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.
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.
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.
Cost: $2, $214 Remaining
Diana Ross, Diana, Motown M8-936M1, 1980
Hard as it is to imagine considering her superstar statue, Diana Ross’ solo career was fairly disjointed. Yes, there were #1 hits every so often, but there never was a remarkable ground breaking record until this one. That I was able to find a really great copy of it for $2 is not a testament to how good it is, but because it sold millions of copies and, well, people don’t like to move with albums.
The legend goes that Ms. Ross was hanging out at Studio 54 one night and heard (and met) producers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards. Their group Chic blended funk and soul in a very clean modern way. Ross, knowing a good thing when she heard it, asked Rodgers and Edwards to produce her next album. She told them she wanted to turn her career upside down, and come out with a whole new sound.
Rodgers and Edwards responded with amazing material, that Motown hated. Their own producer sat down with Ross and stripped most of the disco sounding guitar riffs and sped up the playback speed of the tracks before releasing it. Rodgers and Edwards sued of course, but the public didn’t care. The backstage drama still produced Diana Ross’ biggest album.
Cost: $2, $253 Remaining
The Philadelphia International All Stars, Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto, Philadelphia International JZ-34659, 1977
I know I just wrote the other day about promos and how I never buy them. Naturally, that meant I was bound to discover a record I’ve always wanted to find moments after publishing that, but with a promotional label on it.
The first time I ever heard The Philadelphia International All Stars’ Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto, all 8:42 of it, I couldn’t believe it. It’s really half of a monologue about garbage, crime and cockroaches by the great Lou Rawls followed by four minutes of amazing Funk & Disco. The fact that I was driving in rural Argentina at the time made it seem even more unreal. It was one of those times when you hear a song you love, but have no way to identify it so you can look for it later. I had to ask all kinds of record people about this bizarre Lou Rawls social commentary until one of them knew about it enough to tell me what it is.
And what it is is an attempt by the beginning to fade Philadelphia International Record Company to stay relevant in the later 70s with the rise of disco music. It’s basically a compilation from the roster of the label in 1977 with the added “all star” track specifically written to give it a relevant theme. Of course, songs about hot smelly garbage don’t get much airplay so the record never really sold. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a great record to have, with the Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff production team at the height of their game. Since it didn’t sell, it’s a pretty rare record to find, and I was thrilled to find this promo for $1! It took me over a decade to find this one from when I first heard it, and while I’ll keep looking for a standard release, I’m really happy to have this version, ring wear and all.
Cost: $5, $272 Remaining
The Hues Corporation, Freedom For The Stallion, RCA APL1-0323, 1973
What we have here is clearly a second pressing. The cover of the original album has been altered to include the huge notice that THIS Hues Corporation record contains their big #1 hit from June, 1974, Rock The Boat. Sure, lead off single, Freedom For The Stallion is included too, but people only bought the album for the hit. I’ve seen a million of these, and not a one of the original cover without the printed ad on the front.
But what a hit! Many people cite Rock The Boat as the first disco song to hit #1, and it’s a natural transition song from the early 70s R&B sound and into the later 70s Disco sound. I also love the clever name the group chose. “The Children Of Howard Hughes” didn’t get past the eagle eyed lawyers in the RCA legal department, but Hues Corporation did. The play on the Hughes name and Hues of colors is pure one hit wonder genius. It was pretty much over for the group after this record, what with personnel changes and declining sales, but this is a good album.
Unfortunately for those looking for the record 44 years after it came out, it was pressed on RCA’s flimsy dynaflex vinyl. Designed to weigh less and bend more, these flimsy records just don’t stand the test of time. Some people call the format “dynawarp” because it doesn’t take much to permanently reshape these records into something unplayable. This one is in great shape, so I’ll be careful to store it on an angle inside a protective plastic sleeve, and keep it out of direct sunlight.
Cost: $3, $383 Remaining
Amii Stewart, Knock On Wood, Ariola Records SW-50054, 1979
In the 80s there was a raging debate about whether Madonna or Cyndi Lauper would be the more successful singer. For the discount record buyer, we have to scale it down a bit to questions like which 1979 Disco one hit wonder’s record is better, Anita Ward’s or Amii Stewart’s? On cover alone, Amii Stewart wins. Don’t wear this outfit to shovel snow in February.
While the back is much more sedate, it’s easy to see why her career never really reached these heights again. Side one features the #1 hit in a fun 6:13 extended dance mix along with the #69 follow-up, an 8:26 version of The Doors’ Light My Fire. Unfortunately side two is just some middling efforts written by the producer Barry Leng. The vocals are engineered in such a way that I don’t think it really mattered who the singer was.
Interestingly, however, while this one album will represent the extent of any US record shopper’s Amii Stewart collection, she did go on to have a successful 10 year string of chart success in Italy. Apparently, l’amore is mutual, as Stewart lives in Italy and appears on TV and performs there to this day. Take that Anita Ward!
