On vinyl records and "The Beat of the Brass": a personal story

Aaron Bitman

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For a long time, I hesitated to write a post like this. My humble efforts probably seem like nothing compared to what you serious, hard-core Herb Alpert fanatics must do. But I'm excited enough to feel the need to write about it.

I've been a fan of Alpert's music since before I can remember. As a very young child, I looked forward to visiting my grandparents every year to listen to their TJB records. I would often take some of those records home with me; eventually, I grabbed all that remained of their collection.

One day - still in my childhood - I happened to dig up my old copies of "What Now My Love" and "The Beat of the Brass" of whose existence I had forgotten. I listened and the memories came flooding back... and I was still too young to wax nostalgic. The albums were missing their covers; I don't know if I had EVER had the covers for them.

Many years later, I grew tired of Alpert's music. Futhermore, the vinyl record seemed to be going the way of the dodo. I don't even know exactly when or how I lost my record collection; maybe I threw it away during a move. Needless to say, I now deeply regret throwing away many of those records!

Flash forward to 2014. I re-discovered Alpert's music and bought over a dozen of his albums on MP3. It seemed the most practical way to get them at the time. In fact, it was. And yet... and yet...

I found myself wishing for a good old-fashioned turntable. Eventually, I got one and by now, I'm buying records like crazy all over the place: at a used record store, at a used book store, at a "generic" second-hand store, and of course, through the net. I regard some of my newly acquired records as jewels. One of the reasons I like vinyl records so much is that they're... well... REAL. They're TANGIBLE. When I play an MP3 file, how can I prove that I acquired the file legally, when I could pirate it so easily? Even a CD can be burned. But it would be so much more expensive to pirate a vinyl record than to buy an old copy. My family probably thinks I'm nuts and I'm not so sure that I'm not. My wife once described my turntable as a toy. I guess one reason I'm writing this post is that I hope someone here can understand my elation at my growing, precious collection.

And of course, among the many records I've gotten, I'm buying Herb Alpert albums. (What a crying shame that I no longer have my old ones! What a criminal waste of time and money!) By now, I've collected over a dozen HA records and there are still more on my wishlist. When I got "What Now My Love" I saw the back cover and smiled. I wonder if I had ever seen that back cover before. Possibly I might have seen it on the internet. Possibly I had had the original cover when I was a toddler and had forgotten it. But basically, it was new to me.

And here's the point I wanted to make from the beginning: Recently, I bought "The Beat of the Brass"... and blinked in surprise at the cover. It had four panels, as if it were a double album! All these years, I never knew. Those are some pretty pictures in there. I'm looking at them right now. I see Alpert raising his glass in a toast as he smiles at the crowd... or is the picture implying that Alpert might pour his drink over Tonni Kalash's head as a joke?

There's so much else I want to say about my collection, just because I'm excited about it. Like... I've bought HA music in many forms over the years, but this year, for the first time in my life, I got an HA single. It's "Whipped Cream / Mae". Yeah, I have both of those in LPs, but the 45 was cheap and it seems like a novelty.

And the story's not over yet...
 

Harry

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The interior of BEAT OF THE BRASS is comprised of images from the TV special of the same name and it was Herb's first gatefold. The old A&M CD (3266) had some of those pictures inside the folded insert, but they were in black & white. A couple of those pictures made it to the insert of the Shout Factory reissue, and none were included in the Herb Alpert Presents reissue.

I'll be waiting for the rest of your story, Aaron.
 

Mike Blakesley

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Those gatefold album covers. The first couple of TJB albums I got (Going Places and What Now My Love) were purchased from a local variety store here in town, before we had LPs at our old music store. (We only carried 8-track tapes at first.) When I saw those later TJB gatefold covers, first for Beat of the Brass and then for The Brass Are Comin', I didn't necessarily want to buy the albums because I had no turntable and I already owned them on 8-track... but I just HAD TO KNOW what was inside those gatefolds! So I would wander into the record aisle at the store and sneakily slit the shrinkwrap on the top or bottom of the cover, and ease open the cover so I could get a glimpse of what was in there. It wasn't until years later I actually bought the LPs, after 8-tracks finally bit the dust.

