Miriam Makeba, Pata Pata, Reprise RS-6274, 1967
There is a world of possibilities waiting for a vinyl collector in the world music bins. Sure, you’ll find some junk, but you’ll also find some incredible experiences that you might not ever find out about any other way. I think most people know about The Beatles struggles-as an English speaking group no less- to be taken seriously in the US, so imagine how incredible a non English speaking international recording star had to be to even get a record release in this country. They would have to be well established and yet still able to create new music. It would be one thing to perform in a language somewhat familiar to Americans like French, Italian, or Portuguese, but it would be miraculous for a record sung in the Southern African language of Xhosa to catch on. Yet here one is.
It’s just a real shame that an artist with the stature of Miriam Makeba was subjected to the liner notes that Reprise came up with to sell this record. “Mama Africa”, her unofficial nickname given to her by an adoring continent would probably be surprised to know that she was “as splashy as Victoria Falls”. Still, it probably wasn’t as hard to overcome as growing up in poverty in Apartheid in South Africa. On her own since she was a young teen, it was a fortuitous meeting in London with Harry Belafonte in 1959 that led her to international fame, even though she never set foot in her homeland until the 1990s. Along the way, she became a leading voice for the struggles of black South Africans and performed around the world spreading the message.
This was by far her biggest hit in the US. While there are horns, a big beat, and amazing background singers, this is not an R&B or Soul record. Xhosa is indecipherable to understand a word of, but its clicking sounds and vocal pops create an incredible rhythm. It’s both foreign and familiar in a way, and a real joy to listen to. Almost every decent record store has an international section, and I’ve found some very interesting things in those bins. And they are much cheaper than international travel.
Cost: $6, $26 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
The Dukes Of Freilachland, Mazeltov, Aamco ALP-316, 1958
This album is not for everyone. It says so right on the front cover. Chubby Checker never had to put a disclaimer like “Twist Music Of Our People” Ditto Jan & Dean for surfing, cars, or skateboarding. So, it’s a commercial challenge for The Dukes Of Freilachland to limit their audience to their target market.
Aamco Records was a short lived discount label. They leased most of their material from various sources, some were old recordings from superstars like Duke Ellington, some were newly recorded music by unknowns like Charlie Shavers and Ted Steele, and some were international recordings like this album. I presume that this is an international record because I’ve never heard of a place called Freilachland.
Limited as the target market is, this totally obscure album is actually really fun to listen to. The clarinet and accordion swing, and not in an ironic sense. I suppose there were people who actually played this record as their wedding music, but 60 years on, it’s something that virtually no one has ever heard. If Aamco Records hadn’t released it in the US, and I didn’t pluck it from an obscure bin in a vintage shop, I wouldn’t have either. But I’m glad it happened, and that’s a mitzvah.
Cost: $2, $251 Remaining
The Beatles, With Tony Sheridan & Their Guests, MGM E-4215, 1964
On June 22, 1961, in Hamburg Germany, Tony Sheridan recorded five songs backed up by a fellow English group he knew from the local club scene. The single My Bonnie did well enough in West Germany (#31), but it would be an unlikely candidate for a major label release in the US if it weren’t for the fact that the backing band was The Beatles. Actually, it still probably didn’t deserve a major label release. The songs are mainly public domain standards, with one incredible instrumental. Cry For A Shadow, originally recorded as The Beatle Bop, is the only song credited as written by John Lennon and George Harrison.
Naturally, there was no way that The Beatles would allow their image on a record that wasn’t really even theirs, so MGM, which licensed the Sheridan tracks from German Polydor came up with this bland green cover that screams THE BEATLES and adds a brief mention of the real artist Tony Sheridan “and their guests”. The “guests”, who are more like party crashers, are billed here as The Titans, but the tracks were released in 1961. As you can see, MGM did what most record companies did when an album had both stereo and mono versions. One extended cover “slick” was printed, and the appropriate edge was exposed, with the other edge covered by the back slick. Someone tore off the upper left corner of this mono record to expose the upside-down “stereo” printed on the front slick. It’s too bad, because real stereo copies of this album are very rare and worth hundreds of dollars.
