Van Morrison, Moondance, Warner Brothers WS-1835, 1970
Sometimes a remarkable album comes out by someone you’d least expect from. Yes, Van Morrison had made bit of a name for himself as the lead singer of Them, and with a slightly bubblegum-ish 1967 hit single, Brown Eyed Girl. But who knew he had THIS in him? Brown Eyed Girl was a big enough hit that he got a major label deal with Warner Brothers, and Morrison spent most of 1968 preparing his Warner’s debut, Astral Weeks. It was a very jazzy and abstract record that was a hit with musicians and critics but didn’t really sell.
Moondance was the follow-up, and Morrison spent most of 1969 writing and recording it in Woodstock New York. When a half million hippies rolled into town, Morrison left for the city where he finished the record. Dropping a needle on side one, the record opens with And It Stoned Me, a song that literally jumps out at you. From there, you’re drawn in deeper and deeper until it ends. Crazy Love, Moondance, and Into The Mystic are classics of their-or any other-era. Yes, I love this record.
Oddly, there were no hit singles from Moondance. Come Running and Crazy Love were both released as singles, but neither charted. For some bizarre reason, Moondance was released as a single at the height of the Disco era in 1977, when it climbed all the way to #92. The album only reached #29 on the charts, but despite failing in all of the traditional measures of a hit album, Moondance still sold over three million copies. It has probably never been out of print. Naturally, I held out for an original Warner Brothers copy, with its gatefold cover and extensive liner notes.
Cost: $7, $19 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
Al Hirt, Honey In The Horn, RCA Victor LPM-2733, 1963
I do love a good Al Hirt record. While I’m clearly one of the few people to ever write that sentence (based on the price of his records today), I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s the thrill of finding a mint condition record for very little money that you have never head before and you completely fall in love with that I’m after, and the Used Instrumental bin is where I usually find them.
It’s not just that Al Hirt had some of the greatest nicknames this side of James Brown that makes me want to have all of his records. I really can’t tell you why The Round Mound Of Sound appeals to me so much. Al “He’s The King” Hirt made an amazing trumpet sound, and since “jumbo” was from New Orleans, he grew up learning from some the all-time jazz greats. That he recorded for RCA in the 50s and 60s makes his records all the more appealing to me, with them adding The Anita Kerr Singers to sing background parts with no lead vocals and enough echo to propel a Mardi Gras float down Bourbon Street.
This pristine $3 copy of his biggest selling record still wears its original shrink wrap. It’s not a particularly hard record to find, but I’ll buy virtually any record in this condition for that price. It’s just a bonus that I happen to really like it. Virtually everyone on Earth knows the hit Java, but not many people know that this album was one of two Hirt placed in the 1964 year end Top 10. That was the year of The Beatles, and this album peaked at #3 behind two Beatles albums.
Cost: $3, $265 Remaining
Earle Hagen, I Spy, Capitol ST-2839, 1968
I’ve had this record for a while, but it took this week’s theme of TV Show records to get me to listen to it. And, wow! It’s a really great album. It’s got the smooth west coast jazz sound that I love written from the perspective of mid century intrigue. I suppose having never seen an episode of I Spy, I wasn’t really too curious about it’s music. After all, the composer is Earle Hagen, which may not be a household name for most people, but as the composer of the theme song for The Andy Griffin Show (where I knew him from), he kind of scared me off.
But boy was I wrong. Part of the appeal of I Spy was that the show took place all over the world, so it called for different music for every episode. With the slick style of the show, a jazz theme song was written for it. What followed is three seasons-and 7 soundtrack albums!- of well crafted studio jazz. Collect ’em all…after I find all 7 albums that is.
This particular record was the first of two I Spy albums for Capitol. While it won no Grammys, Earle Hagen did win the 1968 Emmy for outstanding original score for this record. The previous soundtracks from the show came out on Warner Brothers, but it’s the same people involved. And wow, I managed to get through a whole I Spy blog post without mentioning Bill Cosby!
Cost: $2, $335 Remaining
The Ernie Felice Quartet, Cocktail Time, Capitol T-192, 1955
I bought this one for the cover. I love the gray background and the variety of cocktails and cigarettes on display. The graphics and fonts are an incredible example of an early 50s album. It turns out to have been quite the research project to identify what this record is.
Besides a family run fan website, there isn’t much information out there on Ernie Felice. His Wikipedia page is in German for example. This record is also hard to track down. Multiple sources show that Capitol 192 was issued in 1950 with a different cover than this one. This cover is the original Australian cover that Capitol resurrected when they re-issued this album in 1955 on the new 12″ 33 1/3 rpm format.
It’s actually a pretty good album too! Accordion music isn’t exactly my thing, but Ernie Felice tones it down here and arranges it into the mix. It woulnt be my go to for actual cocktail time, but I’ll play it from time to time, mostly to hear his Dream A Little Dream Of Me, and O Sole Mio.
Cost: $2, $400 Remaining
Mavis Rivers, Hooray For Love, Capitol ST-1294, 1960
I had never heard of Mavis Rivers before finding this record. While she is listed in my trusty Goldmine Record Album Price Guide, this record isn’t. None of that matters though, it’s just a good old record that cost very little money that’ll be fun to listen to a few times a year. Which is why I love looking for old records.
Mavis was Samoan, and she entertained troops there as a young girl during World War Two. Her family moved to New Zealand, and she quickly conquered the tiny jazz scene of the North Island before moving to the United States to study music at Brigham Young University. Conquering the Samoan Jazz community of Utah led to recording contracts with Vee-Jay and Capitol Records. She had a pretty great voice too, sounding almost like Ella Fitzgerald’s cousin.
But as I said, it’s records like this that keep me flipping though stacks of dusty old records. The cover is tailor made for a Valentine’s Day, and the songs are all love themed. This record is on iTunes for $9.99, but give me the $2 vinyl copy anytime.
Cost: $2, $404 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