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
Elvis Presley, Pot Luck, RCA LPM-2523, 1962
This odd little Elvis album turned out to be quite a turning point for his career. It was two years since Elvis was released from the army, and this collection was supposed to be the cream of the non-film soundtrack songs he had recorded. While it did a respectable business, peaking at #4, it was dwarfed by the soundtracks to G.I. Blues and Blue Hawaii.
I’m sure the schlocky packaging didn’t help, nor the melange of top 20 hits from 1961-62, but when the sales didn’t reach The Colonel’s expectations, he focused his protege’s attention to woking solely in films. This would be the last non film or goapel album that Elvis would release un his “comeback” in 1969.
Instead, Elvis’ albums became mirrors of the weak movie scripts he got. The Elvis that changed the world didn’t do so by singing about clams, lemonade or nuns. So while his 60s albums sold well, they’re not very collectable. This flawless copy set me back $1 and i actually passed on a so-so copy of It Happened At The World’s Fair. For me, it wasn’t happening and it would be something I wold never listen to.
Cost: $1, $201 Remaining
Bruce Hornsby And The Range, The Way It Is, RCA AFL1-5904, 1986
Despite the photographic pun, this is another great 80s album that I found for $1. By 1986, the CD was really becoming the format of choice for album shoppers. It wasn’t until 1988 that CDs outsold vinyl, but the handwriting was on the wall. Records like this that appealed to a slightly older crowd were already selling equally in both formats (with the Cassette hanging in there!). Still, at three million in sales, that still means plenty of vinyl copies are out there.
This is the second, better selling, design for the album. The earlier jacket was an abstract art piece that, while lovely, had no image of the group. RCA, for some reason, felt that it would be best to market this album to the New Age crowd. When The Way It Is single took off, though, people wanted to know who this group was, and a new cover was produced. Bruce Hornsby And The Range went on to win the Best New Artist Grammy.
It’s an awesome album, and I can’t believe it now trades for $1. It tells me, again, that the time to load up on these records is now, before people realize that there’s no reason to buy a brand new copy at Urban Outfitters for $25. The value will only go up, and the quality will be about the same. Record companies had really consolidated by the mid 80s, and production standards were really improved. These records are light and flexible, but more durable than flimsy 70s attempts. I’ll actually listen to this record on a rainy day, which here in Oregon will be quite a lot.
Cost: $1, $206 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
Monteux Vienna Philharmonic, Symphonie Fantastique, RCA LM-2362, 1960
I really didn’t even want to know what this is all about. If ever there was a time I bought a record for the cover, this was it. Here is a porcelain skinned and heavily made up Barbie doll dressed up as a belly dancer with her hair in a bun and covered by a pink lace shawl. It’s all overshadowed by the hangman’s noose about to smear her make up as it goes around her head. And she doesn’t seem all that concerned about it either, using her last few moments alive to flash some bedroom eyes.
I don’t buy classical records. Yes, I know, I should try to improve and expand my horizons, but I get much more of a thrill from finding a decent cheap copy of Julie London’s Yummy Yummy Yummy (I Got Love In My Tummy) than I ever will from a 1960 recording of an 1830 symphony written by Hector Berlioz. Incidentally, the noose bit all makes sense after reading the wikipedia page on the strange life of Hector Berlioz.
I’m not alone in my distaste for records like this. Many record shops have classical sections tucked into a lonely dust filled corner. There’s hardly ever anyone looking through the bins. Without the magical cover, this would just be another sad addition to the pile. It’s this kind of record that winds up becoming an art project, cut into coasters or a cheap clock that you’d find at a crafts fair somewhere. I only found it because it was misfiled into my favorite store’s discount Jazz bin. Maybe someday my curiosity will get the better of me and I’ll actually try to listen to this, but for now, it’s a prime candidate for framing.
Cost: $2, $279 Remaining
Lorne Greene, Welcome To The Ponderosa, RCA LSP-2843, 1964
Welcome to the Ponderosa, and one of the strangest #1 records of all time. I had seen lists of the top records of 1964 long before I ever heard Ringo, and with it being the year of The Beatles and all, I just assumed that the song the knocked The Shangri Las Leader Of The Pack from the top spot was an ode to the famous drummer. It’s not as if the song got any airplay at all. Finding this album though, I learned that Ringo tells the tale of Johnny Ringo, one of many tedious western tales talk-sung by TV’s own Ben Cartwright.
Bonanza was the biggest shows on TV in 1964, not necessarily because it stood out from any other western show, but because it was one of the few that was shot and aired in color. Anyone catching a rerun today would be mystified about it having any success at all. But with the show NBC’s biggest hit and NBC owning RCA Records, several Bonanza albums were released. Ringo’s success proves that even as late as December 1964, Rock & Roll was just one genre of popular music.
This isn’t really a soundtrack album. Even the famous Bonanza theme is re-recorded with pretty awful original lyrics. Greene had an amazing voice, but he wasn’t much of a singer. The songs are all mini western dramas, and most come with a spoken introduction that sets the stage for the tale that follows. Unfortunately, what follows is as dated as the show. It’s an interesting find, but not really one with spending 29 minutes with, let alone an evening.
