Johnny Cash, Ring Of Fire: The Best Of Johnny Cash, Columbia CS-8853, 1963
Johnny Cash was one of a kind. No other artist that I can think of managed to break all the rules while adhering to conventional norms. Take this album for an example: I always wanted to find the original album that featured Cash’s biggest hit Ring Of Fire. I never found it because it doesn’t exist. Cash placed the biggest single yet in Country Music on a greatest hits package. It never was on a “regular” Cash album.
I suppose you can’t argue with results. This record was released in August 1963, and yet when Billboard published its first Country Albums Chart in January 1964, this was the #1 album. Now, Beatles albums sometimes replaced other Beatles albums at #1, and The Monkees first two albums spent months at #1, but I don’t know of any album, Greatest Hits or not, that spent 8 months at #1.
It’s mostly just a collection Cash’s Columbia singles from 1958-1963, so it doesn’t play now as a standard release might have. But that also means that there’s not a dud to be found, and you really hear the progression of Cash’s style during these still early years. It falls below my standard for an essential record, but its really nice to have. I may have overpaid at $10, but it is a flawless original copy.
Cost: $10, $45 Remaining
Various Artists, The Motown Story, Motown MS-726-31, 1970
Even at just about 10 years in, Motown was already mining its past glories to sell even more records than they might have. There had been several versions of the “Chartbusters” series, and the ridiculously early “Greatest Hits” albums that were released in 1966, but this deluxe package was the first time the company went all out to sell history to the masses.
It’s an impressive package. The hits are all here from the first, Money (That’s What I Want), to the newest, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. It’s a little odd, though. The songs are either fused together or introduced by the artists or Narrator Charlie Van Dyke. You don’t buy this package only for the music. The intros are definitely written from the Company’s standpoint, with Mary Wells’ massive contributions downplayed into irrelevance and a whole lot of white washing. You can actually hear the words getting stuck in Mary Wilson’s mouth as she describes Florence Ballard’s retirement.
This appears to be the second or third version of the package. The original has a deluxe booklet and custom inner sleeves for each of the five records. The dos remained the same for as long as this was in production, so collectors need to see the inside of the box to know what they’re getting. For $5, I was happy I got a relatively intact box and clean records.
Cost: $5, $389 Remaining
Neil Diamond, Shilo, bang 221, 1970
I don’t think even Neil Diamond would call himself much of a pin up boy. But what Bang Records did to him here is a bit much. After all, relying on the listener to draw your image is a bit mean. But such was the relationship with the artist and his former associates in 1970. Mr. Diamond left Bang for Uni Records in 1968, but they kept releasing “new” Neil Diamond records from old tapes well into the 70s.
This is kind of a greatest hits package, with many of the songs having been some of his earliest hits. But Bang would sometimes “augment” the originals with strings or horns or a choir to make them sound “modern”. Shilo was a 1967 album track, but it became a decent sized hit after being tarted up and rush released as a follow up to the top ten hit Holly Holy.
Because of the new hit and all the old hits, this record became Neil’s best selling Bang album. It really is great to have the early classics on one record, even though I prefer the original more acoustic versions of the title track and Solitary Man. It doesn’t really change my mind about buying greatest hits packages, but the cover makes this a must have.
Cost: $2, $642 Remaining
Various Artists, All The Hits By All The Stars, Parkway 7013, 1962
The Cameo-Parkway record company was on fire in 1962. Their stable of artists were on average the hottest recording acts that produced the best selling records of the era. They had the cutest teen idols, the sassiest girl groups, some above average doo-wop groups, plus the king and queen of the dance record in Chubby Checker and Dee Dee Sharp. Sure, the New York producers working out of the Brill Building wrote more sophisticated songs, Phil Spector in Los Angeles was perfecting the pop single, and a small Detroit based company called Motown was building a massive creative assembly line, but for a few shining months, Cameo-Parkway ruled the airwaves.
