Charles Hill recently posted a video that purports to list fifteen albums that are in the collections of everyone who bought records back in the age of vinyl. Surprisingly, I have four — but only four, and Thriller is not among them.
I thought it might be fun to do the opposite: compile a list of LPs in my collection that almost no one else has. I’m including only albums on vinyl; if I were to include CDs and digital files, I could easily list hundreds, maybe thousands, of obscure recordings. Here are ten records, all worth hearing, that I’ve never seen in anyone else’s music library.
Rare Air, Hard to Beat
The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood — Hahn on guitar, Mike Finnegan on vocals and keyboards. Bobby Stout is a real person, by the way. As I recall, he was rather proud of the song.
Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, Prince Heathen
Urszula Dudziak, Future Talk
Richard Thompson, Henry the Human Fly — Legend has it that this was the worst-selling album in its label’s history. Thompson was still learning his craft as a songwriter then, but the record has worn well.
Sea Train — One of the worst-selling albums1 of all time, period, with one of the lousiest covers ever (the cover in the video is from the CD reissue, which was prettied-up a bit). After some personnel changes, a subtle name change and a coat of George Martin gloss varnish, they had a small hit and introduced thousands of hippies to bluegrass fiddle, but I like their earlier album better.
Back Door — Sometimes you’ll find the tune in the video called “Jive Grind,” which was its title on the American release.
Norman Blake, Whiskey before Breakfast — One of the highlights of the first bluegrass festival I ever attended was Blake’s set, which included “Old Grey Mare.”
Michael Mantler, The Hapless Child — Mantler’s settings of Edward Gorey stories, narrated by Robert Wyatt. Musicians include Carla Bley, keyboards; Steve Swallow, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums; Terje Rypdal, guitar. The track above apparently was included in a later Wyatt compilation. This is the proper cover for Mantler’s record:
Colosseum, Morituri te salutant (American version) — There were a lot of memorable drummers from the late 1960s-early 1970s — Carl Palmer, Billy Cobham, Bill Bruford, Ginger Baker, Clive Bunker, etc. — but if I had to pick just one, my choice would be Jon Hiseman. Other musicians include Dick Heckstall-Smith, saxes; Dave Greenslade, keyboards; Tony Reeves, bass; James Litherland, guitar and vocals. Henry Lowther plays trumpet on the track above.
Bonus: One more, this from a very budget classical label:
Boris Feoktistov, Folk Balalaika
I lost patience with the radio and quit listening to popular music in the 1980s. Instead, I focused on collecting classical records, particularly piano music. I could easily put together long lists of classical albums that virtually no one else has, but I’ll spare you all.