Dion & The Belmonts, Presenting…, Laurie LLP-1002, 1959
It always seems to be a good idea to buy any playable 50s album that you find. To find this record at the price I paid, it also takes a seller who doesn’t know what they are doing. Sure, I know about Dion & The Belmonts, and this would appear to be their first album. Remembering that albums of the era were usually just collections of a group’s singles, it didn’t surprise me to find virtually every Dion & The Belmonts’ song I knew on it. I still splurged a little bit, but I had no idea how rare this record was until I got home to research it.
This 1959 release is the original Laurie issue (LLP-1002), which was re-released in 1960 after the Top 10 success of Where Or When as LLP-2002. A near copy of this record is valued at $250 in my Goldmine price guide. While there may not a near mint copy of the record out there after 58 years, I feel really good about finding this copy at $7. Apparently, the 1960 re-issue sold better (Where Or When turned out to be the group’s biggest hit), but it’s still rare enough to be valued at $150.
Still, I have a feeling that a larger or more diligent record seller would realize the rarity of a record like this and price it out of range for my budget. I found it at a store that specializes in alternative and classic rock records. It’s quite possible that this record got dropped off there by someone looking to sell their grandparents records and was quickly graded by an overwhelmed clerk who doesn’t know the difference between Dion and Celine Dion. Which is a-ok with me!
Cost: $7, $70 Remaining
Neal Hefti, Hefti In Gotham City, RCA LSP-3621, 1966
Nestor Armral & His Continentals, Craftsmen C-8027, 195?
We are over 350 records in, and there is still over $90 left on my quest to buy 365 albums for $1000. I could run out the clock with interesting $1 records like the one on the right above. It’s a discount record on the Craftsmen label that features a young Mary Tyler Moore on the cover. It would be easy for me to gush about how they tried to make our Mary look like the Contadina Tomato girl, and how the low budget “Italian” instrumentals sound after 55 years or so.
But, no. I think i’d rather cut it close to the wire and spend the next two weeks spending that $92 down and find a better class of interesting records, like the one on the left. Neal Hefti is one of those artists that skirted the lines of fame & sales and producing & performing. As a performer, he led made a name for himself in the Big Band era, eventually working his way up to the Count Basie Orchestra. When Frank Sinatra started his Reprise label with Basie as one of his first signings, Neal Hefti came along as the conductor of the studio orchestra. By 1966, Hefti had moved on to RCA and work on film and TV scores.
It was a formidable assignment, as Hefti wrote, arranged and conducted possibly the most memorable TV theme song of the 60s. Both the Batman TV show and it’s theme song were instant hits, enough so that RCA gave its in house producer follow-up album. Hefti In Gotham City barely sold, but it is full of lush mid-60s instrumentals and incidental music from the show. It’s in near mint condition too, which, along with it’s rarity and TV show tie in, makes this a bargain record to find for the price.
Cost: $15, $77 Remaining
Madonna, Like A Virgin, Sire 9-25157-1, 1984
Time was, Madonna records weren’t that hard to find. You’d even see them in Goodwill from time to time. When that happens, I tend to never really getting around to getting a record like this. After all, I grew up with the music, and, with so many of these popping up, I usually went with some other record that I’d never seen before.
Then all at once it happened, Madonna records were no more. As younger record buyers started shopping, these were the “classic” albums they were looking for and they all virtually disappeared. The same happened to Michael Jackson and Prince records, but for the most part it only happened after their deaths. Madonna records are probably gone from the bargain bins because they’re very good records for their era,
To be fair, the mid-80s synth pop music hasn’t held up well. The songs that pushed the boundaries of pop in the Reagan Era now seem cutsey and tame. But the four Top 10 hits still get your feet moving, and this is a really fun album to have. You’ll just have to shell out a little more for it now.
Cost: $15, $92 Remaining
Wilson Pickett, The Wicked Pickett, Atlantic SD-8138, 1967
It’s always a bit of a thrill when I run across an album I’ve never seen before. Naturally, it’s a bigger thrill when I realize it’s fairly priced and I can afford it. Price guides list a mint stereo copy of this record at $60, so I didn’t think to hard about shelling out $10 for this copy. Any mid 60s soul record, especially one on Atlantic, Stax or Volt is a rare find and I never hesitate to add one to my collection when I find it. Wilson Pickett was in the middle of his amazing tear of blistering soul hits when this record came out, and this is one wicked album to listen to.
