April 28, 2017 This Is $2

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Various Artists, This Is Soul, Atlantic SD-8170, 1968

I think I’ve been clear so far by saying I don’t usually buy-or even look for- various artists  or greatest hits packages.  I’d rather have the original album(s) that feature the songs and get the fuller picture of the artist and the times the songs were recorded.  It used to bug me to hear some C-List celebrity on a Time Life CD collection infomercial say things like “Do you have any idea how long it would take you to track down all of these records?!?”.  Why yes, I do, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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But every now and then though, something catches my eye.  For this record, it wasn’t the terrible artwork.  C’mon Atlantic, it’s 1968 already, people know you cater to African American artists.  Put THEM on the cover!  What did cause me to add this to my pile was the amazing collection that Atlantic put together.  Not only are there hits from the past like Ray Charles and The Drifters, but also current records from different labels that were distributed by Atlantic.  It’s very rare to see this and even tiny Karen Records is represented with the biggest hit the label ever had, The Capitol’s Cool Jerk.

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It’s not in perfect condition, but this is one album you could spin at a party and get compliments from people about how great your playlist is.  Spotify would kill to have these mixes.  This was indeed Soul Music, compiled at the peak of it’s popularity into one record.  There’s not a bad track on here, and I’m really glad I found it.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $2, $198 Remaining

April 27, 2017 Foot Loose And Fancy (Virtually) Free

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Rod Stewart, Foot Loose And Fancy Free, Warner Brothers BSK-3092, 1977

For a hit 70s album, this Rod Stewart record trades at 80s flop prices.  It’s odd really, how some artists straddle the very fine line between “classic” and “cliche”. Rod Stewart is one of them.  While a similar selling Eagles or Fleetwood Mac album in similar condition would cost $8-$10, this record cost me $1 and there are plenty of copies online for $0.50.  Heck, even an Al Stewart album costs $2.

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And this is a pretty listenable album.  The big hit off it, You’re In My Heart, was not only a #4 hit, but also a really nice follow up to Stewart’s biggest hit Tonight’s The Night.  It’s not only self penned, but there’s no one else I can think of who could pull off the lyrics and still sound credible.  The rest of the album is a familiar mix of minor hits and Motown covers, but it’s actually pretty listenable.

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This near mint copy even has it’s usually missing lyric insert.  These things rarely survive  intact, and it just firm up what I think about records like this.  They will never be cheaper, and as time passes, they will be sought out.  I wouldn’t rush out and teach high and low for this one, but I also have plenty of room on my shelf for it.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $1, $200 Remaining

April 26, 2017 Outta Luck

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Elvis Presley, Pot Luck, RCA LPM-2523, 1962

This odd little Elvis album turned out to be quite a turning point for his career.  It was two years since Elvis was released from the army, and this collection was supposed to be the cream of the non-film soundtrack songs he had recorded.  While it did a respectable business, peaking at #4, it was dwarfed by the soundtracks to G.I. Blues and Blue Hawaii.

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I’m sure the schlocky packaging didn’t help, nor the melange of top 20 hits from 1961-62, but when the sales didn’t reach The Colonel’s expectations, he focused his protege’s attention to woking solely in films.  This would be the last non film or goapel album that Elvis would release un his “comeback” in 1969.

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Instead, Elvis’ albums became mirrors of the weak movie scripts he got.  The Elvis that changed the world didn’t do so by singing about clams, lemonade or nuns.  So while his 60s albums sold well, they’re not very collectable.  This flawless copy set me back $1 and i actually passed on a so-so copy of It Happened At The World’s Fair.  For me, it wasn’t happening and it would be something I wold never listen to.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $1, $201 Remaining

April 25, 2017 Reuse Recycle Repeat

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Simon & Garfunkel, Sounds Of Silence, Columbia CS-9269, 1966

How many times can one song appear on an artist’s albums?  If you’re Simon & Garfunkel, and the song in question is The Sounds Of Silence, the answer is three.  As crazy as it might seem today, this was the second of three albums that Sounds came out on.  The basic track was recorded in 1964 for Wednesday Morning 3A.M., which went on to sell about 74 copies worldwide.  Disappointed with the sales, and without S&G’s knowledge, Columbia took the song and had a staff producer add electric guitars and drums.  Released as a single in September 1965, the song took a slow climb to the #1 spot at Christmas 1965.

