‘Blue Rose’ Found Through A Sampler

Originally posted April 2, 2008

The offers came printed on the record sleeves: a collection of tracks from recent albums for two dollars. All you had to do was clip the coupon and send it in with your cash. I don’t know anyone who ever did.

But a lot of people must have, because at most used record stores you can find a pretty good selection of them, those double-LP sets with their covers showing some of the coolest artwork around. They were the sampler sets sent out by labels to promote their new albums by artists well-known and obscure alike, collections of new music with –sometimes – pages of promotional text and pictures inside the gatefold. I imagine that somewhere there’s an annotated history of record label samplers, but for now, I’m going to estimate that they showed up in, oh, 1968 or 1969, and were a pretty common marketing tool for a while.

(I don’t know if samplers survived when the listening audience began to fragment in the late 1970s, with disco, new wave, punk, funk and several forms of R&B beginning to pull listeners away from the mass audience. Of the samplers in my LP collection, the latest is from 1977. If someone out there knows, let me know.)

The technical business term for them is loss-leaders, I think, meaning, get the customers in the store by selling some things at a loss and then geting them interested in things sold at regular prices. It wasn’t quite like that, as the samplers went out to listeners’ homes, but the idea was the same: Give the listeners a cheap taste, say thirty or so songs from thirty new albums, pique their interests and make them want the albums.

What was even craftier was that the samplers were marketed as something only a little short of a public service. Here’s a blurb from The 1969 Warner-Reprise Record Show, subtitled Son of Songbook:

Songbook was our very first Record Show-type compilation of many of our groovier artists’ work into a non-commercial, cooperative double album. Non-commercial because these affairs were conceived as a means of acquainting you and yours with artists with whom you’d most likely remain ignorant without a little shove of this sort. . . . What we do feel that the crew who populate this vinyl showcase have in common is the right to be heard and at least considered by you, our faceless but all-important consumer.”

No doubt Warner-Reprise lost money on the samplers, but they must have been successful at bringing in new sales, because they kept on coming. And the ads for them popped up everywhere. I found one – a slick insert – still inside the jacket of a pretty obscure –if very good – 1969 album by an obscure duo: Living in the Country by Levitt & McClure. That insert offered listeners the 1969 Warner-Reprise samplers mentioned above, Songbook and Record Show.

The same two samplers are offered on the inner jacket of Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon, released in 1970, along with samplers entitled The Big Ball, Schlagers, Zapped (a single LP package), and Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies (a three-LP package). The price was a dollar per LP.

On the other side of the sleeve, where the mail-in coupon lived, there were a few notes from the marketing folks at Warner-Reprise. One of those notes read: “For those of you who have serious reservations about Youth, Artistic License, and Hard Rock, we recommend you stick to our “Schlagers!” epic. We suggest this mostly because we hate getting nasty letters.”

Schlagers had two LPs of music from artists like Petula Clark, Peter, Paul & Mary, Trini Lopez, Glenn Yarbrough, the Everly Brothers, Frank Sinatra and so on. There was some pop-rock there, but mostly in the vein of the Association, Harper’s Bizarre and Kenny Rogers & The First Edition. Stuff safe for Mom, you know.

I have five such samplers in my collection (or at least, that’s what I found when I went looking last evening; I may have missed one or two):

The most interesting track on The 1969 Warner-Reprise Record Show is Fats Domino’s take on the Beatles’ “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey.”

The Works is a Warner-Reprise sampler from 1975 that includes “Seeds” by Chris Ducey, the folk-rocker turned country rocker whose argument with a record company ten years earlier had resulted in my friend Bobby Jameson becoming Chris Lucey for the album Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest.

Limo is another Warner-Reprise sampler, this time from 1977. Two tracks jump out at me: “California Dreamin’” by Eddie Hazel, long-time guitarist for George Clinton; the credit reads “Produced, pronounced, professed and prophesized by George Clinton and Eddie Hazel. And “In The Mood” by the Henhouse Five Plus Too: Chickens doing the Glenn Miller tune (evidently the brainchild of Ray Stevens of “Ahab the Arab,” “The Streak” and other novelties).

Peaches, subtitled “Pick of the Crop,” is a 1974 sampler from Capricorn Records. Nestling among this collection of Southern rock and funk by artists from throughout the Capricorn roster is a performance of “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” the Otis Redding/Jerry Butler tune, by country singer Kitty Wells.

