Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends, Columbia KCS-9529, 1968
The best part about landmark albums is that they’re usually very good, the cornerstones of every collection, and they sold in such numbers that they are usually pretty easy to find. The Beatles aside, classics like Bookends turn up really often, so I usually jump at the chance to get a better copy than the one I already have.
This album was the first studio release from S&G in nearly 18 months, and it set records for sales and weeks at number one. I might have spent more weeks at the top, but for the soundtrack of The Graduate which was out at the same time, featured Simon and Garfunkel and also peaked at number one.
It’s maybe a sign that I bought a later pressing when the album I bought is also advertised on the inner sleeve. Maybe for such a highly anticipated record Columbia did advance promotion, but I have to believe that inner sleeve art would take a while to get caught up to a new release.
In any event, this $3 was a gamble. It was shinny and clean, but it doesn’t play very well. There are a few scratched and pops that come through more on a record like this than you might hear on, say, a Led Zeppelin record. This one doesn’t rise to the level of a keeper and get re-donated.
Cost: $3, $899 Remaining
The Modern Jazz Quartet, European Concert, Atlantic 2-603, 1960
About a decade before I found this record on day one of a summer road trip, I found a German poster of an American Jazz concert that I fell in love with. It was uber-cool and the right size for the wall it still hangs on. I’d never heard of The Modern Jazz Quartet before but the poster was just really cool.
Turns out, the group is uber-cool too. I found this record in a comic book store in Yakima, Washington and for $5 a got a VG+ original Atlantic Records pressing of a concert from the same tour as my poster. It’s an outstanding double album, and one of the best jazz albums I now own.
Jazz records, along with “international” or “vocal” albums are often much cheaper and available than the rock and R&B records everyone else is looking for. Not only are they cheaper, but the people who bought them originally were older and took better care of them, so they also play better than a similarly price pop record. You’re going to (hopefully) be seeing many more records like this here.
Incidentally, this is the poster that started it all..
Cost: $5, $902 Remaining
Edith Piaf & Theo Sarapo, At The Bobino, Capitol T-10348, 1962
“France’s most beloved singer and her husband”?!?! This album is seriously weird, and not at all what I was expecting. Side one is The Little Sparrow herself in all her glory, while side two is a few French Pop tunes from a 20 something heartthrob. It’s sad to say that Edith Piaf was just a year away from her untimely death at 47 when this was recorded, but I didn’t know she had also just married a 27 year old, who also died tragically in a car accident at age 34.
in many ways, Edith Piaf was to France what Judy Garland was to the United States. But this album plays as if, at the end of her life, Miss Garland married Bobby Sherman and they released an album together.
I’ll listen to side one over and over again! She comes out to about two minutes of cheering before the first song, and the crowd only gets more excited. Track 5, C’Etait Pas Moi, while I have no idea what it’s about, is an absolute smash. It’s just amazing to hear such vitality knowing that her life was literally falling apart at the time.
Cost: $2, $907 Remaining
Dionne Warwick In Paris, Scepter SM-534, 1966
The run that Dionne Warwick had with producers Bert Bacharach and Hal David on Scepter Records is one of the great pop success stories. How this teeny New Jersey record company pulled this feat off is another one. You don’t need a psychic friend to find these records either, they sold in the millions.
Miss Warwick also released 2-3 albums a year in the 60s. Doing a five week residence in January 1966 at the Olympia Theater in Paris was not only long enough to justify a custom neon marquee sign, but it would have cut into that schedule. A live album made perfect sense to keep the product coming and increase Dionne’s profile with the public. After all, it doesn’t get much classier than a Paris engagement. Scepter obviously agreed enough to spring for a rare color back cover.
The songs are classy too, with French classics La Vie En Rose and C’est Si Bon along with Cole Porter’s I Love Paris. This album also marks the debut of the smash Message To Michael which was recorded in Paris originally as a test vocal for her co-host and French star Sacha Distel.
