Sonny & Cher, Live In Las Vegas Vol. 2, MCA2-8004, 1974
There are 1001 books out there on the 1001 most essential records every vinyl fan must have to be considered a serious collector. Beatles records, Bob Dylan’s 60s albums, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and The Rolling Stones all have multiple entries on these lists. Good condition original copies of these records are very expensive, averaging up to $40 each for records that virtually everyone already knows by heart. Songs from these albums get airplay on the radio everyday, and they languish on lists of best selling digital downloads. These are not obscure records.
This album isn’t on any of these kinds of lists. It spent a few weeks on the Billboard Top 200 album chart, climbing all the way to #175. With their hugely public split about to occur in 1974, this was the last album of new material of Sonny & Cher’s long career. Even though it’s mostly just an album of cover material, you get a sense of what a Vegas ballroom show was like in 1973.
So, while no one will ever call this an essential record, it is a fun one. When I ‘m making dinner or something, I’m much more likely to reach for a record like this than I am Dark Side Of The Moon. When friends come over and want to see my new discoveries, I pull out Sonny & Cher Live In Las Vegas Vol. 2 every time over The Velvet Underground. It’s fun records like this that I find essential, and I can have 1001 of them for the same price as the top 50 critically acclaimed records.
Cost: $1, $264 Remaining
Tony Bennett, Live At Carnegie Hall, Columbia C2S-823, 1962
Live albums usually are that great. The music never sounds as good as the original record you already know, and the crowd noises get in the way. Sure, unique ones like Frampton Comes Alive stand out, but that was an album of new material, just performed live.
But sometimes you just catch a great performer at the peak of their talent, Judy Garland’s 1961 album comes to mind. Taking a $1 bet on this record wasn’t much of a risk, but it’s a record that is every bit as good as Judy’s.
Tony Bennett was very much a contemporary artist in 1962, with his recent hit I Left My Heart In San Francisco being featured, along with other hits of the day and past Bennett classics. But really, the swinging jazz-style concert is really great. Seeing that he’s now 90, there probably aren’t too many chances left to see a Tony Bennett concert. I’m glad I can hear one whenever I want.
Cost: $1, $633 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
Frank Sinatra, Swing Easy & Songs For Young Lovers, Capitol 587, 1955
Technologies change. Back catalogues don’t. In 1955, the 12″ vinyl LP was pretty new on the scene, but much more durable and held more music than the old shellac 78 RPM records. In fact, it was possible to fit two old albums onto one new one just because of the added capacity of the newer discs.
That’s exactly what Capitol Records did with Frank Sinatra’s back catalogue, and this album was the result. Combining the huge selling Swing Easy with another album Songs For Young Lovers, Capitol was able to sell some recent hits by their biggest star to people who were upgrading to the new record players.
It’s Frank Sinatra at his best. After the teen idol era, and career rejuvenation that came from winning an Oscar, but before he became The Chairman Of The Board and hung around a bit too long to try to remain relevant, these albums are exactly what every collector should have in their collection. So my apologies to the people in Ranch Records for the scream I let out when I found this nice 61 year old record in their $1 bin.
Cost: $1, $773 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