Cost: $2, $308 Remaining
Cass Elliot, Don’t Call Me Mama Anymore, RCA APL1-0303, 1973
Mama Cass was really ready for a make over in the early 70s. Gaining fame as a member of The Mamas & The Papas, Cass Elliot earned her nickname, even though she came to despise being called “Mama”. After three failed solo albums billed as “Mama Cass” on her old record company Dunhill, she signed with RCA as simply “Cass Elliot.
The first two RCA albums also flopped, so for her third, Cass got motivated to make a clean break of anything related to ‘Mama’ even if that meant putting together a cabaret act and leaving rock music behind. After all, her biggest solo hit Dream A Little Dream Of Me was an old American Pop standard and the new musical direction was aimed towards that bullseye.
I just wish it were better. She had one of the most amazing pop voices of all time, it was strong yet sensitive. But these songs, recorded live at a cabaret club in Chicago, are just bad. Yes, she sings her hit, and a couple of other has of the day, but the rest is just pure schmaltz. The era of the cabaret was dying by the mid 70s, and it was not a sign of a strong career move to make. Not that it mattered for poor Cass Elliot. She died of heart failure just months after this record came out. This bad album was the last one she released.
Cost: $2, $374 Remaining
The Hues Corporation, Freedom For The Stallion, RCA APL1-0323, 1973
What we have here is clearly a second pressing. The cover of the original album has been altered to include the huge notice that THIS Hues Corporation record contains their big #1 hit from June, 1974, Rock The Boat. Sure, lead off single, Freedom For The Stallion is included too, but people only bought the album for the hit. I’ve seen a million of these, and not a one of the original cover without the printed ad on the front.
But what a hit! Many people cite Rock The Boat as the first disco song to hit #1, and it’s a natural transition song from the early 70s R&B sound and into the later 70s Disco sound. I also love the clever name the group chose. “The Children Of Howard Hughes” didn’t get past the eagle eyed lawyers in the RCA legal department, but Hues Corporation did. The play on the Hughes name and Hues of colors is pure one hit wonder genius. It was pretty much over for the group after this record, what with personnel changes and declining sales, but this is a good album.
Unfortunately for those looking for the record 44 years after it came out, it was pressed on RCA’s flimsy dynaflex vinyl. Designed to weigh less and bend more, these flimsy records just don’t stand the test of time. Some people call the format “dynawarp” because it doesn’t take much to permanently reshape these records into something unplayable. This one is in great shape, so I’ll be careful to store it on an angle inside a protective plastic sleeve, and keep it out of direct sunlight.
Cost: $3, $383 Remaining
Jose Feliciano, 10 To 23, RCA Victor LSP-4185, 1969
Jose Feliciano was muy caliente in the late 60s. The singer became famous in Latin America in the mid 60s and exploded world-wide after the huge success of re-recording The Doors’ Light My Fire. His flamenco style guitar work was praised by none other than Jimi Hendrix, and his rendition of The Star Spangled Banner of the 1968 World Series was so controversial that it became a bigger issue than the game itself. His records for RCA sold in the millions, and they are among the easiest records to find today.
I actually like them, and I sometimes think I’m the only one. These albums are mostly covers of the hits of the day, but it was a golden age for pop music. Who doesn’t like a well done Beatles cover? This album has three, and the re-make of She’s A Woman makes a former B-Side into A-Side material.
There’s no need to search out these albums, they pop up anywhere old records are sold. That means that you can feel free to wait until you find a mint condition copy. One thing I do want to find though is the rumored infamous introduction that Ed Sullivan gave to Jose Feliciano on his live TV show. Dear old Ed supposedly couldn’t find the cue cards with the scripted into on them anymore than he could remember the name of the next act, so he announced the only things he could remember. It came out something like “Here’s a wonderful new singer……..he’s blind and he’s Puerto Rican!” Ouch.
Cost: $1, $399 Remaining
Kay Starr, Rockin’ With Kay, RCA LPM-1720, 1958
Imagine Celine Dion making a hip hop record. That’s kind of what this Kay Starr album is like. Rock & Roll was just one kind of popular music in the 50s, and I think the logic here was that Kay Starr’s pop records weren’t selling, so why not try to record some of that “new” music to appeal to a new audience.
It’s not a bad idea, it’s just that this isn’t what Rock & Roll is supposed to be about. Big corporate music companies take a while to ramp up to the newest trends, and while Elvis Presley was RCA’s biggest star, they didn’t have much bench strength as far as cutting edge music went. Kay’s star was brightest in the 40s and into the early 50s, and perhaps her biggest seller was the novelty song Rock And Roll Waltz. Make no mistake, it wasn’t a Rock song.
So, no, this album didn’t sell well and Kay Starr’s career decline continued. She moved back to Capitol Records in 1959 and she produced a string of barely successful jazz records ala Peggy Lee. Her Christmas records are what she’s probably best known for today, with (Everybody’s Waiting’ For) The Man With The Bag getting a ton of plays every December.
Cost: $2, $431 Remaining