Tuesday, May 17, 2011
RECORD FAIR FINDS - THE YOUNGBLOODS
Any good record collector knows the best deals can often be found second-hand, either from the used store dealers or at the flea markets. Friends shoot me tales of great scores at Value Village or the Sally Ann. I picked up Anne Murray's debut album in beautiful shape at V.V. myself. Forty-plus years later, it's now an important piece of East Coast music history.
This past weekend I made a mini-pilgrammige to Moncton for the semi-annual record fair in that city. I hadn't been in many years, and with the surge in vinyl of late, I thought it was time to stick my nose in again. I'm always in the mood to add to my Beach Boys vinyl collection (it's huge - no snickering), I'm always up for a 60's or 70's picture sleeve 45 in good shape, and of course, I'll take a good bargain anytime. Unfortunately, good bargains aren't too plentiful in the vinyl world these days. The format is hotter than ever, and it's not collectors driving it up. It's those new fans, the kids with the turntables, the ones who are buying LP's from new acts, and who are paying premium for classics. If it's from the 70's, and a major artist, it's going for twenty bucks. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, The Allman Brothers, the ones that young people still like, all command such prices. And this is for albums that were being tossed out in the late 80's, when CD's took over. What's funny is that there are actually millions of copies of the original vinyl for The Wall out there, but as one dealer said on the weekend, "try to find it."
Actually, even poor-condition albums are selling for way too much. The covers will be split and ripped, there will be writing on the jacket ("To Murray, Love Mom"), and visible scuffs and scratches on the vinyl. It's outrageous to us old-school vinyl buyers, and I was shocked at some of the tables at the fair. My eyes bugged out when I first flipped by a copy of the Capitol Canada 6000 series album Ferry 'Cross The Mersey by Gerry & the Pacemakers, with a $4 tag on it, only to pick it up and find water spots and grunge, and it even felt damp. "I got a whiff of that over here," said my son behind me. At least the real dealers weren't trying that, but their prices were still high, and the rareties almost non-existant. I brought a hundred bucks, and spent less than $20.
It seems the place to find deals now is the under-appreciated, out-of-favour CD market. Like they replaced vinyl in the 80's, digital downloads are pushing discs out of the market. Not many dealers had them. One good store I like, Backstreet of Saint John and Moncton, was there, with some nice stock. Lucky for me, I found a used copy of a British import disc by The Youngbloods. You remember them, with the big hit Get Together, a hippy anthem? Pretty much a one-hit wonder band, but for me, they've always been a favourite. That's because when I was a kid, there was a great store on the UNB campus called Little Records, which had a wonderful delete bin, full of cut-out records with big drill holes or corners cut off. They typically sold for 99 cents, and that's where you'd find the entire Youngbloods catalogue. My older brother had taken advantage of that, and arrived home with them. As the younger sibling not allowed to play his precious stereo, I had to wait until he left the house but eventually I learned about them all, and love them to this day.
The Youngbloods had a unique sound that for me, put them ahead of the rest of the San Francisco - hippy bands. They had a first-class vocalist/pop songwriter in Jesse Colin Young, had actually come from New York, where they'd picked up the same jug band influences as The Lovin' Spoonful, and had a great keyboard player named Banana who massaged a mean electric piano. This helped in the jam stuff they worked into the act in San Fran, long instrumentals with groovy titles such as On Sir Francis Drake. Few groups covered the ground they did, from blues to Chuck Berry rockers to early singer-songwriter stuff. With songs such as Sunlight and Ride The Wind, Young was a couple of years ahead of the mellow pop that would take over the charts in the early 70's. After the band split in 1973, he went solo and could often be found supporting the likes of CSNY on the road.
This disc I got at the record sale is a great deal for a fan, since it combines the first three group albums on two discs, giving us the must-have Get Together on the first, self-titled album, their excellent cover of Tim Hardin's Reason To Believe (that predated Rod Stewart's hit version) on Earth Music, and then the band's classic, Elephant Mountain. Produced by Charlie Daniels (yes, Fire On the Mountain Charlie), and from 1969, the band was firing off those classic, jazzy instrumentals in between some of Young's harmonious best, including Quicksand and Sunlight. Unlike the rest of the San Francisco bands, they were hooked on melody over rock, and used strings and horns to sweeten the sound, with great results. I am quite serious when I say it's one of the most important albums in my listening life, and I'm thrilled to finally have it on CD, after wearing down my old original vinyl. So, 3 albums on 2 CD's, a British import that's hard-to-find, for $12.99.
The record may have been a bit of a bust, but there are other good signs out there for music collectors and fans. With prices high for vinyl, lots of people are trying to cash in on the market, so you can find some rarer items you've been searching for over the years. Trolling around the websites and EBay and such, I've seen lots of items I thought I'd never get from my beloved Beach Boys, and for them I'm willing to pay pretty strong prices. And the day after the Moncton show, I decided to check out Fredericton's flea market, where I'd heard there was some good vinyl each Sunday. Yup, there's one dealer with excellent quality items, and fair prices. I saw several I'd love to own, and one Beach Boys album I've been looking for since about 1982, and one of those $20 bills left my pocket quickly. All-in-all, it was a very good weekend after all.