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A&M Records in Thrift or Used Record Stores

rockdoctor

Well-Known Member
I make the trek through the local thrift and used book and record stores looking for old vinyl. One thing that I have noticed is that overall, A&M albums are sometimes few and far between. I see Herb, Sergio, Burt and Carpenters fairly regularly but rarely a lot of the other well known artists on the label. I do not know if they are not getting donated to these stores or if they are getting bought up. A while back, I came across about 5 of the Gino Vanelli releases on the label and they have since been sold. Two weeks ago I was back there and saw Brasil '66 Equinox through YeMeLe and also Sundown Lady. When I was there this past Saturday, all but Fool On The Hill had been scooped up along with Sundown Lady. That tell me that the A&M artists are still popular in today's setting.
Three of the Brasil '66 did not have inner sleeves but the records for all were in good condition and for some, the covers were in excellent condition. Same for the Lani Hall and that was the early old style label pressing.
Sometimes I find albums from the pre-1968 releases but they are few and far between.
To me, it seems that a lot of people have held onto their A&M albums.
What is your take on thrift store successes and oddities?
 
In recent years, when I determined to collect certain Herb Alpert albums on vinyl (after kicking myself for throwing away my record collection a quarter-century earlier) I was pleasantly surprised at how many of them I could get for free. Yes, a record store - which had plenty of great deals for those with even a little money - also kept, in front of the store, many boxes full of records that people could just grab for free. And many of those which I took played perfectly.

At this point, you may be thinking "Records that play perfectly... for free? There's got to be a catch!" Well, yeah, many of those record stank. Literally. Just open the
cardboard jacket and put your nose to it and... phew! I guess they must have been kept in some musty warehouse or something for a few decades. And when I learned that their bad smell spread to the other records when stored together with them, I designated a spot on top of my bookcase which I call my "leper colony" in which to keep the stinkers. Sometimes I order books online which also smell like they must have been stored under similar conditions. Those books, too, have proven contagious, so I now keep those in the colony too.

But I feel it's worth standing the smell to get some of those free treasures. What can I say? I was unemployed during that time and pinched my pennies.

I might anger some Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 fans with this post, but I'm not that big a fan. I like a few of their songs, though. I got a couple of their albums from the "free" section in front of the store, and they were worth every penny. (Okay, so that was a very weak joke.) At one point, browsing through those free records, I found Brasil '66's first - and in my opinion their best - album in that free section. Delighted, I brought it home before taking the record out of the sleeve and finding, to my disappointment, that it was actually the SECOND album, Equinox. Well, some of those songs were... interesting, at least.
 
I don't look for 60s A&M releases anymore, but even in the late 80s, I had trouble finding clean copies of the later Brasil 66 albums in the bins, and others like the Roger Nichols LP never turned up at our local stores, ever. I think I saw Ye-Me-Le once in my travels and passed on it (probably due to condition), until I later saw a German pressing in the mid 90s, which I bought. But for the most part, I bought quite a few of those earlier A&Ms back in the day and honestly may have listened to them once or twice and have no desire to ever play them again (outside the handful I like of the artists I follow). There are still hundreds if not thousands of records in the catalog I've never heard, but I don't have any need to seek them out--I have so much other music in my backlog to discover that it'll take me years to explore it all.

But I still run into roadblocks looking for titles on my want list. I look more for 80s and 90s releases now, and it's hard to find some records regardless of label. I still can't find a suitable sealed copy of Ghost in the Machine, Zenyatta Mondatta, or Reggatta de Blanc. And those are the few A&Ms in my long want list of titles I'll probably never be able to afford at today's prices.

It all depends on the area, also. I've heard of some of our California-based members finding A&Ms all over the place, even finding promo copies in yard sales. Yet out here in my area, you'll find all sorts of beaten-up arena rock records rather than A&Ms. We're only a small group that shops by label. Most of the record buying public doesn't even consider it, unless it's a label to avoid.

My ultimate wish--a time machine. I'd travel back to every year and buy up all those sealed records I've wanted, in the year they were first released. 😁

As for free records, they are not very common here but when a store sets them out for the taking, not many are taken. Mainly due to the selection.

