No one ever accused Mormons of having excellent taste in music.  I can speak from personal experience. Growing up in a Mormon household–interesting music was discouraged.  Usually because it contained something deemed amoral.  My mom used to always suggest I check out shit like The Kingston Trio (I did by the way, Mom, and seriously?)   Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom more than any other thing on this planet, but her lifestyle wasn’t compatible with counter culture of any kind.  It wasn’t her fault. The Mormon religion frowns upon all things fun.

With that in mind, you’d expect the Mormon thrift store, Deseret Industries, to have nothing good in their vinyl bins.  You’d be wrong, though. Sure, most of the time it’s a veritable mountain of The Osmonds (obviously), Charlie Pride, Herb Alpert, Barbra Streisand, and 101 Strings–generally stuff G-rated enough that your typical Mormon in the 1950s could feel good about purchasing it–but occasionally there’s golden plates buried in that hill.

Take it from me, if you’re well-versed in music from the past 50 years, and living in Utah, incredible vinyl is often only $1 away. There is a certain art of record shopping at thrift stores, unfortunately, the key is being “well-versed” in pop music (you’re probably not going to find  a mint condition copy of Revolver or Exile On Main Street at the D.I., or really any thrift store for that matter–your tastes have to be a little more eclectic than that).  Nevertheless, what follows is a only a small example of the terrific kind of albums you can find if you’re savvy, have an open mind, and tenacious enough to dig through the crates.  I’ve found everything on this list in the past three months.

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Thrift Store RecordBillie Holiday: The Lady Sings

Decca: DL 8215 (1956, 1st Pressing)

Vinyl Condition: VG-

Cover Condition: VG-

Rating:  4.7/5

Here is the first rule of crate digging: if you see Billie Holiday, you grab it, fool.  In her entire life, she never recorded a bad song. There’s something magical about hearing Billie Holiday on vinyl.  Even this record, which someone beat the shit out of.  When that needle drops and you hear the first notes of “Deep Song,” an indescribable feeling comes over me.  The pops and scratches don’t matter.  In fact they somehow enhance the experience of hearing Lady Day sing lines like, “lonely grief is hounding me / like a lonely shadow hounding me / it’s always there just out of sight / like a frightening dream on a lightning night.”

 


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Thrift Store RecordDean Martin: Dino: Italian Love Songs

Capitol: ST 1650 (1962; First Pressing)

Vinyl Condition: VG+

Cover Condition: EX

Rating: 4.2 / 5

If you  like the Rat pack, D.I. is your place.  Frank Sinatra records are especially abundant.  Almost by accident I’ve purchased the vast majority of his discography there for about $20.  But I’ve gotta say, Frank had nothing on Dean Martin.  Martin was not only the better actor of the two, he was a far-superior singer as well.  Most of all: Sinatra never made a record this gangstah.  This might be G-Rated, but make no mistake, if you got tossed into the east river by mafia thugs in the 1960s, this was the sound you heard from the trunk.

 

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Thrift Store RecordMarty Robbins: Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs  

Columbia: CS 8158 (1959, First Pressing)

Vinyl Condition: NM

Cover Condition: NM

Rating:  5/5

Here’s an understatement: Country music has gone downhill over the past 50 years.  Truth is, country music today is an unmitigated disaster and if you’ve ever wondered how far it’s star has fallen, just listen to this album sometime.  It’s not just the gold standard of country music–by comparison the country music of today is nothing more than superfluous trash.

To have the great “El Paso” on vinyl is, by itself, worth your dollar, but this entire album is one killer old school cowpoke number after another. Every song has brawny men singing in three part vocal harmonies about the wild west.

Or to put it another way, this is a bona fide classic.  Best of all it appears that a lot of Mormons bought it back in the day. I have four of these because I just keep finding perfectly good copies in the bin.  In fact, I’ve found a ton of Marty Robbins’ records at D.I. and he’s got some choice ones too, but they’re less common. When it comes to Gunfighter Ballads, though, there is absolutely no excuse for any vinyl collector in Utah not to own this wonderful album.

