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
Various Artists, Cruisin’ 1965, Increase INCM-2010, 1973
Scour piles of cheap old records long enough and you’ll eventually find one from the Crusin’ series. It may seem to be a decent enough retrospective of the hits of a certain year, 1965 in this case. But really it’s much more than that. Each one of the 16 albums (1955-1970 inclusive) features a mock radio show from each year. A top local DJ mimics what he -they are all men- would have done in a typical show that year. Naturally, all of the radio station jingles and commercials are included.
The covers also tell the tale of “Eddie” as he appeared in each year, from high school through college and Vietnam. They’re all done in a Roy Liechtenstein comic book style of artwork. The back cover has a write up on all the artists and the DJ who plays the host. For 1965, it was Los Angeles’s turn. Or should I say “Boss” Angeles, as KHJ morning drive host Robert W. Morgan calls it.
I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to get all of the rights to do this project. Where in 1973 did Increase Records’ attorneys go for permission to release a 1965 Studebaker radio ad? There’s no Beatles, Beach Boys or Rolling Stones, but there are some major records on each album. These records aren’t for someone looking to enjoy the music, every song is talked over or fused together with a jingle, but they are really fun to listen to them. They are like finding an air-check from the golden age of Top 40 AM radio.
Cost: $2, $220 Remaining
The Philadelphia International All Stars, Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto, Philadelphia International JZ-34659, 1977
I know I just wrote the other day about promos and how I never buy them. Naturally, that meant I was bound to discover a record I’ve always wanted to find moments after publishing that, but with a promotional label on it.
The first time I ever heard The Philadelphia International All Stars’ Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto, all 8:42 of it, I couldn’t believe it. It’s really half of a monologue about garbage, crime and cockroaches by the great Lou Rawls followed by four minutes of amazing Funk & Disco. The fact that I was driving in rural Argentina at the time made it seem even more unreal. It was one of those times when you hear a song you love, but have no way to identify it so you can look for it later. I had to ask all kinds of record people about this bizarre Lou Rawls social commentary until one of them knew about it enough to tell me what it is.
And what it is is an attempt by the beginning to fade Philadelphia International Record Company to stay relevant in the later 70s with the rise of disco music. It’s basically a compilation from the roster of the label in 1977 with the added “all star” track specifically written to give it a relevant theme. Of course, songs about hot smelly garbage don’t get much airplay so the record never really sold. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a great record to have, with the Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff production team at the height of their game. Since it didn’t sell, it’s a pretty rare record to find, and I was thrilled to find this promo for $1! It took me over a decade to find this one from when I first heard it, and while I’ll keep looking for a standard release, I’m really happy to have this version, ring wear and all.
Cost: $5, $272 Remaining
Various Artists, The Capitol Disc Jockey Album, Capitol SPRO-4650, November 1968
I don’t collect promos. I have them of course, because sometimes you’re happy to find any copy of a particular hard to find record, and a promo generally plays as well as a standard issue copy. In fact, promo collectors usually say that they play better because they likely were played a few times by industry professionals as either sampling or re-recording for broadcast from a tape. But since virtually all recorded music released since Edison’s wax cylinder #1 is available online for free, I prefer to look for standard issue releases for my collection. Promos usually have different labels or cover art and I like those things about my records.
Things like album though stand out. It’s mere existence is curious because it’s as though Capitol Records is saying that only Capitol records are worthy of airplay, like they’re some sort of premium brand for the recording industry. That’s obviously not true anymore than people choosing what book to read based solely on the publisher. Yes, there were many recordings of The Impossible Dream, but hey Capitol Records has a great one for sale this November by Al Martino that you’re just gonna love…
I have a few of these records, and it’s hard to tell if they’re collectible or not. I have one from 1964, but most information online suggests these were monthly releases from 1967-1970. They certainly are weird adult oriented albums, and it remains a mystery as to how the songs are balanced for airplay. These records all have a pretty girl and/or a hot car on the cover. In this case, the car is a 1969 AMC AMX, and the poor girl choking on the exhaust fumes from the massive V8 engine appears to be having a hard time deciding if she should vote for Hubert Humphrey or Richard Nixon in the national election. She is leaning towards Nixon however, and if Capitol continued this series a few years longer, it would have been a hoot to use the same model for the August 1974 edition.
