Collectible Conversations: Albums That Should Be Seen and Not Heard

There are several reasons the LP format has endured for six decades, and is in fact back in ascendance. The warm, full sound of vinyl may be at the top of that list of reasons, but another big factor involves the visual aspect, not the aural. The square-foot LP cover is a nice, big canvas on which could be featured not only relevant info about the recording but beautiful, provocative or bizarre imagery.

Many LP covers are iconic: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was so recognizable that The Mothers of Invention and others parodied or imitated it. The Clash and other artists recreated the pink-and-green graphics over black-and-white photo of the 1956 Elvis Presley album. Miles Davis, Pink Floyd, Joni Mitchell and so many other popular artists’ works are memorably packaged.

But we want to talk about the other side of album art, the record covers that are so bad they’re good (or, often, are just…so bad.) Perhaps it’s inept or insane illustrations. Maybe it’s culture clash or has out-of-date kitsch appeal. Or our favorites: celebrities who are not singers but who couldn’t resist the opportunity to record an album to prove to the world that they are not singers.

Operations Director Jan Cornelius and I will be hosting a Collectible Conversations presentation Thursday evening, August 30, in which we’ll show some examples of the bad LP covers we’ve collected over the years. And, contrary to our presentation’s title, we will be so bold as to play a few snippets (snippets are all we can stand) of some of them.

Here are just a few “highlights” from the collection:

  • Sebastian Cabot, Actor – Bob Dylan, Poet
  • Mr. T’s Be Somebody or Be Somebody’s Fool
  • Heino
  • Music to Suffer By

We love to talk about bad LP covers, but we love inflicting them on others even more! Our Collectible Conversation featuring bad LP covers takes place on Thursday, August 30, at 6:00 p.m., in our Flagship store’s Collectibles section.

For HPB’s 45th Birthday: What Else? 45s!

In honor of Half Price Books turning 45, we feature some great 45 rpm singles from their heyday in the fifties, sixties and seventies. (Wait until 2050 for the birthday when we feature 78 rpm records.)

When are 45s gonna become cool again? Or so uncool that they’re hip? Who cares—we love 45s! They sound big and in-your-face, and we see so many rare, sublime and forgotten treasures come through our doors.

45s are cheap, too! Most are in the 50 cents-to-a-dollar range in our stores. Here are a few that are a little more special.

ElvisPresleyElvis Presley – “That’s All Right”/ “Blue Moon of Kentucky”
1976, RCA Victor 447-0601 promo in RCA sleeve MCST 40462 (UK) picture disc
Elvis recorded these songs in 1954 (the single’s label says 1955) at Sun Studio for his first single. Also available, a promo reissue of his 2nd single, “Good Rockin’ Tonight.”
Both are in Very Good condition.—$15 each Continue reading

Variety Is the Spice of Vinyl (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

Records are a great entertainment value. Most of Half Price Books used LPs are priced between $3 and $8, and we have thousands at $1-2 clearance prices. We also have great prices on our new vinyl.

But enough about great prices. Let’s talk variety: The wonders and oddities in every genre that a music-lover like me can find in a record bin are endlessly alluring. From R&B to C&W, from techno to disco, from doo-wop to bop, there’s a great world of music to be discovered and uncovered on vinyl, and all in endlessly fascinating packaging.

My vinyl playground is the Dallas Flagship store, and here’s a potpourri of records that recently captured my attention there. They’re all above our average LP price, but they’re all above-average records.

Prince

Prince – Fury
2006, Universal Records MCST 40462 (UK) picture disc
As we approach the anniversary of his untimely death, let’s start with the consummate genre transcender, Prince, who bridged R&B, pop, rock, funk, soul, dance and psychedelia to become one of the most influential (and enjoyable) artists in popular music history. “Fury” is a cut from Prince’s 3121 album, his comeback to the top ten of Billboard’s Albums chart.
Near Mint—$30

