A hobby without borders

Thai record sleeve

Photo by bunky's pickle

It is often said that music is a universal language. That is something that I have always believed to be true. A lot of times there are no words in any language that could possibly describe the feelings that music evokes. It is even possible to appreciate an outstanding piece of music that has lyrics in a language that one may not speak. To go along with that, it seems that vinyl records are a beloved format all around the world.

The following two articles briefly examine the state of crate digging in Thailand and Kenya. It is great to see that family-owned shops are striving in other countries and people of all ages are eager to explore music by purchasing vintage records. This CNN Go piece about Thailand, follows Chris Menist, a British DJ, who patiently sorts through records in hopes of finding a gem.

“Because all the artist titles were in Thai script, and the album covers rarely give an indication of the style of music, I had to go through each shop section by section, record by record. Never in all my years of collecting have I had that intense or robotic record sifting experience.” -Chris Menist

While he calls the process robotic, I think it is actually great that he took so much time giving each record a chance, instead of making snap judgments based on cover art.

Likewise, this Daily Nation article shows that music fans in Kenya treasure their music findings and enjoy every note.

“I create time to listen to LPs and it is not the sort of music that you can listen to in a hurry. Discipline is critical.” -Dr. George Onyango Ooko

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Wise words from Jerry of Jerry’s Records

Jerry's Records

Photo by Hane C. Lee

“And if you’re young, and you’re trying to build a music collection, why would you want to pay 10 to 15 dollars for CDs, or any other type of music, when there are millions of classic stuff out there that you can pick up for 50 cents or a dollar at a flea market, or three dollars at my store or other stores.” -Jerry Weber, Jerry’s Records

Yesterday Complex posted a really cool interview with Jerry Weber, owner of Jerry’s Records in Pittsburgh. I absolutely love the quote above, which is an excerpt from the interview. Not only does the quote epitomize the idea behind this blog, but it also reflects on the enormity of his business. With more than a million records at his store, it would be a crime to go in there with a closed or snub mindset. I can only imagine what it feels like walking into a store like that. Overwhelming, I am certain, but that should only make a person want to take a risk and pick something totally unknown from the dollar bin. The store has made it on numerous best-of lists, learn why by reading the Complex interview here.

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Literally checking out records

Record collection at Grandview Heights Public LibraryPeople that think public libraries are only for books are missing out big time. Not that books are not awesome on their own, but it is exciting to hear that vinyl records are now available at a library in Columbus, Ohio. With the help of three area record stores, Grandview Heights Public Library now owns a small collection of 31 records. Taking note that vinyl sales have been growing, the library is experimenting with the initial collection and if demand becomes high, they plan on expanding it. Out of the 31 records, there are currently 21 checked out.

It is the first time in many years that the library has had records available. According to the library’s Web site, about 20 years ago, people were able to choose from thousands of records. It makes you wonder what happened to those records! Regardless, this is fantastic news. Just today I went to pick up some books and return a Nirvana CD at my local library in Los Angeles and thought, “If libraries are cool enough to carry Nirvana CDs, why can they not offer vinyl?”

The collection at Grandview Heights is not too diverse at the moment, but there are a lot of hip options, such as, Sufjan Stevens and The Clash, which will surely attract younger crowds. It sounds to me like some librarians need go raid the dollar bins at those Columbus record stores! For more information, read this article by ColumbusLocalNews.com or visit the Grandview Heights Web site.

Are there any libraries in your city that have vinyl records available? If not, but they did start offering them, would you actually go check some out? Discuss in the comment sections.

Follow the jump to see the list of 31 records available at Grandview Heights.

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February guest post: Yes – Fragile

The Overdue Collection AgencyEvery month a guest blogger will review one of his/her own dollar-bin discoveries. Guest bloggers will be music lovers who have reached a High Fidelity type of expertise, being record store employees or otherwise changing the world of vinyl records. Thoughtfully doing the later, Michael Lopez from the Overdue Collection Agency is providing the guest post for February. Not only am I honored to have him author one of the first posts on Awfully Crate, but also to be the inaugural guest blogger!

As the founder of the Overdue Collection Agency, Lopez is not only committed to producing remastered albums on 180 gram vinyl, but is also lending a hand to those in need. As a non-profit organization, the Overdue Collection Agency donates 100 percent of profits to a charity of the artist’s choice. On top of that, there is a record subscription service, which entitles members to exclusive color-editions of each release.

