Starland Vocal Band, Starland Vocal Band, Windsong BHL1- 1351, 1976
I bet of all the awards they’ve ever given out, I would be that the Grammy Awards Committee would like their Best New Artist Of 1977 one back. Yes, I know the similar one given to Milli Vanilli is right up there, the one presented to the Starland Vocal Band really set the kiss of death bar for all the sub-par winners that came after it. And yes, it wasn’t a stellar crop of nominees they were up against (Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band!), but either Boston or the Brothers Johnson would have looked fine in the rear view mirror.
It’s not that this is a particularly bad record, they can play and sing, but what they play and sing is so of a two month period of 1976 that you almost can’t listen to it without gagging. Their one hit, Afternoon Delight, has been mocked and derided ever since it hit #1 in July 1976. It was a big enough hit that the group got a shot at a TV series and a young David Letterman was the head writer and host of. The clips of it available on youtube are equally unwatchable.
Winding Records was John Denver’s vanity label that he was able to arrange with his label RCA. The association with the Starland Vocal Band goes back to Bill & Taffy Danoff, half of the Band, when they co-wrote Denver’s breakthrough hit Take Me Home Country Road. By the time this record came out though, the era of the country tinged light pop sound was dying. Disco was the new sound of the day and there was no was the Starland Vocal Band, or even John Denver, could make that transition. This is an easy record to find, and it’s always fun to pull out at a party, but it’s not what I would call an essential record.
Cost: $1, $216 Remaining
Barbra Streisand & Kris Kristofferson, A Star I Born, Columbia BL 34403, 1976
Some albums get unfairly branded as one thing or another, but this is definitely a 70s album. A modern take on an old movie, it had every 70s trend going for it, and it hit the bullseye with all of them. So much so that this record came to define it’s time, something that is great at first, but a real burden when that time is out of fashion.
It sold over 4,000,000,000 copies in the US alone, and I’d say 3.9 million of those buyers felt embarrassed by keeping it in the house. That makes this one of the easiest albums of all time to find. There’s absolutely no reason to ever pay $4 for a mint condition, still sealed copy. It’ll be at every yard sale from coast to coast for decades.
But it’s an interesting enough thing to keep in a collection. Evergreen alone is worth a few spins a year, and the Kris Kristofferson live numbers sound like they were fun to be at. So, do, please. Pick one up an keep it on the shelf, it’s ageless (now) and evergreen (especially if you get one the has mold on it).
Cost: $2, $443 Remaining
$81 Spent, $2.61 per record
Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive!, A&M SP-3703, 1976
The Wah-Wah fuzz guitar sound of the 1960s peaked in popularity in 1976. Peter Frampton was a fairly unknown English rocker when this live record came out and made his career literally come alive. Being 10 at the time, I’m here to tell you this album was literally everywhere during America’s Bicentennial year, especially if you had an older brother.
Recorded in New York and California in the Summer of ’75, you have to wonder what they were smoking to be so excited about a performer that wasn’t really all the popular before this. Sure, there are a lot of covers, but it’s the original tunes that stand out. Plus, making a guitar seem to talk is a pretty neat trick. That alone is worth looking for it.
The neat packaging is also far out. The outer cover opens up to for a cheap poster, but in a neat trick that I find annoying now, the slot for the records is at the top (and bottom when opened up), making it very possible for the record to cease to be Alive! after it crashes to the floor.
Finding a decent copy is pretty easy. The album sold about 8 Million copies in the US, and sometimes it seems like only about 250 original buyers have hung on to theirs. It’s not hard to filter through 6-7 copies in a used record store. As I type, I notice that discogs.com has 126 copies for sale beginning at $0.56. Perhaps I overpaid at $2, but this copy is pretty clean, or at least it was before I took pictures of in a desert fossil bed.
Cost: $2, $774 Remaining
Diana Ross, Diana Ross, Motown M6-861S1, 1976
It’s not often you find Motown albums at discount prices, at least one that plays well. If you do, it’s usually a 70-80s one like this Diana Ross offering. True, it’s a long way from a Supremes record, but it isn’t a DeBarge one either.
