Sonny & Cher, Live In Las Vegas Vol. 2, MCA2-8004, 1974
There are 1001 books out there on the 1001 most essential records every vinyl fan must have to be considered a serious collector. Beatles records, Bob Dylan’s 60s albums, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and The Rolling Stones all have multiple entries on these lists. Good condition original copies of these records are very expensive, averaging up to $40 each for records that virtually everyone already knows by heart. Songs from these albums get airplay on the radio everyday, and they languish on lists of best selling digital downloads. These are not obscure records.
This album isn’t on any of these kinds of lists. It spent a few weeks on the Billboard Top 200 album chart, climbing all the way to #175. With their hugely public split about to occur in 1974, this was the last album of new material of Sonny & Cher’s long career. Even though it’s mostly just an album of cover material, you get a sense of what a Vegas ballroom show was like in 1973.
So, while no one will ever call this an essential record, it is a fun one. When I ‘m making dinner or something, I’m much more likely to reach for a record like this than I am Dark Side Of The Moon. When friends come over and want to see my new discoveries, I pull out Sonny & Cher Live In Las Vegas Vol. 2 every time over The Velvet Underground. It’s fun records like this that I find essential, and I can have 1001 of them for the same price as the top 50 critically acclaimed records.
Cost: $1, $264 Remaining
Al Hirt, Honey In The Horn, RCA Victor LPM-2733, 1963
I do love a good Al Hirt record. While I’m clearly one of the few people to ever write that sentence (based on the price of his records today), I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s the thrill of finding a mint condition record for very little money that you have never head before and you completely fall in love with that I’m after, and the Used Instrumental bin is where I usually find them.
It’s not just that Al Hirt had some of the greatest nicknames this side of James Brown that makes me want to have all of his records. I really can’t tell you why The Round Mound Of Sound appeals to me so much. Al “He’s The King” Hirt made an amazing trumpet sound, and since “jumbo” was from New Orleans, he grew up learning from some the all-time jazz greats. That he recorded for RCA in the 50s and 60s makes his records all the more appealing to me, with them adding The Anita Kerr Singers to sing background parts with no lead vocals and enough echo to propel a Mardi Gras float down Bourbon Street.
This pristine $3 copy of his biggest selling record still wears its original shrink wrap. It’s not a particularly hard record to find, but I’ll buy virtually any record in this condition for that price. It’s just a bonus that I happen to really like it. Virtually everyone on Earth knows the hit Java, but not many people know that this album was one of two Hirt placed in the 1964 year end Top 10. That was the year of The Beatles, and this album peaked at #3 behind two Beatles albums.
Cost: $3, $265 Remaining
Brian Wilson, Brian Wilson, Sire 1-25669, 1988
It’s a good sign that you’re in too deep with your therapist when he makes himself your co-collabarator and Executive Producer. I’m not aware of Dr. Eugene Landy’s musical background, but here he is splitting royalties with his most famous client.
If you happened to catch the Brian Wilson bio-pic Love And Mercy, you saw a bit of how Dr. Landy came to control Brian’s life. While Landy did help Brian control his addictions and get physically fit, he also did nothing to help Wilson’s mental illness and used mind control to keep Brian under his “care”. Naming himself as a songwriter and producer though is not what a proper doctor would ever do. When the Wilson family finally got Brian free from Landy in 1991, his name was removed from subsequent re-issues.
Reviews are mixed on the record. Some people love it, but a lot of people don’t…hence the $2 price tag. It didn’t sell well, and even had competition on the charts from The Beach Boys in the form a their #1 hit Kokomo. But count me as one of the fans of this album. It’s wonderful to hear Wilson on his only 80s release, and the songs have a lot of Pet Sounds qualities about them.
Cost: $2, $268 Remaining
The Smothers Brothers, Live At The Purple Onion, Mercury SR-60611, 1961
The Smothers Brothers began their long fruitful career in 1958 at San Francisco’s The Purple Onion. The same small beatnik coffeehouse launched the careers of The Kingston Trio and Phyllis Diller, and this record is both of it’s time and ahead of it’s time for where The Brothers took musical comedy in the 60s. They sing some of the the same folk songs as The Kingston Trio, but there’s a bite to them that is missing from the trio’s #1 albums for Capitol.
But this really isn’t an update on the nature of the record, I’m writing today to show the lengths record companies went to to sell two different kinds of records. Record sleeves of the classic vinyl era were made of cardboard that was then covered with what was called a cover slick. It was more economical to produce a color front slick with a black and white rear cover slick. But, because albums were released in both mono and stereo formats, front cover slicks had to differentiate between the two.
The easiest thing to do was design an elongated front cover slick, with this record being a prime example. The top edge would scream that this was a stereo record, suitable for those who had the money to invest in a true stereo sound system and pay 10% more to buy stereo records. The bottom part of the front slick would be reserved for the more economical mono record purchaser. The sort of Chevy Biscayne driving record buyer who’s home player was “affordable” or only had one speaker. The record company could then fold either appropriate edge onto the back of the cardboard sleeve and cover the non applicable part with the back cover slick. This Mercury jacket shows how easy it was to do. Plus, I get to choose between stereo or mono when I need to hear The Smothers Cover of Tom Dooley.