 


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Thrift Store Record Betty Davis Self TitledBetty Davis: Self-Titled

Just Sunshine: JSS-5 (1973, First Pressing)

Vinyl Condition: VG

Cover Condition: VG

Rating: 4.5 /5

Nine out of ten music critics agree: Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain is “seminal” or some shit.  Pardon me while I pretend to cough, but actually say, “Bullshit!” Don’t get me wrong I like Maggot Brain, but occasionally, I find it a little boring on account of it’s flagrant guitar soloing. Betty Davis is just as solid as Maggot Brain but suffers from none of the same masturbatory tendencies.

Betty Davis was married to Miles Davis for a few years in the late 60s to early 70s.  She’s the infamous “Mademoiselle Mabry (Miss Mabry) who graced the cover of Filles de Kilimanjaro.  She also played a pivotal role in getting her husband interested in the music (Hendrix and Sly) that in no small way influenced his 70s output.   All of this would make her little more than a footnote in the history of jazz had her own music not been some of the baddest, most uncompromising funk ever made.

Sure Maggot Brain came first, but this one came harder. A lot harder.  After one listen, I’m guessing you’ll be coming right along with her.  Now that’s what I call “seminal.”

 

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Thrift Store RecordJackson 5: ABC

Motown: MS709 (1970; First Pressing)

Vinyl Condition: VG

Cover Condition: G

Rating: 4 / 5

It’s pretty hard to fault a record with both, “The Love You Save,” and “ABC” on it.  I bought this one for those two songs alone and fully expected the rest of it to be filler.  This thing is its jam packed with covers: Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t Know Why I Love You” and  Smokey Robinson’s “Come Round Here” to name a few.  What I didn’t expect was that Jackson 5 would so thoroughly crush these tunes. This was done with a big assist from their backing group and songwriting team, “The Corporation.”  The real star, though, is an 11 year old Michael Jackson, who single-handedly carries the weight of this album on his back.  Admittedly, this record is a little bit top heavy, but the first side is 100% good-to-boogie and young Michael is charming throughout even on some of the second side’s most mediocre tracks.

 

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Thrift Store Record Phil CollinsPhil Collins: No Jacket Required

Atlantic: 7 81240-1 (1985; First Pressing)

Vinyl: NM

Cover: EX

Rating: 4 / 5

Most people don’t think of Phil Collins as being, you know, good. It’s not exactly an undeserved reputation either. He’s committed some pretty serious musical atrocities that should not be overlooked. Still, No Jacket Required is surprisngly awesome.  First of all, it contains four of the best songs Collins ever wrote: “Sussusio,” “One More Night,” “Don’t Lose My Number” and “Take Me Home.”  The real shocker though, is that the remainder of the album is really solid in it’s own right.  “You Know and I Know,” and “I Don’t Wanna Know” might have been hits too had the label pushed them.  Another thing that always makes me chuckle is the cover, which displays a super creepy Phil Collins sweating bullets while sporting a smile that could make Mona Lisa blow her rape whistle.

 

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Thrift Store RecordBlue Mountain Eagle: Self-Titled

Atco: SD-33-324 (1970; First Pressing)

Vinyl: NM

Cover: EX

Rating: 4.3 / 5

When I found this one I had no idea what it was. It just looked legit to me. I took it home only to discover that it was a psych-rock masterpiece.  Blue Mountain Eagle was the remains of Buffalo Springfield after it’s more famous members went on to form like Voltron with the more notable members of The Byrds to create Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  This was Blue Mountain Eagle’s only album, (they broke up right after it was released) and sadly, it was a commercial failure.  Fortunately for me, this thing is straight fire.  A true find.

 

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Thrift Store RecordGetz / Gilberto:  Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto

Verve: V6-8545 (1964; First Pressing)

Vinyl: VG+

Cover: VG+

Rating: 5 / 5

One of the great jazz albums of all of the time. Even though it goes for a grip on Ebay, this is another one that can be found at D.I. all the time.  I’ve snatched up at least three copies for myself there, though most of them were pretty beat up.