It also came with a fantastic Scepter inner sleeve, something I’ve never seen before. I’m really enjoying my French tribute week and this record will get a few spins a year from me. I’m also glad that not too many people treasure records like this.
Cost: $2, $909 Remaining
Yves Montand, One Man Show, Columbia WL-150, 1958
At first, I was like “who the hell is Yves Montand?”. But it doesn’t get much more french than this, a live performance captured in 1958 in Paris. As it turns out, I’m a huge Yves Montand fan!
I have no idea what he’s singing about, I’ve never heard of any of the songs, but the audience certainly had and they roar their approval often. In fact the album closes with an extremely long, like 60 second, round of applause and cheering. The back cover has a ton of information, including a write up of every song.
I’ve also never seen this particular Columbia Label. It could be something used for international releases, or maybe “Adventures In Sound” was a short lived record club, and this was a special release. Either way, it’s in really great shape, and I’ll listen to this record again.
Cost: $1, $911 Remaining
Michel Legrand & Various Artists, The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, Phillips PCC-616, 1964
I hinted yesterday at a new theme week involving TV related records. Turning on the TV today though, I was hit with the news from France of yet another human caused tragedy there. I’m just knocked out at how this can keep happening in this day and age, and I actually needed to go record shopping to distract myself. Luckily, and don’t ask me why this is, but my local Oregon record shops have huge collections of international records for very little money. I bought all of the French related albums I could find, and I found a few real gems. I couldn’t wait to get home and listen to this one.
It may be the nicest album package I’ve ever seen, and it’s in amazing shape for being 52 years old. The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg was a landmark French film, and it made an international star out of Catherine Deneuve. Michel Legrand’s musical score was also well renowned and even though I haven’t seen the film in years, I remembered the music.
Phillips Records released the soundtrack on their high end Connoisseur Collection, and the original owners really took care of it. The still scenes from the movie are like real photographs attached in the gatefold cover. Also included is an eight page lyrics guide in French with an English translation. This must have been a very expensive album in 1964, and despite the movie’s international success, I doubt this was the kind of record that would have sold in any kind of numbers.
There’s even a mint condition insert that features other albums from the same series. It dawned on me that somewhere I have a copy of the Singing Nun album, and I recall that it came with a set of imitation watercolors of nuns sitting around a group of young girls and singing. In any event, there must have been a short lived market for records that gave the listener something to ponder beyond the music. For me, it’s an unbelievable deal to have found today for $1. I’d have paid much more to feel a positive connection to France today.
Cost: $1, $912 Remaining
Telly Savalas, Who Loves Ya Baby, MCA-2160, 1976
Sometimes I really earn my pay… Telly Savalas was a fairly large movie star who became a huge TV star in the 70s with the success of his police detective show Kojak. In New York City, where the show was set, people of a certain age still call it a “Kojak” when they find a convenient free parking space, because Telly always found three empty spaces in front of where he was going. After all, it’s not easy to park a brown Buick Century in Midtown. I bring all this up because Detective Kojak had a catchphrase, like so many 70s characters had…”Who Loves Ya Baby”.
The music is pretty terrible. Telly really can’t sing, and his deep smoke clogged voice isn’t helped by the high octave of the background singers. He gives a lot of spoken word intros, including one in front of Gentile On My Mind where he says “as a kid growing up in New York, ‘out west’ meant Jersey”. There’s a lot of groovy 70s guitars, but the material just seems so out of place and, honestly, trying too hard.
The record was only in VG condition, so somebody played this more than few times. I just don’t know why anyone would do that to themselves, but I have the evidence. I’m running short on Trying Too Hard records, but I do have a whole slew of treasures of albums made as a result being famous from a TV role. Maybe this album is a nice transition to a new theme week…
Cost: $2, $913 Remaining
The Ethel Merman Disco Album, A&M SP-4775, 1979
I imagine sometimes that it’s really hard to say no to an offer, especially if your phone hasn’t been ringing much lately. Broadway legend Ethel Merman was 71 and not only way past her prime, but beginning to deteriorate physically when the offer came in to combine Broadway and Disco into one smash album. Do I have to tell you it’s tragic?