There’s only one true hit single, Mustang Sally, but even the covers are done in the same Memphis Soul style. Technically, even Sally is a cover of a cover too. It was done by a former band mate of Pickett’s, “Sir” Mack Rice in 1965. That version hit #15 on the R&B charts, and a few months later, The Young Rascals re-recorded it as the B-Side to their #1 hit Good Lovin. With The Rascals being on Atlantic, and Pickett needing a new song to record, producer Jerry Wexler took the song to Memphis and the result was a stone cold smash.
Both stereo and mono versions of this album originally came out when it was released for New Year’s 1967. By New Years 1968, most record companies phased out commercial mono pressings, but this is one case where the mono out sold the stereo. The price guides value a stereo copy as being worth $10 more, so I have to assume that it didn’t sell as well. Either way, this is a a real find, and sometimes you just get lucky.
Cost: $10, $107 Remaining
The Jackson 5, ABC, Motown MS-709, 1970
It’s no secret that 1970 was the year of The Jackson 5. Besides The Beatles in 1964, no other artist exploded on the charts with such memorable songs as they did. This was their second album, and it yielded their second and third #1 singles. In a real passing of the torch moment, ABC knocked out The Beatles’ Let It Be from #1, and a few weeks later, The Love You Save replaced The Long And Winding Road.
This is real bubblegum soul music, both insanely catchy and seemingly simple, the songs are actually pretty intricate. Unlike their first album, which featured songs with much more mature material, this album’s tracks are similar lyrically to the title track. Reading the lyrics to ABC, you would think it was nothing more than a poem written by a 3rd grader. It takes real talent write and produce something so light and have it end up as something significant or silly. This album isn’t silly.
Ok, perhaps the inner sleeve is. Original period Motown albums all have printed inner sleeves featuring fan club news or new release ads. Jackson 5 inner sleeves though, took this to an all time high in a kitschy, Tito-Rific way. It remains unclear how many Soul-Mates Jermaine met or how many Marlon posters people paid $0.25 for, but reading one of these today is pretty great. Any Motown record is collectible, and double that for a Jackson 5 record. Because they weren’t usually bought by audiophiles, finding a decent one at a decent price is a challenge. There’s one less out there now!
Cost: $5, $117 Remaining
Bob Dylan, Nashville Skyline, Columbia KCS-9825, 1969
Any Bob Dylan record is hard to come by in decent condition and at a decent price. His records usually sold well, but they are all treasured by collectors these days. Finding a decent Dylan record for $7 is a very happy occasion. That it’s also one of his most enjoyable albums makes it even better. While country music and Bob Dylan aren’t usually combined into one sentence, this album was the second of a three record phase from the chameleon like artist. There was also a gospel phase and a standards phase yet to come, so maybe this isn’t really as strange as it might seem.
Supposedly, Johnny Cash had written Bob Dylan a fan letter, which immediately was returned with a fan letter from Dylan to Cash. They both were fighting with the same people at Columbia Records or creative control, they were both fiercely independent, and they became fast friends. Bob Dylan’s only named collaborator of the 1960s was Johnny Cash. They never did finish the duets album they wanted to, but Girl From North Country is a fantastic song from two guys who supposedly couldn’t sing.
Never a fan of labels, Dylan was eager to cease being “the voice of his generation”. This album helped do this, and it’s still a great listen today. It would take a lifetime of looking to find every Dylan record, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. It’s hard to know now which ones are harder to find, 60s classics that changed the world (but that everyone hangs on to) or 90s flops that barely sold (and almost killed his career). Neither are particularly easy to find at any price, so it’ll be all the more challenging to complete at bargain prices.
Cost: $7, $122 Remaining
Carole King, Tapestry, Ode SP-77009, 1971
This one is easy to fall in love with. This is Sunday morning tea making music, rainy afternoon music, and Friday afternoon heading out of town music, all rolled up into one. This is a most essential album, and luckily for anyone who wants one, it is easily available. Tapestry is #36 on the latest Top 500 Albums Of All Time list from Rolling Stone, yet it’s the only one you’ll find that places that high in neat mint condition for under $5. Chalk that up to virtually every woman alive in 1971 buying and cherishing this album.
Tapestry has hits past (Natural Woman and Will You Love Me Tomorrow) present (It’s Too Late and So Far Away) and future (You’ve Got A Friend). But I almost feel that the non hits are why this record stayed on the Top 200 for 313 weeks. Songs like Beautiful, Home Again, and Smackwater Jack are what really make Tapestry so great.