Cost: $2, $281 Remaining
Various Artists, The Motown Story, Motown MS-726-31, 1970
Even at just about 10 years in, Motown was already mining its past glories to sell even more records than they might have. There had been several versions of the “Chartbusters” series, and the ridiculously early “Greatest Hits” albums that were released in 1966, but this deluxe package was the first time the company went all out to sell history to the masses.
It’s an impressive package. The hits are all here from the first, Money (That’s What I Want), to the newest, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. It’s a little odd, though. The songs are either fused together or introduced by the artists or Narrator Charlie Van Dyke. You don’t buy this package only for the music. The intros are definitely written from the Company’s standpoint, with Mary Wells’ massive contributions downplayed into irrelevance and a whole lot of white washing. You can actually hear the words getting stuck in Mary Wilson’s mouth as she describes Florence Ballard’s retirement.
This appears to be the second or third version of the package. The original has a deluxe booklet and custom inner sleeves for each of the five records. The dos remained the same for as long as this was in production, so collectors need to see the inside of the box to know what they’re getting. For $5, I was happy I got a relatively intact box and clean records.
Cost: $5, $389 Remaining
Various Artists, Something Festive, A&M SP-19003, 1968
Corporate tie-ins and Christmas giveaways go hand in hand. They don’t always result in something actually worth getting. Every thrift store record bin has a vast selection of 1960s various artists “free with any purchase” Christmas albums. There’s always a cut from Mahalia Jackson, because she didn’t rock the boat too much on Civil Rights, usually something from Julie Andrews, because she never had a major recording contract to provide interference with, and then a random assortment of the D-List of whatever label put together the package.
This 1968 package, distributed through BF Goodrich tire stores, stand out from the bunch. Not only is it actually fairly decent to listen to, but the artists involved rival any compilation album I’ve ever seen. Goodyear for years (!) sold tires that came with a free Christmas record. BF Goodrich, late to the game, turned to A&M to come up with a rival product that they could give away too. Being a mid-sized independent, their artist roster wasn’t full of the kind of “talent” that a major label like Columbia could afford to keep on staff in the hope that they could sell some records. A&M had to produce hits to survive, and it’s reflected in this record.
Even the non-household names stand out. Liza Minelli was just about to burst out on her own as a cabaret performer, Burt Bacharach was trying to kick start a recording career after writing some of the biggest hits of the 60s, and Claudine Longet was happily married to Andy Williams and six years from killing her younger lover in a bizarre shooting incident. Anyway, this is one Christmas record I listen to year round. It’s really quite amazing how it all came together, and I would consider this a must find cheap record.
Cost: $2, $545 Remaining
Various Artists, All The Hits By All The Stars, Parkway 7013, 1962
The Cameo-Parkway record company was on fire in 1962. Their stable of artists were on average the hottest recording acts that produced the best selling records of the era. They had the cutest teen idols, the sassiest girl groups, some above average doo-wop groups, plus the king and queen of the dance record in Chubby Checker and Dee Dee Sharp. Sure, the New York producers working out of the Brill Building wrote more sophisticated songs, Phil Spector in Los Angeles was perfecting the pop single, and a small Detroit based company called Motown was building a massive creative assembly line, but for a few shining months, Cameo-Parkway ruled the airwaves.
So why not take a bit of a victory lap and run up some sales with a company wide greatest hits package? Far from doing any damage creatively that a greatest hits package usually implies, this little album has Chubby Checker’s two #1 hits, four #2 hits, a few other top tens, and three top 20 songs. All were less than four years old at the time, so this was very much a contemporary hits package. Of course, all of these songs became pretty much obsolete once I Want To Hold Your Hand came along, but this was a big seller in it’s day.
And it also became a really huge collector’s item for a while. When the bubble burst on the teen dance hit sound, Cameo-Parkway collapsed like yesterday’s mashed potatoes into the usual story of corruption, bankruptcy and legal battles. Their entire catalogue of music was tied up for years until Alan Klein ended up with it somehow. He refused to release any of the music on CD for decades, insisting on only issuing cheaply remade 45s of Cameo artists with no money going to the artists. That’s why there are so many bad versions of these songs out there. Even by the “original artists”, no one really wants to listen to a 1974 Dutch recording of Pony Time. As a result, mint copies of this record were worth a lot in the 1990s because it was the only way to hear these records on LP. Now of course, with Alan Klein dead and the music out on CD and digital downloads, my patience was rewarded by finding this VG cope for $2.
Cost:$2, $644 Remaining