Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hyde Park Records

I first became acquainted with the Kenwood/Hyde Park area as many people have, via the infamous Leopold and Loeb case, now nearly 100 years old.  I took a walking tour as part of the Chicago Historic Museum and I have been returning to the area since, at times without any real reason.  I was surprised to find that there was a record store in my midst as I jaunted around the neighboorhood during my visits.  I rose early to head down south and see what I could find.

Many parallels can be drawn between this store and Dusty Groove: both specialize in jazz, soul and largely shun other genres.  However while Dusty Groove is far more narrow minded in that regard, Hyde Park Records shows far more lenancy.  They do stock some 'rock' records and have a huge trove of 99 cent mixed style records of varying qualities - Dusty Groove would never bother with such trifles.

I moved immediately to the jazz section as it is the flagship of the store.  I looked at a number of releases but decided against all of them for various reasons.  That being said if I had more money and space, I'd have bought them all:

1) John Coltrane - 'Giant Steps'.  I recently bought the reissue to replace my simple 70s "That's Jazz" copy but I still have a hankering for a real Atlantic release from the 60s or earlier.  The quality and price did not jive with me, especially considering I just threw down $50+ on a 180gram copy.
2) Dorothy Ashby - "Dorothy's Harp" - I became a Dorothy Ashby fan when I found out that Madlib had sampled her work for "Ashby Road".  I have a bunch of mp3s and the vinyl is regularly hard to come by at all or expensive as it is all OOP.  One day.............
3) Flora Purim and Airto Moreria - "Humble People" I am glad I did not buy this when I see copies on for 4.99.....
4) Airto Moreria - "Identity" I come across this record seemingly ALL THE TIME and its driving me to madness.  I don't know that I'll love it but surely I love Airto's work....why does this record haunt me everywhere I go???

I initially saw the release I was destined to bring home but after an extended look I put it away.  Then a short time later I had the revelation that I MUST have that album...and of course someone was in that section.  Like an amphetamine addled maniac I tried to look elsewhere while regularly jerking my head in the direction of 'JAZZ MISC F' to see if I had my 'in' available.

Eventually I did and I ran back to grab the disc that sits before me now, hours later, comfortably at home.  While I am not familliar with any of the musicians that play on it, this 'wildcard' of a piece for my collection had a few characteristics that made it enticing:

1) $10 - and excellent condition
2) recorded in a jail
3) recorded in a Chicago
4) recorded on Friday the 13th!

Ironically this 'venue' (considered a 'label' on only has two other releases: a live album from B.B. King from the year previous and the Triton College Jazz Band who also played there in '71.  I went to Triton for 4 semesters to transfer credits in the early '00s and the campus is only about a mile from where I live now, and where I grew up.  THAT release has shot to the top of my want list.  Eyes are peeled....

'Friday the 13th - Cook County Jail' is actually an excellent record with some staggering guitar work that jumps out - interesting since Jimmy McGriff gets top billing and he is known for his work on the Hammond.  Soul-Jazz is not a genre I am fully familiar with and I do not believe I have any other releases in my collection that would fall into this style but it surely appeals to me.  

The best kind of find is the one you were not looking for but end up so pleased with.  I spent about 25 minutes looking through the lower bins full of 99 cent releases and was very tempted to grab a MINT copy of Wham! 'Make It Big' with zero ironic intent (that is some great pop music) but decided mp3s will suffice.  All of that aside, the best new music I discovered may be the one I did not take home.  5 minutes into my diggin', I had to approach the counter and ask what they were pumping through the speakers.  It was the catchiest jazz I've heard in a minute: it had an ethnic flavor, funk and fusion elements and it was addictive.  They showed me the CD - they did not have it on vinyl (I looked) - so I downloaded it when I got home.  It has been on serious rotation since and shows no signs of slowing down.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reckless Records, Loop

I set out to head down to the Electric Line and visit Hyde Park Records this morning when I determined that my walk from Union Station Canal St. could lead me past Reckless if I diverted about .25 miles. That's reasonable!

Smaller than the Wicker Park location and nearly as good - I came across a copy of the Hitmen s/t 7" (did not check vinyl color) - a few weeks ago I would have been all over that.  Found a few decent local punk 7"s....but not my holy grail.  One day......

A friend and #1 vinyl junkie cohort asked me to take a look for a decent copy of Elton John's 'Captain Fantastic...' I quickly found what appeared to be an excellent copy for $7.99 but one problem - I could not find anything for myself! I selfishly decided there was no way I was going to walk out with a record for something else and nothing for myself!

