were ever performed on The Ed Sullivan Show.

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So imagine you’re an executive at Colpix Records, and your teen idol sensation of 1965 totally flops, but appears in 1966 as one of the brand new Monkees who quickly outsell even The Beatles.  This record did chart (#185) and produce a charting single (What Are We Going To Do? # 94), but it must have been a massive disappointment.  But hey, why not slap a big orange sticker on it and call attention to Monkee fans that, hey, here’s a Davy Jones record you don’t have!

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Of course, it didn’t work.  The record was quickly forgotten, rightfully so.  It’s a fun listen (once) just to hear Davy Jones singing Dylan’s It Ain’t Me Babe, but in all honesty, I blew $2 on it for the orange sticker.

Today’s Summary:

Cost: $2, $951 Remaining

 

June 27, 2016 I Heard A Rumor

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Fleetwood Mac, Rumors, Warner Brothers BSK-3010, 1977

The good news about some landmark albums is that they sell in the millions and people get tired of them.  True, you don’t really find Beatles albums in decent shape in bargain bins, but what became the best selling album of all time not long after it’s release is fairly easy to find.  I may have overpaid for it at $4.

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It is the classic album of the 70s.  The hits are great, the non hits are great, they looked great, they sang great, they played great, so it deserved to sell in the millions.   And it deserves a spot in every record collection.  Thankfully for us bargain record shoppers, original owners like Mr/Mrs. Mitseff don’t always agree and toss out their once loved albums.

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This decent copy even came with it’s original photo and lyric insert.  These are always highly prized plusses to look for, and this one is in great shape.  They’re rare because the are separate from the record and inner sleeve, and people usually either lost them or tacked them on a wall as a small poster.

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The non-lyric side has a fun picture collage of the band doing everything you’d expect from a 70s rock band on tour.  People are smoking funny looking cigarettes with abandon, there are some really big eyed smiling faces, and the candid photos often contain cans and bottles in the corners.  The decent condition of this insert made me ok with a $4 splurge.

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Unlike most 70s bands, Fleetwood Mac didn’t usually record a 11:37 version of, say, Dreams that the record company would edit down for the single.  That’s both good, because what you hear in the album is what you know from 39 years of radio play, and bad because there’s no learning anything new from the album that you didn’t already know from the 45.

Today’s Summary:

Cost $4, $953 Remainng

June 26, 2016 Let’s Get The Party Started

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Bumps McGhee & His Twisters, Music To Strip By, Oscar OS-138, 1962(?)

Remarkably, there is virtually no information for an artist named Bumps McGhee and His Twisters.  Because of the Academy Awards and their nickname, there’s nothing I could discover about Oscar Records.  The songs selected here are based on a theme, even if they seem like a random collection.  It’s almost as if the most intriguing thing about this record is the cover…

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Oscar records didn’t even bother to come up with a second picture for the other side, or bother to give any songwriting or publishing credits.  The whole production seems to be a cash-in on the popularity of David Rose’s surprise 1962 #1 hit single The Stripper.  It was worthy to listen to once or the novelty, but this is most definitely a record I bought for the cover.

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I even got a neat 1965 RCA inner sleeve to swap out for my next Chet Atkins or Floyd Cramer discovery!

Today’s Summary:

Cost: $3, $957 Remaining

June 25th, 2016 This One’s For Me

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Barry Manilow, Greatest Hits, Arista A2L-8601, 1978

I don’t really collect greatest hits albums.  My goal isn’t to build a music collection, but rather to find the most interesting original albums I can.  Mostly they’re the sort of records that would be virtually impossible to find in any other formats.

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But when I found this $1 copy of the first greatest hits package from Barry Manilow, complete with personal liner note from Clive Davis, I rolled my eyes and went for it.  It’s a gatefold cover, double album, and all the great 70s hits are there.

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Growing up with this music I hope gets me a hall pass on keeping this on a shelf.  Even the occasional spin of Copacabana will probably be ok.  Wearing the gold chain, though would be a definite no-no.

Today’s Summary

Cost: $1, $960 Remaining

June 24, 2016 British Ding-A-Lings

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Chuck Berry, The London Sessions, CH 60020, 1972

Quick, name Chuck Berry’s first number one hit?  If you guessed 1972’s My Ding A Ling, you got it right.  For all of the guff Chuck rightfully gave to the corrupt Chess Records, he certainly spent a long time recording for them.  This was the album that gave him his only U.S. #1 single, and I snagged it for cheap on the day the British voted to leave the E.U.

