Wilson Pickett, In Philadelphia, Atlantic SD-8270, 1970
I’m pleased to report that one of the best movies ever made about soul music is now on Netflix! The Commitments may be an Irish movie, but it drips soul out of every scene. While he doesn’t actually appear in the film, the band forms around the idea of getting to perform in front of The Wicked Wilson Pickett. So I had to dig out this record an see how wicked it really is.
At first I thought it was going to be a live album, owing to the cover photo and the cryptic title. But apparently, it was such a big move for Mr. Pickett to not record an album at Atlantic Studio’s Muscle Shoals operation, that they named the whole record after the studio. It’s actually just the second full album produced by the team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. They would go on to form their own label, Philadelphia International, that would dominate the 70s soul scene and surpass Motown in sales and influence.
So, while I was a tad disappointed to not hear the wicked one live, I did get to hear a really wonderful soul record from one of the all time greats. While his 60s records are the ones that made the legend, his 70s sounds are somehow even more intense. His gravelly voice is now rocky, but he still manages to hold it together and his screams are world class. The material is a bit meh, but it’s still a great record. Don’t let the ring wear fool you either, it’s in pretty decent shape!
Cost: $2, $615 Remaining
Smokey Robinson, Where There’s Smoke…, Motown 5267ML, 1982
I don’t buy re-issues. Mostly because, despite the obvious use of having records around, I’m not building a music collection. Virtually anything, well outside of some of the weird records I find, can be found online at any time from anywhere with virtually no expense of storage issues. So, what I’m really doing is collecting original records with an eye for the unusual. Re-issued records just get in the way and take up space for original records.
Motown actually makes it pretty easy to spot a reissue. They usually have a small print original release date, in case the thinly pressed record and thick paper vs. cardboard sleeve wasn’t clue enough. It’s just that I’ve never seen this record, and it has the long version of my favorite Smokey Robinson solo single. So I tossed it in my pile at the $1 sale without thinking twice.
Pulling out the record made me sink a little. Smokey only put out records on Tamla (Tamla 366 in this case), so seeing the Motown label defines it as a reissue. Cousin’ still works well on it, so it’s a small loss, and this will hold the place for the original I hope to find one day. I’d really be upset if I thought I was getting the 1960 Hi, We’re The Miracles for $1, but it’s not a huge tragedy.
Cost: $1, $617 Remaining
Dinah Washington, In Love, Roulette R-25180, 1962
There are a lot of great artists out there, and most people know all about them. But now and then, you come across a great artist that virtually no one knows about. Say hello to the wonderful and tragic Dinah Washington. You may not know the name, but you know the voice from such jazz classic as Unforgettable, and What A Difference A Day Makes.
Of course, a talent this rare comes with a few complications, and she was no exception. This album, her fourth(out of five) for Roulette Records in 1962, came out about a year before her 7th husband found her dead at age 39 of a drug overdose. But to say that you felt her pain in every syllable she sang would be an understatement.
I never really talk about the upside to a record collection. But aside from the front cover slick delaminating form the cardboard and a new inner sleeve, I can’t believe that this record will be worth a lot more money in a few years than it is now. And at $1 and plenty of storage space, not only will my heirs get to enjoy this record for years to come, but they’ll be very surprised at its value when the time comes…
Cost: $1, $618 Remaining
Jay & The Techniques, Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie, Smash SRS-67095, 1967
The Thanksgiving weekend is coming to an end. I’m almost out of pie. Thankfully. But while doing dishes, I got to listen to my new favorite album from Jay & The Techniques. They’re just one of those groups that made the most of the sub-par material that they had to record, and broke a ton of barriers along the way. They we’re done of the first interracial groups to break through and have big success.
Hailing from Allentown, PA, they had two million sellers, and both are on this album. Along with the title track, Keep The Ball Rollin’ didn’t hit the top ten, but does still get played. Both hits “test well” with audiences, unlike 1000 similar records from the era.