To this day there is nothing like the fun feeling of opening an LP cover and seeing what kind of fun stuff is inside. Once more elaborate packaging became common, opening a cover and not finding any surprises was kind of a letdown. CD booklets are cool, but just not the same as an LP gatefold.
 

Rudy

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Today's "surprises" in album covers are often cards to download the same album digitally, so you can load it in your music player. Some of the audiophile releases go all out and create deluxe packaging--my Mancini 45 RPM LP sets are gatefolds (for obvious reasons) and they included extra photographs on the inserts. It's nice to see an innersleeve with all the lyrics easily readable too. I bought a Fantasy reissue of A Boy Named Charlie Brown and it included a handful of cartoon prints, suitable for framing, inside the jacket. The new Tamba 4 release is not a gatefold, but they do include a sheet inside with some background information, which would have appeared inside the gatefold had it been packaged that way.

One thing I miss, which probably disappeared in the 70s or 80s, were the information or essays on the rear of the album jacket--when you picked up a Dave Brubeck LP on Columbia, you had something to read about the music on the back cover.

As for Herb's records, we had all the mono records up to Sounds Like and from that point on, the rest were stereo since we had a new Magnavox console in the living room, and I was only allowed to play those new records there. When You Smile came out, that was a gift to me, and coincided with the day we went to see the tour for that album.

I'm fortunate that in the 90s, I worked a quarter mile away from one of the best used record stores in the area--I would spend lunchtimes, a couple of times per week, at the store. I found a few sealed A&Ms there, including sealed Deutches Gramaphone copies of Warm and The Brass Are Comin', which have better vinyl than our US equivalents (even though the sound is a bit dulled). The DG version of Brass are Comin' is not a gatefold.

Lately, my vinyl purchases are either new pressings, or sealed "new old stock" records that are untouched, since I've found the quality of used vinyl in the past ten years or so to be generally much worse than it was in the 90s (mainly, too much groove burn/wear). I might spend a lot more for sealed, but that's less expensive than buying five used copies to maybe find a clean one.

These days I play mainly digital (from a network server, streamed to a player in my system--my systems no longer have disc players) but still get the records spinning as well, since there are many that still sound better on vinyl than digital (sometimes the mastering is better), or I have titles that either were never released digitally, or titles I never purchased digital versions of. And vinyl still goes back to that tactile feel of being physically involved with playing the music.
 

Bobberman

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I can relate to all of the above experiences written here as well as yours Aaron when it came to vinyl I had at one time almost 200 Lps and almost 100 45s for a long time until I fell for the "Perfect sound Forever" of CDs and started replacing as much of my worn vinyl as possible fortunately I still have the CDs but the only vinyl I have now are those that have never been reissued digitally in any form but as far as the Herb Alpert discography I have at least one CD Of every TJB and solo release Except " Just you and me" The first post TJB solo album which I have on clean vinyl and a few handy needledrop CDs while i understand the joy of holding a tangible album I haven't owned a turntable in almost 2 decades but thankfully I preserved everything on Cassette and later CDR s and ripped everything in my laptop but my happy memories of my younger days are kept fresh by the music itself regardless of the various formats that exist but I wish you success in your album collecting quest and better yet "Happy Listening for many years to come".
 

Aaron Bitman

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Thread Starter
Lately, my vinyl purchases are either new pressings, or sealed "new old stock" records that are untouched, since I've found the quality of used vinyl in the past ten years or so to be generally much worse than it was in the 90s (mainly, too much groove burn/wear). I might spend a lot more for sealed, but that's less expensive than buying five used copies to maybe find a clean one.
Heh. Well, that depends on just how fussy you are, or to put that another way, how flexible you're willing to be.

