The Soul Survivors, When The Whistle Blows Anything Goes, Crimson CR-502, 1967
For record #365, I’ve chosen a semi-rare album from a semi-on hit wonder. The Soul Survivors were a New York band fronted by a pair of brothers, Charles and Richard Ingui. According to the liner notes on their one Crimson release, on March 19, 1966 two cars had an accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. Both were bands on their way to gigs, and they decided to form a Soul band together. Clever as they were, The Soul Survivors were born.
Frankly, the charts in the Spring of 1966 were dominated by two records, The Righteous Brothers (You’re My) Soul & Inspiration, and The Young Rascals Good Lovin’. This album sounds like it was performed by both of those groups. The #4 smash Expressway To Your Heart is absolutely the best Rascals song not performed by The Rascals. They do a note for note cover of The Rascals cover of The Marvelttes’ Too Many Fish In The Sea. The Album closes with The Rydle, a/k/a I Gave My Love A Cherry, done with a clear nod to the the Righteous way Bobby Hatfield sang standards like Unchained Melody and Ebb Tide.
Crimson is also a one hit wonder of sorts. This record represents half of their entire output as a label, with Crimson 501 being a bizarre DJ concept album with no artist or song credits that was designed as a quiz for people curious enough to buy. Needless to say, this was the only Crimson album to chart. Despite the bizarre Philadelphia based company background, The Soul Survivors project was the first hit for the production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. They went on to start Philadelphia International Records which surpassed Motown as the premiere creative Black label in the 70s. Not a bad way to end a blog…
Cost: $10, $1 Remaining
$191 Spent, $6.16 per record
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
Wilson Pickett, The Wicked Pickett, Atlantic SD-8138, 1967
It’s always a bit of a thrill when I run across an album I’ve never seen before. Naturally, it’s a bigger thrill when I realize it’s fairly priced and I can afford it. Price guides list a mint stereo copy of this record at $60, so I didn’t think to hard about shelling out $10 for this copy. Any mid 60s soul record, especially one on Atlantic, Stax or Volt is a rare find and I never hesitate to add one to my collection when I find it. Wilson Pickett was in the middle of his amazing tear of blistering soul hits when this record came out, and this is one wicked album to listen to.
There’s only one true hit single, Mustang Sally, but even the covers are done in the same Memphis Soul style. Technically, even Sally is a cover of a cover too. It was done by a former band mate of Pickett’s, “Sir” Mack Rice in 1965. That version hit #15 on the R&B charts, and a few months later, The Young Rascals re-recorded it as the B-Side to their #1 hit Good Lovin. With The Rascals being on Atlantic, and Pickett needing a new song to record, producer Jerry Wexler took the song to Memphis and the result was a stone cold smash.
Both stereo and mono versions of this album originally came out when it was released for New Year’s 1967. By New Years 1968, most record companies phased out commercial mono pressings, but this is one case where the mono out sold the stereo. The price guides value a stereo copy as being worth $10 more, so I have to assume that it didn’t sell as well. Either way, this is a a real find, and sometimes you just get lucky.
Cost: $10, $107 Remaining
Aretha Franklin, Aretha Arrives, Atlantic SD-8150, 1967
It’s often said that a true artist at the top of their game could recite the phone book and still have a hit. This album tests that theory and kinda proves it! It’s a bit tricky to call this album Aretha Arrives when it was her second record for Atlantic and 12th major label release (Franklin spent years on Columbia releasing 10 albums with zero hits). But the album before this, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, is now regarded as perhaps the best regarded album by a female solo singer in history, and any record would pale in comparison to that.
Both records peaked at #2, so the critical assessment of Aretha Arrives is in hindsight. But hindsight does make it seem like this is a strange collection of songs to record for an artist breaking though the racial divide and selling true soul music to whit audiences. Besides the one hit, Baby I Love You, Aretha covers The Rolling Stones, ? & The Mysterians, and Frank Sinatra with the kind of sounds heard on her Columbia material.