Smash was the second label for Mercury Records. It was a common practice for decades for the label to mean something to the record buying crowd as to the kind of music they could expect to hear from them. Mercury would feature the company’s best, A-List kind of music, while Smash might release records from second rate acts, like, say, an interracial college aged group from Pennsylvania. Capitol Records had their Tower subsidiary, while RCA released records on Camden (named for the New Jersey town where their factory was). It doesn’t mean the music was second rate, some of the most collectible records of the 60s were on these labels, it just means that the parent company didn’t think much of them at the time.
Cost: $5, $619 Remaining
Dee Dee Sharp, It’s Mashed Potato Time, Cameo 1018, 1962
It’s Thanksgiving week here, and I’m thankful for finding so many original, but affordable Cameo Records as I have this year. This Dee Dee Sharp record was huge in 1962, and the Mashed Potato dance crazy resulting from this album lasted a few years. What’s the best way to top mashed potatoes? Gravy, of course, and that top ten hit is also included.
Chubby Checker wrote the liner notes (probably just like he “wrote The Twist). Cameo was smart to put the two of them together of Slow Twisting’, yet another top ten hit. Things were so good for Cameo at the time, that they wrote Mashed Potato Time based around the other hits of the day. When The Marvelettes’ Please Mister Postman got a mention, the Cameo producer turns the echo way up on the same line (“deliver the letter”) as Motown did on the original version.
If you find a record like this, buy it. Even if it’s not your kind of music, it’s still a great addition to any collection. Original albums featuring important hits will always have value, and this one is no exception.
Cost: $5, $624 Remaining
Arco Guthrie, Alice’s Restaurant, Reprise RS-6267, 1968
Happy Thanksgiving! Yes, it’s mean to label an artist for one little aspect of their life’s work, especially one that was produced when the artist was 20 years old, but this record is an important part of assembling an American Thanksgiving dinner. It’s just one of the things that you know by heart and you’ve heard for years, but it just takes on a special meaning when you drop the needle on it just after you put the bird in the oven. Sorry Arlo. I know it’s not what you’re about or what you set out to do, but for 18 minutes and 40 seconds of every year, you’re a one hit wonder.
Yes, there’s a side two. And Arlo had bigger hit records, as well as carried on the musical legacy started by his amazing father Woody Guthrie. But, geese it’s just nice to have a Thanksgiving tradition that has a nodding recognition of approval from those in the know. So who really cares too much about the talented artist behind the tradition. Gene Autry was so much more than Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, and misc fans know the difference between him and Elmo & Patsy. The same goes for Arlo Guthrie.
So, yes, Arlo, accept the fact that you’ve made littering into the ultimate out, that going with the flow is what makes a great thanksgiving, and that a tradition is a tradition. Alice’s Restaurant is an easy record to find, and it’s a guaranteed record to get played at least once a year. There aren’t too many records I can say that about.
Cost: $4, $629 Remaining
Tony Bennett, Live At Carnegie Hall, Columbia C2S-823, 1962
Live albums usually are that great. The music never sounds as good as the original record you already know, and the crowd noises get in the way. Sure, unique ones like Frampton Comes Alive stand out, but that was an album of new material, just performed live.
But sometimes you just catch a great performer at the peak of their talent, Judy Garland’s 1961 album comes to mind. Taking a $1 bet on this record wasn’t much of a risk, but it’s a record that is every bit as good as Judy’s.
Tony Bennett was very much a contemporary artist in 1962, with his recent hit I Left My Heart In San Francisco being featured, along with other hits of the day and past Bennett classics. But really, the swinging jazz-style concert is really great. Seeing that he’s now 90, there probably aren’t too many chances left to see a Tony Bennett concert. I’m glad I can hear one whenever I want.
Cost: $1, $633 Remaining
Buzz Goertzen, The Idaho Yodeler, Ripcord SLP-1038, 197?