For instance, the used record store I mentioned used to throw in front of the store records that were in such bad condition, anyone could just take them for free. Thanks to that, I got a free copy of "Going Places!" but the cover was in an ugly condition and there was a skip in "Felicia".

Later, at the secondhand bookstore I mentioned, I bought a copy of "Going Places!" with a beautiful cover but with a skip in "Tijuana Taxi". So between the two of those copies, I have one good record!

At this point, I feel compelled to explain myself, lest someone ask "Why don't you go back to the bookstore and demand your money back?" I got a lot of good stuff at that store, including that "Beat of the Brass" record I mentioned in the first post. But the "South of the Border" album I bought there had a skip. When I went back there, the clerk said "we don't give refunds; we test our media and after all, different players can give different results." He said he'd be flexible enough to let me return that copy, and I got another copy from the same store that passed my test. He also said he'd let me return a record once more, but I don't feel like driving all the way out there again; what if the next copy of "Going Places!" I get is worse? I don't believe that bookstore really tests its media, despite its claims. I decided to quit while I was ahead. That's what I meant by "flexible".

I could give more examples of that kind of flexibility, although for the rest of this post, none of the records I mention will be anything like Herb Alpert.

The used record store I mentioned is run by people with a passion for records; I'm confident that they really DO test their records before selling them, as their merchandise is guaranteed... with some exceptions. They sold me some records for 50 cents each, making it clear that THOSE were not guaranteed. I got the feeling that those records got tested and failed. Unsurprisingly, those have defects, but there are some exceptions... sort of.

For instance, I got a 2-record set of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cats" for 50 cents. It had one skip... but I looked at that spot on the record and saw a speck of dirt that was stuck there. So I took a cloth and rubbed the speck off. Generally, I wouldn't rub a record but I figured "hey, it already has a skip anyway." And now it plays perfectly! So that was a good buy for 50 cents! But I digress.

The example I wanted to mention was that one of the records I got for 50 cents was by Herman's Hermits. In case you don't know, I'll explain that there are many, many "Herman's Hermits" albums that recycle that band's old recordings; the list of their "Greatest Hits" and "Best of" albums is endless. Unsurprisingly, my 50-cent record had skips in "I'm into Something Good" and "Mrs Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter".

This very day, I went back to that record store for several reasons; among other things, I wanted a Herman's Hermits album that WAS guaranteed and which had "I'm into Something Good" and as much other material - other than that which I already have - as possible. I considered several choices available there, and picked one. It plays fine, of course, and as I listened to it at home, I compared it to that other album and noticed a happy coincidence. This new record has "I'm into Something Good" and "Mrs Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter"... and NONE of the other songs on my new album duplicate any songs from the old one! These records complement each other perfectly! Also at that store today I got a Herman's Hermits single for 50 cents. I tested that one. It plays fine and its two songs don't duplicate anything from EITHER of the albums!

That was a lot more detail than I had planned to write. I'll stop now.
 

Harry

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I used a similar philosophy back in the day when the radio station played vinyl on the air. Naturally, with constant use, the records would get scratched and then tossed in the freebie pile. If the album was a recognizable title, I'd grab it, figuring that if only one track was scratched, the rest might be just fine. And they often used greatest hits type albums on air if the tracks were the correct versions to play, so nine out of ten tracks might sound OK.

When a second copy of that album ended up in the freebie pile, I'd often luck out with a different track being the bad one. It was always a crap shoot and sometimes a whole side might be damaged.

Now, being a bit of a hoarder when it comes to recorded media, I wouldn't throw out anything that wasn't of *some* perceived value, so most of these records still inhabit my collection. And the best part is that now, with the aid of modern computer software, I can actually fix the sound of many of those old records as many only had an annoying tick at the start or end of a track, or even a persistent one through the whole thing. I can often fix it!
 