Cost: $2, $438 Remaining
Frankie Valli, Closeup, Private Stock 2000, 1975
The Four Seasons were not doing too well by the early 70s. Their records weren’t selling and they were dropped from their record label, Philips. Bizarrely, they signed with Motown Records, who also dropped them after an album and a half. The group paid $4000 to buy one of their unreleased tracks back. It was money well spent, and released as a Frankie Valli solo single, My Eyes Adored You went to #1. This was the album that they made to accompany it.
When I say they, I mean the bedrock partnership of Valli, Bob Gaudio and producer Bob Crewe. By the time this record rolled around, records got released under the name Frankie Valli, The Four Seasons, and Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, but it didn’t matter. It’s all the same people on the records.
The record also has one of the first songs I can think of on a pop record that is longer than 10 minutes. This is not necessarily a disco album, but some of it is proto-disco, with all 10:09 of Swearin’ To God as my evidence. One other fun fact is that the female vocalist is a young Patti Austin. It’s a great album for what it is, and it’s always great to find a long album version of a single that you know so well.
Cost: $2, $456 Remaining
KC & The Sunshine Band, Do You Wanna Go Party, TK 611, 1979
In case the red spandex pants don’t give it away, this is an album the came out in the waining days of the disco era. Acts like KC & The Sunshine Band who were known as being disco artists were doing what they could to remain relevant. It didn’t go well.
The Champagne corks were about to pop to welcome in the 1980s and people were really tired of everything 70s. Disco was in the way, and I remember seeing this album being discounted in droves right after it came out. But then a funny thing happened.
Radio discovered a last minute addition to the record, a synthesized ballad called Please Don’t Go. When the title track Do You Wanna Party flopped as a single, TK released Please Don’t Go in July 1979 and hoped for the best. Debuting at #100, after a month it looked like it was stalled at #79. But it kept on rising, a few notches a week. It reached #1 for the week ending January 4, 1980, making it not only the first #1 of the 80s, but tying the record for the longest climb to #1.
Cost: $2, $468 Remaining
The Village People, Macho Man, Casablanca NBLP-7096, 1978
There were a lot of fad groups that became huge in the vinyl era, but none of them we more entertaining than The Village People. Every one of their records is worth collecting, and some are even worth listening to. This one, their second album, may be their best one of all. They were still a fad on the rise when it came out and this was still before they really broke through commercially with Y.M.C.A.
It was a great idea for a group. Take a promising R&B singer and surround him with some masculine cliches in costume and name them after the gay New York neighborhood of Greenwich Village. I don’t think it wouldn’t fly today, especially the Hispanic man appearing as a Native American, but it was really far out back in the day.
Of course, it wouldn’t have worked without the music. The producer/creator of the group, Jacques Morali had their back there. He was one of the most prolific producers of the Disco Era, working with names as big as Cher and Eartha Kitt. His biggest success was with The Village People though, and this is about as good as a total disco album ever got.
Cost: $4, $488 Remaining
The Bee Gees, Spirits Having Flown, RSO 1-3041, 1979
IF you’re the biggest group in the world, and you’ve just released the bet selling album up to that point, you don’t really change up the formula too much for the follow up. Even if it brands you as only capable of being a disco artist at a time when the genre was dying. The Bee Gees sold more copies of this record in 1979 than they did of all albums in the 37 years since.
It’s not like it wasn’t a heck of a run. From 1977-79 they wrote and produced two platinum albums for their younger brother Andy, two multi-platinum soundtrack albums for Grease and Saturday Night Fever, and capped it all off this 20 million selling album. The three singles from it all hit Number One, giving them six straight chart toppers.
But that was it. Branded a disco act, this was probably the last true disco album to hit Number One. They complained about it, and they had major hits as songwriters for other acts, but The Bee Gees only had one more top ten single, and that was in the 1990s. I don’t think this is a cautionary tale for a young band not to emulate, though.
Cost: $1, $532 Remaining
Donna Summer, Bad Girls, Casablanca NBLP-2-7150, 1979
It doesn’t matter to a bargain record buyer what genre of music is on the record. We buy anything! While I personally get more excited about a classic rock album than a classic disco album, finding a great copy of the ultimate disco album is still a good thing.
The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack may be the ultimate disco record, but this double album from Donna Summer is right behind it. Never comfortable with the Love Goddess image given to her by her producer Georgio Moroder, she wanted this record to done more in a rock style than pure dance music. The combination is really great, and the album became the biggest of her career.
After this record, and as the best selling female artist in the world, she felt strong enough to go further with her interest in rock music, but Casablanca refused to back her. She signed with the then new Geffen Records to get more creative freedom. Casablanca chose to do what record companies always do, release a greatest hits package, and mine this album for “new” singles for two years. Both the artist and the company saw the sales dry up, and by 1981 the artist was considered a has been and the company was out of business. Still, this record is really great (it would be an amazing single record!), and one that is easy enough to find.
Cost: $2, $652 Remaining