I've been going to Amoeba in Hollywood once a week to look for records. Typically I have something in mind when I go - usually an album by a band I know I like, but don't already own. It's astounding how many vinyl LPs are on offer - a portal into the 80s when mega record emporia abounded. Once I choose my main purchase, I move on to the $1 racks. Although the monetary investment is minimal, I try to select from the bargain records wisely to avoid having a collection of never-listened-to vinyl.
I was particularly lucky on my last trip. In the discount section titled "Lounge" I found Family Portrait, a sampler from A & M records. I could not find a date anywhere but assume the recording to be from 1967. The purchase posed minimal risk as I was certain in my admiration for Sergio Mendes, Herb Alpert, Wes Montgomery and Burt Bacharach. Family Portrait offered a number of pleasant surprises including a version of Fly Me to the Moon sung in Spanish by The Sandpipers and a delicious morsel of bossa nova by Tamba 4 called Dolphin. My next trip to Amoeba will be dedicated to Tamba 4 in fact.
Of course there are a few strange choices peppered throughout the album, the most alarming taking form as a Liza Minella offering which refuses to languish in the California sunshine along with the other tracks. A musical WTF? She's not pictured on the album cover either, sitting on a picnic blanket with the girls in minidresses holding parasols.*
I found a recording of traditional Japanese melodies performed by flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal and harpist Lily Laskine. Being a fan of both Rampal and shakuhachi music, I didn't hesitate in liberating the geishas from the $1 rack. I liked that the album was titled Sakura.
The previous owner of the record had scribbled his or her impressions of each song. I found myself agreeing with nearly every assessment. The fifth song was "exquisite, slightly Oriental - lyric, slow, plaintive and archaic." Most of the comments included "not really Oriental." This was also my main criticism. I would have also added, "does not express the earthiness of the shakuhachi's voice nor does the harp defy European tonalities in the way the koto does". But as I do not plan on reselling the record, figured that my comments would go unread anyway.
I rememeber liking Chuck Mangione when I was small kid learning to play the trumpet. It doesn't matter what the music even sounds like, Chuck's smile alone merited the purchase. Not to mention the white bird pinned to his shirt.
*Liza Minelli is included in the cover photo. She's next to Herb Alpert in the lower left corner wearing a white sleeveless dress. I only noticed this today. (1 July 2012). Nevertheless I still find her song incongruent with the rest of the album.