Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66, Look Around, A&M SP-4137, 1968
I don’t know how I got 5 months into this project without featuring a record from Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66. Their records sold in the millions and they’re really easy to find at really cheap prices. The group hit the sweet spot between Bossa Nova and Pop with records carefully crafted by the finest LA studio musicians. While their sound was passed in the 70s and 80s, today their records are the perfect vinyl background music to any hipster dinner party. This record is one of their best, and I was thrilled to find this near mint copy yesterday.
It came out at the peak of their fame, and owing to the looney rules that The Oscars had at the time, they got to perform Their version of The Look Of Love at the awards ceremony. Dusty Springfield’s version, the original recording from the film Casino Royale, was crushed on the charts as a result. There’s also the first charting version of The Beatles’ With A Little Help From My Friends, which was another huge hit for them.
And then there are the whitewashed versions of period correct Brazilian pop music. Not that that’s a bad thing, considering how influential the Bossa Nova sound was in the 60s. A Brazilian would be horrified by these remakes, they would probably sound like Pat Boone remaking Long Tall Sally, but I love them. I wish I could tell you why these records are so easy to find, all I can say is that I will keep looking for the rest of them.
Cost:$2, $640 Remaining
Neil Diamond, Shilo, bang 221, 1970
I don’t think even Neil Diamond would call himself much of a pin up boy. But what Bang Records did to him here is a bit much. After all, relying on the listener to draw your image is a bit mean. But such was the relationship with the artist and his former associates in 1970. Mr. Diamond left Bang for Uni Records in 1968, but they kept releasing “new” Neil Diamond records from old tapes well into the 70s.
This is kind of a greatest hits package, with many of the songs having been some of his earliest hits. But Bang would sometimes “augment” the originals with strings or horns or a choir to make them sound “modern”. Shilo was a 1967 album track, but it became a decent sized hit after being tarted up and rush released as a follow up to the top ten hit Holly Holy.
Because of the new hit and all the old hits, this record became Neil’s best selling Bang album. It really is great to have the early classics on one record, even though I prefer the original more acoustic versions of the title track and Solitary Man. It doesn’t really change my mind about buying greatest hits packages, but the cover makes this a must have.
Cost: $2, $642 Remaining
Various Artists, All The Hits By All The Stars, Parkway 7013, 1962
The Cameo-Parkway record company was on fire in 1962. Their stable of artists were on average the hottest recording acts that produced the best selling records of the era. They had the cutest teen idols, the sassiest girl groups, some above average doo-wop groups, plus the king and queen of the dance record in Chubby Checker and Dee Dee Sharp. Sure, the New York producers working out of the Brill Building wrote more sophisticated songs, Phil Spector in Los Angeles was perfecting the pop single, and a small Detroit based company called Motown was building a massive creative assembly line, but for a few shining months, Cameo-Parkway ruled the airwaves.
So why not take a bit of a victory lap and run up some sales with a company wide greatest hits package? Far from doing any damage creatively that a greatest hits package usually implies, this little album has Chubby Checker’s two #1 hits, four #2 hits, a few other top tens, and three top 20 songs. All were less than four years old at the time, so this was very much a contemporary hits package. Of course, all of these songs became pretty much obsolete once I Want To Hold Your Hand came along, but this was a big seller in it’s day.
And it also became a really huge collector’s item for a while. When the bubble burst on the teen dance hit sound, Cameo-Parkway collapsed like yesterday’s mashed potatoes into the usual story of corruption, bankruptcy and legal battles. Their entire catalogue of music was tied up for years until Alan Klein ended up with it somehow. He refused to release any of the music on CD for decades, insisting on only issuing cheaply remade 45s of Cameo artists with no money going to the artists. That’s why there are so many bad versions of these songs out there. Even by the “original artists”, no one really wants to listen to a 1974 Dutch recording of Pony Time. As a result, mint copies of this record were worth a lot in the 1990s because it was the only way to hear these records on LP. Now of course, with Alan Klein dead and the music out on CD and digital downloads, my patience was rewarded by finding this VG cope for $2.
Cost:$2, $644 Remaining
Lou Rawls, Tobacco Road, Capitol ST-2042, 1963
I struggled with this one a bit. On the one hand, not enough people know about Lou Rawls or his amazing voice. On the other hand, that voice was amazing partly because of all the cigarettes he smoke, only to die from lung cancer. Yet here he is singing about tobacco.
Most people know the album’s title track from the British Invasion remake by The Nashville Teens, but Lou’s version is as soulful as they come. I’m not sure if this is the version where the teens found the song, but the timing of the two records makes me probably thin yes. Lou got his start following his mentor Sam Cooke around the gospel circuit, only to sing back up on some of Sam’s biggest hits, notably Bring It On Home To Me, so he was pretty well known in music circles, even if his early albums didn’t sell very well.
If Lou is known at all, it’s for his photo disco albums he made in the 70s for Philadelphia International. But his 60s Capitol albums are really great and fairly easy to find and well worth searching out.
Cost: $1, $646 Remaining
Various Artists, Rock & Roll Evolution Or Revolution, Laurie SLP-2044, 1964
It’s not often that I buy compilation records. Usually they are very cheaply or filled with some really odd choices. If anything, I tend to go for hilarious covers or really crazy themes. Like this record. It tries to be a history lesson for Rock music, even though it came out in 1964, just 9 years after Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock..
In typical record company fashion, Laurie Records in this case, virtually all of the selections come from Laurie or some other small New York based independent label. While Elvis Presley and The Beatles get a mention on the back cover, a low budget record like this could never have afforded the rights to re-relrease a song from either of them.
