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
Neal Hefti, Hefti In Gotham City, RCA LSP-3621, 1966
Nestor Armral & His Continentals, Craftsmen C-8027, 195?
We are over 350 records in, and there is still over $90 left on my quest to buy 365 albums for $1000. I could run out the clock with interesting $1 records like the one on the right above. It’s a discount record on the Craftsmen label that features a young Mary Tyler Moore on the cover. It would be easy for me to gush about how they tried to make our Mary look like the Contadina Tomato girl, and how the low budget “Italian” instrumentals sound after 55 years or so.
But, no. I think i’d rather cut it close to the wire and spend the next two weeks spending that $92 down and find a better class of interesting records, like the one on the left. Neal Hefti is one of those artists that skirted the lines of fame & sales and producing & performing. As a performer, he led made a name for himself in the Big Band era, eventually working his way up to the Count Basie Orchestra. When Frank Sinatra started his Reprise label with Basie as one of his first signings, Neal Hefti came along as the conductor of the studio orchestra. By 1966, Hefti had moved on to RCA and work on film and TV scores.
It was a formidable assignment, as Hefti wrote, arranged and conducted possibly the most memorable TV theme song of the 60s. Both the Batman TV show and it’s theme song were instant hits, enough so that RCA gave its in house producer follow-up album. Hefti In Gotham City barely sold, but it is full of lush mid-60s instrumentals and incidental music from the show. It’s in near mint condition too, which, along with it’s rarity and TV show tie in, makes this a bargain record to find for the price.
Cost: $15, $77 Remaining
Jerry Smith And His Pianos, Truck Stop, ABC S-692, 1969
This is one of those weird cases of a major label release where neither the album or the artist are deemed worthy enough to have a Wikipedia page! Jerry Smith seems to be a Nashville session piano player of some regard, meaning that he played with some of the all time greats of Country and early Rock music. With legendary producer Bill Justis, he wrote Down At Papa Joe’s, a 1963 hit for The Dixiebelles, and if you know and like the bouncy old timey piano on that song, you’re going to love this record.
If you can find it that is! With no apparent appearance on any chart, or a follow-up album on ABC, this record probably didn’t sell as many copies as there are 18 Wheelers on the cover. Perhaps the three Pure Girls on the cover also bought one. They get credit on the cover, but beyond that this doesn’t seem to be a Union Oil co-production. Still, I could see copies of this record sitting in truck stop bargain bins for years.
The music is very outdated for 1969, but with a track called Speakeasy 1929 on it, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. It might have done better in the 40s or 50s, but even country music had moved past this sound by the Woodstock era. It’s probably one of those cases of someone being “due” to make a record, but has no idea how to go about it, like someone who enjoys cooking opening a restaurant. The result is usually very far off from the original intent.
Cost: $1, $191 Remaining
Laurindo Almeida, A Man And A Woman, Capitol T-2701 1967
Oh what a time it was! Before the British Invasion, there was another country that sent it’s music to North America. A huge bossa nova from the south arrived from Brazil, and like the British Invaders, there was a mad scramble for talent by the major US record labels. While the most prestigious names like Joao Gilberto were embraced by Jazz labels like Verve Records, others were singed by pop labels like Capitol.
Unfortunately for the Art Department, middle aged Brazilian guitar virtuosos didn’t have the teen idol appeal of, say, Herman’s Hermits, so they had their hands full with Laurindo Almeida. That’s why they went with a snappy mid century modern couple sitting on some groovy orange shag carpet for the cover, with just a small snapshot of the artist going over some sheet music in the studio on the back cover.
Artwork aside, this is a very fun album. “Standard” music was enjoying it’s last gasp of commercial success by the time this record was released, and no matter how great the musician is, major labels didn’t award contracts to virtuosos anymore. Most of the tunes are recognizable, with film hits, Beatles tunes, and Brazilian classics included. And even if you don’t recognize the name, virtually every has head the guitar playing of Laurindo Almeida. He performed on the soundtracks of over 800 films including The Godfather, and many musicians credit his Jazz Samba style of playing as being a major influence on their career. Not bad for a $1 record!