So why not take a bit of a victory lap and run up some sales with a company wide greatest hits package? Far from doing any damage creatively that a greatest hits package usually implies, this little album has Chubby Checker’s two #1 hits, four #2 hits, a few other top tens, and three top 20 songs. All were less than four years old at the time, so this was very much a contemporary hits package. Of course, all of these songs became pretty much obsolete once I Want To Hold Your Hand came along, but this was a big seller in it’s day.
And it also became a really huge collector’s item for a while. When the bubble burst on the teen dance hit sound, Cameo-Parkway collapsed like yesterday’s mashed potatoes into the usual story of corruption, bankruptcy and legal battles. Their entire catalogue of music was tied up for years until Alan Klein ended up with it somehow. He refused to release any of the music on CD for decades, insisting on only issuing cheaply remade 45s of Cameo artists with no money going to the artists. That’s why there are so many bad versions of these songs out there. Even by the “original artists”, no one really wants to listen to a 1974 Dutch recording of Pony Time. As a result, mint copies of this record were worth a lot in the 1990s because it was the only way to hear these records on LP. Now of course, with Alan Klein dead and the music out on CD and digital downloads, my patience was rewarded by finding this VG cope for $2.
Cost:$2, $644 Remaining
The Everly Brothers, Best, Cadence CLP-3025, 1959
Without a doubt, The Everly Brothers were a hot act. From 1957-1959, they had three Number Ones and several more Top Ten hits for the independent Cadence Records. So, when they signed with the massive Warner Brothers Records, Cadence did what any self respecting independent label would do, rush release a greatest hits package. A “Best Of” record usually came out after a group’s hey day, unless of course they were moving on to bigger and better things. For Cadence, it was one more way to bring water from the Everly well.
It looks like it came out so fast that they didn’t bother with any kind of write up about the duo, or reminiscing about the music. The back cover does feature all of the other exciting albums the group had available for purchase from Cadence Records, however.
I never really recommend buying these kinds of records. For me, having the actual releases is always preferred. But this is the legendary Everly Brothers at the very beginning of their amazing career, with not only their first few hits, but also a few B-Sides and minor releases. It would be very hard to find any of their original records at an affordable price, and this is the original Cadence label, meaning its an original record. It even predates their last few releases for the company. So I added to my pile at my usual $2 shop, and was really happy to see it’s a highly valued record in with this label. It’s only in VG condition, but its still (some of) The Everly Brother’s Best on the label that made them famous.
Cost $2, $732 Remaining
Dionne Warwicke, The Dionne Warwicke Story, Scepter SPS-2-596, 1971
Dionne Warwick had an amazing run on tiny Scepter Records. Along with writers and producers Hal David and Bert Bacharach, they scored dozens of hits and sold millions of records. Exactly how many they sold the world may never know and that is why this record came out.
The royalty dispute had been going on for years, and Bacharach & David were the first to quit. Dionne followed them out the door. Scepter did what record companies always do when their largest talent leaves the company; release a greatest hits package.
Scepter went into their vaults to find various concert tapes form recent years, and the “new” Dionne Warwick album was ready for release. At the beginning of the four year period when she was billed as “Dionne Warwicke”, she quickly signed a huge deal with Warner and this was her last Scepter release. Despite it all, it’s still a portrait of an artist at her peak, and very worth a few spins.
Cost: $2, $817 Remaining
Barry Manilow, Greatest Hits, Arista A2L-8601, 1978
I don’t really collect greatest hits albums. My goal isn’t to build a music collection, but rather to find the most interesting original albums I can. Mostly they’re the sort of records that would be virtually impossible to find in any other formats.
But when I found this $1 copy of the first greatest hits package from Barry Manilow, complete with personal liner note from Clive Davis, I rolled my eyes and went for it. It’s a gatefold cover, double album, and all the great 70s hits are there.
Growing up with this music I hope gets me a hall pass on keeping this on a shelf. Even the occasional spin of Copacabana will probably be ok. Wearing the gold chain, though would be a definite no-no.
Cost: $1, $960 Remaining