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Chuck Berry was very much past his sell by date by 1972, but his fame in the UK was still quite high.  So why not try issuing a half studio/half live album recorded before an adoring audience to stay relevant?  And he wasn’t the only one!  The week the single hit #1, Elvis Presley and Rick Nelson were also in the top 10.

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And the album is actually really great!  This $3 copy was fairly priced quality wise, but I had never heard the entire 11:52 minute version of My Ding A Ling.   It’s a great album, with a mix of new and old, rock and blues.  It was also his only gold certified album.  Yeah, Chuck’s voice is gruff and cracking, but it Chuck Berry!IMG_7302

Reeling’ And Rockin’ was the follow up to My Ding A Ling and it became his last top 40 hit in early 1973.  I’m sad the UK left the EU today, but I’m really glad I have this record.

Today’s Summary:

Cost: $3, $961 Remaining

June 23, 2016 The Original Solo Artist

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Dora Hall, Once Upon A Tour, Premore TV-2000, 1972

There were so many times I’ve been to people’s homes of my parent’s generation and found this record.  Both sets of my grandparents has it, and one set didn’t even have a turntable.  Amazingly, more often than not, the record was still sealed.  My parents’ copy was, and they only had about 15 records. In high school, when my interest in vinyl began it’s lifelong quest, I asked my mother was this was.  She didn’t remember, but my Dad (who never bought a record in his life), chimed in that he got it for free inside a package of plastic cups years before.  We immediately opened it and heard for the first time the voice of the one and only Dora Hall.

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When you google “Dora Hall” these days, there are only few fan sites and blog entries.  Wikipedia gives you a link to the Solo Cup Company, which seems really weird until you read that Miss Hall was really the wife of the founder of the company, Leo Hulseman.  After about 40 years of marriage, Dora decides she isn’t happy being a suburban grandmother, and comes up with the idea that she would make records that could be given away for free inside packages of Solo Cups.  Despite not performing since the Roaring 20s, and not really being able to sing, Dora Hall records ended up in a million American homes.

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This particular album is probably the most common one in circulation, not that anyone in their right mind collects label variants of Dora Hall records.  It is the soundtrack of, and I can’t believe this actually happened, Dora Hall’s first TV special.  “Once Upon A Tour” actually had a few semi famous names attached to it, and bits of it are on youtube.  I highly recommend watching them to see some of the most bizarre and uncomfortable scenes imaginable that ever aired on national television.

Today’s Summary:

Cost: $1, $964 Remaining

June 22, 2016 Still Records Run Cheap

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The Four Tops, Still Waters Run Deep, Motown MS-704, 1970

I wrote a little bit yesterday about shopping for records in different parts of the country and what you might expect when you move your search around a bit.  Bigger cities are where you’ll find the most used record shops and one might presume, the best deals.  I’m just back from a few days in Los Angeles, and while they have an amazing array of record shops, I think I’m better off staying put in Oregon and shopping here to finish this blog.

In four days, I probably hit 12 shops in the massive geographic area they call the Southland.   I found some amazing records, and if money was no object, the plane would have  had trouble taking off from the weight of my purchases.  Still, I did flip through enough racks to find some affordable records.  They’re just not necessarily up to the quality I’ve selfishly become accustomed to.

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Case in point, this Four Tops album, the first Motown record I’ve featured.  I’ve never mentioned my personal interests in actual music before.  My focus has been on the fun records of any genre can provide.  Truth be told, the Motown Sound of the 1960’s is really what I’m looking for when I shop for records.  Ok, to be fair, my love for The Beatles and The Beach Boys remains faithful, but it’s really Motown that I’ll always come back to.  I’d love to have an original copy of every release they ever made.

Unfortunately for me, Motown wasn’t as popular in the Pacific Northwest as it was virtually anywhere else in the United States, so my chances of finding an affordable original copy of Heat Wave by Martha & The Vandellas are pretty remote.

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When I say every Motown album, I mean EVERY Motown album.  Plenty of histories of 2648 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit, MI that I won’t blog here about the damage done to groups like The Four Tops when their producers Holland, Dozier & Holland left the company in a dispute over royalties.  Suffice to say that by the time this record came out in 1970, and this is not my line, but The Four Tops sounded more like The Ink Spots than The Temptations.  The creative pyramid scheme that was Motown just didn’t have the ability to manage their talent through any flavors-of the-month problems.

It’s such a shame to see a cohesive vocal group that stayed together until death have to suffer from recording covers of It’s All In The Game to have a charting single.  Still Water (Love) was really their creative Motown swan song, despite group member Obie Benson providing the creative genius behind Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On album.

