Wouldn’t It Be Nice (If We Were Older)

Two geniuses of pop music turned 70 years old this month … Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney! I still have “When I Grow up To Be A Man” and “When I’m Sixty Four” on my shuffle. It takes one aback! Hang in there, boys! Both are still out touring, looking a little better than Keith Richards in my book  (who turned 80 when he was about 35 – but still out there rockin’!).

We lost more than a handful of great ones this year, sorry to say: Whitney; Donna Summer; Adam “MCA” Yauch (Beastie Boys), another Gibb brother, Robin; Etta James, Earl “Breakdown” Scruggs; Levon Helm; Donald “Duck” Dunn, Davy Jones, Bugs Henderson. Have to mention Dick Clark and Don Cornelius too. Mercy…

But the music captures the memory and stays forever alive. That’s the magic! Here’s a toast to you all! Everyone present and accounted for in my ear buds.

— Jim Swayze

Top Three Jazz Artists Interpreting the Great American Songbook

Now who wouldn’t already know that Jim Swayze’s a “jazzer?” I’m always looking for it at HPB!

The Great American Songbook, recognized as the very best of American music of the 20th century, has always been the backbone and indispensable part of the repertoire of jazz musicians.  Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and all the giants of jazz fraternity found their inspiration in this music, which has become known as the “jazz standards.”  A few of my favorite contemporary artists interpreting The Great American Songbook include Tierney Sutton, John Pizzarelli and Dee Dee Bridgewater. 

Tierney Sutton is truly a treasure.  With a voice of clarity, subtlety and  control, she turns every song into a unique work of art.  The arrangements, made  in collaboration with her band (Christian Jacob on piano, Kevin Axt on bass and Ray Brinker on drums), are complex and often thrilling.  Every recent recording has earned Miss Sutton a deserving Grammy nomination, each is well worth exploring.  Her just released CD “The American Road” would be the perfect introduction to this wonderful artist.

John Pizzarelli, son of jazz guitar great Bucky Pizzarelli, is not only a technically proficient fretman in his own right, but a compelling vocalist as well.  His song selection is sophisticated but is often whimsical as well.  He can be described as “hip with a wink.”  His extended version of “I like Jersey Best” is a comedic gem.  Pick up any of his CDs to get an introduction to this artist.  It is really a treat when he is working in collaboration with his equally talented wife, Jessica Molaskey.

Dee Dee Bridgewater’s name may be familiar as the host of NPR’s program “JazzSet,” where she interviews jazz artists from around the world.  This Paris-based singer is an energetic performer who gives a fresh interpretation to every jazz standard she records.  Dee Dee has won a Tony Award (as Best Featured Actress in the Broadway production “The Wiz”) and has also won three Grammy Awards.  To experience the talent of Miss Bridgewater, may I recommend her tribute album “Dear Ella,” winner of the Best Jazz Vocal Album of 1997, or my favorite, “Live at Yoshi’s.”

The Great American Songbook is alive and well in the hand of these talented three. 

Give them a listen.  It will be time well spent!

— Jim Swayze

Waxing poetic about LPs

The wax! The tracks! The multi-platinum plaques! Good ol’ vinyl players are making a mega-comeback thanks to digi-turntables. To me, nothing has ever compared to the warm sound of records or the cool, frame-worthy LP cover artwork. The ease of running your thumbnail down the cellophane to open it up, the unforgettable whiff of that crisp, new paper sleeve, the glare of the flawless new disk. It was ceremonial! 

Whenever I peruse the aisles of vinyl at Half Price Books, I can only pine for the ones I wish I’d kept. And there’s a cultish angle to which I must also confess: a never-ending quest for old LPs by local bands with the weirdest names. The “Tux-Tones,” “The Fanatics,” “the Surfside Six.” These were albums pressed and packaged at small, local plants, a lot of them specializing in gospel groups. The Tom Hanks movie, That Thing You Do doesn’t stray from the truth.

So hail to the pioneers! Half Price Books began in 1972. Here are the top songs:

Position

Artist

Song Title

1

Roberta Flack

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

2

Gilbert O’Sullivan

Alone Again (Naturally)

3

Don McLean

American Pie

4

Nilsson

Without You

5

Sammy Davis Jr.