Not that the record plays more than a verse of each song. It’s really a documentary, written and announced by Norm N. Night. Anyone familiar with that name knows that he made a career around trying to be an authority on Rock music on radio. It’s this record where he got his start doing that, and it’s a pretty great bit of radio as well as music history.
Cost: $2, $647 Remaining
Elmo & Patsy, Will You Be Ready?, Oink 8021, 1980
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again today. You never know what you’re going to find when you look through a bargain bin of records. It’s unknown how long this essentially homemade bluegrass record sat around in Al & Joanne’s house before they dropped it off with a bunch of other records in order to clean out their basement or move. It ended up at a fairly decent local record store with a really large $1 bin.
At first glance, this record would seem to be a prime candidate for a $1 bin. Homemade bluegrass records, whether brand new or 36 years old, generally don’t have much value. What drew me to this record though was that it was recorded by Elmo & Patsy. Virtually everyone on this planet knows Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, but a much smaller subset of that group know that it was recorded by a Bay Area veterinarian called Dr. Elmo and his then wife Patsy. It’s just that no one bought Grandma for the incomparable artistry of Elmo & Patsy anymore than people watch The Godfather because Al Martino plays the wedding singer.
So, I can easily see how a bored record clerk would not recognize the name or even bother to turn the record over to see that Elmo & Patsy signed this copy “with every best wishes” to Al & Joanne. While Elmo & Patsy aren’t exactly John & Yoko to an autograph collector, it’s still a pretty neat thing to find. Especially since they haven’t signed anything together since their 1985 divorce decree. This record came out the year after Grandma was recorded, but three years before it was championed by Dr Dimento and became a worldwide sensation. I think they just seem to be a couple with day jobs that played bluegrass at night, blissful in their lack of success. They never made another non-Christmas record, and probably not just because Al & Joanne stopped being fans.
Cost: $1, $649 Remaining
Roberta Flack, Feel Like Makin’ Love, Atlantic SD-18131, 1975
She doesn’t get enough credit today, but Roberta Flack was probably the best selling female solo artist for a few years in the early 70s. This album was the last one released during that incredible streak. Curiously, it came out 10 months after the #1 title track, but it’s still a fantastic record that blends soul with jazz and pop.
There’s not much to the artwork, but the front cover does imply winter turning into spring. That’s good because that’s the first line of the first song on side one.
It’s a gatefold cover, so at least on the inside we get a small picture of baby Roberta and not much else beyond some really great credits. I’ve been lucky enough to see both Patti Austin and Betty Buckley in concert, and it’s great to know they’re singing the background vocals.
I know this isn’t really a theme week, but I’ve been finding really great records to show. Not just random oddities that fit my budget but very solidly done music that just doesn’t get heard much these days. This album is really great and all it took to take home forever was $2 and about 2 hours of sifting through 2000 used R&B records.
Cost: $2, $650 Remaining
Donna Summer, Bad Girls, Casablanca NBLP-2-7150, 1979
It doesn’t matter to a bargain record buyer what genre of music is on the record. We buy anything! While I personally get more excited about a classic rock album than a classic disco album, finding a great copy of the ultimate disco album is still a good thing.
The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack may be the ultimate disco record, but this double album from Donna Summer is right behind it. Never comfortable with the Love Goddess image given to her by her producer Georgio Moroder, she wanted this record to done more in a rock style than pure dance music. The combination is really great, and the album became the biggest of her career.
After this record, and as the best selling female artist in the world, she felt strong enough to go further with her interest in rock music, but Casablanca refused to back her. She signed with the then new Geffen Records to get more creative freedom. Casablanca chose to do what record companies always do, release a greatest hits package, and mine this album for “new” singles for two years. Both the artist and the company saw the sales dry up, and by 1981 the artist was considered a has been and the company was out of business. Still, this record is really great (it would be an amazing single record!), and one that is easy enough to find.
Cost: $2, $652 Remaining
Joni Mitchell, Ladies Of The Canyon, Reprise RS-6376, 1970
I really wanted to showcase a Leonard Cohen album today. But it turns out I don’t have any, bought at any price. A record with one of his sons being covered would have been great too, but I couldn’t find any of those either. So I turned to another classic record form a similar vein.
Joni Mitchell through her songwriting first blended folk, rock, art, and social justice into one seamless package. That she could sing like an angel was almost an after thought. This album came out as her star was still rising, and the best known songs on it were made so by being recorded by other people.
It’s not in perfect condition, but at $2 who cares. It’s Joni Mitchell at her best, and that’s worth a few pops.
Cost: $2, $654 Remaining
The Beach Boys, Surfing’ USA, Capitol T-1890, 1963
The eternal city is a great place to find a classic record from a group that was perceived as a fad. Surfing’ USA was a huge hit for The Beach Boys, the follow up album to Surfing’ Safari, but Capitol Records was treating the group as a fad who’s popularity would soon end. My evidence? The stock photo of an anonymous surfer is on the front cover, instead of a smiling picture of the happy group.
Capitol didn’t really bother too much with the back cover either, using an outtake from the Surfing’ Safari cover photo shoot, along with some random studio shots. Mainstay Al Jardine wasn’t yet prepared to leave dental school for something so foolish as recording for Capitol Records, so The Wilson brother’s neighbor, 14 year old David Marks is still in the group as rhythm guitarist.
This copy of the record, still in it’s original shrink wrap came with me on my recent tour of Europe. I was interested in seeing if there was a market for selling fairly easy to find records in places where they aren’t very easy to find. So much so that I couldn’t find a record store in Italy to offer it to. Anyway, having a near mint condition of one of my favorite group’s best early records is a good thing.
Cost: $3, $656 Remaining