Producer Peter Manz certainly had a certain target market in mind with certain song selections, namely Something For The Boys. On I Get A Kick Out Of You, Miss Merman reverts to the original Cole Porter lyric, screaming “Cocainnne” on top of the swirling beat. Oy, is it cringeworthy.
Apparently, this is quite the collectible, so I was thrilled to find it at a vintage shop for $2. A review I found said it’s good for a laugh, but there’s only one joke. I found it funny once, but then sad. It has a nice “promo” stamp on the back cover, and a date stamp of July 27, 1979, so I know it wasn’t something that someone originally bought. The record is only in VG condition, but it’s a nice addition to the camp section of my collection, and a worthy addition to Trying Too Hard Week.
Cost: $2, $915 Remaining
Frank Sinatra, Some Nice Things I’ve Missed, Reprise F-2195, 1974
Frank Sinatra had an amazing run. The nickname The Chairman Of The Board came about because he was seemingly everywhere, doing everything just right, running things. Sure, it got harder and harder to stay relevant, but for the vast majority of the public, they still bought his records, saw his movies and watched his TV specials. By 1971, Frank had had it and retired from show business. It didn’t last long.
He came back with a splash. A TV special and hit album announced Ole Blue Eyes Is Back in 1973. This album was the follow up. It should have never happened. Even as a mixed tape, this would have been a really bad mix of current pop and show tunes, but covered by a 57 year old, it just comes off as trying to be someone he no longer is. For me, the 70s were a time when the music business turned inward. The singer-songwriter era was in full force, and originality ruled the day. Singing someone else’s songs was out of fashion, especially someone else’s hit singles.
To hear the great trendsetting Frank Sinatra singing Sweet Caroline, Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree, and most appallingly Bar, Bad Leroy Brown, is kinda cringeworthy. He sort of pulls off You Are The Sunshine Of My Life, but I really got the feeling that the whole package was a vain attempt at relevance. Frank Sinatra was never known as a songwriter, but he was possibly the best song interpreter of all time. This record sounds like the kind of thing he sang to in the shower or in the car driving around Palm Springs.
Cost: $3, $917 Remaining
Peggy Lee, Then Was Then-Now Is Now, Capitol ST-2388, 1965
Miss Peggy Lee. What else is there to say? By the time I became aware of her she was so past her prime, wearing Platinum wigs and sunglasses on the C-List variety shows she would occasionally turn up on. To be honest, I thought she was a laughing stock. And that is really wrong!
At their core, an artist is an original, someone who can stand out from their peers who are trying to do the same thing, and someone who preservers to attain perfection, even though they never reach it. Not everything they do moves the ball forward, but the end result is fantastic. That’s Miss Peggy Lee in a nutshell.
She recorded for Capitol for 25 years, and while they call their headquarters “The House That Nat Built” after Nat King Cole, I really think it was Peggy Lee that financed the place. She never really had many hit singles in the Rock Era beyond 1958’s Fever, and 1969’s Is That All There Is, but she sold millions of albums from the 40s into the 70s. Her Blues Across The Country (1962) is one of my favorite albums, and The Beatles covered her version of Till There was You from 1960’s Latin A La Lee.
This albums is still in it’s shrink wrap, with an early version of an IBM computer research card on it! May coffee maker now has a more powerful computer that the mainframe that took cards like this, so it’s a double mid century modern technology win! Unfortunately, this record falls into the Trying Too Hard category. Side one is pleasant, the kind of “Then” music you’d expect from her, but side two with it’s “Now” feeling that kind of takes my breath away. Johnny Rivers may have lit up the Sunset Strip with songs like Seventh Son, but they seem so odd from a middle aged jazz singer. But hey, kudos for trying Miss Lee. It always gives me Fever to find a mint Capitol album of yours!
Cost: $2, $920 Remaining