@Aaron Bitman -- 🤣 at the "leper colony." Unfortunately I have many that are damaged from a water leak in the basement. And there are a couple I've bought which have had lingering mildew. For the time being, I give the record a wipedown with pure alcohol on a cotton ball, rinse it and wipe it down carefully in the sink (so the label doesn't get wet), then it gets a couple of trips through the ultrasonic cleaner. That gets the record playable. And, it is then stored in a rice paper sleeve. The jacket gets enough of a damp wipedown to knock most of the loose mildew and dust off, then it gets dried fully, and placed in a separate plastic sleeve, kept apart from the record. I haven't done so yet, but I need to make a list of jackets I need, then see if I can find decent quality jackets on Discogs where the vinyl is in less than desirable condition.
 
...I had trouble finding clean copies of the later Brasil 66 albums in the bins, and others like the Roger Nichols LP never turned up at our local stores, ever. I think I saw Ye-Me-Le once in my travels and passed on it (probably due to condition), until I later saw a German pressing in the mid 90s, which I bought.
That's interesting. I'm not sure how late you mean when you say "later Brasil 66 albums" but maybe I was lucky to find, in the "free" section, a copy of Fool on the Hill which plays perfectly and barely even stinks. I mean... I even dared to keep it in my regular record collection, rather than among the stinkers.
 
I don't look for 60s A&M releases anymore, but even in the late 80s, I had trouble finding clean copies of the later Brasil 66 albums in the bins, and others like the Roger Nichols LP never turned up at our local stores, ever. I think I saw Ye-Me-Le once in my travels and passed on it (probably due to condition), until I later saw a German pressing in the mid 90s, which I bought. But for the most part, I bought quite a few of those earlier A&Ms back in the day and honestly may have listened to them once or twice and have no desire to ever play them again (outside the handful I like of the artists I follow). There are still hundreds if not thousands of records in the catalog I've never heard, but I don't have any need to seek them out--I have so much other music in my backlog to discover that it'll take me years to explore it all.

But I still run into roadblocks looking for titles on my want list. I look more for 80s and 90s releases now, and it's hard to find some records regardless of label. I still can't find a suitable sealed copy of Ghost in the Machine, Zenyatta Mondatta, or Reggatta de Blanc. And those are the few A&Ms in my long want list of titles I'll probably never be able to afford at today's prices.

It all depends on the area, also. I've heard of some of our California-based members finding A&Ms all over the place, even finding promo copies in yard sales. Yet out here in my area, you'll find all sorts of beaten-up arena rock records rather than A&Ms. We're only a small group that shops by label. Most of the record buying public doesn't even consider it, unless it's a label to avoid.

My ultimate wish--a time machine. I'd travel back to every year and buy up all those sealed records I've wanted, in the year they were first released. 😁

As for free records, they are not very common here but when a store sets them out for the taking, not many are taken. Mainly due to the selection.

@Aaron Bitman -- 🤣 at the "leper colony." Unfortunately I have many that are damaged from a water leak in the basement. And there are a couple I've bought which have had lingering mildew. For the time being, I give the record a wipedown with pure alcohol on a cotton ball, rinse it and wipe it down carefully in the sink (so the label doesn't get wet), then it gets a couple of trips through the ultrasonic cleaner. That gets the record playable. And, it is then stored in a rice paper sleeve. The jacket gets enough of a damp wipedown to knock most of the loose mildew and dust off, then it gets dried fully, and placed in a separate plastic sleeve, kept apart from the record. I haven't done so yet, but I need to make a list of jackets I need, then see if I can find decent quality jackets on Discogs where the vinyl is in less than desirable condition.
YeMeLe had gone out of print by the time I had started looking at old record resale stores and thrift stores.The copy I had was actually the second copy that I had bought as the first copy I had was damaged. I was staying in the DC area with friends and while they were working, I had found some used record stores and went to them and saw lots of good items. The only copy of YeMeLe that I ever found was a German pressing and I bought it. This was about 1987 and I had not seen it since until a year or so ago I saw it at a thrift store. I bought that copy and it was in very good condition.
 
Older A&Ms were a lot more plentiful in the late 90s when I haunted used record stores. I was even able to find some imports at those places.