Purists looking for one soul smash after another tend to get disappointed by this, but I see it as Aretha’s ability to sing anything. Perhaps in the back of her Diva oriented head she was trying to show fans of every kind of music who the real talent champion was. It’s also important to note that she literally recorded this record with one hand tied behind her back. Aretha was injured in a bad car crash earlier in 1967 and was still in a cast and recuperating when she recorded this album. To me, that’s even further proof of Aretha’s artistry and that even a so-so Aretha record is still a very good record.
Cost: $6, $172 Remaining
Various Artists, This Is Soul, Atlantic SD-8170, 1968
I think I’ve been clear so far by saying I don’t usually buy-or even look for- various artists or greatest hits packages. I’d rather have the original album(s) that feature the songs and get the fuller picture of the artist and the times the songs were recorded. It used to bug me to hear some C-List celebrity on a Time Life CD collection infomercial say things like “Do you have any idea how long it would take you to track down all of these records?!?”. Why yes, I do, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But every now and then though, something catches my eye. For this record, it wasn’t the terrible artwork. C’mon Atlantic, it’s 1968 already, people know you cater to African American artists. Put THEM on the cover! What did cause me to add this to my pile was the amazing collection that Atlantic put together. Not only are there hits from the past like Ray Charles and The Drifters, but also current records from different labels that were distributed by Atlantic. It’s very rare to see this and even tiny Karen Records is represented with the biggest hit the label ever had, The Capitol’s Cool Jerk.
It’s not in perfect condition, but this is one album you could spin at a party and get compliments from people about how great your playlist is. Spotify would kill to have these mixes. This was indeed Soul Music, compiled at the peak of it’s popularity into one record. There’s not a bad track on here, and I’m really glad I found it.
Cost: $2, $198 Remaining
Roberta Flack, Quiet Fire, Atlantic SD-1594, 1971
This was Roberta Flack’s third album for Atlantic, and it wasn’t really a hit. It was from the odd time before she really broke through commercially in 1972 with the smash The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, even though that song had already come out on her first album. It seems weird that a song that could spend six weeks at #1 could just be out there for years before becoming a hit, but that’s what happened here.
Instead, this album had been out for a few weeks when Face was included in the Clint Eastwood movie Play Misty For Me. That triggered the singles success and propelled Flack’s 1969 debut album First Take to #1, while the “new” Roberta Flack record struggled to hit #18. Apparently people at the time didn’t care for her covers of The Shirelles’ Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, or the 6:41 cover of The Bees Gees’ To Love Somebody. That makes this Flack album fairly hard to find these days, and I haven’t seen one in decades.
In fact, the last time I remember seeing it was when my younger sister and I were being baby sat somewhere and out of boredom we went looking through the house’s record collection. Being the non-worldly 8 year old my sister was, she wasn’t familiar with the name “Roberta”. She was reading the names and titles on the various record sleeves and pulled this one out and burst out screaming “AHHHHH Look at the hair on this guy Robert A. Flack!”
Cost: $2, $283 Remaining
Martha & The Vandellas, Live!, Gordy 925, 1967
Poor Martha. By the time this record came out it was beyond obvious that all of Motown’s creative forces were going towards furthering the career of a few of their artists. Others, like Martha & The Vandellas got the creative crumbs of material deemed not good enough to become a Supremes record. This was the only Vandellas album release of 1967, and the company couldn’t be bothered to design a new cover for it. It’s the exact same template that was used in 1966 for The Temptations Live! The Vandellas even cover The Temptations version of For Once In My Life.
Martha wrote in her autobiography that her performances in Detroit were always attended by other Motown royalty. Diana Ross wold sit in the front row next to Berry Gordy and come up with “notes” on all that went wrong during the show. So I’m sure the pressure was on to have a good show, especially this night. The Twenty Grand Club was located just a mile away from the Motown studios, so it became a home away from home for the company.
As much as I love the group, it’s not a great album. It’s really interesting to hear Betty Kelly get a solo and banter moments with Martha, but the technical recording isn’t very good. There are better live recordings on youtube of the group, and I highly recommend the awkwardness of Casey Kasem interviewing the group at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles before a Dodger Game. Obviously, as with any Motown album, buy it if you see it at a good price, but it may not be the most listened to record in any collection.
Cost: $5, $426 Remaining