Clyde McPhatter, May I Sing For You?, Mercury Wing SRW-16224, 1962
I’m coming up to the end of my year of shopping for 365 records with a $1000 budget. It’s to the point that, with 30 days to go and $191 to spend, I still need to buy discount records, but perhaps not this much. While Clyde McPhatter was the original lead singer for The Drifters in the early 50s, and he had a great solo career on Mercury in the early 60s, this 1962 compilation of standards on the discount Mercury Wing label is really not collectible. If the $2 price tag doesn’t tell you that, the crummy title should. May I Sing For You is not a selling feature for a record.
This seems to be the kind of record that happens when a troubled artist like McPhatter has a comeback hit (in this case, the R&B classic Lover Please), material that was sitting in a can somewhere often finally sees the light of day on a discount label like Wing. Artists always record music that falls short of commercial viability. Records like this hope to get some quick sales by people looking for the hit on the radio and end up disappointed by substandard material pressed on cheap vinyl. It’s records like this that also damage careers.
Most major record companies had a discount label or two to handle music not deemed worthy enough for their flagship brand. Mercury had Wing, Capitol had Tower, RCA had Camden, and Columbia had Harmony, all releasing records like this. McPhatter’s solo hits were on the main Mercury label, but out of date music like this came out on Wing. Sometimes, records like this don’t even show up in official artist discographies because they might not have been nationally distributed or the artist may not have even known it was released, such was the business model for them. So enjoy the final discount record of the year, and get ready for the next month of real treasures.
Cost: $2, $189 Remaining
Wilson Pickett, In Philadelphia, Atlantic SD-8270, 1970
I’m pleased to report that one of the best movies ever made about soul music is now on Netflix! The Commitments may be an Irish movie, but it drips soul out of every scene. While he doesn’t actually appear in the film, the band forms around the idea of getting to perform in front of The Wicked Wilson Pickett. So I had to dig out this record an see how wicked it really is.
At first I thought it was going to be a live album, owing to the cover photo and the cryptic title. But apparently, it was such a big move for Mr. Pickett to not record an album at Atlantic Studio’s Muscle Shoals operation, that they named the whole record after the studio. It’s actually just the second full album produced by the team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. They would go on to form their own label, Philadelphia International, that would dominate the 70s soul scene and surpass Motown in sales and influence.
So, while I was a tad disappointed to not hear the wicked one live, I did get to hear a really wonderful soul record from one of the all time greats. While his 60s records are the ones that made the legend, his 70s sounds are somehow even more intense. His gravelly voice is now rocky, but he still manages to hold it together and his screams are world class. The material is a bit meh, but it’s still a great record. Don’t let the ring wear fool you either, it’s in pretty decent shape!
Cost: $2, $615 Remaining
Lou Rawls, Tobacco Road, Capitol ST-2042, 1963
I struggled with this one a bit. On the one hand, not enough people know about Lou Rawls or his amazing voice. On the other hand, that voice was amazing partly because of all the cigarettes he smoke, only to die from lung cancer. Yet here he is singing about tobacco.
Most people know the album’s title track from the British Invasion remake by The Nashville Teens, but Lou’s version is as soulful as they come. I’m not sure if this is the version where the teens found the song, but the timing of the two records makes me probably thin yes. Lou got his start following his mentor Sam Cooke around the gospel circuit, only to sing back up on some of Sam’s biggest hits, notably Bring It On Home To Me, so he was pretty well known in music circles, even if his early albums didn’t sell very well.
If Lou is known at all, it’s for his photo disco albums he made in the 70s for Philadelphia International. But his 60s Capitol albums are really great and fairly easy to find and well worth searching out.
Cost: $1, $646 Remaining
Roberta Flack, Feel Like Makin’ Love, Atlantic SD-18131, 1975
She doesn’t get enough credit today, but Roberta Flack was probably the best selling female solo artist for a few years in the early 70s. This album was the last one released during that incredible streak. Curiously, it came out 10 months after the #1 title track, but it’s still a fantastic record that blends soul with jazz and pop.
There’s not much to the artwork, but the front cover does imply winter turning into spring. That’s good because that’s the first line of the first song on side one.
It’s a gatefold cover, so at least on the inside we get a small picture of baby Roberta and not much else beyond some really great credits. I’ve been lucky enough to see both Patti Austin and Betty Buckley in concert, and it’s great to know they’re singing the background vocals.
I know this isn’t really a theme week, but I’ve been finding really great records to show. Not just random oddities that fit my budget but very solidly done music that just doesn’t get heard much these days. This album is really great and all it took to take home forever was $2 and about 2 hours of sifting through 2000 used R&B records.
Cost: $2, $650 Remaining
Natalie Cole, Thankful, Capitol SW-11708, 1977
My first impression, Oregon resident that I am, is that no one would be Thankful about standing in one of our rivers in a red chiffon dress. Still, Natalie Cole was an incredibly talented artist who most likely would have been successful despite her fabled lineage.
In a sense, this record is a real stand out for 1977. R&B was turning into hard core funk or dance music at the time, so a jazzy-pop style record that did well on the R&B charts had to be good. And this record is great, as is the top ten single Our Love.
Luckily for me, the original owner took amazing care (or indifference) to this record. It is absolutely perfect at 39 years old. I always loved that Ms. Cole was signed to Capitol Records. Their headquarters in Los Angeles was called “The House That Nat Built” in honor of her father, and the company took an Olive Garden approach to Nat’s daughter “When You’re here, You’re Home”). Their investment paid off, with the amazing career that Natalie Cole had.
Cost: $2, $839 Remaining