Since moving to Florida, I haven't done much hunting in places that would have used records. Since I already have most of what I've ever wanted, those kind of searches aren't very productive for me. In an odd bit of timing, just yesterday I had lunch in a local pizza place that was in the same strip mall as a second-hand store. As I was finishing my beverage, I wandered up to the store just to look around.

It didn't take too long to find the "wall of CDs". Shelves upon shelves upon shelves of CDs, of course in no particular order, stretching from the floor to near the ceiling. Though I glanced through some of them - the ones at eye-level anyway, I found nothing even slightly of interest. The best I could come up with was an MCA disc of the best of Steve & Eydie, and I recalled our recent thread. I didn't buy it, even though all CDs were only $1. I never saw a single disc that was even remotely connected to A&M, but then I wasn't about to grovel on the floor looking at the lower shelves.

I wondered where any LPs might have been, and saw a wall of shelves next to the CDs with records of various sizes and shapes that looked like they'd beeen ravaged by a tornado. Some almost upright, most half laying down, with others on top of them. It looked like there were some 78 "albums" in there, and loose records with no jackets. A total mess. These looked like they'd be happier in a landfill.

No, these days, if I need to find something on the old side, I'll check Discogs or Ebay first, perhaps put it on a want list. Mostly I already have what I needed or wanted in life.
 
Older A&Ms were a lot more plentiful in the late 90s when I haunted used record stores. I was even able to find some imports at those places.

Since moving to Florida, I haven't done much hunting in places that would have used records. Since I already have most of what I've ever wanted, those kind of searches aren't very productive for me. In an odd bit of timing, just yesterday I had lunch in a local pizza place that was in the same strip mall as a second-hand store. As I was finishing my beverage, I wandered up to the store just to look around.

It didn't take too long to find the "wall of CDs". Shelves upon shelves upon shelves of CDs, of course in no particular order, stretching from the floor to near the ceiling. Though I glanced through some of them - the ones at eye-level anyway, I found nothing even slightly of interest. The best I could come up with was an MCA disc of the best of Steve & Eydie, and I recalled our recent thread. I didn't buy it, even though all CDs were only $1. I never saw a single disc that was even remotely connected to A&M, but then I wasn't about to grovel on the floor looking at the lower shelves.

I wondered where any LPs might have been, and saw a wall of shelves next to the CDs with records of various sizes and shapes that looked like they'd beeen ravaged by a tornado. Some almost upright, most half laying down, with others on top of them. It looked like there were some 78 "albums" in there, and loose records with no jackets. A total mess. These looked like they'd be happier in a landfill.

No, these days, if I need to find something on the old side, I'll check Discogs or Ebay first, perhaps put it on a want list. Mostly I already have what I needed or wanted in life.
Your "wall of cd's" reminds me of a coupon I got in the mail many years ago. A new Pawn Shop opened up not far from me and sent a coupon for a free cd. I went into it and found a huge rack of cd's available. I worked my way along the shelves. There was not one cd by any artist that I recognized. I never went back.
 
Rudy is very right about California people near Los Angeles especially, were very lucky to find promos and test pressing of A&M artists back in the late 70’s to late 80’s. I think their reps sold them to local mom and pop stores, and at the various record swaps each month. That’s how I found so much Carpenters, and Captain & Tennille singles, and albums, Monarch pressings that way. I still remember the guy that had 100’s of promos for sale, but most weren’t labeled, so you didn’t know what you were getting. I stuck with what I knew, since I had a small budget back then. Drove the 100 mile trip at least 2-3 times a month to hit all the places we knew to find promos, and imports each trip. Then either a movie or a crazy trip to the Atomic Cafe. That was worth the drive alone!
 
Yes, as an addendum to my above post, having worked in radio, I was gifted with a lot of promotional records over the years. I remember we were discussing Tamba 4 here on the Corner, and I went to the record library and found a copy of SAMBA BLIM that wasn't about to get any radio play, so I was able to take it home where it still resides. The odd thing about that record is that it was a promo, and in mono, with just a plain white jacket. Similarly, I found a copy of Pete Jolly's SEASONS there too. Those were records that weren't common at all and I've never seen either out in the wild. Of course today, both have been released digitally on CD.
 