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Speaking of creative genius, the 1970 Motown inner sleeve is a master work of pure marketing with a healthy dose of corporate backstabbing involved.  Judging by the corner cut on this record, I’m grateful that the first owner had no time to cut up the inner sleeve for hie or her chance to sign up for the fan club of their favorite Motown act.  But it is painfully obvious that the company featured Diana Ross as the first box to check with the now lowly Supremes last on the list, behind The Marvelettes (who may have not even been together as a group when this record came out, Berry Gordy was rumored to lose the rights to their name in a poker game soon after).

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Because this is a Motown album, I’ll always keep it until I find a better copy, but overall, I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the sound and the production.  This record cost me $4 and by my standards, I fell like I paid too much.  Yes, I know how lucky I should feel about finding an original Motown album for so cheap, but when I play this record against the on I featured yesterday, I feel let down.

Today’s Summary:

Cost, $4, $965 Remaining

June 21, 2016 And I’m Selling You For $1

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Jennifer Holliday, Feel My Soul, Geffen GHS-4014, 1983

Just because a record is in a $1 clearance bin, it doesn’t always mean it’s worthless.  It could just be that the people who shop in this store have no interest in it.  Broadway Diva Jennifer Holliday, fresh off her Tony winning role as Effie White in the original Broadway cast of Dreamgirls, recorded this album for the Geffen label in 1983.  It did moderately well, hitting #6 on the R&B chart and #31 on the Pop chart.  Maurice White produced and wrote some of the songs, helped by a-list talent like Ashford & Simpson, Gino Vanelli, and gospel legend Edwin Hawkins.  It’s a perfect example of early 80s R&B music.

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Except that where I was shopping for records in Bend, Oregon, this near mint example was in the $1 section along with a few warped Andre Kostelanetz records.  To the uber-cool clientele of this particular shop, this record was garbage.  If this was Houston or Atlanta, it might be behind the counter in a protective plastic sleeve and a $25 price tag on it, but in Oregon it was close to the trash heap.

Where you are geographically can greatly affect what records you’ll find at discount prices.  I’ll be highlighting records from my travels throughout this project, but for now, know that some charting records only did well in certain regions of the country, meaning you’re likely only going to find them where they sold well, or vary rarely where they didn’t like today’s discovery.

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It even came with a great custom inner sleeve!  Holliday’s voice is sharp throughout, with notes that sound like a young Patti Labelle.  I’ll actually bring this record out to enjoy from time to time, and I’m really glad I picked it up how I did.

Today’s Summary:

Cost: $1, $967 Remaining

June 20, 2016 His Name Was Sam Cooke

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Sam Cooke, At The Copa, RCA LSP-2970, 1964

Sometimes you think you have the discovery of the ages in your hand, only to realize you’ve found some fool’s gold.  Sam Cooke At The Copa, like Ella In Berlin, Judy Garland At Carnegie Hall, or James Brown At The Apollo is one of the few essential live albums any collector would snap up in a heartbeat.  To find one in a bargain bin still in it’s original shrink wrap would be the sort of discovery you’d be telling your record friends about for years.

It was recorded in July, 1964, released that October,  two short months before Sam was killed in a very bizarre shooting incident.  He was at the top of his game when he died, and the single he followed this album up with (Shake/A Change Is Gonna Come) may have been his best.  Soul Music wouldn’t be the same without the foundation Sam Cooke laid down, and we can only guess at all the great music he would have continued to create.

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While this album wasn’t revolutionary when it was released, his too soon after death made it an instant collectible and finding an original issue of this record would be amazing at any price.  Getting it home, I quickly realized I shouldn’t have been so excited.

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The record inside was in deplorable shape, and to make matters worse, it’s a bad 70s re-issue of the 1964 original.  Yesterday, we talked about original vs. re-issued records, but it takes time to learn what label each company was issuing when.  Because John Denver’s early 70s albums originally came out with this label, I can date the manufacturing date of this record to that era.  It may actually have been overpriced at $2.

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I tried my best to clean it up with my pre-moistened wipe trick, but it failed to make the record very playable.   The problem with 70’s and later records is that they found ways to make records more flexible and lighter, but to me, they just don’t hold up as well as records made before.  This record is very thin and bendable and I really think that it affects the durability of the grooves.  The cover on this record was very good by any rating scale, but the record was virtually unplayable.  It’s especially jarring on a live album, with all the background noise they naturally have already on them.

My quest for a VG copy at descent price continues…

Today’s Summary:

Cost: $2, $968 Remaining