The Carpenters, Horizon, A&M SP-4530, 1975
This album has The Carpenter’s last #1 single (Please Mr. Postman), and their last top ten hit (Only Yesterday) too. And while on it’s own, it hit #13 on the album chart and sell over a million copies, Karen & Richard don’t look as happy here as they did a few years before.
All big acts have major peaks and slumps in their career. It’s the rare artist, like Elton John, who can come back from a slump. The Carpenters didn’t, and it was the pressure of the hit years took their toll to the point where they literally couldn’t make a comeback. You can hear sadness in Karen’s voice and sense it in Richard’s writing. They were done.
There were other records, of course, but the thrill was gone, and personal problems caused their demise. So this easy to find Carpenters record is them at the last second of their peak. Its the perfect compliment to the Close To You album from 1970.
Cost: $1, $508 Remaining
Various Artists, Something Festive, A&M SP-19003, 1968
Corporate tie-ins and Christmas giveaways go hand in hand. They don’t always result in something actually worth getting. Every thrift store record bin has a vast selection of 1960s various artists “free with any purchase” Christmas albums. There’s always a cut from Mahalia Jackson, because she didn’t rock the boat too much on Civil Rights, usually something from Julie Andrews, because she never had a major recording contract to provide interference with, and then a random assortment of the D-List of whatever label put together the package.
This 1968 package, distributed through BF Goodrich tire stores, stand out from the bunch. Not only is it actually fairly decent to listen to, but the artists involved rival any compilation album I’ve ever seen. Goodyear for years (!) sold tires that came with a free Christmas record. BF Goodrich, late to the game, turned to A&M to come up with a rival product that they could give away too. Being a mid-sized independent, their artist roster wasn’t full of the kind of “talent” that a major label like Columbia could afford to keep on staff in the hope that they could sell some records. A&M had to produce hits to survive, and it’s reflected in this record.
Even the non-household names stand out. Liza Minelli was just about to burst out on her own as a cabaret performer, Burt Bacharach was trying to kick start a recording career after writing some of the biggest hits of the 60s, and Claudine Longet was happily married to Andy Williams and six years from killing her younger lover in a bizarre shooting incident. Anyway, this is one Christmas record I listen to year round. It’s really quite amazing how it all came together, and I would consider this a must find cheap record.
Cost: $2, $545 Remaining
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
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
S.R.O., Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, A&M 119, 1966
It’s day two of the $1 highlights of my latest tour through Goodwill. Yes, I know that very few people would agree with today’s headline, but just like yesterday’s attention getter, any Goodwill record shopper would have to agree that Herb Alpert records are always available there. Literally always.
Thrift stores are wonderful places to buy records, but you will have to adjust you mentality about the kind of records they sell. Forget big time name bands, true collectibles, or mint condition records. Instead, you’ll find tons of classical, awful christmas compilations, Reader’s Digest boxed sets, random international records, bizarre homemade religious albums, and, well, the entire discography from Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass.
It’s easy to understand why. The records hit a groove with a segment of the record buying public at a time when Rock was just one type of popular music. Singles still outsold albums anyway, and the mid sixties album charts really were dominated by broadway and movie soundtracks as well as the kind of records bought by adults. Herb Alpert sold more albums than even The Beatles did in 1966.
“TJB” records are wonderfully made, and still very fun. The musicians on them are the famed “wrecking crew” of LA studio players that crafted hits for more artists than I could possibly list here. These albums now sound as perfectly cliche as Herb’s formal velvet jackets and ruffled shirts. The sanitized cha-cha sounds had a 30 year run of “Oh God No” uncoolness, but you just know that Don & Megan Draper would have played these records. And that’s cool.
Cost $1, $984 Remaining