I still go to thrift stores and used record stores looking for old vinyl records from back in the day. Most days I come home empty handed but now and then I find a gem. Some of the prices at used record stores are often a bit pricey so I just try another store and see what they have. Perseverance does pay off. I once wrote to a company in California called "Discontinued Records" to look for Sergio Mendes "Crystal Illusions" and Herb Alpert "Warm." They had both at $15.00 for the former and $27.00 for the latter. I did buy "Crystal Illusions" as my copy was damaged. I did not but "Warm." Fast forward a few years, used record stores started popping up in my area and many older albums were there at very low prices including the two mentioned. I was able to find copies of all Sergio Mendes and Herb Alpert and TJB albums. Some I even bought extra copies just in case.
 

Bobberman

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I used to buy extra copies of my favorites myself back in the day the ones in the best condition or sealed was usually left alone for backups while another was in regular use a very handy system
 

Rudy

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I used to buy extra copies of my favorites myself back in the day the ones in the best condition or sealed was usually left alone for backups while another was in regular use a very handy system
I need to do that myself for a couple of recent rarities.
 

lj

Active Member
There was no feeling quite like going into a used record store and finding a truly desired record that was out of print, which you thought you would never be able to buy. It was an exhilarating feeling indeed. This is what makes going out to shop so much fun.
 

Rudy

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There was no feeling quite like going into a used record store and finding a truly desired record that was out of print, which you thought you would never be able to buy. It was an exhilarating feeling indeed. This is what makes going out to shop so much fun.
A lot of the records I was after were replacements for beaten copies of records I had grown up with over the years. It's not as much fun in recent years since the overall quality of used vinyl has dropped substantially--I'd estimate about 60% of used records I've bought locally are of unacceptable quality, most of it groove burn, the rest just noisy from fine scratches I can't see so well in the store lighting. If I'm lucky, a record is just dirty, and I can run it through the ultrasonic cleaner and do a vacuum rinse on it.

I have run into finding those rarities a few times with a handful of memorable purchases.

  • Back in the 80s or perhaps the early 90s, I lucked into a pristine RCA Living Stereo copy of Music from 'M Squad' by the Stanley Wilson Orchestra; Count Basie made the "M Squad" theme a hit, but Stanley Wilson wrote and scored music for the series. I later learned that this was one of those records that featured the cream of the crop of West Coast jazz musicians, so it wasn't just an anonymous "crime jazz" studio ensemble. Peter Gunn started the whole crime jazz fad at the time, so some records like this one kind of flamed out quickly and fell into obscurity.
  • I found a flawless copy of the Chris Montez album The More I See You/Call Me. It wasn't sealed but it looked as though it had never been played.
  • Occasionally I'd find a surprise like the Viva! Bossa Nova record (Laurindo Almeida & The Bossa Nova All-Stars) that I had grown up with and totally forgot about over the years.
 

Bobberman

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Fortunately I can relate to the "Viva Bossa nova" L.p. I was fortunate to find an Import CD 2 fer of it which had the sequel "Ole Bossa nova" and Few bonus tracks featuring Bud Shank quite a good Value for the money when I got it a few years back
 

Rudy

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Fortunately I can relate to the "Viva Bossa nova" L.p. I was fortunate to find an Import CD 2 fer of it which had the sequel "Ole Bossa nova" and Few bonus tracks featuring Bud Shank quite a good Value for the money when I got it a few years back
Those bonus tracks all have an "international" flavor to them--they were from Bossa Nova Around The World which was the third album the group did together, covering well-known tunes from countries around the world.
 

Bobberman

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Those bonus tracks all have an "international" flavor to them--they were from Bossa Nova Around The World which was the third album the group did together, covering well-known tunes from countries around the world.
I agree they really truly indeed have an international flavor to them for sure
 

Aaron Bitman

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Thread Starter
A lot of the records I was after were replacements for beaten copies of records I had grown up with over the years. It's not as much fun in recent years since the overall quality of used vinyl has dropped substantially--I'd estimate about 60% of used records I've bought locally are of unacceptable quality, most of it groove burn, the rest just noisy from fine scratches I can't see so well in the store lighting. If I'm lucky, a record is just dirty, and I can run it through the ultrasonic cleaner and do a vacuum rinse on it.