The title says it all today. There’s really no one I can imagine outside an immediate family member who would want an album of Idaho themed yodels. Buzz Goertzen (pronounced Gertson) will never be compared favorably with The Beatles (pronounced Beetles), and for most music fans the for profit yodel market was completely monopolized by Slim Whitman. So, no, even though I was outrageously overcharged ($2) for this record, I confess to buying this record for the cover. I mean, really, that suit.
The Pocatello fashion scene aside, I really got this record to give as a gag gift. I know people in Idaho, and who wouldn’t want this framed and hanging in their home? But in answer to all your questions, yes, I did listen to this. On the plus side, its in near mint condition, owing to the fact that unplayed records stay in good shape. Other than that, I guess about the nicest thing I could say is that he did make a solidly competent yodel record here.
And he’s still at it! I got a real thrill to find that he has a solidly competent website, detailing his winter touring schedule of the snowbird RV parks in the Yuma Arizona area. Come Spring, I have no doubt that that RV will be heading North, Back To Good Old Idaho!
Cost: $2, $634 Remaining
Duke Ellington, Ellington ’55, Capitol W-521, 1955
Just like yesterday’s Sophie Tucker record, it’s not everyday that you find an original Duke Ellington record. Technically, this isn’t a record of new material, but they are period recordings by the the big band just as that era was fading. Still, it’s a really great collection of songs done by world class jazz orchestra, what could go wrong?
Well, for one, its really worn out. The jacket is faded and there’s 50 year old tape holding together the split seams. That’s usually not a good sign, but I was curious. Taking a chance on a $2 record isn’t really all that risky, so I went for it.
It’s scratchy for sure, but the sound on this 61 year old record is really incredible. The horns really shine through, and the sound is unmistakably Ellington. So the lesson for today is a simple one: sometimes the best records can come from the bins no one bothers to look through. Soundtracks, Easy Litening, and Jazz bins on average have many more great records than do the Rock and Soul bins.
Cost: $2, $636 Remining
Sophie Tucker, A Collection Of Songs She Has Made Famous, Decca DL 5371, 1951
I’ve actually never seen anything like this. And that’s in 40 years of record shopping. In fairness, most of those years I never would have given a second though to something like this. Without even describing the music or the saucy lyrics, this is a 10″ vinyl record, the same size as the shellac 78 RPM records that are only good for about 100 plays. In fact, the only label information I found about this record is that it originally came out in around 1948 on a 78, but with only six songs. This would have been about the same time as the vinyl LP record hit the market. Decca probably just added two more songs (the last two songs do sound different than the first six) and reissued the album on a 10″ vinyl record. It’s just such an unusual format though as the 12″ LP became the norm.
Musically, it’s just a hoot! Sophie Tucker, who called herself The last Of The Red Hot Mamas, was the original Bette Midler. Bawdry, brash and able to get away with some pretty dirty double entendres, she really was a true original. Paul McCartney gave her a nod at The Beatles’ 1963 Royal Command Performance at the London Palladium, when he was introducing Till There Was You by saying it has been recorded “by our favorite American group, Sophie Tucker”. While that wasn’t true, she never did record it, it was still a great line and something I’m sure the 77 year old who was near death at the time would have found amusing. Incidentally, Ms. Tucker had her Royal Command Performance at the same London Palladium in 1926, only the royalty changed…
I don’t know how long the 10″ 33 1/3 record was made, or even why. There’s very little information out there on them. It could have been simply that people were slow to replace equipment that could play the modern 12″ vinyl LPs from, and 10″ was the size of records they were used to buying. It was the need of classical orchestras to have the 20 minute recording time a 12″ record provided to play a complete piece uninterrupted that really forced the change. A 10″ record only holds about 15 minutes of music, so it wouldn’t have been something that was going to last very long. Either way, finding this and hearing a 65 year old record is pretty special.
Cost: $2, $638 Remaining