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.
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
The Sinatra Family, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Reprise FS-1026, 1968
If you’re like me, finding a record like this is about as great a gift as one could ever hope to receive. I can’t imagine the nerve it would take for an artist to try something like this today. Getting the whole family together for a Christmas album, despite the fact that the whole family has no business singing anything.
I suppose it helps when Dad owns a record company. Especially when Dad is trying to remain relevant to record buyers by appearing younger than he really was. The times, they were a changin’ too, and the smooth vocal style that The Sinatras were known for was hopelessly out of touch with fans of Janis Joplin and The Doors.
So while this record may have failed at the time (the inch long cut out on the jacket implying that a retailer returned this to the distributor because it didn’t sell), today we have a kooky kitschy ding dong of a Christmas record that is just so much fun. The stand out track is the reimagining of The 12 Days Of Christmas, with all of “the kids” getting presents for their father. I can just imagine Frank Sinatra in the lavender tie Nancy got him or playing with the nine Scrabble sets that Tina oddly bought. Tina, by the way, makes Nancy seem like Maria Calas, with serious tempo and pitch problems that would have her booted from American Idol in the preliminary rounds. This record is a must to find, it’ll bring you comfort and joy all year round.
Cost: $3, $542 Remaining
Frankie Avalon, Swingin’ On A Rainbow, Chancellor S-5004, 1959
There are a bazillion artist chart achievements out there. Easy ones like “most number one hits” compete with “most weeks at number one by producer”. But I think I’ve found here something truly remarkable. I think I’ve found the first album to hit the top 10 that had no hit singles released from it.
Sure, Frankie Avalon was a hot property in 1959. Elvis was in the army, and the record business needed a new “it” boy in a hurry. And who could be more wholesome for the country (or under contract already to some sketchy producers) than he?
So, in the wake of his huge #1 hit Venus, Chancellor Records went all out and produced this very expensive looking gatefold cover of Frankie singing some pop tunes in the style of a young Frank Sinatra. It’s an impressive package, and the record isn’t half bad either.
And it sold! Reaching #9 in the era when ingles defined pop success, this record tried to expand the teen idol into a new market. Unfortunately, Bobby Darin filled that spot with his amazing Mack The Knife while this record was still o the charts. Still, Avalon probably was the best selling artist of 1959, even though his music was pretty much immediately dismissed and his artistic credibility destroyed by some horrific films with Annette Funicello. But, it wasn’t until The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that another non-broadway or soundtrack album hit the top 10 without a hit single.
Cost: $2, $692 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
Frank Sinatra, Some Nice Things I’ve Missed, Reprise F-2195, 1974
Frank Sinatra had an amazing run. The nickname The Chairman Of The Board came about because he was seemingly everywhere, doing everything just right, running things. Sure, it got harder and harder to stay relevant, but for the vast majority of the public, they still bought his records, saw his movies and watched his TV specials. By 1971, Frank had had it and retired from show business. It didn’t last long.
He came back with a splash. A TV special and hit album announced Ole Blue Eyes Is Back in 1973. This album was the follow up. It should have never happened. Even as a mixed tape, this would have been a really bad mix of current pop and show tunes, but covered by a 57 year old, it just comes off as trying to be someone he no longer is. For me, the 70s were a time when the music business turned inward. The singer-songwriter era was in full force, and originality ruled the day. Singing someone else’s songs was out of fashion, especially someone else’s hit singles.
To hear the great trendsetting Frank Sinatra singing Sweet Caroline, Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree, and most appallingly Bar, Bad Leroy Brown, is kinda cringeworthy. He sort of pulls off You Are The Sunshine Of My Life, but I really got the feeling that the whole package was a vain attempt at relevance. Frank Sinatra was never known as a songwriter, but he was possibly the best song interpreter of all time. This record sounds like the kind of thing he sang to in the shower or in the car driving around Palm Springs.
Cost: $3, $917 Remaining