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Mahoning Valley music

Record collectors seek out

Love and War never sold as many CDs as Bon Jovi. Maurice Moore isn’t in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame alongside George Clinton. Poobah never headlined stadiums like Pink Floyd.

But the local acts rival those more famous performers with one group — music collectors.

Love and War, a hard rock band founded in Youngstown, only released one CD, but that 1994 release “War Rages On” has sold for $300 on Discogs, a website where fans can catalog their collections and buy / sell music. The asking prices for the two copies of “War Rages On” currently on eBay are $688.40 and $749.

Moore, who lives in Warren, may be the local record holder on Discogs. His 1976 funk / soul album “Maurice” sold for more than $2,000 on Discogs last May. It came in at No. 13 on Discogs’ list of most valuable albums sold that month, where “Maurice” was mixed among rarities by Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie and the Grateful Dead.

Poobah’s first album “Let Me In,” released in 1972 and recorded at Youngstown’s Peppermint Studios, has been sought out by collectors for decades.

“In the mid ’80s, I started getting mail from all over the world asking if they could buy those albums,” Poobah’s Jim Gustafson said.

Sales between $400 and $900 aren’t uncommon, and Gustafson said a doctor in Quebec told him he paid $2,500 combined for the two copies in his collection.

“I just sighed and thought, ‘I wish I had a box of those old records,” he said.

It wasn’t always that way.

Jeff Burke, owner of Record Connection in McKinley Heights, started his business in 1980 by buying out the inventory of White Wing Records in Niles. Part of that inventory included at least three boxes with 30 unopened albums each of Poobah’s 1979 album “Steamroller.”

“I couldn’t get rid of them,” Burke said. “I kept marking them down and marking them down. Toward the end, I was selling them for a dollar.”

That LP now sells for as much as $400 on Discogs. Not including the broken record available from Sweden, the cheapest copy currently offered for sale is $250.

Hard rock reigns

Love and War drummer David Hope has a similar story. When he moved to Arizona, a box with 25 to 50 leftover “War Rages On” CDs ended up in a dumpster.

“It’s kind of humbling that people want it that badly, but in my head — and I’m sure Rob (Kane) and Sean (Magee) would agree — there are a thousand things we wish we could change (on that CD),” Hope said. “One of the reasons we broke up was the stress created by the unhappiness with that record.”

Lazarus, another local hard rock / hair metal band, was attracting enough interest among collectors for its old music that the band signed a deal last fall with Demon Doll Records to re-release 1992’s “Miss B Haven” and 1994’s “Bombz Away.”

“It’s an underground community and that’s all they do, collect unsigned bands and self-produced albums, the rarer and harder to get the better,” Lazarus guitar player Ron Williams said in a September interview. “It’s crazy what they sell for online.”

Overseas interest

Backatcha Records, a London-based label, re-released Moore’s “Maurice” on vinyl in 2018 and a Japanese label put out a CD version.

“Soul music from America has what they call ‘It,'” Moore said in a 2018 interview. “It will make your body move, especially when the bass player and the drummer lock in. They told me, ‘When your music comes on, the dance floor floods, it packs.”

The overseas market seems to drive the demand for these self-released titles. Those pricey Love and War CDs on eBay are being sold by owners in Japan, one of Moore’s early singles is for sale from Germany, and a dealer in Spain wants $250 for a 1974 single of “Mystifying Me” by Youngstown’s The Todd, which was included on the 2015 compilation “Brown Acid: The First Trip.”

Sonny Hrenovcik (Hopcheck), who owns Underdog Records in Hubbard, was a member of The Todd and wrote “Mystifying Me.” He doesn’t see the same interest from local buyers that those online sales indicate. Both he and Burke said area record buyers are more interested in albums by local favorites like Left End, Glass Harp and Mom’s Apple Pie, which started here but were signed to national labels.

Their albums were printed in large enough quantities that they don’t command the same prices online as some of those self-released efforts, although the Glass Harp single “Where Did My World Come From?” / “She Told Me,” released on United Audio in 1969 before the band signed with Decca Records, has sold for $200 on Discogs.

