Telly Savalas, Who Loves Ya Baby, MCA-2160, 1976
Sometimes I really earn my pay… Telly Savalas was a fairly large movie star who became a huge TV star in the 70s with the success of his police detective show Kojak. In New York City, where the show was set, people of a certain age still call it a “Kojak” when they find a convenient free parking space, because Telly always found three empty spaces in front of where he was going. After all, it’s not easy to park a brown Buick Century in Midtown. I bring all this up because Detective Kojak had a catchphrase, like so many 70s characters had…”Who Loves Ya Baby”.
The music is pretty terrible. Telly really can’t sing, and his deep smoke clogged voice isn’t helped by the high octave of the background singers. He gives a lot of spoken word intros, including one in front of Gentile On My Mind where he says “as a kid growing up in New York, ‘out west’ meant Jersey”. There’s a lot of groovy 70s guitars, but the material just seems so out of place and, honestly, trying too hard.
The record was only in VG condition, so somebody played this more than few times. I just don’t know why anyone would do that to themselves, but I have the evidence. I’m running short on Trying Too Hard records, but I do have a whole slew of treasures of albums made as a result being famous from a TV role. Maybe this album is a nice transition to a new theme week…
Cost: $2, $913 Remaining
The Ethel Merman Disco Album, A&M SP-4775, 1979
I imagine sometimes that it’s really hard to say no to an offer, especially if your phone hasn’t been ringing much lately. Broadway legend Ethel Merman was 71 and not only way past her prime, but beginning to deteriorate physically when the offer came in to combine Broadway and Disco into one smash album. Do I have to tell you it’s tragic?
Producer Peter Manz certainly had a certain target market in mind with certain song selections, namely Something For The Boys. On I Get A Kick Out Of You, Miss Merman reverts to the original Cole Porter lyric, screaming “Cocainnne” on top of the swirling beat. Oy, is it cringeworthy.
Apparently, this is quite the collectible, so I was thrilled to find it at a vintage shop for $2. A review I found said it’s good for a laugh, but there’s only one joke. I found it funny once, but then sad. It has a nice “promo” stamp on the back cover, and a date stamp of July 27, 1979, so I know it wasn’t something that someone originally bought. The record is only in VG condition, but it’s a nice addition to the camp section of my collection, and a worthy addition to Trying Too Hard Week.
Cost: $2, $915 Remaining
Frank Sinatra, Some Nice Things I’ve Missed, Reprise F-2195, 1974
Frank Sinatra had an amazing run. The nickname The Chairman Of The Board came about because he was seemingly everywhere, doing everything just right, running things. Sure, it got harder and harder to stay relevant, but for the vast majority of the public, they still bought his records, saw his movies and watched his TV specials. By 1971, Frank had had it and retired from show business. It didn’t last long.
He came back with a splash. A TV special and hit album announced Ole Blue Eyes Is Back in 1973. This album was the follow up. It should have never happened. Even as a mixed tape, this would have been a really bad mix of current pop and show tunes, but covered by a 57 year old, it just comes off as trying to be someone he no longer is. For me, the 70s were a time when the music business turned inward. The singer-songwriter era was in full force, and originality ruled the day. Singing someone else’s songs was out of fashion, especially someone else’s hit singles.
To hear the great trendsetting Frank Sinatra singing Sweet Caroline, Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree, and most appallingly Bar, Bad Leroy Brown, is kinda cringeworthy. He sort of pulls off You Are The Sunshine Of My Life, but I really got the feeling that the whole package was a vain attempt at relevance. Frank Sinatra was never known as a songwriter, but he was possibly the best song interpreter of all time. This record sounds like the kind of thing he sang to in the shower or in the car driving around Palm Springs.
Cost: $3, $917 Remaining
Peggy Lee, Then Was Then-Now Is Now, Capitol ST-2388, 1965
Miss Peggy Lee. What else is there to say? By the time I became aware of her she was so past her prime, wearing Platinum wigs and sunglasses on the C-List variety shows she would occasionally turn up on. To be honest, I thought she was a laughing stock. And that is really wrong!
At their core, an artist is an original, someone who can stand out from their peers who are trying to do the same thing, and someone who preservers to attain perfection, even though they never reach it. Not everything they do moves the ball forward, but the end result is fantastic. That’s Miss Peggy Lee in a nutshell.
She recorded for Capitol for 25 years, and while they call their headquarters “The House That Nat Built” after Nat King Cole, I really think it was Peggy Lee that financed the place. She never really had many hit singles in the Rock Era beyond 1958’s Fever, and 1969’s Is That All There Is, but she sold millions of albums from the 40s into the 70s. Her Blues Across The Country (1962) is one of my favorite albums, and The Beatles covered her version of Till There was You from 1960’s Latin A La Lee.