There’s the two huge number 1s’ the Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To) and Love Hangover, but not much else. At least it’s the extended disco mix of Hangover.
I suppose this album is just a tab morose for me. It had just been released when original Supreme Florence Ballard died tragically at only 32 years old. Ms. Ross showed up to the funeral at the last minute, walked down the aisle to sit in the front row of the church and held Flo’s young daughter on her lap while the press took pictures. Harsh perhaps, but it was great publicity for the record.
Cost: $2, $795 Remaining
The Miracles, The Power Of Music, Tamla T6-344, 1976
Motown was never one to abandon an artist that once sold records, even if they stopped selling records. The Marvelettes had been broken up for years, but “new” albums kept appearing into the early 70s to no acclaim. The Diana Ross-less Supremes fared much better, outselling their former lead singer to the point that Berry Gordy did his best to stop their career.
The reason was simple. Original group contracts billed all recording costs to the groups, so why not throw as much spaghetti to the wall as you can in the hopes of getting a hit. After all, they weren’t paying for it!
The Smokey Robinson-less Miracles might have been the most successful of the “star” less groups. In 1975, they, naturally enough, came up with a bizarre concept album that spawned the number one hit Love Machine. This album was the follow-up, and like any Motown record, very groovy and nice to have. And not just for the cover picture that seems to have the group wearing bell bottoms printed with a crowd of white hippies.
Besides the music, the liner notes on the back are unbelievable. Under the Simpson-esqe song title Love To Make Love, it reads “What can be more peaceful than a perfect physical union between a man and a woman, woman and woman, man and man, or group sex if thats your choice”. That would make people clutch their pearls today, let alone 40 years ago. In any event, it remains a truism for any record collector that you buy ANY affordable Motown record that you find.
Cost: $2, $835 Remaining
Melanie, Photograph, Atlantic SD-18190, 1976
We all grow up someday. It can be hard to accept or even know exactly when it happens, but like Johnny Paper in Puff The Magic Dragon, even flower children age. So it’s not really a question THAT a Hippie ages, it’s HOW a Hippie ages.
Melanie was a great Pop Hippie. Probably the last big name to come out of the Greenwich Village, she made a name for herself at Woodstock and a Buddah Records contract followed. Her raspy, yet sunny voice fit the AM radio sound and her 1972 #1 song Brand New Key was her commercial peak, fueled by the line “some people say I’ve done alright for a girl”.
But time and trends change. A grown up flower child is less precocious and sings with a less sunny outlook. Melanie’s voice is still strong, but I can totally see how this wouldn’t succeed at the dawn of the disco era. What might have been a huge hit a few years before quickly ended up in a discount bin.
And it is a great album! Atlantic went all out on packaging, with a gatefold cover a cool schoolbook cover style inner sleeve. But it wasn’t meant to be, and Melanie was dropped from the label.
Cost: $1, $857 Remaining
Telly Savalas, Who Loves Ya Baby, MCA-2160, 1976
Sometimes I really earn my pay… Telly Savalas was a fairly large movie star who became a huge TV star in the 70s with the success of his police detective show Kojak. In New York City, where the show was set, people of a certain age still call it a “Kojak” when they find a convenient free parking space, because Telly always found three empty spaces in front of where he was going. After all, it’s not easy to park a brown Buick Century in Midtown. I bring all this up because Detective Kojak had a catchphrase, like so many 70s characters had…”Who Loves Ya Baby”.
The music is pretty terrible. Telly really can’t sing, and his deep smoke clogged voice isn’t helped by the high octave of the background singers. He gives a lot of spoken word intros, including one in front of Gentile On My Mind where he says “as a kid growing up in New York, ‘out west’ meant Jersey”. There’s a lot of groovy 70s guitars, but the material just seems so out of place and, honestly, trying too hard.
The record was only in VG condition, so somebody played this more than few times. I just don’t know why anyone would do that to themselves, but I have the evidence. I’m running short on Trying Too Hard records, but I do have a whole slew of treasures of albums made as a result being famous from a TV role. Maybe this album is a nice transition to a new theme week…
Cost: $2, $913 Remaining