Glass Harp drummer John Sferra said, “It’s flattering that people still enjoy the music. I guess people just like the nostalgia aspect of it. When you get older, you remember where you were when you heard that song, what you were doing. And for the younger people who are into these recordings, it’s a nostalgia for the old times they didn’t live through.”

Collecting local history

Dean Anshutz didn’t grow up in Youngstown, but he calls it home when he isn’t touring as the drummer of Red Wanting Blue or backing other artists. He started collecting music recorded at Peppermint Studios and released on Peppermint Records but now searches for singles and albums released by Tammy, Marjon and other area labels. He also sells records out of an antique shop in Columbiana.

“I sell records just so I can buy more Youngstown records,” he said.

Anshutz and Anthony LaMarca, a member of The War on Drugs who releases his own music under the name The Building, occasionally do DJ sets as the Peppermint Pals, where they spin nothing but local records.

“I’m not from Youngstown, so everything’s new to me,” Anshutz said. “Polka records is where it started. There were just so many polka records put out, and they were cheap to get. It turned into wanting to find everything I could from Peppermint.

“Tons of this stuff goes over to Japan and Europe. I’m trying to keep some of it here in Youngstown. I’m hoping at some point to have some type of museum-type collection where you could see everything recorded in Youngstown. A lot of people don’t realize how much music came out of here.”

Anshutz has found his share of rarities, sometimes for a bargain price, sometimes not. He paid $180 last year for the 45 rpm “Sheer Magic” / “Wonderful to Be Loved” by Ice-Cold-Love on Tammy Records. While he has a couple of original copies of Poobah’s “Steamroller” and one of the band’s 1976 release “U.S. Rock,” he hasn’t pulled the trigger yet on a copy of “Let Me In.”

“There’s a good chance I can get that one in 2021,” he said.

Scarcity creates demand

It’s not that someone needs a $500 copy of “Let Me In” to hear its psychedelic rock.

The album can be heard for free on Spotify and other streaming services.

“You can’t get an Mp3 autographed,” Gustafson said. “I’m not knocking Mp3s. These days, they’re very convenient, but you can’t beat the sound of a good vinyl album or CD.”

Cheaper versions in those formats also are available. Ripple Music released “Let Me In” on CD with bonus tracks for $10 and a two-LP reissue with bonus tracks can be purchased from the label for $27.

Hope would prefer people skip paying premium prices for Love and War and listen to Apocalyptic Lovers’ “Redemption: Vol. 1” instead. The original Love and War lineup re-recorded several of those “War Rages On” songs under the new name and had the new recordings mixed by Michael Wagener, who’s worked with such acts as Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, Dokken and Alice Cooper.

“These songs sound 500 times better now,” Hope said of the 2018 release.

With the help of two international distribution deals, “War Rages On” sold about 5,700 copies. With better sound quality and the help of streaming, Hope thought they could sell 15,000 copies of “Redemption.”

‘Then I quickly became aware of how terrible physical sales are today,” he said.

But the quality of the music has less to do with secondary market prices than the scarcity of the original record.

“It’s different for everybody, but I guess it’s having something tangible,” Anshutz said. “I have this thing I’ve been looking for for a long time. And there’s ego involved too. It’s like having a classic car that’s mint from the ’60s. There’s not many out there.

“It’s a very small community that even cares about this. Oh, we’re bidding on this record. There are 19 bidding, and only two or three care enough to bid $100 or $200, but those two or three really care.”

With people unable to go see live music because of the COVID-19 pandemic and with discretionary spending on dining out and other forms of entertainment down, some consumers may be funneling that extra cash into hobbies like their record collections.

“I think it’s two-fold,” Hope said. “Older fans of the hair metal, ’80s rock scene are bored listening to the same things over and over again and are out there digging, trying to find things they might have missed out on.

“But it’s also teenagers. I get reports through Spotify and Apple and can see the age groups streaming our music. Our biggest audience is (age) 45 to 55, but the next biggest age group is 18 to 22.”

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