Stan Getz was a white guy who played the saxophone unlike anyone else: he had this ability to make it sound like butter.  Joao Gilberto along with songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim (who wrote most of the songs here) were easily the most important bossa nova musicians who ever lived (and if you don’t think you don’t like bossa nova, you need to hear this record).

Gilberto’s wife, Astrud, played a crucial role in this album’s greatness too. She lent her vocal talents on only two tracks, but she owned them so thoroughly that when Verve released the single for, “Girl From Ipanema” they removed Joao’s vocals almost entirely.

It was not just the wrong thing to do, it was a dick move, and in retrospect, an blatant effort to sell the record to white America (Joao’s verse is in Portuguese).  Nevertheless, “Ipanema” remains the quintessential bossa nova record and that legacy is in no small part due to Astrud’s sublime singing ability.

 


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Thrift Store Record Sade PromiseSade: Promise

Portrait: FR 40263 (1985; First Pressing)

Vinyl: M

Cover: M

Rating: 4.2 / 5

I don’t trust people who don’t get down with Sade.  It’s like not liking sex or money. Sure, she’s got a bit of an adult contempo vibe going on, but I’d take her over almost any other R&B artist from the 80s (Prince notwithstanding, obviously).  This record gets overlooked, maybe because some of her other records are so good, particularly Lovers Rock and this fairly chill collection might seem a bit underwhelming at first. It’s too bad, because every track is a winner.  Some of them just require a few listens before they reveal themselves. “Sweetest Taboo,” is incredible of course, but check out “War of Hearts,” and “Is it a Crime” too, that is if you like having your mind blown.

 

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Don Ray Garden of LoveDon Ray: The Garden Of Love

Polydor: PD-1-6150 (1978; First Pressing)

Vinyl: NM

Cover: VG+

Rating: 4.4 / 5

It’s inexplicable, but there is still a lot of hatred out there for disco even though it can, and does, rule from time to time.  Donna Summer’s producer Giorgio Moroder, Chic’s Nile Rodgers and the Frenchman who produced this album, the great and wondrous, Cerrone are disco artists every music fan should know.

An impromptu dance party could be started by just about any cut on this complicated, yet accessible set.  “Got To Have Loving” is the clear standout and grooves as hard as anything else from the era.  Where Garden does fall short, unfortunately, is in the lyrics department. Let’s face it, though, the words were never all that important in disco.   Cerrone was smart enough to make music that encouraged what did matter; dancing, style, and doing blow off a nice set of tits.

 

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The Everly BrothersThe Everly Brothers: A Date With The Everly Brothers

Warner Bros: W 1395 (1960; First Pressing)

Vinyl: VG
Cover: VG

Rating: 4.7 / 5

The Everly’s have a reputation for making safe, squeaky clean, pop music for teenage girls.  While that’s mostly true, it’s also a little unfair.  That narrative distracts from the fact that their first four records are completely brilliant (this one being their fourth).  Their legacy ought to include their outsized influence on many of the most acclaimed artists of the 60s, including The Beatles, The Four Seasons, and The Beach Boys.

In any case, on this one the brothers rely more than usual on the strong songwriting talents of husband-wife duo Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, but the results here are no less fantastic for it (the Bryant’s also wrote some of their biggest hits).  Some of the highlights here include, “Cathy’s Clown,” “Love Hurts,” and “Made To Love.”

 

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Love Da CapoLove: Da Capo

Electra: EKS-74005 (1966; First Pressing)

Vinyl: NM

Cover: VG+

Rating: 4.1 / 5

I think these guys are a bit overrated.  They tend to get a little too pastoral for my liking. I found this one together with Four Sail and about 50 other records from the Woodstock era (everything from Manfred Mann to John Mayall).  It was a good day at D.I., but not all of it was my cup of tea.  If you want this one, hit me up.  I’ll sell it to you for $25 and I’ll even throw in a couple Iron Butterfly records.