HomerJethro

Homer and Jethro Fracture Frank Loesser
1953, RCA Victor LPM 3112, 10”
You may well expect the show-tunes of Broadway songwriter Frank Loesser to be uncomfortable on the playlist of a comedy-bluegrass duo. Loesser himself wrote in the liner notes, “They have shot at my eight little targets with great humor and characteristic skill. I guess the joke’s on me but I love it.” This unlikely mash-up doesn’t disappoint. Homer & Jethro do their thing on “Once in Love with Amy,” “On a Slow Boat to China” and other Broadway classics. The songs seem quite at home in the novel setting.
The record and cover (and the music) have held up very well over the past 64 years—$20 Continue reading

10 Classic LPs for Your Growing Vinyl Collection

The improbable resurgence of vinyl records began around 2007 and hasn’t slowed yet. In 2015, vinyl sales rose 32% to $416 million, their highest level since 1988, the year the format was overtaken by the compact disc. Why is vinyl being embraced by millennials and revisited by older types who sold their collections 20 years ago?

Sure, vinyl has a warm sound and a retro appeal, but there’s something else that makes it ideal for true music lovers: vinyl is wonderfully inconvenient. It forces you to interact with it—to lovingly take an LP out of its sleeve, put it on the turntable and flip it over 25 minutes later. And since skipping tracks is a pain, you’re more likely to listen to an album straight through, with the songs in the order the artist intended.

There’s also the satisfying physicality of records and sleeves, with big, beautiful artwork, liner notes, lyrics and credits, none of which you get with a digital download.

All of this makes vinyl perfect for those who crave a deeper listening experience and a stronger connection with the artists they enjoy.

If you’re looking to start or add to your vinyl collection, consider giving the ten classic albums below a spin. They’re undeniably great on any format, but they beg to be experienced on vinyl. Note: While lots of new music has been released on vinyl in recent years, for this list I’m focusing on the original era when the vinyl LP ruled.

intheweesmallhours

In the Wee Small Hours, Frank Sinatra (1955)
With a program of thematically connected songs about loneliness and lost romance, this record is often cited as one of the first-ever concept albums. Timeless tunes from the Great American Songbook, sparkling Nelson Riddle arrangements and Sinatra’s inimitable phrasing combine to create an intimacy and atmosphere perfect for late-night listening.

alovesupremeA Love Supreme, John Coltrane (1965)
Kind of Blue by Miles Davis may be “the one jazz album everyone should own,” but Coltrane’s masterwork is a more cohesive and emotional statement. The album is a four-part original suite born of Coltrane’s gratitude to God, but make no mistake—it’s not churchy or prim. On the contrary, this is deeply felt, deeply swinging, powerful music performed by Trane’s classic quartet, arguably the best band in jazz history. Supreme, sublime, essential music. Continue reading

Music Meant for Vinyl

Before there was Record Store Day there was National Vinyl Record Day, a day to celebrate the flat disc with grooves.  The following is a small sampling of titles now in stores or soon to be released that just sound amazing playing from vinyl, even with the occasional surface noise.

Prince-Purple Rain (180gm)- $24.98
I was there, across Reunion Arena in Dallas.  It didn’t matter where you sat.  He was electric, shifting from bathtub with a microphone to stage with a guitar.  We counted down to the New Year, after which he sang Auld Lang Syne and THEN ended the night with Purple Rain. Masterful musician, memorable night.

Prince

purple rain

Continue reading

Unique LP Finds for Vinyl Weekend

While running the other day, I experienced a delightful incongruity as I listened on my earbuds to Duke Ellington’s “Hy’a Sue,” uploaded from a 1940s 78-rpm record onto my computer and added to my digital music playlist.

Not only are the history and breadth of recorded music more widely available than ever, but the adventurous music-lover can explore an array of formats, including tape, vinyl, and digital file. It can make your head spin like a 45.

Of all the listening formats that have come along, the favorite of many (including yours truly) is the vinyl LP record. The long-playing disc was introduced in the late 40s. It flourished in the 60s and 70s, hitting its peak sales year in 1977. Compact disc sales passed LP sales in 1988, and there was a slump for a couple of decades. But now, with the CD format in decline, the 33-rpm LP is back on the rise! Continue reading

Enjoy an LP, and Thank Mr. Edison!