Lopez is gearing up for the label’s first two releases, which are the reissues of Why We Fight and Ribbons & Sugar by one of my favorite Seattle bands, Gatsbys American Dream (the relation to Awfully Crate‘s first-ever review is pure coincidence). This will be the first time that any music by the band has been available on vinyl and fans from all over the world are helping fund the project via Kickstarter. While the $5,500 goal to cover expenses for pressing the vinyl has already been met, support is still needed to take care of remastering, jackets and licensing. Backers are rewarded with a variety of great items and Lopez is doing a great job of updating everyone on the whole re-issuing process. Please consider becoming a backer today. The project will end on Saturday, February 19. Gatsbys American Dream has selected to donate profits to Water.org, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization committed to providing safe drinking water and sanitation to people in developing countries.

Read Lopez’ review of Fragile by Yes after the jump.

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Tampa loses its 30-year-old record store

Vinyl Fever Tampa logoWhile the focus of this blog is on reviews, I would also like to post occasional news about record stores and events. It is a shame that my first news post is a depressing one. Tampa’s Vinyl Fever closed this past weekend. The store was born in 1981 and in addition to new and used vinyl, it stocked CDs and all sorts of music memorabilia. Last September, Vinyl Fever made the top 25 in a Rolling Stone article entitled “The Best Record Stores in the USA.” The members of the staff were great supporters of the Tampa music scene and scheduled local and touring artists for in-store performances. Amazingly, customers were able to take gift cards from other stores and exchange them for store credit. That is something I have never heard of! Unfortunately, I have never visited Vinyl Fever, but it is pretty obvious that it was an incredible place with an awesome staff that really cared about music and its customers.

“It has been a great run!” said store owner/manager Lee Wolfson in a press release. “We feel honored and fortunate to have lived such a long business life doing what we love. We would have liked to make it to 33 and 1/3 [years], but the combination of industry changes, a difficult economy, and the upcoming expiration of our lease has forced our hand.”

To read more coverage about the closing, check out Tampa Bay Online and the St. Petersburg Times. Also, follow Vinyl Fever on Twitter and Facebook to read recent updates.

People shopping at Vinyl Fever

Photo by Melanie Levi

If anybody has ever shopped at Vinyl Fever, please feel free to leave some thoughts in the comment section. What were some of your favorite dollar-bin finds from there?

Video coverage and footage of Wye Oak performing at Vinyl Fever after the jump.

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V/A – The Great Gatsby Original Soundtrack

The Great Gatsby Original SoundtrackVarious Artists
The Great Gatsby Original Soundtrack
Paramount Records ℗1974
Location of purchase: Easy Street Records (Queen Anne), Seattle, Wash.
Price: $0.99
Additional note: 2-record set

The peculiar thing about Jay Gatsby, the main character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby, is that he masks his inner turmoil with a dashing and charming personality and grandiose mansion parties. He always seems like he has no care in the world, but inside he is fervently fighting to contain his romantic feelings for the married Daisy Buchanan. In that sense, the soundtrack to Jack Clayton’s film adaptation of Fitzgerald’s novel is a good reflection of Gatsby. The sounds are all joyous and good-natured, rarely showing any sign of tension or deceit, which can be both a good and bad thing.

In this 2-record release, supervised and conducted by Nelson Riddle, elegant instrumentations and cheerful flair conquer all. The opening track, “What’ll I Do,” is one of the few with vocals, in this case featuring those of Bill Atherton. The song is dramatically nostalgic, but still very easygoing. It is the type of song that one could see Julie Andrews singing in a luscious field of flowers.

Another song that features vocals is “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue,” showcasing the pipes of celebrated ’20s musician Nick Lucas. It is a total flapper ditty with quick and fun movements. Likewise, “I’m Gonna Charleston Back to Charleston,” another tune with Lucas on vocals, has a great horn section and builds a nice sense of pizzaz. “Kitten on the Keys” and “It Had to Be You” are instrumentals that even without vocals emit the enthusiasm of Gatsby’s glitzy parties.

One thing that is frustrating about the soundtrack is that pieces, such as, “Tom and Myrtle” and “Myrtle’s Dead,” which are supposed to be grave and reflect risque affairs fall a bit flat. While they are moody, the friction between instruments is not strong enough to reflect a corrupt situation. Even “Jordan’s Tango” is a bit bland, there is no lustful excitement that the dance deserves.

Despite some faults, the music is fun and a good companion for showing how easy it is to falsely romanticize the American dream. Having won an Academy Award in the “Best Music” category, the soundtrack is multifaceted in the way that it can simply add light to any space or if the listener decides to look for deeper meaning, it is good for reflection.

Find the full track listing and a sample track after the jump.

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