Rocks Off's Haul from the Austin Record Convention

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"Never come with a list."

Those words of advice came from a vendor about four hours into the fall Austin Record Convention, at which point we'd purchased only a single piece of vinyl, a Lovin' Spoonful greatest-hits album complete with commemorative, frameable photos of the band in the sleeve. We weren't interested in collectible Beatles records or Elvis 45s. We wanted the obscure stuff. We didn't find it.

We heard a lot of this: "Yeah, I have that record at home. But I don't bring it to conventions because that stuff doesn't sell." Meanwhile we're standing there, crumpled list in one hand, cash in the other. Regarding Mel Tormé, one vendor told us. "I have that record in my personal collection. It's in my beatnik section."

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And here is a some advice for vendors: if you can't take the time to organize your selection, we are not going to take the time to look through it. When there are 100 sellers, the last thing we want to do is spend an hour flipping through thousands of dusty unalphabetized and uncategorized sleeves. On to bigger and better things. So our haul was modest, but we did find some cool stuff.

Cal Tjader, Soul Sauce

Tjader plays the vibraphone, and the title track of this album, "Guachi Guaro" (a.k.a. "Soul Sauce" ) is a vibe-tastic frenetic cover of a Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo song that ended up being wildly more popular than the original.

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The Swingin' Medallions, Double Shot

The song you know from this album is "Double Shot of My Baby's Love," a chaotic homage to the hangover called love. There are eight guys in this band and every single one of them sings on every single song. "Double Shot" is a cover originally by Dick Holler, the guy who wrote "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron." The whole album is covers, including "Barefootin'", "Louie Louie" and a version of "Satisfaction" that is halfway between Otis Redding and the Rolling Stones. Frat rock at its best.

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Vanilla Fudge, Vanilla Fudge

Rocks Off just realized our purchases this weekend were pretty cover-heavy. Vanilla Fudge won our hearts with their muddied psychedelic cover of The Supremes' "Keep Me Hanging On." This was their first album, released in 1967, and the guys look so square on the back cover.

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Earl Grant, Bali Ha'i

Grant was a keyboardist who dabbled in Exotica with a song called "House of Bamboo" which it turns out is goddamn nigh impossible to find. (Here is a video of Southern Culture on the Skids covering it.) We settled for this album, a collection of instrumentals including Rogers and Hammerstein's song from South Pacific and Heyward and Gershwin's "Summertime."

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The Mar-Keys, Last Night

At double digits, this one was a splurge, but our obsession with all things Stax is as strong as ever, and this is an original copy of the Mar-Keys' first album, released on Atlantic in 1961. The Mar-Keys played backup with everyone from Otis Redding to Isaac Hayes. They were the horn section of Booker T. and the MGs, who toured together as the Stax Soul Revue.

The next Houston record convention will be Sunday, Oct. 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hilton Southwest, I-59 and Hillcroft. Admission is $3.

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