Candy Man

6

Joe Tex

I Gotcha

7

Bill Withers

Lean On Me

8

Mac Davis

Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me

9

Melanie

Brand New Key

10

Wayne Newton

Daddy Dont You Walk So Fast

11

Al Green

Let’s Stay Together

12

Looking Glass

Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)

13

Chi-Lites

Oh Girl

14

Gallery

Nice To Be With You

15

Chuck Berry

My Ding-A-Ling

16

Luther Ingram

If Loving You Is Wrong I Don’t Want To Be Right

17

Neil Young

Heart Of Gold

18

Stylistics

Betcha By Golly, Wow

19

Staple Singers

I’ll Take You There

20

Michael Jackson

Ben

21

Robert John

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

22

Billy Preston

Outa-space

23

War

Slippin’ Into Darkness

24

Hollies

Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)

25

Mouth and MacNeal

How Do You Do

26

Neil Diamond

Song Sung Blue

27

America

A Horse With No Name

28

Hot Butter

Popcorn

29

Main Ingredient

Everybody Plays The Fool

30

Climax

Precious And Few

31

5th Dimension

Last Night I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All

32

Moody Blues

Nights In White Satin

33

Raspberries

Go All The Way

34

Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose

Too Late To Turn Back Now

35

O’Jays

Back Stabbers

36

Osmonds

Down By The Lazy River

37

Jonathan Edwards

Sunshine

38

Mel and Tim

Starting All Over Again

39

Badfinger

Day Atter Day

40

Elton John

Rocket Man

 

What’s your best vinyl find? Click here to check out media sales and promotions at your local HPB this month!

— Jim Swayze

Jim Swayze’s Favorite Section

As you’ve heard me say so many times on the radio, *almost* everything at Half Price Books is half price or less. But here’s a Swayze secret: no matter which store I visit, my first stop is always where I’m pretty sure things won’t be half price … the Collectibles Case! Every store has one under lock and key and it’s a must stop and see, fellow treasure hunters!

Besides the really rare stuff – vintage first editions, out of print goodies and the like, I’ve found autographed copies of Hemingway and Twain, great old vinyl records signed by the artists, and Beatles albums from around the world I’ve never seen (I’m a Beatles freak by the way).

In Austin, Texas, there was an original, yellowed, typewritten report on Charles Whitman and the timeline of UT campus clock tower shooting tragedy back in the 60’s. It was sold to HPB by a descendant of the chief of the campus police at the time. HPB bought it with the intention of donating it to the UT library for their archives, but had it on display among their collectibles for a while and I was able read through it in its entirety. Being the history nut, this was an incredible time warp experience– and it was the first time I truly realized what a fantastic place Half Price Books was. Who knows what may show up when you’re buying from the locals all day, everyday?

While in California on vacation, I found a pristine 45 rpm of Elvis’s first national release, with a perfect dust jacket and not a scratch on The King’s first hit! Now, that was something I had to have … and like most everything at HPB, it was in my price range! It’s now framed in my office. When folks ask if it’s one of those novelty reissues, I’m happy to say, “Nope! It’s certified authentic – another treasure I found at HPB!”

Folks, when you hear me say that you should make as many visits to your local HPB as often as possible, remember that they’re adding to their collectibles almost as often. What a store! Half price? I’m thinking priceless!

 — Jim Swayze

 

HPB Reading Challenge: Lit Classics

Did you know that the weather powers-that-be predicted an exceptionally cold winter this year? When we first heard that, Jenni and I headed to Half Price Books to stock up on some great “cozy up to the fire” reads — so even though Old Man Winter is later than normal this season, we’ll be ready for him when he arrives!

Cozying up to the fire always makes us think of returning to the classics — Dickens, Shakespeare, Dickinson, Whitman. Then the blog team at Half Price Books mentioned that other customers wanted to do a “Reading Challenge,” where everybody pledges to read a certain genre of books together– and Jenni and I thought, “We should do a Literature Classics Challenge!”

The idea is this: if you have always thought to yourself, “Ah, I always meant to read Fountainhead, or Catch 22, or War and Peace, but never had the time,” now’s our chance to shake on it and do this thing together.

The goal is to read:

  1. A Children’s/Young Adult Classic
  2. 19th Century Classic
  3. 20th Century Classic
  4. A Classic Play

You can sign up for the challenge in the comments section of this post (be sure to indicate WHICH books you’ll be reading!) by Friday, January 27th. The challenge will end March 31, 2012 (at which point we’ll move onto another Reading Challenge!) Everyone who signs up for the challenge & completes it will be entered into a drawing for a $50 HPB gift card.

Have any questions? Enter in the comments or drop me a line here.

Reporting from the store floor,

Jim Swayze

Top Seven Guides to Far Away Places

Hi guys! This is Jim Swayze. I was in a Half Price Books store last week and spotted a book about Australia that I wish I’d bought years ago during a trip to the outback. I’ve been searching for that book ever since, and out of the blue, there it was – for less than half price!  When you’re enjoying a walk-about at Half Price Books, these kinds of surprises are everywhere, and the prices are hotter than the proverbial shrimp-on-a-barbie!

Well, one of their Bibliomaniacs noticed the book in my hand and said, “Thought you might like this,” before handing me a blu-ray DVD of “Australia!”, which is Jenni’s favorite movie! Even better, it was cheaper than the book!!

Have you traveled anywhere fun lately? Now that summer is over and fall is in full swing, I bet lots of people are reminiscing about places down under & planning for trips to the edges of the earth– so where’s your favorite far away place? Spain, South Africa, or New Zealand? Vancouver, Seoul, Cabo San Lucas? Or, if you prefer to stick close to home, plan a staycation for you and your loved ones. The holidays will be here before we know it, and I know all my friends and family depend on me to deliver treasure hunts galore in the form of HPB gift cards!