We’ve come a long way since Thomas Alva Edison recited “Mary Had a Little Lamb” into the mouthpiece of his newly invented phonograph machine in late 1877. On February 19, 1878, his phonograph was patented, and, after many twists and turns (uh, revolutions), the vinyl record, pretty much as we know it today, became the most popular format from the late 1940s until the CD came along in the 1980s. And now vinyl is back! Our stores around the country never got out of the record business, and our LP inventory is better than ever.

If you’re a record-lover LP collector or just an enthusiastic neophyte, we’d love to hear from you! Share with us on social using #halfpricebooks and post a photo of your favorite LP with a brief note about why you just have to have this particular album on vinyl.

I’ll start it off. I’m a longtime LP-lover—if not a hardcore collector. It’s hard to pick one favorite among the LPs I own, but a contender would be Belafonte at Carnegie Hall (1959).

belafonte
This is my treasured replacement copy of the first album I ever owned. My brother and I wore it out.

We’d also like to mark the phonograph patent anniversary by featuring a couple of special LPs our stores have just added to their stock.

This box set with 14 LPs is the Japanese release located at the Firewheel store in Garland, TX. It’s in beautiful condition with its certificate of authenticity. You won’t find a better set to commemorate The Beatles’ work. Only one set available. To purchase, contact the Buy Guy. $1,000 plus tax.

beatles

Our Fort Wayne, Indiana, store is offering a high-end recording of Abbey Road. It’s the 1979 pressing on Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab/Capitol, a remastered edition of the 1969 album, taken from the original master recording. It was Mobile Fidelity’s first Beatles release. Their copy is in Near Mint condition and is priced $55.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And if you want a treasure by a different Fab Four, our Flagship store has a copy of The Ramones’ Rocket to Russiasigned by the original band members—for $300.

ramones signed

If you’re interested in finding out more about either of these LPs, contact the Buy Guy.

And let us hear from you: Show us on social using #halfpricebooks, the LP you most prize and tell us why it’s essential to your collection!

 

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

What’s happening at your local HPB? January Events Round-Up

Hi gang –

Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays!  Have you thought about the New Year’s resolutions you’re going to make?  If you haven’t, perhaps you should consider spending more time at your favorite bookstore, Half Price Books.

Check out some of the fun things you can do at some of our locations this month.

Huebner Road – San Antonio

Storytime Sunday
Pack up your half-pint readers and come to the Huebner Road HPB the first Sunday of every month for Storytime Sunday at 2 p.m. Join our staff for a reading of one of our favorite children’s books, geared toward booklovers ages 2-8.

Beavercreek, OH; Kenwood Galleria – Cincinnati; Hamilton, OH, Mason, OH, Northgate – Cincinnati and Florence, KY

Vinyl Fridays
Join us for an LP shopping spree! Get 20% off all vinyl on Friday, January 27 from 7 to 9 p.m.  All LPs discounted each Friday night at Beavercreek, Kenwood Galleria, Hamilton, Mason and Northgate locations in Ohio and Florence in Kentucky the last Friday of every month until further notice.

Frisco, TX

Storytime Sundays with Jennifer Campbell
Looking for a diversion for the kids? Stop by the Frisco HPB at 1 p.m. each Sunday during January for a special storytime hour with Jennifer Campbell and her puppet, Princess Penelope the Dragon. You may have met Penelope before at the Frisco Public Library and now she’s making new friends at Half Price Books. Recommended for kids ages 3 to 10.

Courtesy of the Fairfield Echo Mason, OH; Kenwood Galleria- Cincinnati; Florence, KY

Dog Days at Half Price Books

Join us at HPB to take a bite out of reading. Load up the kids and bring them to Half Price Books where they can read a book to a loveable pet.  Presented in partnership with the Therapy Pets of Greater Cincinnati.

  • Sunday, Jan. 1, 2-3 p.m., George, the Labrador Retriever, Kenwood Galleria
  • Sunday, Jan. 8, 3-4 p.m., Bella the Pug, Mason
  • Saturday, Jan. 21, 3-4 p.m., Nico the Great Pyrenees, Florence
  • Sunday, Feb. 5, 2-3 p.m., Lexi the Collie-Lab, Kenwood Galleria

As always, be sure to check your local store’s webpage to see if anything has been added throughout the month.

 – Emily