Cost: $1, $222 Remaining
Lalo Schifin, Music From Mission Impossible, Dot DLP-25831, 1967
This is a real TV Soundtrack. Unlike the fleshed out Jazz songs from the similar I Spy, the Mission Impossible music seems to be mostly incidental or background music. There’s the marvelous theme song for the show of course, but the other tunes were clearly meant to be played underneath a scene from the show where someone is doing a car chase or evading a gunman.
That doesn’t mean it’s bad! The 1967 release date of the record meant that the very 60s instruments like the harpsichord and the sitar are featured through. They are obviously tweaked into a strange mysterious drama sound, but it’s really great background music. Lalo Schifren, despite the German sounding name, is very much an Argentine composer, and he used the influences of Tango and Samba in his long list of Hollywood credits. The Theme From Mission Impossible has just been added to the Grammy Hall Of Fame.
The original owner of this copy of this somewhat rare record, Judy Short, obviously kept her copy flat, which created some pretty strong ring wear. Like most soundtracks, I think this was an impulse purchase and once she grew tired of hearing the theme song, she stopped playing the record. It plays flawlessly, especially on Side Two which may never have been played. This record used to be fairly easy to find, but since Tom Cruise made a film franchise out of it, the original record is disappearing from bargain bins. I didn’t have to think twice about picking up Judy’s record for $2.
Cost: $2, $328 Remaining
The Hollyridge Strings, Play The Beach Boys Song Book-Volume 2, Capitol ST-2749, 1967
As we learned back in December, The Hollyridge Strings were a Capitol Records studio orchestra that filled downtime at the studio by recording orchestral arrangements of other Capitol artists. The mostly re-recorded music by The Beatles, but “they” also issued cover albums by The Four Seasons, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, and yes, The Beach Boys.
Unlike the other artists, I suspect that Brian Wilson was thrilled to hear these orchestral versions of his creations. The same people that assisted him on his productions were the people behind The Hollyridge Strings, so it would be nice (!) to even sit in on the sessions for this album. This album is more interesting that the first Beach Boys Volume because five of the 12 selections come from the recently released Pet Sounds. It also includes California Girls, with its famous intro that Brian called his favorite composition.
Now, eagle eyed readers will look at this record and spot something…the record label says this is a Hollyridge Strings record, but the title is “The Beatles Songbook-Vol.5”. I was a little sad to see that, even though I don’t have Volume 5 of The Beatles songbook. But the record does indeed play The Beach Boys lineup from the cover. This, my friends, is whats called a label error, where the factory applied the wrong label to the record. They are very rare and often sell for twice what a correctly manufactured record would. That means this $1 purchase could be worth as much as $2!
Cost: $1, $386 Remaining
Steve Allen, Monday Nights, Signature SM-1021, 1960
This is the perfect album for anyone who drives a 1960 Plymouth Fury. While the 1959 Cadillac gets all the old car press for the nuttiness of it’s tail fins, the 1960 Plymouth’s were virtually as tall. Available options included the Highway Hi-Fi, an actual record player that played special 16 2/3 rpm discs that are both completely useless and highly collectible today. Model year 1960 was the last time the Plymouth brand sold well enough to place third in total production, this car represents the beginning of a very slow decline.
The same could be said for Steve Allen. His Sunday night variety show was consistently the third rated program on the night, but that was out of three options. By 1959, NBC has had enough of losing to Ed Sullivan on CBS and Maverick on ABC. They moved The Steve Allen Plymouth Show to Monday nights, which this album happily talks about. The art direction or title of this album are not coincidences.
