Various Artists, Music To Write Letters By, RCA PRM-247, 1967
It’s been a while since I’ve done a true theme week, but finding a bunch of these records means I kind need to. Not that this is any kind of record that I will ever listen to, but anything with a title like Music To… needs to see the light of day again.
Today, it’s next to impossible to imagine anyone writing a letter, let alone buying an album of music to listen to while you write said letters. It’s hard to imagine a company like RCA releasing this record in 1967 at the same time they issued Surrealistic Pillow by The Jefferson Airplane. Well it wasn’t all that Surrealistic to original owner Barbara Birnbaum. She not only bought this record, but she carefully tore the shrink wrap away to write her name on it so everyone would know this album was hers!
And she must have written a whole lot of letters from the condition of this record. It’s in pretty bad shape, at least the first 40 seconds of side one, which is all the time I felt like investing in this. But letter writing is just one of the things there will be music for!
Cost: $2, $809 Remaining
Bobby Bare, Detroit City, RCA Victor LPM-2776, 1963
Folk was big in 1963 and the record came along to capitalize on it in a different way. Approaching it from the County music side of the business, his records stood out from the Greenwich Village side of things. This was the first big hit of a 25 year recording career.
My keen intellect tells me that this record was first purchased on August 2, 1965. Even though it was a two year old record at that point, it was still in stores, not because it flopped, but rather because it was still selling.
I think I also got really lucky finding a copy that was this clean. It plays perfectly, and it just got to show you what can happen when you look through the “other” bins. Even if Country isn’t your thing, records like this get stuffed into that category all the time. Seek and ye shall find!
Cost: $2, $811 Remaining
Bobby Rydell, Bobby Sings, Bobby Swings, Cameo 1007, 1960
At first glance, my reaction to this record was “duh”. Of course Bobby Sings, it would be a terrible album if Bobby Danced. But I snagged it anyway because of it’s age and condition, but mostly because I know I’d never find another one. Again, I collect records not music, so it’s not at all strange for me to buy a record that I have only a small chance to ever listen to.
When I got home, I flipped it over and that’s when that Bobby doesn’t only sing, but Bobby Swings as well! While I think Cameo Records put the wrong picture with the wrong side of this proto-concept album, it was maybe a pretty smart move to show that this teen idol could sing about more than his Swingin’ School.
And it worked too. Even though Domenico Modugno’s Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu had hit #1 18 months prior, Bobby’s swinging version of a watered down Volare beat out Dean Martin’s version to peak at #4. And that led to 18 year old Bobby Rydell to becoming the youngest performer to headline the famous Copacabana Nightclub. So while the side where Bobby sings is pretty awful (!), the side where Bobby swings is pretty darned ok!
Cost: $2, $813 Remaining
Nino Tempo & April Stevens, Deep Purple, Atco 33-156, 1963
This is the kind of record someone like me dreams about. Ok, perhaps dream is a strong word, but sometimes you see something so exotic that you get a chill over finding it. This record, from this brother and sister act, did it for me.
It’s not like this is some musical masterpiece, but rather this is a fantastic example of a 1963 pop record. The duo had some real musical skills with April’s cat like vocal quality and Nino’s horn playing and arranging skills. There’s the Number One title track, some other very similar sounding tracks, and a really fun loungy-electronic song called Baby Weemus.
It’s just that seeing something like this for the first time ever in decent shape and a $2 price tag, it gave me quite the trill. Getting it home and listening to it gave me a bigger one. But knowing I can hear Baby Weemus anytime I want is the biggest thrill of all.
Cost: $2, $815 Remaining
Dionne Warwicke, The Dionne Warwicke Story, Scepter SPS-2-596, 1971
Dionne Warwick had an amazing run on tiny Scepter Records. Along with writers and producers Hal David and Bert Bacharach, they scored dozens of hits and sold millions of records. Exactly how many they sold the world may never know and that is why this record came out.
The royalty dispute had been going on for years, and Bacharach & David were the first to quit. Dionne followed them out the door. Scepter did what record companies always do when their largest talent leaves the company; release a greatest hits package.
Scepter went into their vaults to find various concert tapes form recent years, and the “new” Dionne Warwick album was ready for release. At the beginning of the four year period when she was billed as “Dionne Warwicke”, she quickly signed a huge deal with Warner and this was her last Scepter release. Despite it all, it’s still a portrait of an artist at her peak, and very worth a few spins.
Cost: $2, $817 Remaining
Lionel Richie, Can’t Slow Down, Motown MD 6059, 1983
I think even in the 80s, even in 1984 when this album was in the Top 10 for the entire calendar year, people were saying that this record was “so 80s”. It just was/is. It is true pop genius to sell something to people, many many people, nothing they know is off the charts cheesy, but yet they still pay for. I don’t know anyone that thinks this is an essential album, but everyone has one. That is genius.
Just look at the back cover. I mean really. I don’t need to be David Sederis to get into how immediately galling, yet unbelievably captivating this is. From the fashion that was popular for 20 minutes, to the afro-mullet, it’s plainly a snapshot of it’s times that succeeded almost as well as Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Prince’s Purple Rain, but without all the classic music that we know and love today.