Older A&Ms were a lot more plentiful in the late 90s when I haunted used record stores. I was even able to find some imports at those places.
Back then, I had similar luck as well, even finding a few sealed German DG pressings of A&M albums. But I found most of everything I needed back then, so I haven't really needed to search anymore. One store, which I live near at present, used to have several copies of each TJB album, many in mono. I had briefly considered picking those up but never did. They were the store that also had multiple copies of the 3-disc 12-inch single set from Keep Your Eye on Me (in the clear, blue, and red vinyl), which I later wished I had bought. (I took home the best of the three, although all three were in good condition.)

I also lucked out with a lot of Mancini vinyl on RCA back then as well--I managed to get just about everything 1968 and prior.

But for many other artists, even back then, finding something in the used stores was difficult, as it could sometimes take years for a copy to appear. (To my disadvantage, I was not a weekly regular to any store, so I'm sure copies came and went.) That is where online shopping finally saved me. I've found LPs to fill many holes in my collection, and have also found a small number of Japan CDs for titles never released here (like some of the Tamba Trio albums). Shipping might be 5-6 bucks these days, but to do a proper record crawl locally, I would spend more than that in gas, and probably come up empty-handed...and wind up with something in poor condition (looks good, plays back poorly).

It was nice to visit those four stores in Colorado earlier this year, though. I found so many good things, and just about all were in great condition. The couple of LPs that were questionable were only $3 or $4.

There is only one store I would send anyone to these days if they wanted CDs, and it's over an hour from my house. Or at least, the last time I visited a few years ago before they moved, they still had a large and diverse collection of them. When Peter owned it, they would only buy titles that they did not already have on hand, unless they knew it would sell. In other words, you won't find a dozen of Natalie Merchant's Tigerlily cluttering up their shelves. 😁
 
Well, vinyl being as red-hot again as it is now, bargain-hunting, even at flea markets or thrift shops, is trickier than it's been in a very long time. Everybody now seems to be trying to cash in on its resurgence by selling even the most bottom-of-the-barrel and/or beat-up titles at a premium. Most of the thrift shops near me have at least quadrupled the price of their LPs in the past year or two, to the point where some of them are now charging over $5 even for the least collectible stuff they have. You expect to see that kind of gouging at an antique mall, maybe, but not at a thrift shop. But I've never had much luck at thrift shops in general, especially the chain thrift shops like Goodwill, which I usually skip. There was a Goodwill that opened near me about ten or twelve years back that originally was a fabulous spot for vinyl for about the first year it was open - I was finding stuff there that you typically never run into at thrift shops, like XTC or Nick Drake or Tom Robinson - but then shortly after permanently morphed into your standard thrift-store stash, i.e. 101 Strings albums, Ray Conniff, etc, and hasn't had anything interesting ever since. I find that the thrift shops near me are much better for CDs than for vinyl, though it still depends on the store - Goodwill, for instance, I never find anything at, but there are some smaller locally-based thrift shops where I'm typically able to find some less common titles, even the occasional tough-to-find CD pressing on specialty reissue labels like Collector's Choice or Wounded Bird.
The A&M vinyl I typically run into at thrift shops is usually limited to the label's earlier albums from the '60s, mainly Herb, Baja Marimba Band, and occasionally Sergio; if I run into '70s-or-after, it's usually Carpenters, Captain & Tennille, or Gino Vannelli.
The best luck I've ever had running into early A&M vinyl in decent shape has come from hitting up book sales - there was one local annual book sale (which sadly came to an end for good during the pandemic) where I could usually find scratch-and-dust-free opened copies of the old TJB and Bacharach albums with the outer shrink wrap still intact, so that's where most of the '60s part of my A&M collection came from.

As far as '70s-or-after A&M vinyl goes, I find that the secondhand record shops are normally my best bet (much more so than thrift shops or flea markets), especially if you have the patience to sift through unsorted bins of budget vinyl. You don't usually find anything in there of great collector's value, of course, but they're a great means for discovering artists you've never heard of - I've discovered a lot of A&M artists I like that way, like Airwaves, 1994, Tarney/Spencer Band, Gordon Michaels, Billy Rankin, David Batteau, Rosie Vela, etc.

