Serious dollar-bin digging often results in listening to a lot of albums which are sort of interesting for one reason or another, but not necessarily worth holding on to for repeat spins. Then, the only trick is to try and find them another home and get one's dollar back. These are a few things I've picked up locally in the past few weeks, all relatively obscure and all with merits, but likely candidates to end up in my trade-in crate rather than in the Vinyl Cave stacks.
The Pilgrims, Just Arrived! This 1960s folk boom trio was apparently assembled a la Peter, Paul and Mary, but from what I can tell, the album was released in the wake of Beatlemania, in typical Columbia Records fashion, too late in the game to ride the wave to success. The group includes a pair of performers who would become better known later via stage and screen: Robert Guillaume, of Soap and spin-off Benson, and Angeline Butler. Being from the tail end of the folk scare there's tantalizing hints of the coming folk rock sound, with some drums and extra instrumentation giving this Tom Wilson-produced album a bit more spice than most. Also, it's notable for including a very early cover of "He Was My Brother" by Paul Kane (a.k.a. Paul Simon). Wilson also produced the first Simon & Garfunkel LP, which came out just a bit after The Pilgrims, so it's likely that's how they ended up recording the song. (Columbia CSRP 9033, 1964)
Cassius Clay, I Am The Greatest! Woah. If this isn't the only album to be recorded by a yet-to-be-crowned heavyweight boxing champion, it should be. I don't know that this could be topped, for the sheer spectacle of hearing an ascendant Clay/Muhammad Ali essentially spouting off for two sides of an LP. Not exactly a comedy album, not exactly spoken word, it is surprisingly conceptual, with sections that sound as is there's a live audience and skits involving a troupe of players. However, there are no writing credits ,so it's impossible to tell if the fighter's words are his own or supplied in this case. Surprisingly, the album doesn't include his attempt at a singing career from the same time period, a cover of "Stand By Me." (Columbia CS 8893 stereo, CL 2093 mono, 1963)
Don Covay, Travelin' in Heavy Traffic: Covay is a true R&B and rock 'n roll legend who doesn't often get his due. He's usually remembered today for the songs he wrote which became popular tracks for others -- "Pony Time," "Mercy, Mercy," "Sookie Sookie" and "Chain of Fools" are just a few examples -- than for his own recordings, though he did have some success on the R&B and pop charts. Over the years he's tried nearly everything, and this set finds him immersed in The Sound of Philadelphia with disc of mostly new tunes and a cover of "Feelings" (including some Spanish lyrics). Even weirder is a slow jam tribute to the shark from Jaws, titled "Six Million Dollar Fish." Definitely not for fans of his hard '60s soul sides, it's in a typical Sigma Sound studio cats mid-'70s disco/funk groove. Bonus points for Covay's super stylin' '70s outfit in the gatefold cover, though. (Philadelphia International PZ 33958, 1976)
The Bitter End Singers, Discover the Bitter End Singers: Another late period folk boom album, this was released by an eponymous group of performers from the legendary New York club The Bitter End. There's some good songs, including a few poached from then-Big Three member Tim Rose, but overall this is a bit too clean-cut and vaudeville/Broadway influenced. I picked this up due to the involvement of Lefty Baker, who would bring some of the sound of this group to his later involvement with Spanky and Our Gang. Also in the group was Nancy Priddy, who recorded an excellent album of her own in the later '60s before moving on to an acting career. A second album for Mercury followed, but judging by the cover the group membership had already changed; various singles also appeared over the next few years. The copy of Discover that I found is a somewhat unusual stereo promo; were they aiming for FM radio play? (Mercury SR 60986 stereo/MG 20986 mono, 1964)
Hoagy Carmichael, A Legendary Performer & Composer: This one intrigued me, but turned out to be a reminder that even when digging through the dollar bin, it's a good idea to actually look a bit closer at what one is buying. It turns out that more than half of this compilation is Carmichael's songs as performed by others, rather than a collection of recordings of the man himself. While there's nothing wrong with the material (well, maybe except for the inclusion of a couple out of place late '50s cuts by Helen Ward and Kay Starr), I was expecting all Hoagy. Another warning sign should have been the "Stereo effect reprocessed from monophonic" hiding in small print on the back cover; however, the processing appears pretty minimal in this case and doesn't detract from the music too much. It's part of the series of well-done re-packagings that RCA issued in the late '70s and early '80s with die-cut covers and fancy booklets. (RCA CPL1-3370, 1979)
Bad Boy, Private Party: A mid-period album by the long-running Milwaukee group, this was released between their national releases on United Artists and the mid-1980s era fronted by early Cheap Trick singer Xeno. Private Party was their first locally-released effort after UA's collapse at the end of the 1970s, and it's a worthy update of their Midwest hard rock sound (and their hairstyles, judging by the cover shot) for the new decade. There's also a pretty successful update of the '60s Honeycombs classic "Have I the Right." Due partially to the bonus of being a local release, this album will probably end up in the stacks rather than the trade crate! Founder Steve Grimm and Xeno still lead a re-formed version of the band today. (Streetwise BB6-5000, 1981)