Reporting from the store floor,

Jim Swayze

Banned Books Awareness Week 2011

From our Springhurst store in LouisvilleHi guys! Y’know, just when I think my family and I are your average, ordinary citizens, I find out that, actually, we’re way-out radicals!  The folks at Half Price Books told me this was Banned Books Awareness Week.  Who knew? Huck Finn, the Twilight Series, even The Bible have all been challenged or banned by some group at one time or another.

Well, darned if I hadn’t read most of ‘em!  And my “wild” wife Jenni … she’s read To Kill a Mockingbird and Peyton Place plenty of times. Our youngest loves all the Harry Potter books, but there’re evidently some people out there that aren’t “just wild about Harry.” Yep, he’s on the list too! And The Joy of Sex was banned in 1972 when Half Price Books first opened their doors … thus creating the term “book lovers!”

Guess we just don’t buy into not having the freedom to read what’s out there if we want. We’ll never stop reading these so-called banned books … or shopping our favorite bookstore, Half Price Books. And if you can believe it, the latest radio ad was even banned from certain stations for being too controversial! 

So hurry in and be a way-out radical too! While you’re there, you might see some of these Banned Books Awareness Week displays the stores are putting up. Pretty creative! 

 
From our North Lamar store in Austin, Texas

From our Springhurst store in Louisville, Kentucky

From our South Lamar store in Austin, Texas

So, what’s your favorite banned book?

— Jim Swayze

Treasure Hunt Tuesday: Top 5 Cheesy Books

Hi guys! This is Jim Swayze. I know you hear me talk about the fun and the fantastic treasure hunt we always have at Half Price Books and their friendly tour guides who are always happy to help you find just what  you’re looking for! Hey, losing yourself among their incredible selection is half the fun … sometimes you can get, well, a little lost!

For example, Uncle Wiley said, “Next time you’re at Half Price Books, get me a copy of Who Moved My Cheese.” So I’m in the cooking section, looking through all the shelves when one of the employees spotted me having a bit of trouble. “Can I help?” he said. “Looking for a copy of Who Moved My Cheese,” says I. He chuckled and said, “Well, let’s move our cheese to the business section– that’s a business book! I’ll show you right where it is.”

Cheesy Uncle Wiley may have been playing a little game with me, but if you are looking for actual books about cheese, here are some great finds!

  

(left to right): Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials by Laura Werlin; The Cheese Plate by Max McCalman and David Gibbons; Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best, also by McCalman and Gibbons; Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Master Fromager, also by McCalman and Gibbons

And my personal favorite: Great Grilled Cheese, another great book by Laura Werlin. My granddaughter Harley loves a good grilled cheese, so Jenni and I can’t wait to make her all 50 variations.

What are your favorite cheeses? How about your favorite grilled cheese combinations? Favorite cheese + wine combinations? Even cheese + beer combinations?

Reporting from the store floor —

Jim Swayze

 

Treasure Hunt Thursday: Jenni’s Back-to-School Haul

Hi, folks! Jenni and I just came from Half Price Books. We were so inspired by what other people scored the last time we were in that we had to search for finds of our own.

And we scored big time! I found the last of the Stieg Larsson books, to complete the set — now Jenni’s excited to to dig into The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which should be pretty dramatic, since they’re making into a motion picture starring Daniel Craig! I also found four of the Sookie Stackhouse series I hadn’t read yet, all for half-price! If you’re a fan of vampire tales, you should take a bite out of prices and check out all of Charlaine Harris’ books– Jenni loves them, and I don’t mind a little nibble every now and then!

              

                                  (photos courtesy of Demure Connoisseur and Kristen Dickson)

Jenni also scored for her classroom — she’s a teacher, you know, so she’ll be headed back to school soon. She loaded up on all kinds of things from Half Price Books for her students, including books for their reading list!

What about you? What treasures have you found at HPB lately? Tweet them to @halfpricebooks using the hashtag #hpbhaul & maybe they’ll feature you in their next Treasure Hunt Thursday!

Reporting from the store floor,

Jim Swayze

Treasure Hunt Thursday: What’s your #HPBhaul look like?

Hi folks,

When Half Price Books told me that they were starting a blog for customers like you and me, I thought I’d keep an eye out for any great “Treasure Hunt” finds from the store floor. Last week Half Price Books had their Summer Mailer (are you on their mailing list? If not, you can sign up here to receive news and money-saving coupons.) Customers (like these nice folks below) photographed their finds and let Half Price Books know about it on Twitter, and I thought that was pretty cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does your Treasure Hunt “haul” look like? Tweet it to us at @halfpricebooks and use the hashtag #hpbhaul, and maybe the Half Price Books blog folks will feature you next time!

Reporting from the store floor,

Jim Swayze