 

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Uptown Dope on PlasticUptown: Dope On Plastic / It’s My Turn (12” Single)

Tommy Boy:  TB 923 (1989; First Pressing)

Vinyl: NM

Cover: VG

Rating: 5 / 5

The second rule of crate digging is if you see an album released by Tommy Boy from the 80s, buy it–these things are typically as great as they are rare.  I had never heard either of the songs on this 12” single, but when I popped this on my turntable it was clear within the first 30 seconds that I had scored something very special.  This was the only solo release by this menacing, bat-carrying MC, but Dope On Plastic is easily one of the finest moments of 80s hip hop.  This 12” also includes acapella and instrumental versions of both songs.

 

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Sarah vaughan No Count SarahSarah Vaughan: No Count Sarah

Mercury: MG 20441 (1958; First Pressing)

Vinyl: NM

Cover: EX

Rating: 5 / 5

This album is the irreproachable Sarah Vaughan doing a set of mostly jazz standards with the Count Basie Orchestra (sans the man himself, hence the title).  Do I really need to say anything more to convince you that this record rules?  Vaughn’s personality is on full display here, she’s simply having a blast with these songs — scat singing all over the place and taking huge liberties with the melodies.  It all works.  Not to mention, the arrangements (especially those by the impeccable Thad Jones) are world class.  Yes, it’s true, everyone on the planet recorded “Cheek to Cheek,” “Stardust,” “Just One of Those Things,” and “Moonlight In Vermont” in the mid to late 50s, but it was artists like Sarah Vaughan that made these tunes standards in the first place.  It’s also worth mentioning that these are some of the most iconic songs of the 20th century and no one could sing them quite like her.

 

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DianaDiana Ross:  Diana

Motown: M8-036M1 (1980; First Pressing)

Vinyl: VG+

Cover: VG+

Rating: 4.3 / 5

In 1980, there was no reason to think that Diana Ross would release a record this fabulous.  She had been releasing overly sentimental pop for half a decade at that point.  Yet, here it is: easily the best effort since her work with the Supremes. It benefits greatly from the dance pop sensibilities and flawless production Chic’s Nile Rodgers. Every transcendent moment on this album (and there are a lot of them) is punctuated by his extraordinary guitar work.  Most notable: “Upside Down,” “Tenderness,” and “I’m Coming Out.”

 


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Julie London Julie Is Her NameJulie London: Julie Is Her Name

Liberty: LRP 3006 (1955; First Pressing)

Vinyl: VG++

Cover: EX-

Rating: 5 / 5

At first glance this appears to be another mid-fifties record full of jazz standards.  What makes this album special is it’s remarkable intimacy, provided by the sparse instrumentation of Barney Kessel’s singular guitar playing.  The man has unbelievable tone and a way with busting out one drop-dead gorgeous chord after another.  This is one of the sexiest recordings I’ve ever heard.  Julie London was essentially the real-life Jessica Rabbit. And for you audiophiles out there, on the back cover there is a brief description of the recording process, “which incorporates the use of … the famed Telefunken microphone in conjunction with Altec Lansing power amplifiers and Ampex recorders.”  Jesus. It’s enough to make a grown man drool like a baby.

 

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June Christy Something CoolJune Christy: Something Cool

Capitol: T516 (1955; First Pressing)

Vinyl: EX

Cover: VG+

Rating: 5 / 5

I’ve saved my favorite for last.  Everything about this album is attractive: June Christy’s smiling face on the sly art deco cover art, but obviously, most important is the music itself. Christy was a gifted jazz singer and at the top of her game here. Pete Rugolo’s arrangements exist in an otherworldly nether-region that’s somewhere between cool jazz, 50s orchestral pop and Stravinsky-influenced chamber music. This was the album that introduced cool jazz to most of America (Birth of the Cool wouldn’t be compiled and re-released by Capitol until 1957).  And while this isn’t as monumental as Miles Davis’ more famous material, it’s still among the most essential jazz albums of all time–and in case you’re wondering, I’ve found three copies of it at D.I.  Hopefully you didn’t miss your chance.

 


 

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dannyvesper
is a freelance writer and hipster emeritus. His work has appeared in various impressive publications including the one you're enjoying now and he has his own music blog where he reviews music both old and new: oldnewborrowedblew.blogspot.com