Don’t get me wrong, this record is jammed with hits, but they are those kind of hits. The kind you don’t play at a party, yet sing in the shower. The kind you never put on but always hear. The kind that you buy and keep on a shelf for years without touching, yet can’t bear to part with. Hello was my senior prom theme, Class Of ’84 Rules!, but still, like my DVD of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, this record will not see the light of day again until I move. And I love it.
Cost: $2, $819 Remaining
Peaches & Herb, 2 Hot!, Polydor PD-1-6172, 1979
This fine late 70s product is yet another example of a producer driven record. They’re only on the record in name only, but this is really a Freddie Perren record with Peaches & Herb on the cover. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps records like I Want You Back by The Jackson 5, Love Machine by The Miracles, Boogie Fever by The Sylvers, and I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor will. All, and many many more, were written and produced by Freddie Perren.
The Peaches & Herb record came out just after Perren produced the huge Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. So to say he was hot was an understatement. The original Peaches & Herb had a few soul hits in the late 1960s, but the mid 70s, Herb was working as a policeman. But old habits die hard, and Herb reached out to some old friends who supplied him with a new Peaches, Linda Greene, as well as a contract with Freddie Perren.
It’s a great record. It’s certainly a product of it’s time, but there are two all time R&B classics here in Shake Your Groove Thing and Reunited. It’s safe to say though that virtually anybody would have had a hit with material this good, and it just so happened that Peaches & Herb fit the suit that week.
Cost:$2, $821 Remaining
Dawn, Dawn’s New Ragtime Follies, Bell 1130, 1973
I might be one of the only people alive to shed a tear about finding a copy of this record. Don’t get me wrong, I would shed more tears over finding a $2 copy of Pet Sounds in the same condition, but this one gets me because I remember being at my grandparents house when my grandfather (born in 1909) came home in his brand new 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass with a brand new copy of this record for us to listen to and celebrate. It’s a wonderful memory of an awful album.
In the scheme of things, it’s not awful in an uncommercial way. Say Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose was the #3 follow up to the #1 single of 1973, Tie A Yellow Ribbon On The ‘Ole Oak Tree, and no doubt it’s repeated airplay on 77 WABC that fall that led to my grandfather purchasing the last album of his life (I did find a mint copy of Glen Campbell’s Southern Nights 45 among the records when my grandparents finally sold their house in 1997, but no album newer than this one).
Still, this record was the sort of music industry product that came out in a time of real change. It appealed to the oldest and the youngest record buyers at the time when the music business was fracturing into irrevocable subsets that remain today. But it’s records like this that people who had ANY kind of personal connection to that they go nuts for now. Finding a copy in good condition for a decent price is something that no collector should let get away.
Cost: $2, $823 Remaining
Anita Ward, Songs Of Love, Juana 200,004, 1979
It is said that Anita Ward’s biggest fear was becoming a one hit wonder. But with the success of Saturday Night Fever, Disco Music sales soared, virtually ending the popularity R&B/Soul sound of African American singers. It was way past the point of people thinking it was a fad. So when the popular disco label TK Records tells you that their star producer Frederick Knight wants to sign you to a brand new label he’s starting and has a sure-fire hit to jump start your career, well, if you’re like Ms. Ward, you sign on the dotted line.
Like many up and coming singers, the lure of a hit might cause you to agree to a few things that you never thought you would. Like Donna Summer, Anita Ward’s faith made her uncomfortable to sing the double entendre sexual lyrics she was given to record. Ring My Bell really had nothing to do with actual bells after all.
Unlike Ms. Summer, it all came crashing down fast for Anita Ward’s career. Despite the international success of Bell, TK Records was bankrupt by 1980, disco died virtually overnight, and Anita was in a bad car accident that laid her up for months. Her seven big days at number one would be all she ever had. This excellent copy of her crowning achievement will live on on my shelf, complete with it’s original shrink wrap and promotional stickers, the Juana label with the TK inner sleeve, and it’s cautionary tale for all newcomers.
Cost: $2, $825 Remaining
The Ritchie Family, Brazil, 20th Century Records T-498, 1975
The Rio Olympics just wrapped up, and I think it was a smashing success. I was hoping to feature a perfect copy of a $2 bossa nova record today, but this was as close as I could get. It’s as Brazilian as a 1975 New York disco album ever got, and it’s a fun studio concept album. The big hit was a modern arrangement of the 1930’s standard Tangerine, and the 8:00 version of Frenesi is another stand out track. There’s a Carmen Miranda type model wearing fruit on her head smiling at a parrot naturally enough, and sharp Olympic watchers will note she’s standing overlooking Copacabana Beach and Sugarloaf Mountain. Somewhere down there is a gas station missing a restroom door.
Sharp record collectors will also note the name of the producer, Jacques Morali. Names like his are all though the vinyl era of the music business, and before he hit the huge time with Casablanca Records and The Village People, he produced projects like The Ritchie Family. It might seem odd to look for records produced by someone, rather than the artist, but it makes sense in this case, and I can hear the lineage to the later disco era here.
Cost: $2, $827 Remaining