And then there’s The Music People, the three-record 1972 sampler from Columbia that inspired this post. This one has selections from across a few years, and the most interesting track is a performance from a Woody Guthrie tribute concert in 1968: Bob Dylan and The Band performing “Grand Coulee Dam.”

It was also The Music People that brought Blue Rose to my attention a couple of weeks ago, when the group’s single, “My Impersonal Life” popped up in a Baker’s Dozen. That happened some months after I’d added a rip of the Columbia sampler to my music collection. When Blue Rose popped up, some folks left notes with a little more information about the group.

Bunky Boy said: “Blue Rose was one of those little gems that you find in the delete bin in the record store (you remember those right?) I played the grooves off of that Baby and loved the entire album. . . . Terry Furlong wrote most of the tunes and played guitars. John Uribe on bass. Michael Omartian did keys. . . . There’s a whole list of other top notch players on the album.”

A regular correspondent, Yah Shure, said, “[T]he Blue Rose LP is worth looking for. You posted the 45 version of ‘My Impersonal Life,’ and the LP version has a longer, gorgeous instrumental finish that ends cold. The 45 fadeout was created by splicing on a repeat of the hook, a trick that Epic used now and then. The follow-up single, ‘Sweet Thing’ is a bit bluesier, but with the same mellow feel as ‘My Impersonal Life.’”

I was intrigued. The sampler did its job. So I did some digging online and found a copy of the album. And it’s a pretty good piece of work. The opener, “My Impersonal Life” – which was edited down and altered for the single, as Yah Shure noted – is probably the best song on the record, but not by much. I also really like a couple other tracks: “Debt of Fools,” a bluesy track that reminds me a little bit of the Eagles, and “Sweet Thing,” a great ballad with some nice horns pulling it along;

Some notes about a few of the other tracks: “Takin’ Love And Run” reminds me of Badfinger with its crunchy power chords; “I’ll Never Be In Love Again” is a nice country-rock piece; “Chasing The Glow Of A Candle” is over-orchestrated and has its vocals over-stacked, and the metronome sound is really odd.

The rest of the album is good, and I’m glad I picked it up. The vocals are well done with harmonies and stacks that generally work but sometimes seem to be a little too much. I do hear echoes of other acts from 1972 – the Eagles and Badfinger, as I mentioned, but also Seals & Crofts, maybe Bread (and that’s not a put-down; Bread was a great pop group) and the country side of the Doobie Brothers – but those echoes are not surprising and not a detriment. Everyone was listening to everyone else, and those influences just put Blue Rose in 1972’s musical mainstream

Personnel on the record was: Terry Furlong and Dave Thomson on guitars, with Harvey Mandell on guitar on “I’ll Never Be In Love Again”; Dave Thomson on bass, with John Uribe taking bass on “Takin’ Love and Run” and “Home”; Stu Perry on drums, with Don Poncher taking drums on “Takin’ Love and Run” and “Home”; horns by the Elijah Band Horn Section; conga by King Errison; and arrangements and piano by Michael Omartian. Terry Furlong produced the record.

Track list:
My Impersonal Life
Takin’ Love And Run
I’ll Never Be In Love Again
Debt Of Fools
Chasin’ The Glow Of A Candle
Sweet Thing
Make You Happy
Home
Show You A Way To Have Fun
Look What We’re Doin’

Blue Rose – Blue Rose [1969]

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4 Responses to “‘Blue Rose’ Found Through A Sampler”

  1. ACcountryFan Says:

    Yes…the chicken clucking rendition of “In the Mood” is definitely Ray Stevens. He put the song out late in 1976 as The Henhouse Five Plus Too and then in 1977 when it was released in the United Kingdom it was released under his own name. The b-side of “In the Mood” is another chicken clucker called “Classical Cluck”. Ray made one more chicken clucking recording…it came in 1985 in the form of “Thus Cacked Henrietta” based upon “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, theme song from the movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

  2. ‘Hallelujah! It’s A Car From Idaho!’ « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] ago, when I was poking through my records for things to rip, I came across the Columbia sampler The Music People, one of the samplers in my collection about which I wrote not long […]

  3. Packing, Greetings & Gypsy « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] “Rock & Roll Heaven,” which he co-wrote. But I’ve also heard from a few others. One was Dave Thomson, who played bass and guitar with Blue Rose and wrote several of the songs on that band’s 1972 […]

  4. By Popular Demand: Levitt & McClure « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] April, when I posted the Blue Rose album, I reviewed the path that brought me to the music: samplers. I related how I’d found one […]

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