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With a #1 hit on their hands, Columbia eventually got around to tracking down Art Garfunkel in New York and Paul Simon in London to see if they could maybe come up with a few more songs for a new album.  The answer was “I guess so”.  and the bulk of this album was recorded in one day.  Even Columbia was surprised by the reaction, and when the follow up single I Am A Rock took off, they redesigned the cover of the album to feature the new smash.

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But that’s not all!  Two years later, as the producers of The Graduate were waiting for new Simon & Garfunkel songs to use in their film, they used filler songs like The Sounds Of Silence as a placeholder.  The film was edited around the songs and everyone seemed to like the film as it was.  So once again, Sounds was released again on The Graduate Soundtrack.  Luckily, all three of the albums can be found in virtually any record store, thrift store or yard sale for next to no money.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $3, $202 Remaining

April 24, 2014 Building A Solo Career

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Don Henley, Building The Perfect Beast, Geffen GHS-24026, 1984

I think the real reason that The Eagles kept reuniting was because they found being solo artists to be too stressful.  At least, that’s the impression I get from Don Henley and the making of this album.  Henley had fights with the record company over every aspect of the record and it would be five years before he returned to recording.  Drama aside, it’s a really good 80s album and I was really glad to get it for $1.

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The gold leaf stamp on the top of the front cover means that Geffen gave this record away as a promo.  It was most likely a radio station or music business executive that would get this album for free in the hopes of it getting promoted by them.  Someone wrote 11/84 on the back cover which corresponds to the November 19, 1984 release date for the record.  The disclaimer says that that this record was only being lent to the recipient and can be demanded back at any time.  33 years on, I’m prepared to do that if they really do want it back, but I’d want to see some ID first.

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Collectors like to buy promo records on the assumption that they were only handled rarely and then by professionals.  A radio station would professionally tape the tracks they wanted to broadcast and create tape loops in special cartridges to use on air.  I don’t necessarily search out promos, in fact I prefer generally release records.  Geffen took the easy way out and just stamped their promo disclaimer on the jacket of a regular record.  Other companies, especially in the 50s and 60s created special promo labels for their giveaways and they can be worth twice what a standard release is.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $1, $205 Remaining

April 23, 2017 A Better Best New Artist

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Bruce Hornsby And The Range, The Way It Is, RCA AFL1-5904, 1986

Despite the photographic pun, this is another great 80s album that I found for $1.  By 1986, the CD was really becoming the format of choice for album shoppers.  It wasn’t until 1988 that CDs outsold vinyl, but the handwriting was on the wall.  Records like this that appealed to a slightly older crowd were already selling equally in both formats (with the Cassette hanging in there!).  Still, at three million in sales, that still means plenty of vinyl copies are out there.

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This is the second, better selling, design for the album.  The earlier jacket was an abstract art piece that, while lovely, had no image of the group.  RCA, for some reason, felt that it would be best to market this album to the New Age crowd.  When The Way It Is single took off, though, people wanted to know who this group was, and a new cover was produced.  Bruce Hornsby And The Range went on to win the Best New Artist Grammy.

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It’s an awesome album, and I can’t believe it now trades for $1.  It tells me, again, that the time to load up on these records is now, before people realize that there’s no reason to buy a brand new copy at Urban Outfitters for $25.  The value will only go up, and the quality will be about the same.  Record companies had really consolidated by the mid 80s, and production standards were really improved.  These records are light and flexible, but more durable than flimsy 70s attempts.  I’ll actually listen to this record on a rainy day, which here in Oregon will be quite a lot.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $1, $206 Remaining

April 22, 2017 Make It A Buck

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Wham!, Make It Big, Columbia FC-39595, 1984

It’s Record Store Day today, and while that doesn’t mean much for most people, it meant that I was up early to see what the festivities were like here in town.  One shop was having a massive $1 sale that I knew would take hours to get through, while the other celebrated by stocking up on Record Store Day specials re-issued by the record companies.  While I’m constantly amazed at some of the records that get re-issued, I noticed at trend this year.  There were some specials from new music, but it was 80s remixes that really were popular.  Madonna and Michael Jackson, but mostly Prince all had “new” records in the stores, custom made collectibles that went on sale today.

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It made me realize that 80s records are probably going to start becoming hard to find at a decent price soon.  I know that original copies of Thriller and Purple Rain are already in Beatles territory price wise, so records like this can’t be far behind.  I ran back to the $1 sale and focused on as much 80s music as I could find.  At $1 each, these records will have nowhere to go but up in value.  If Prince is like The Beatles, then Wham! records will price out like The Dave Clark Five pretty soon.

