What 365 albums look like.
That is 2 full shelves of a Billy Bookshelf by IKEA, plus 62 album improperly stored on the top shelf, plus the first, last and a personal favorite from the past year. I promise that I only set the 62 albums down on their sides for a minute for the photograph and then properly stored them on the lower shelf. I just spent a year creating this collection, there is no way I want them to start getting ring wear now!
I know virtually everyone in the record world today is talking about the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but I went record shopping and spent my last dollar on Mrs. Miller’s Greatest Hits. Very few people celebrated the 51st anniversary of this record last month, and I wanted this blog to be more about the Mrs. Millers of the world. If you’ve never heard this record, please know that your $1 copy is out there somewhere, and it will make a nice warm up to a Florence Foster Jenkins watch party.
I never got to do a theme week of classic soul albums that used stock photos of white people to sell records.
I never got to show the lengths some people went to sell records, even when they had no business being in the record business.
I never got to do a side by side comparison of two records and poll my readers on which record was scarier. The answer would have interesting.
I do the warning label on the Falwell record though. Keep away from Excessive Heat like molten rivers of lava, swarms of locusts and plagues.
But I think I did manage to avoid a cheesy ending. Record collecting is a lifetime pursuit for me, and a lifetime pursuit doesn’t end after one year. I still have the first records I bought with my own money 40 years ago, and I hope I’ll be collecting for 40 more. From time to time, I’ll be blogging about my finds, so, please stay tuned.
Booker T. & The MG’s, Doin’ Our Thing, Stax S-724, 1968
There’s not a better feeling for a record collector than to find a new-to-you record from a group you love. And there’s not much better than a Booker T. & The MG’s record. From their first hit in 1962, Green Onions, they made hit after hit for themselves and the incredible Stax/Volt artist roster. That means if you’ve ever enjoyed a song from Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Eddie Floyd, Rufus or Carla Thomas, and on and on, you’ve enjoyed the music of Booker T. & The MG’s.
Their albums are a mix of the hits of the day plus some originals. This unassuming and light years ahead of it’s time for being interracial little band essentially created soul music in the 60s, and lent a hand in turning it into funk in the 70s. It was a body of work good enough for admission to the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame. You can hear why on this record, as they make songs as diverse as Sonny & Cher’s The Beat Goes On and Bobbie Gentry’s Ode To Billy Joe their own.
This record came out just as Booker T. returned full time to the group after studying music in college. It’s easy to forget that he was only 17 in 1962 when Green Onions came out. Unfortunately it was also at the same time when Stax was losing its business relationship with Atlantic Records. Without Atlantic’s support, distribution, and, most importantly, access to their artists like Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, Stax found it hard to stay in business. But the music lives on and it’s my goal to find all 11 of their Stax releases.
Cost: $7, $63 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
Aretha Franklin, Aretha Arrives, Atlantic SD-8150, 1967
It’s often said that a true artist at the top of their game could recite the phone book and still have a hit. This album tests that theory and kinda proves it! It’s a bit tricky to call this album Aretha Arrives when it was her second record for Atlantic and 12th major label release (Franklin spent years on Columbia releasing 10 albums with zero hits). But the album before this, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, is now regarded as perhaps the best regarded album by a female solo singer in history, and any record would pale in comparison to that.
Both records peaked at #2, so the critical assessment of Aretha Arrives is in hindsight. But hindsight does make it seem like this is a strange collection of songs to record for an artist breaking though the racial divide and selling true soul music to whit audiences. Besides the one hit, Baby I Love You, Aretha covers The Rolling Stones, ? & The Mysterians, and Frank Sinatra with the kind of sounds heard on her Columbia material.
Purists looking for one soul smash after another tend to get disappointed by this, but I see it as Aretha’s ability to sing anything. Perhaps in the back of her Diva oriented head she was trying to show fans of every kind of music who the real talent champion was. It’s also important to note that she literally recorded this record with one hand tied behind her back. Aretha was injured in a bad car crash earlier in 1967 and was still in a cast and recuperating when she recorded this album. To me, that’s even further proof of Aretha’s artistry and that even a so-so Aretha record is still a very good record.
Cost: $6, $172 Remaining
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.
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.
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.
Cost: $2, $198 Remaining
Roberta Flack, Quiet Fire, Atlantic SD-1594, 1971
This was Roberta Flack’s third album for Atlantic, and it wasn’t really a hit. It was from the odd time before she really broke through commercially in 1972 with the smash The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, even though that song had already come out on her first album. It seems weird that a song that could spend six weeks at #1 could just be out there for years before becoming a hit, but that’s what happened here.
Instead, this album had been out for a few weeks when Face was included in the Clint Eastwood movie Play Misty For Me. That triggered the singles success and propelled Flack’s 1969 debut album First Take to #1, while the “new” Roberta Flack record struggled to hit #18. Apparently people at the time didn’t care for her covers of The Shirelles’ Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, or the 6:41 cover of The Bees Gees’ To Love Somebody. That makes this Flack album fairly hard to find these days, and I haven’t seen one in decades.