There’s no need to rush out and buy the first copy of this you see. 25 million copies sold mean that the near mint copy of your dreams is out there waiting for you. Until you find it, flip through your Aunt’s record collection or hit a garage sale for a placeholder.
Cost: $4, $129 Remaining
The Police, Synchronicity, A&M SP-3735, 1983
In 1983, Thriller hit the #1 position four times and spent 22 weeks on top of the charts. It’s hard to imagine any record coming close to that in one year, but this album did. Synchronicity spent 17 weeks at #1 and spawned the biggest selling single of the year. It beat out (!) Thriller for album of the year at the 1983 Grammy Awards (Thriller won it in 1984 after spending the first 15 weeks of ’84 at #1 as well). That kind of performance guarantees this album’s place on all of the usual “best of all time” lists, even though a mint condition copy of it sells for a few dollars.
It could be that virtually every city in the world has a radio station that plays Every Breath You Take several times a day. I would imagine that it will soon among the most ever played songs of all time, as fewer and fewer people feel the need to hear The Beatles’ Yesterday. But the rest of the album hasn’t aged as gracefully.
Because of it’s accolades and one of the biggest singles of the decade, I would call this an essential album. The Police broke up just after it came out, so this was it as far as the very innovative band ever went. But it’s usually just something that tends to sit on a shelf for year after year not being played. Listening to the whole album for this post was a bit of an ordeal for me making me believe that Sting really was the King Of Pain.
Cost: $5, $133 Remaining
Fats Domino, This Is Fats Domino, Imperial LP-9028, 1956
This is not only Fats Domino, but it’s a wonderful into to a real artist just doing his thing. Fats Domino’s last charting record was his 1968 cover of The Beatles’ Lady Madonna, and it sounds like it could be on this album. The Fat Man doesn’t have to explain himself to you, thank you very much. While he doesn’t get much press these days, he is hanging in there at age 89, and even losing “everything” in Hurricane Katrina didn’t dampen his spirit.
This was Domino’s third album, and, like most 50s albums, it’s just a collection of singles that were complied into an LP. In 1956, the 12″ LP was still a pretty new invention, so many artists didn’t conceive of an album as a specific creative entity with its own theme. Records like these are merely a portrait of the artist at a particular place and time. But this particular place and time featured Fats Domino’s biggest hit, and just the opening note of Blueberry Hill is enough to pull you in to the whole record.
While the $10 price tag of this record is waaay above the normal price tag of a record in this blog, it’s also waaay below the usual trading price for a record of this age and condition. Dropping a need on this for the first time, I couldn’t believe how smooth this copy plays. Not only was the LP a new invention, but vinyl production was still in the early stages of its development. To find a 61 year old record that is pop free is really something, especially one of this quality.
Cost: $10, $138 Remaining
The Righteous Brothers, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, Philles 4007, 1965
People that like listening to records tend to get a certain thrill from dropping a need onto a new (to them in my case) record for the first time. It’s such an analog, tactile experience because there are the sounds of the needle hitting the vinyl and searching for the groove. You never know when after hearing those when the music will begin, and even if you know the song that’s about to play, there is a moment where everything is quiet except the white noise of the vinyl. The lead song from this album breaks that moment of anticipation better than almost any other record I know.
Yes, The Righteous Brothers found out quickly that Phil Spector was, to be generous, a bit odd. Not every producer names his own record label after himself and put is picture on his artists’ work. But one listen of You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling on vinyl will at least validate the talent it took to make such a record. It’s hard for me to believe I could find this record for $2, but such is the nature of looking at a lot of records. A seller with 10 of these on hand in Portland sells something for $2 that would sell for $25 in New York. Anything on Philles Records is very collectible, and good copies of albums by The Crystals and The Ronettes usually trade for over $100. Why The Righteous Brothers two Philles Records don’t also is a bit odd, but I’m not complaining.
Purists are that Phil Spector’s productions sound best in Mono, making this rarer Stereo copy less desirable, but now having both on my shelf, I lean towards the stereo version with one “Brother” having his own side of the wall of sound coming from the speakers. This particular copy has the rare “Seen Weekly On Shindig” sticker on the intact 52 year old shrink wrap, which means this is not a second pressing. The record plays flawlessly and even if Feeling is by far the best track on the record, it’s still a great listen.
Cost: $2, $148 Remaining