There's a deal here where a certain road determines whether or not one is in the city of Kennewick or Richland. I visited Value Village yesterday and to me it's Kennewick. But ask a Richland resident and they may say otherwise. Nonetheless, it's the only Value Village in the Tri-Cities.
I hadn't been here in ages, because the last few times I was there the selection was bad. I went in and believe it or not, they had both 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 by The Beatles. I didn't bother picking it up, I'm curious if they gave each one a "collector's" price.
What did catch my eye was a record affiliated with an artist whose work I've come to admire over the years. If any of you have read my previous entries of Thrift Store Adventures, then you may know who this person is. If not, let me explain. If you go to a thrift store, yard or garage sales long enough, you will see some of the same records by the same artists over and over. Some have status, others have none. Some continue to get airplay today, others have been obscured in time. A few of these obscurities have been praised for some of their unique quirks by a number of writers throughout the years. I often refer to a great fanzine from the early 90's called Breakfast Without Meat, put together by Gregg Turkington. It was he who made me interested in such curiosities as 101 Strings and Dora Hall.
Then there's Rod McKuen. You Thrift Store Adventures regulars can skip the next paragraph or so.
In my search for records, I would often see multiple copies of The Sea, The Earth, and The Sky, a triad of recordings that became some of his biggest sellers. I guess for a lot of people, McKuen's work was seen as old, dated, "not good", or even "cheesy". Maybe due to my tolerance and occasional tolerance of "bad taste", I had to check these records out for myself. These three albums were primarily spoken word. A few featured the voice of McKuen himself, but sometimes it would be the voice of others. The words would be poems, essays, "spoken word", basically waxing poetic about the elements and romance. It showed that McKuen was a hopeless romantic, but also someone who wasn't afraid to show the pain and suffering of life and love.
What I also liked was the arrangements of the music, the production, just a huge wash of sound. It was the late 60's, it was on Warner Bros., and people still arranged songs, did scores, and used such words as "lush orchestration". It was big and bold, not unlike a score done for a movie, and I believe some of the musicians used for his albums were those that worked on films for Warner Bros. Somehow I was hooked.
I will be honest and say that McKuen was not on my "must have" mental list. Once I had heard his three albums, I started noticing other titles pop up frequently, not just on Warner Bros. but on Epic and RCA Victor. Then other labels. How many records did this man create? I had to know. I bought them when I found them. I had found In Search Of Eros on Epic, and it had taken me by surprise. It was a little more than "puppy love", it was a bit more "adult". Not pornographic or anything, but a lot more than talking about seeing images of togetherness in the sky.
Eventually I heard him sing. At the time I did not know he was a singer, I assumed that his albums were all spoken word. I'll be honest again, it was a unique voice. It was raspy, in a Reuben Kincaid sort of way. It wasn't a great or spectacular voice, but it was his. As I began to buy more records, sometimes he shined, other times the emotion would take over.
It got to a point where I became an actual fan. It wasn't just the spoken word or the singing, but also the arrangements, and the nature of the recordings. If one takes a serious listen to his work, they will get a lot out of it. I think I now have over 30 albums with his involvement, whether it's under his own name, or albums with his involvement. I think I may have a third of his discography. As of yesterday, I've added another to the McKuen box:
The Stanyan Strings
As I Love My Own
His track record was impressive enough to where he was given his own boutique label, Stanyan. On this album, it was the music of McKuen played by the group who had backed him up on a number of his records. McKuen himself is credited solely with "whistling". When I saw this at Value Village, I was like "oh, a McKuen record I had not seen before". It had a couple on the front cover, embracing, nude but with the woman's back to the camera, and from the chest up. I opened up the gatefold and WHOA NELLY! The gatefold revealed the man and woman, from the back, head to toe, no clothes. OH SNAP! Was the record in nice condition? Oh yes. Immediate purchase. In the CD section was a McKuen compilation on Laserlight. I didn't pick it up, only because with McKuen, it's vinyl/8-tracks or nothing.
Now at home, I pull out the record and I discover there's a poster inside. WHOA NELLY again, it's a poster of the nude couple. I'm someone who was raised in the 70's so there were a few hippie ideals around. I guess that time in history where I wasn't able to experience it myself has always been a source of inspiration, but I can't help but laugh and wonder who would put up a poster like that? Hep swingers? Orgy enthusiasts? Pakalolo brownie chefs?
These records can be listened to for simply listening, but they were definitely mood enhancers. The actual title is listed on the cover as I Love Your Body As I Love My Own, but the emphasis is on As I Love My Own. Not sure if that was a bit of tongue in cheek humor from McKuen himself, but WHOA NELLY, THERE'S A NAKED COUPLE ON THE COVER!
How is the music? Very good. There is something about these records, whether it's McKuen, or Don Costa or an endless list of composers, arrangers, and conductors, that seems to be... let me put it this way, there's a shortage of this. Maybe because I didn't experience this albums first hand, but there seemed to be an abundance of these types of records. You can find Percy Faith everywhere too. I find them interesting from a historical, musical perspective. This was the music that made the world go 'round, and people wanted it because they wanted good music. Yesterday's big record purchase of the week is today's bargain bin discovery. For 30 to 40 minutes, I revive the sleeping dream.