I used to live in another part of the country where Half Price Books stores were plentiful, and I used to have a decent amount of luck at the local locations there with finding A&M promos in the shelves of 45s (primarily the white-label mono/stereo issues from the mid-to-late-'70s, like Pablo Cruise, Gino Vannelli, Gato Barbieri, etc.), but I don't get there much anymore - the closest one to me now is several hours away, sadly, so I haven't made it to one in at least six or seven years - so I don't know if they're still as good (or as affordable) for 45s as they were then.
 
But I've never had much luck at thrift shops in general, especially the chain thrift shops like Goodwill, which I usually skip. There was a Goodwill that opened near me about ten or twelve years back that originally was a fabulous spot for vinyl for about the first year it was open - I was finding stuff there that you typically never run into at thrift shops, like XTC or Nick Drake or Tom Robinson - but then shortly after permanently morphed into your standard thrift-store stash, i.e. 101 Strings albums, Ray Conniff, etc, and hasn't had anything interesting ever since.
Thrift stores near me have usually had the worst quality vinyl, going back decades. They mostly looked as though they were in homes where the jackets were optional, fit only to be sent to a landfill. And as you say, it was the usual old fogie music and oversold pop records that nobody wanted since they most likely already owned it in some form or another. I only found one LP in all my years of searching that was a keeper--a copy of Jack Jones Wives and Lovers which looked as though it had never been played. The absolute worst I ever saw was a 12-inch single, no sleeve, sitting upright in one of those old wire record racks, and it was so beaten that the grooves were actually worn white.

Even the pickings of electronics has sunk to piles of the lowest-grade junk imaginable. Soundesign, or those cheap Panasonic Thrusters systems the kids used to have in high school. Occasionally a CD player but they often looked like they were used to shore up the corner of Aunt Edna's china cabinet which lost its leg 34 years ago. Back in the 2000s, there were still a few good things to be found. Today, it's all gone.

I realize it varies by area but, in my experience, thrift stores are never worth the trip around here. I take a tip from Bacharach/David and "walk on by."

I find that the thrift shops near me are much better for CDs than for vinyl, though it still depends on the store - Goodwill, for instance, I never find anything at, but there are some smaller locally-based thrift shops where I'm typically able to find some less common titles, even the occasional tough-to-find CD pressing on specialty reissue labels like Collector's Choice or Wounded Bird.
We had some good CD pickings for a while but, as I said earlier there were always at least a few copies of Natalie Merchant's Tigerlily (what's up with that?) and a handful of other titles that turned up frequently. The last time I went, though, the CD sections in some of the thrift stores were almost entirely gone, with maybe a small section on a wall with several dozen titles at the most. Not tables and shelves of hundreds they used to have. I think they just don't sell around here. One used record store near me refuses to buy them, and another is constantly have 25-cent sales to try and clear out their inventory...and it's repeated so regularly that apparently they never move. Given my last circuit of thrift stores showed up very few CDs at any of them, I get the feeling that ship has sailed in our area.
 
...I've never had much luck at thrift shops in general, especially the chain thrift shops like Goodwill, which I usually skip...

...Goodwill, for instance, I never find anything at...
It must have been late 2019 or early 2020 when I bought Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass Volume 2 at my local Goodwill for 50 cents, and it plays perfectly. (Admittedly, it smells bad enough to make me store it in my "leper colony". See my first post in this thread if you didn't understand that last sentence.)
 
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Well, vinyl being as red-hot again as it is now, bargain-hunting, even at flea markets or thrift shops, is trickier than it's been in a very long time. Everybody now seems to be trying to cash in on its resurgence by selling even the most bottom-of-the-barrel and/or beat-up titles at a premium. Most of the thrift shops near me have at least quadrupled the price of their LPs in the past year or two, to the point where some of them are now charging over $5 even for the least collectible stuff they have. You expect to see that kind of gouging at an antique mall, maybe, but not at a thrift shop. But I've never had much luck at thrift shops in general, especially the chain thrift shops like Goodwill, which I usually skip. There was a Goodwill that opened near me about ten or twelve years back that originally was a fabulous spot for vinyl for about the first year it was open - I was finding stuff there that you typically never run into at thrift shops, like XTC or Nick Drake or Tom Robinson - but then shortly after permanently morphed into your standard thrift-store stash, i.e. 101 Strings albums, Ray Conniff, etc, and hasn't had anything interesting ever since. I find that the thrift shops near me are much better for CDs than for vinyl, though it still depends on the store - Goodwill, for instance, I never find anything at, but there are some smaller locally-based thrift shops where I'm typically able to find some less common titles, even the occasional tough-to-find CD pressing on specialty reissue labels like Collector's Choice or Wounded Bird.
The A&M vinyl I typically run into at thrift shops is usually limited to the label's earlier albums from the '60s, mainly Herb, Baja Marimba Band, and occasionally Sergio; if I run into '70s-or-after, it's usually Carpenters, Captain & Tennille, or Gino Vannelli.
The best luck I've ever had running into early A&M vinyl in decent shape has come from hitting up book sales - there was one local annual book sale (which sadly came to an end for good during the pandemic) where I could usually find scratch-and-dust-free opened copies of the old TJB and Bacharach albums with the outer shrink wrap still intact, so that's where most of the '60s part of my A&M collection came from.

