Back in the 1970s, the music industry was rife with racketeering. One sharp practice was to produce and ship a greater number of a given album than that album was probably going to sell and allowing them to boast of “shipping platinum (leading one wag to comment that Casablanca’s releases “shipped gold and returned platinum.”) This sort of thing lead to a lot of records in the cut-out bins of record stores. Record companies liked cut-outs becuase they are typically sold to retailers as non-returnable items; and since they were sold as cheaper promotional pieces, recording artists were usually shafted out of full royalties from cut-outs.
I liked them because I got the UK fold-out version of E. Costello’s Armed Forces at my local Big N department store for $2.99.
Anyway, I bring this up as the two 50p boot fair albums above were US cut-outs (as was the Sly Stone record below) released in 1979, and still in plastic. While I don’t suggest that they were part of the quasi-legal whoop-di-do typical of their time, it wouldn’t surprise me.
Songs of Love by Anita Ward is first up. To be honest, hopes were not terribly high. True, “Ring My Bell” is a stone classic, all groove and subtle use of early Syndrums, but I worried about Anita’s voice: it’s not a strong instrument and verges on the helium side of Alvin and the Chipmunks. In the event, side one was surprisingly good with side two, despite the aforementioned, and still awesome, “Bell”, let down with three ballads beyond Ward’s sub-Diana Ross reach. Throughout, bass and drums = in the pocket.
Betty Wright’s Travelin’ In the Wright Circle (whatever that means) is another solid disco record, though she seems a tad miffed to be ogliged to wear the industry standard “Egyptian/Martian/Disco Queen” outfit (not slit and fitted with lapis lazuli encrusted control top). It is more grandly conceived than Ring My Bell, perhaps as it was autuered by the powerfully-voiced Wright herself, who not only wrote/co-wrote most of the songs she produced as well. Here, too, the playing is tighter than an ant’s ass, if sometimes overwhelmed by strings/horns.
Where did all these incredible players come from? Where did they go?
Further to discussion on TK Records here, both the above were distributed by TK, as evidenced by the inner sleeve, but don’t include any members of the Sunshine Band.