There were other recordings made that day in Hamburg. With some extra time left in the session, The Ringo-less Beatles recorded four songs themselves. These got leased to Atco Records for yet another major label US release, with the single Ain’t She Sweet hitting the top 20. The two singles off this album My Bonnie and Why didn’t do as well, but these songs were issued countless times over the last 53 years. I suppose the same thing would have happened if MGM got their hands on a tape of John Lennon reading the phone book.
Cost: $5, $419 Remaining
Rita Pavone, The International Teen-Age Sensation, RCA Victor Brazil LPM-2900, 1964
I love foreign pop albums. They are full of music I’ve never heard, and sometimes you get foreign language versions of English language pop hits. I was really hoping for that when I bought this incredibly international record, but there’s only one American cover (Bobby Rydell’s Kissin’ Time). It’s actually an album of English language pop tunes, sung by an eager young Italian girl.
It was easy to be fooled by what this record is. I knew that Rita Pavone was Italian, and I know enough Romance Languages to tell that the back cover is written in Portuguese. Pavone was a huge star in Europe in the 60s, and recording for RCA meant her records could be released world wide. This record was probably meant to be her US break through, but it didn’t happen, despite Just Once More peaking at #26. Why RCA decided to release an English language record in Brazil I can’t explain, but they did.
Foreign records weren’t made to the same standard as US records were. Some European countries used very glossy cover slicks, while Japanese versions are made of paper. The jacket of this one is really nothing more than a card stock grade of paper with the thin (and badly mis-colored) cover slicks lightly adhered. They’re literally hanging on by a thread after 54 years. Next time I’m in Sao Paulo, I’ll be sure to ask for a refund.
Cost: $6, $447 Remaining
Jean-Paul Kreder Choir, Christmas Music Of France, Capitol International Series 10484
The Capitol International Series is a mainstay of any Goodwill record bin. Released in the 60s and 70s, they were American pressings of international releases. Most were recorded by people no one has ever heard of, but every now and then the series came up with a Ravi Shankar or Xavier Cougat record.
This flood damaged record isn’t one of the good ones. While I’m usually a sucker for an unknown French Pop record, a random chorus singing French Christmas music just doesn’t cut it. The stock photograph of a pretty French woman getting snowed on is a nice touch, but it doesn’t help the music.
So, because its a Christmas record, I’ll probably keep this in the Christmas section and see if I ever play this again. My guess is “non”, but we shall see.
Cost: $2, $540 Remaining
Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66, Look Around, A&M SP-4137, 1968
I don’t know how I got 5 months into this project without featuring a record from Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66. Their records sold in the millions and they’re really easy to find at really cheap prices. The group hit the sweet spot between Bossa Nova and Pop with records carefully crafted by the finest LA studio musicians. While their sound was passed in the 70s and 80s, today their records are the perfect vinyl background music to any hipster dinner party. This record is one of their best, and I was thrilled to find this near mint copy yesterday.
It came out at the peak of their fame, and owing to the looney rules that The Oscars had at the time, they got to perform Their version of The Look Of Love at the awards ceremony. Dusty Springfield’s version, the original recording from the film Casino Royale, was crushed on the charts as a result. There’s also the first charting version of The Beatles’ With A Little Help From My Friends, which was another huge hit for them.
And then there are the whitewashed versions of period correct Brazilian pop music. Not that that’s a bad thing, considering how influential the Bossa Nova sound was in the 60s. A Brazilian would be horrified by these remakes, they would probably sound like Pat Boone remaking Long Tall Sally, but I love them. I wish I could tell you why these records are so easy to find, all I can say is that I will keep looking for the rest of them.
Cost:$2, $640 Remaining