I have run into finding those rarities a few times with a handful of memorable purchases.

<goes on to mention specific instances>
Yeah, what I found really great is promotional copies. That used record store I mentioned sold me promotional copies of Coney Island, Beyond, and Helen Reddy's Greatest Hits for $4 each... and those last two records HAD NEVER BEEN OPENED UNTIL I GOT THEM!
 
Going through some of my albums recently, I discovered that the Herb Alpert Volume Two felt a bit heavy for some reason. I thought maybe it was a thicker pressing but I discovered that both a stereo version and a mono version were in the same jacket! I will set them aside for now.
 

Rudy

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I have a couple of those earlier A&Ms that were heavier than later pressings. My South Of The Border (a Monarch pressing) is heavier than some of the others. But I've never had two LPs in one jacket.

I lucked out in that the sealed Volume 2 I bought had the original rear art on it, so it is an earlier pressing. Not the earliest, though, as the A&M logo is on the left side of the label, not on top.
 

Aaron Bitman

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What a funny coincidence that you should mention Volume 2 in this thread. This very day, I had the good luck to find Volume 2 in a Goodwill store and get it for 50 cents. I just listened to it and it plays perfectly. Now I've collected HA's first 10 albums - which was my primary collecting goal - without having to order a single one of them online!

(Now I have to get certain LATER Herb Alpert albums. Heh.)

Anyway, I remember getting my first copy of Volume 2 in 1987 complete with the cover... and yet, the back cover, as I view it now, doesn't ring any bells. It looks something like the one portrayed on this page. Perhaps the copy I got in 1987 had a different-looking back cover?
 
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Harry

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If you have this pictured version, it's the reissue after the Brass hit their popularity in the WHIPPED CREAM era.

If your back cover is different, then you have an original issue.
 

Bobberman

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If you have this pictured version, it's the reissue after the Brass hit their popularity in the WHIPPED CREAM era.

If your back cover is different, then you have an original issue.
And in the 70s and 80s they removed the Lp pics at the bottom and enlarged the rest of the photo and adding A&Ms mailing address
 

Mike Blakesley

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I've noticed in some places, the title "America" is printed as "A-Me-Ri-Ca." Which is the "preferred" title? I can't remember exactly where I've seen it with the hyphens but I know I have seen it.
 

Aaron Bitman

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Thread Starter
Thanks, Rudy. My current copy looks like the picture that Harry posted and I wondered how the original looked. I failed to find a picture of the back cover with a Google search. (Even though you called it a "jacket" I'm sure you meant that's a picture of the back cover, not the jacket.)

And yet... when I looked at Rudy's picture I hoped to say "Ah hah; that's it!" But I couldn't quite make myself say it. Try as I might, I cannot remember how my old copy 30 years ago looked. Ah well.
 

Rudy

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I grew up with the mono LP in the house, which had the original version of the rear. When I started buying used LPs, I came across a clean stereo version that had the later version of the rear. It wasn't until I stumbled across a sealed stereo copy many years later that I saw the original rear art, and it all came back to me.

If the second version was on a reissue of the album, that makes me wonder how many of those Discogs entries for the first and/or early pressings are incorrect. It couldn't have had the second version in 1963, as those albums didn't even exist yet. Some on Discogs may not realize that when they buy a used record, there is no guarantee that the jacket originally belonged to that particular LP. Unless it were some rare collectible, garden-variety albums are something where a record store would combine a newer jacket and newer record, and toss the others in the trash if they were too badly damaged. And not only that, buyers in a store may visually inspect a few copies of a record and not care which jacket it goes back into.
 
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