Cost: $2, $270 Remaining
The Philadelphia International All Stars, Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto, Philadelphia International JZ-34659, 1977
I know I just wrote the other day about promos and how I never buy them. Naturally, that meant I was bound to discover a record I’ve always wanted to find moments after publishing that, but with a promotional label on it.
The first time I ever heard The Philadelphia International All Stars’ Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto, all 8:42 of it, I couldn’t believe it. It’s really half of a monologue about garbage, crime and cockroaches by the great Lou Rawls followed by four minutes of amazing Funk & Disco. The fact that I was driving in rural Argentina at the time made it seem even more unreal. It was one of those times when you hear a song you love, but have no way to identify it so you can look for it later. I had to ask all kinds of record people about this bizarre Lou Rawls social commentary until one of them knew about it enough to tell me what it is.
And what it is is an attempt by the beginning to fade Philadelphia International Record Company to stay relevant in the later 70s with the rise of disco music. It’s basically a compilation from the roster of the label in 1977 with the added “all star” track specifically written to give it a relevant theme. Of course, songs about hot smelly garbage don’t get much airplay so the record never really sold. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a great record to have, with the Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff production team at the height of their game. Since it didn’t sell, it’s a pretty rare record to find, and I was thrilled to find this promo for $1! It took me over a decade to find this one from when I first heard it, and while I’ll keep looking for a standard release, I’m really happy to have this version, ring wear and all.
Cost: $5, $272 Remaining
Dobie Grey, Drift Away, Decca DL-75397, 1973
Despite the fact that his hair looks like Samuel L. Jackson’s in Pulp Fiction, this little pop-soul album from Dobie Grey became a modest #63 hit and spawned a top 5 single with its title track. By all accounts, he was a lovely man who passed away too early in 2011 at age 71, and Drift Away became his signature song in a 40 year career that went from Soul to Country Music. But none of that is why I’m writing about this record.
I’m featuring this record for two reasons, the first of which is that it’s significant because this was the last US release for the Decca label. Despite being one of the earliest commercial labels to exist, the Decca Gramophone brand began in London in 1914, by 1973 the US Decca label had been absorbed by MCA. Relations between the UK and the US labels were strained, and it was decided to simply retitle the US label as MCA Records. Despite the nearly 60 year history of being a major label, Decca drifted away with this album.
The other obvious reason to write about this record is the infamously misheard line in the chorus of Drift Away. Grey sings “Give me the beat boys and free my soul”, but millions of people heard it as “Give me The Beach Boys…”. Such a common mis-hearing is called a mondegreen. Certified as a new English word by Merriam Webster in 2000, mondegreen dates to 1954 and writer Sylvia Wright who always sang a Scottish folk ballad as “Lady Mondegreen” instead of the correct “…and laid him on the green”. If you’ve ever wanted to visit the famous Donzerly Lighthouse featured in The Star Spangled Banner, you’ve been singing a mondegreen by the dawn’s early light. My personal favorites include England Dan & John Ford Coley’s “I’m not talkn’ ’bout the linen” (…movin’ in) and The Rascals’ “you and and Leslie” (…endlessly).
Cost: $2, $277 Remaining
Monteux Vienna Philharmonic, Symphonie Fantastique, RCA LM-2362, 1960
I really didn’t even want to know what this is all about. If ever there was a time I bought a record for the cover, this was it. Here is a porcelain skinned and heavily made up Barbie doll dressed up as a belly dancer with her hair in a bun and covered by a pink lace shawl. It’s all overshadowed by the hangman’s noose about to smear her make up as it goes around her head. And she doesn’t seem all that concerned about it either, using her last few moments alive to flash some bedroom eyes.
I don’t buy classical records. Yes, I know, I should try to improve and expand my horizons, but I get much more of a thrill from finding a decent cheap copy of Julie London’s Yummy Yummy Yummy (I Got Love In My Tummy) than I ever will from a 1960 recording of an 1830 symphony written by Hector Berlioz. Incidentally, the noose bit all makes sense after reading the wikipedia page on the strange life of Hector Berlioz.
I’m not alone in my distaste for records like this. Many record shops have classical sections tucked into a lonely dust filled corner. There’s hardly ever anyone looking through the bins. Without the magical cover, this would just be another sad addition to the pile. It’s this kind of record that winds up becoming an art project, cut into coasters or a cheap clock that you’d find at a crafts fair somewhere. I only found it because it was misfiled into my favorite store’s discount Jazz bin. Maybe someday my curiosity will get the better of me and I’ll actually try to listen to this, but for now, it’s a prime candidate for framing.
Cost: $2, $279 Remaining