Record collecting can be a scattershot hobby. Sometimes you find gold, but most of the time is spent sifting through a whole lotta scratchy Bert Kaempfert records. Some of the artists on this list will be as recognizable to many people as the Pitchfork year-end list is to me; either way, here's one overly dedicated record collector's sideways Top Ten (eight albums and two LP's worth of singles).
I, Brute Force -- Confections of Love
If Frank Zappa had wanted to be Robert Goulet instead of in a doo-wop group, the Mothers of Invention's first album probably would have sounded like this. I, Brute Force is actually songwriter Stephen Friedland, and on his debut he not-so-subtly parodies the type of adult pop pap the Columbia label continued to push long past the birth of rock 'n roll. With songs like "To Sit on a Sandwich" and "Tapeworm of Love," though, it's clear something different is going on here. Friedland's clever songs are aided immeasurably by the equally crazed (over) production of John Simon. (Columbia 1967)
The rest (in no particular order):
Legendary Masked Surfers -- Rarities
A nice 2-LP bootleg set compiling rare tracks from throughout Jan & Dean's career, allegedly released by the artists themselves. (Blue Pacific 1970s)
Bob Martin -- Midwest Farm Disaster
Sometimes, an album demands to be purchased due to its cover. That was the case with this obscure LP, which features a picture of a man with a guitar... sitting on top of a giant pig... with a rope around its neck tied to a skeleton lying on the ground. It was a bonus that it appears to be autographed by weirdo folkie Patrick Sky, and the songs contained inside were as good as the cover. Recorded with a band of crack Nashville sidemen, Martin's songs display the same sort of wry observational skill of early '70s John Prine. (RCA 1972)
Odetta and Larry -- The Tin Angel Presents...
The folk scare begins here? Well, maybe not quite, as the Weavers/Pete Seeger (and I'm sure others instrumental in the folk boom) had LPs out before this one. But the raw power of Odetta's singing and guitar playing would melt many of those down into ashtrays. (Fantasy 1955)
Charlemagne -- Detour Allure
Local songwriter Carl Johns has left town, but not before releasing a vinyl version of his final work together with the Detour Allure band. (Science of Sound 2006)
Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs -- Wooly Bully
A surprisingly tough LP to track down and a rockin' record as well. This album has the added bonus of including some of the songs from the group's impossible to afford pre-fame singles. (MGM 1965)
Nico -- The Marble Index
After years of searching, I finally turned up a copy, ironically very shortly after it was finally reissued on vinyl. It's easy to see why this album stiffed when it was released, because it's about as otherworldly sounding as '60s "pop" music gets. (Elektra 1969)
The Churls -- Send Me No Flowers
Another one for the "finally tracked it down" file, but somewhat disappointing compared to their great first LP as progressive leanings begin to take over. (A&M 1969)
And a couple album's worth of singles:
The Crossfires -- "One Potato Two Potato"/"That'll Be the Day"
The last gasp of the Turtles' surf-rock incarnation, and a proto-garage record at that. They must have played a show with The Sonics before creating this grungy little monster. (Lucky Token 1964)
The Cowsills -- "All I Really Want to Be Is Me"/"And the Next Day Too"
The obscure debut single from the long-running family band. Yes, they play their own instruments! (JoDa 1965)
The Accents -- "Howlin' For My Baby"/"Wherever There's a Will"
A textbook example of Midwest rock, circa 1964: White boys trashing up an old Howlin' Wolf number. (Bangar 1964)
Boyce & Hart -- "I'm Gonna Blow You a Kiss In the Wind"/"Smilin'"
This record wasn't a hit, but seems to be remembered by a lot of people because B&H performed it on Bewitched. The last record they released as a duo, it's a perfect coda to their days as a hitmaking machine. (Aquarian 1970)
The Tokens -- "Animal"/"Bathroom Wall"
Generally only remembered these days for "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," The Tokens had their own production company and record label in the '60s. The released tons of records, some of which are really weird psych/doo-wop like this one, which later turned up on their notorious "Intercourse" album. (Warner Bros. 1968)
Masters Apprentices -- "Undecided"/"Wars or Hands of Time"
The debut single by the Masters, hitmakers in their native Australia but mostly unknown elsewhere. The killer B-side, said to be the first Australian pop song to address the Vietnam War, can be heard on the Nuggets II box set. (Astor 1966, Australia only)
Phil Ochs -- "Outside a Small Circle of Friends"/"Miranda"
It's still amazing to me that "Circle," one of Ochs' most biting and frank social commentaries, was released as a single. (A&M 1967)
Jack Scott -- "Two Timin' Woman"/"I Need Your Love"
The rare second single by the pride of Canada rockabilly, Giovanni Dominico Scafone. (ABC-Paramount 1957)
Joey Edwards -- "Trapped"/"How Big is Big"
Bubblegum aficionados know Joey Edwards much better by his real name, Joey Levine, the voice of countless yummy treasures in the '60s & '70s. (Columbia 1966)
The Turtles -- "Outside Chance"/"We'll Meet Again"
An inexplicably tough-to-find early single by the Turtles (despite being released twice), "Outside Chance" is also an early writing credit for Warren Zevon. (White Whale 1966)