As far as '70s-or-after A&M vinyl goes, I find that the secondhand record shops are normally my best bet (much more so than thrift shops or flea markets), especially if you have the patience to sift through unsorted bins of budget vinyl. You don't usually find anything in there of great collector's value, of course, but they're a great means for discovering artists you've never heard of - I've discovered a lot of A&M artists I like that way, like Airwaves, 1994, Tarney/Spencer Band, Gordon Michaels, Billy Rankin, David Batteau, Rosie Vela, etc.

I used to live in another part of the country where Half Price Books stores were plentiful, and I used to have a decent amount of luck at the local locations there with finding A&M promos in the shelves of 45s (primarily the white-label mono/stereo issues from the mid-to-late-'70s, like Pablo Cruise, Gino Vannelli, Gato Barbieri, etc.), but I don't get there much anymore - the closest one to me now is several hours away, sadly, so I haven't made it to one in at least six or seven years - so I don't know if they're still as good (or as affordable) for 45s as they were then.
Ironically at the Goodwill stores in my area, I have found some great 60's A&M lp's. Now to be fair, they did have lots of lp's that were of no value to me and many covers without the record itself but I see that everywhere. I did attend a used book sale at a local museum a number of years back and they had lp's and I found Song of Joy by Miguel Rios.
 
My best A&M 'used' experience came years ago, probably the 90s. We attended a local carnival/fair up in Bucks County, PA. One of the buildings on the property held a bunch of used thrift-shop tyoe of items. Most of these were organized well and in good shape. I'm guessing it was largely an estate sale. I found the boxes of LPs and rifled through them and found virtually pristine copies of all of the Tijuana Brass records. Whoever owned these, rarely, if ever played them. When I got a CD recorder, they made excellent needledrops, serving me well until the Shout reissues in the 2000s. My needledrop of WARM still beats anything that has been released since then. It's got clean recordings of "The Sea Is My Soil" and "Zazueira", which unfortunately are not-so-good on the HAP version that finally emerged in 2015 or so.
 
My best A&M 'used' experience came years ago, probably the 90s. We attended a local carnival/fair up in Bucks County, PA. One of the buildings on the property held a bunch of used thrift-shop tyoe of items. Most of these were organized well and in good shape. I'm guessing it was largely an estate sale. I found the boxes of LPs and rifled through them and found virtually pristine copies of all of the Tijuana Brass records. Whoever owned these, rarely, if ever played them. When I got a CD recorder, they made excellent needledrops, serving me well until the Shout reissues in the 2000s. My needledrop of WARM still beats anything that has been released since then. It's got clean recordings of "The Sea Is My Soil" and "Zazueira", which unfortunately are not-so-good on the HAP version that finally emerged in 2015 or so.
I recently met up with someone that I had not seen in about 40 years. He was and still is a vinyl collector. We are making plans to go to stores around Richmond and Northern VA to see what we can find. Back in the late 80s I had found several great used book and record stores in NOVA.
 
I too have had mixed experiences buying vinyl from thrift stores and collectors shops. Sometimes you do get what you pay for but for the most part I mostly scored some Good stuff and Sometimes a few duds ( due to what I call the deceptive condition of some of them looking good but sounding worn or Rotten for various reasons) but at prices varying from a quarter to $5 bucks or more you truly never know what to expect.
 
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