This albums is still in it’s shrink wrap, with an early version of an IBM computer research card on it! May coffee maker now has a more powerful computer that the mainframe that took cards like this, so it’s a double mid century modern technology win! Unfortunately, this record falls into the Trying Too Hard category. Side one is pleasant, the kind of “Then” music you’d expect from her, but side two with it’s “Now” feeling that kind of takes my breath away. Johnny Rivers may have lit up the Sunset Strip with songs like Seventh Son, but they seem so odd from a middle aged jazz singer. But hey, kudos for trying Miss Lee. It always gives me Fever to find a mint Capitol album of yours!
Cost: $2, $920 Remaining
Henry Mancini, Mancini’s Angels, RCA APL1-2290, 1977
.Somehow the Academy Award winning composer and Orchestra leader, famous for the melancholy Moon River, the haunting Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet, and the suspenseful Pink Panther Theme found himself trying to stay relevant in 1977 in an open disco shirt on the phone, while three non-angelic models , also with open blouses, fawn all over him. This is yet another record the should not be, yet here it is.
There are some gems included. I had completely forgotten about the TV show What’s Happening!. It was a little too old of a show for my 11 year old sensibilities at the time, but I did love getting to know Re-Run, Shirley, Raj, and my favorite sassy little sister, Dee. Since I had forgotten about the show, I also had forgotten that Henry Mancini did the theme music. It’s here in all its original glory, as is some background music from my favorite Pink Panther movie, The Return Of The Pink Panther.
The Theme From Charlie’s Angels actually became is semi hit single, peaking in the US at #45, but still, this record seems to be a kind of cash in on a craze from a really important artist. I love it!
Cost: $1, $922 Remainng
Tony Bennett, Tony Sings The Great Hits Of Today!, Columbia CS-9980, 1970
Day Three of Trying Too Hard Week finds Tony Bennett apparently dressed for a Halloween Party. With record sales slagging and his Woodstock invitation somehow lost in the mail, Columbia Record’s President “strongly suggested” that his now middle aged jazz singer record something contemporary. Literally, Something. And an incredibly bizarre rendering of Eleanor Rigby that one reviewer called “Shatner-esque”. Tony is clearly uncomfortable with the material, attempting off sounding ad-libs that sound like Bill Murray’s lounge singer character. In researching this album to get the release date, I read that poor Mr. Bennett was so upset at things getting to this point in his career that he literally vomited in the studio before recording began. Ouch.
It’s also never a sign of a good relationship with your record company when they use the exact same image on the back cover as they did on the front. And the image on the front cover was totally ridiculous to begin with. Pin-Stripe bellbottoms, sideburns, and a psychedelic paisley wide-tie is just not a good look, Tony Bennett was never a mod. Why they have him posed with his feet pointing out with a Look Of Love kind of expression is also beyond me. No, how you doin’ Tony?
This record’s cover has a special radio station sticker on it. It’s “Radio Station Service- Not For Resale” warning tells me that this was a well maintained record that would have only been played once or twice, to record a tape loop called a “cart” that would have then been played on the air. And it’s true, the record is perfect to listen to now. There’s even a great late 1969 series Columbia inner sleeve that tells me this was an original package. Thankfully though for Tony’s career, this record is not all there is.
Cost: $2, $923 Remaining
Ray Conniff, Plays The Bee Gees & Other Great Hits. Columbia BL-35659, 1978
Yesterday’s wonderful experience of listening to Mae West’s Way Out West gave me an idea of another theme week. Mae gave it her all but she really had no artistic business releasing a sexy vamp rock & roll album at age 72. I’ve been combing through the records I got this spring during two massive clearance sales I went to and found an impressive bunch of albums that absolutely should not exist, but happily do.
Today we have a 1978 Ray Conniff record made for a segment of the record buying public who found the hard rock sounds of Debby Boone and Barbra Streisand too loud. Mr. Conniff and his Singers were on the task, softening up the soft rock and light disco that dominated the late 70s charts.
The singers and their perfect diction seamlessly mesh songs to Ray’s arrangements until they sound like bunch of radio station jingles. Night Fever/Stayin’ Alive is a particular favorite. To say that this is elevator music is almost unfair to elevators. But then what else would you expect from a man in a powder blue tuxedo jacket with rhinestoned lapel, ruffled gold shirt and brown bow tie.
None of this is to criticize Ray Conniff’s music or the 70 million albums he sold. He was a pioneer of stereo orchestration recordings and his early albums, especially the Christmas ones, sold in the millions. His technique of using voices as instruments as part of an orchestra was mildly (of course!) revolutionary and copied by thousands of artist after him. I play a few of his 50s records when I want to make an evening cocktail and feel like Don Draper. If I ever get a 1960 Buick Convertible like his, my soundtrack is ready.
Cost: $2, $925 Remaining