In fact, the last time I remember seeing it was when my younger sister and I were being baby sat somewhere and out of boredom we went looking through the house’s record collection. Being the non-worldly 8 year old my sister was, she wasn’t familiar with the name “Roberta”. She was reading the names and titles on the various record sleeves and pulled this one out and burst out screaming “AHHHHH Look at the hair on this guy Robert A. Flack!”
Cost: $2, $283 Remaining
Soundtrack, All In The Family, Atlantic SD-7210, 1971
All In The Family was so controversial that the plot bounced around from network to network until CBS took a chance on it as a January 1971 replacement. Two weeks later, it was the #1 show in America and held that position until 1976. As befitting a huge TV hit, Atlantic Records won a bidding war to release a “soundtrack” album.
It’s really nothing more than excerpts from episodes from the brief first season of the show. The bits don’t really translate into an audio only format because it wasn’t just one of the best written shows of all time, but it was also one of the best acted shows. But it’s a nice, interesting souvenir. Plus it comes with an extended version of the famous theme song, Those Were The Days. On its own as a single, the 1:27 song hit #30 on the Adult Contemporary chart, but the album didn’t chart.
Still, the show was such a cultural force that Atlantic tried again with a second album. That one is really hard to find, but this record really isn’t. This still shrink-wrapped but cutout copy is nearly perfect and it set me back $2. So there’s really no need to jump on the first one you see, assuming of course, that you even want one of these records.
Cost: $2, $424 Remaining
Dusty Springfield, The Look Of Love, Phillips PHS-600-256, 1967
The Beatles weren’t the only British superstar act to have their American record company screw up their UK album releases to try to sell more records. It didn’t do much damage to The Beatles’ career, but it certainly did to artists like Dusty Springfield. Blessed with one of the best voices in the history of pop music, she never quite reached the heights that she did in the UK, and I think one of the reasons was because of her screwy record company, Phillips.
Take this album (please). The single of The Look Of Love was recorded early in 1967 for the soundtrack to the James Bond spoof film Casino Royale. Despite the song getting rave reviews, Phillips released it as a B-Side to a minor British hit from 1966, Give Me Time. DJs still gave it airplay, and the track limped to #22 in the Spring of 1967. After several other cover versions being recorded and the song getting an Oscar nomination, Phillips rush-released this album and filled it with tracks from various British releases, plus a few covers of American hits.
It didn’t go well. The Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66 cover version took off in the meantime, propelling their single and Look Around album into the Top Ten by early 1968. This became Dusty’s last Phillips release, she signed with Atlantic Records in 1968 and produced the classic blue eyed soul records like Dusty In Memphis that are prized by collectors today. What did she do to deserve that? (!).
Cost: $3, $509 Remaining
ABBA, ABBA, Atlantic SD-18146, 1975
Today’s post gets back to the roots of this blog. Yes, sure, ABBA has an amazing collection of well crafted pop albums that dominated charts around the world from the mid 70s to the early 80s. But record collectors know them as the group destined to always have their records filed first once they take the time to organize their collection.
All price guides, chart collections, or album discographies have their listings alphabetically by artist name. And invariably the first group always listed is ABBA. So, it really doesn’t have much to do with their amazing success or their great albums, but inevitably you’ll find their records in the upper left corner of any serious collection.
And, or course, It’s not enough to keep ABBA first, but, as with any group, their records need to be filed chronologically by date. So until I find ABBA’s first US release, this record will remain the first one anyone will see when they start to look through my records.
Cost: $2, $558 Remaining
Wilson Pickett, In Philadelphia, Atlantic SD-8270, 1970
I’m pleased to report that one of the best movies ever made about soul music is now on Netflix! The Commitments may be an Irish movie, but it drips soul out of every scene. While he doesn’t actually appear in the film, the band forms around the idea of getting to perform in front of The Wicked Wilson Pickett. So I had to dig out this record an see how wicked it really is.
At first I thought it was going to be a live album, owing to the cover photo and the cryptic title. But apparently, it was such a big move for Mr. Pickett to not record an album at Atlantic Studio’s Muscle Shoals operation, that they named the whole record after the studio. It’s actually just the second full album produced by the team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. They would go on to form their own label, Philadelphia International, that would dominate the 70s soul scene and surpass Motown in sales and influence.
So, while I was a tad disappointed to not hear the wicked one live, I did get to hear a really wonderful soul record from one of the all time greats. While his 60s records are the ones that made the legend, his 70s sounds are somehow even more intense. His gravelly voice is now rocky, but he still manages to hold it together and his screams are world class. The material is a bit meh, but it’s still a great record. Don’t let the ring wear fool you either, it’s in pretty decent shape!
Cost: $2, $615 Remaining