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And this is a really great Pop record.  A worldwide #1 in 1984, it solidified George Michael as a superstar and relegated Andrew Ridgeley to the latest in a long list of lesser known sidekick.  Ridgeley is very much like & Oates and And Messina of pop duos gone by.  But still, I’m pretty pleased to get a mint condition $1 copy of this record.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $1, $207 Remaining

April 21, 2017 Africana!…?

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Horst Wende, Africana!, Strand SLS-1024, 1961

To my knowledge, Poland never got around to colonizing Africa, meaning the entire continent was forced to begin human culture and civilization without much of a Polka tradition.  It appears that this album was intended to remedy that situation.  From the bejeweled cover model to the bizarre landscape scene where mountains become waterfalls and rainbows appear below grasslands.  It’s obvious that this album is as African as the Royal Cape Town Yacht Club.

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With song titles like Zambezi, I was under the impression that this was an African import licensed for US release by the budget Strand Records.  After all, there’s no artist credited on the record anywhere, so who’s to say really what this is.  I should have known better. I already knew that once a band records an instrumental piece, they can call it whatever they like.  But it’s a real stretch to try to sell a twist polka record as traditional African music.  At least I know that when I listen to this record, I’m the only one on Earth doing so (outside of Krakow, Malawi that is).

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But that sort of trickery seems to have been the business model for Strand Records.  They started as an actual record company, but when that didn’t immediately work, they became the epitome of the slimly New York budget label.  Obviously, artists would never be paid for any sales they made on Strand, but it’s how they would churn and burn the customer that is probably worse.  I imagine that this was a German or Polish record that Strand got their hands on and re-released without any credit to the artist.  Both Lawrence Welk and Bert Kaempfert had #1 records in 1961 with music that sounds like this record, but to hide their tracks, Strand came up with the Africana ruse.  Anything to make a sale after all, right?  I was briefly captivated but this record’s cover at a 50% off sale, so that old Strand magic still works.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $4, $208 Remaining

April 20, 2017 Keeping In Touch

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The Supremes, Touch, Motown MS-737, 1971

No, The Supremes’ hit making career didn’t end with the departure of Diana Ross.  In fact, their early post Ross records did quite well.  Just ask Elton John, who writes a glowing set of liner notes for this very album.  The hit single from it, Nathan Jones, later became a world-wide #1 for Bananrama.  And the artwork for Touch was copied for the film adaptation for Dreamgirls (ending all mystery about who the play was written about!).  While not may people know this record today, Jean, Cindy & Mary were clearly on a roll.

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The basics out of the way, this copy is a great way to show the lifecycle of an unsold album.  The 46 year old shrink wrap is still intact, amazingly, given the cutout of one corner.  The twin price tags reveal that this once full price record was sent to a discount store.  After they failed to sell it for $1.97, the price got dropped to 98 Cents!  After that failed as well, it got sent back to the distributer, who cut the corner off and gave it away or donated it somewhere.

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I don’t view that as a reflection (!) of The Supremes post Ross career.  Very few artists would ever escape a cut out record, and it would be very hard for a company like Motown to gauge not only how many of a particular record to produce, but to know where the demand would be strongest.  Touch sold about 100,000 copies in the US, a very decent showing, but that was still less than most Supremes albums sold.  I’m just thankful that I was able to find this unsold one.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $2, $212 Remaining

April 19, 2017 In A Pickle

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The Bee Gees, Cucumber Castle, Atco SD33-327, 1970

Much like The Beatles, The Bee Gees were breaking up in early 1970.  Brother Robin quit the group just as the recording of this album began, and halfway though the sessions, Barry & Maurice fired the rest of the original band.  You might guess that all that drama would leave to a bitter recording experience full of unhappy songs, and guess what?  That’s what this album is!  The cover art even shows two very confused Bee Gees looking in opposite directions for some kind of sign of a brighter future.

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The whole experience was so rotten that Barry announced he was leaving the group before the record even came out, leaving Maurice as the only Bee Gee left.  Had they not been brothers, that would have been it, and Disco might never have happened.  But this crummy album did just well enough to keep the public’s interest in the group going in parts of the world (#7 in Italy!) that there was demand for more Bee Gee music.  Much more than there was from Robin or Barry Gibb solo records anyway.

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I’d say that this record is really only for all the Bee Gee crazed people out there, and both of them already have their copy.  That means I was able to get this near-mint copy for $2, and it’ll occupy my shelf until I have a “name that group” contest.  This just doesn’t sound at all like a Bee Gees record at all, but it’s perfect for your next Game Of Thrones watch party.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $2, $214 Remaining