Steve Allen supposedly wrote over 8000 songs during his lifetime. Some were even hits for people like Steve Lawerence and Eydie Gorme, and Sammy Davis Jr. There were no hits on this album. It’s mostly Steve at the piano, but sometimes theres a bland chorus singing along. I probably won’t be listening to this again for years, unless I happen upon a 1960 Plymouth.
Cost: $2, $406 Remaining
Billy Vaughn, A Swingin’ Safari, Dot DLP-25458, 1962
Sometimes it’s just nice to return to a simpler era. Like when you could fly to a poor African country and kill a lion. But seriously, like the lion hunt, popular orchestra records are definitely from a bygone era.
Billy Vaughn was one of the biggest band leaders still having hits into the 1960s. But he wasn’t the only one. Ray Conniff, Mitch Miller, Henry Mancini, Lawrence Welk and Bert Kaempfert all had big hits in the 60s. In fact, A Swingin’ Safari was a Kaempfert recording that was a huge hit around the world, except in the US. Vaughn’s re-recording peaked at #13 and the album cracked the top 10. The Beach Boys’ Surfing’ Safari, and the Wipe Out band The Surfaris both worked the freewheeling thought of safari into their music because of this one.
It’s fun bouncy music, and you really can hear the size of the orchestra. There’s tons of big studio echo, and it’s a shame that no one really makes records like this anymore. The good news is, I sometimes think that I’m the only one who feels this way. They’re so cheap, and usually in really great shape that you’ll probably find a lot of them in discount bins and thrift stores. Save some for me, but buy them.
Cost: $2, $470 Remaining
Jackie Gleason, Music Martinis and Memories, Capitol W-509, 1954
For a guy who couldn’t read or write music, he sure sold a lot of records. jackie Gleason was one of the biggest TV stars of the 1950s, and he had a whole second career as a studio orchestra leader. His first 10 albums for Capitol all sold a million and most went to number one. I suppose they would be classified today as the quintessential “elevator” music records, but they were huge in their day.
I prize them for their covers. There’s usually an over the top woman dressed the hilt. Alcohol and cigarettes feature prominently, which only makes it all the more absurd. These records are among the most framable of any I know.
The 12″ LP was a new thing in 1954, and people apparently needed instruction on the inner sleeve on which end to insert into the jacket. Capitol also went all our on describing the new “high fidelity” record that came in the sleeve. Too bad the music on the record is so so syrupy. Perhaps the goal here is to drink so many Martinis that you don’t have any Memories of the Music left at all.
Cost: $2, $524 Remaining
$89 Spent, $2.87 per record
George Martin, Off The Beatle Track, United Artists UAS 6377, 1964
The Beatles didn’t have to look over their shoulders for someone trying to cash in on their fame. Their own producer George Martin jumped on the bandwagon too! In fairness, this record came about through The Beatles three picture film deal. United Artists took a chance on The Beatles before they even had a hit in the United States to make some low budget movies with the promise of getting a soundtrack album for their fledgling record label. It was a great strategy, as the A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack sold in the millions (and the film became the most profitable film of the year).
While The Beatles probably exceeded their contract by coming up with a whole album of new music, half of which never made it into the film, UA had all of the incidental and background music that did make it in. So why not try to sell that too and let Mr. Martin take the credit? This was actually a warm up record, with the movie music coming out later. Off The Beatle Track was the title George Martin suggested to The Beatles for their first UK album, so even the title was a re-tread here.
The Beatles actually seemed fine with the arrangement, mostly because it kept these orchestrated arrangements off of their real albums. But when the time came to fulfill their contact with a third film, there wasn’t much enthusiasm for it. When they found out they could farm it out to animation producers who would use voice actors to play The Beatles, the Yellow Submarine film was born. There also wasn’t much enthusiasm for a whole album of new music for it, so the Yellow Submarine album has four “new” Beatles songs, plus a few old ones used in the film, and a whole side of George Martin instrumental music that apparently drove John Lennon crazy.
Cost: $10, $560 Remaining