I finally found their small 'easy listening' section (poor Herb is always sequestered in the oddest places) and grabbed a 1.99 (but 'very good') copy of 'Volume 2' leaving me with only 3 more Tijuana Brass records left until I accrue the entire discography through 1969.  They did have 'Herb Alpert's Ninth' but I opted not to grab it.  Why? Because before long I'll be in another store with a limited selection of what appeals to me, but everyone has Herb Alpert.  I did actually carry around a copy of 'Getz/Gilberto' for a while before I returned it to 'Misc Jazz G' on the grounds of poor condition.  (I was shocked not to find a copy at Hyde Park later that day).

Finally happy with my decision I decided to move on and finish my journey to Michigan/Van Buren and the warm train station where I could eat my egg salad sandwich and await the south leg of my trip.  I carried my finds to the checkout and the fella behind the counter fetched the platters and offered them up for my inspection: both passed with flying colors.

But as I picked up the Elton John LP I noticed there were some kind of insert(s) inside the dust cover.  "Promotional garbage" I silently said to myself as I paid and moved on out.

When I got to Van Buren I pulled my scores out for a closer inspection to pass the time.  It was here that I was shocked to find that this record had some serious extras included.  How I walked out with a truly 'complete' version of the album for 8 bucks - and in this condition, vinyl/jacket/extras - is beyond me.  I promptly put this stuff in some extra magazine sleeves I had laying around when I got home. Not pictured here is a poster, creased as though it was never once unfolded during its lifespan which is even longer than my own. My friend will be thrilled!

On a related note the same friend got me into this artist - I was shocked to find that they had their own tab in the crates.  But nothing lurked within.  Still, Mr. Richman is worthy of a listen. (it was a very tough call between the video above and this).

Beverly Records, Morgan Park

Yikes - what a mess!

I became familiar with this place long before I got serious about traveling to visit record stores.  Their website is similar to the physical space in many ways: cluttered, overwhelming and anger inducing.  I remember watching this video on their website and thinking that it seemed like a cool place that I really wanted to check out:

I took an extremely convoluted route to get there on the day (November 9th 2013) I finally decided to make the journey.  Normally it would be two train rides for me: one to the loop, then a second one on a different line straight south.  However I kind of made the decision in an impromptu fashion when I had only been casually considering a trip.  I was already in Kenwood (just blocks from Hyde Park Records, though I did not realize it at the time) but while Kenwood and Hyde Park may be on the way to Beverly, its a different line entirely.

So I rode a Divvy bike from Kenwood to Comiskey Park, then got on the Rock Island line south.  It was a good mile walk from the Morgan Park (115th I believe) stop to the store but it was a good one, on a brisk fall day.

This place is so jam packed with shit, they should run a few rolls of duct tape around the perimeter of the building to prevent it from exploding.  They seem to have positively zero discretion when purchasing vinyl, I would found 10+ copies of the same album often during my hunt.  And even then, half of the 10 would be so dog eared and tattered, I wouldn't put one in my collection for even a buck.

So many of the bins were so overstuffed that you could see the intense signs of wear from less considerate patrons who just bent away to see the next record inline.  And who needs 11 copies of 'Tormato'? I am working on the Yes discography and even I am disinterested in that release - Rick Wakeman himself said it was a piece of shit.

As I always say - be flexible when you set out to dig, so you don't go home empty handed.  Well I was open minded as always but I could not find a single release that wasn't stomped on half to death and I started to laugh at the thought that I might have come a very long way for nothing.

I tried to stay in the jazz section and I remember finding only one or two crappy (and of course, super beat up) Coltrane releases, then finding more - without any kind of jacket or dust cover at all - stuck in the 'Misc C' section.  Sacrilege on so many levels!

I did eventually walk away with a release I am very happy with and one I had my eye on for some time - Benson & Farrell.  You've got to love that cover - and I already have a handful of George Benson releases.  I became familliar with Joe Farrell from the early work he did with RTF and his list of session work is staggering.  Ironically, one of the albums I was looking for that day - "Abandoned Luncheonette"   - has some work on the oboe and sax (not the flute, ironically).  I just found this out while looking for the previous RTF link I used.  And most of all - Joe was from Chicago.  Rest in peace, my friend.

I will not soon forget the day I visited Beverly Records but I will no sooner return.  Call in the wrecking ball, its a total loss.

Dusty Groove

I tell people that if you are going to go record hunting you should try not to be so steadfast in what you want and do not want that you ever walk away empty handed.  You should have a list in your head of releases you are definitely on the search for but it is good to have artists that you like and you can slowly build on their discography when all else fails and you can't find anything you want.  Well this simple rule failed even me during my visit to Dusty Groove.  Having brought my bike with me on the Metra, I departed for Dusty Groove immediately after my success at Permanent Records which is just a mile or two away.

I felt intimidated as soon as I walked through the door - even from the outside this place looks modern, clean and well put together.  Once you get inside, it is far more apparent.  The genres this store carries are quite limited in their scope but by no means do I hold that against them.  And in my case it does not matter as jazz makes up nearly half of my collection.

As soon as I walked in they asked me to check my bag at the counter - I am ok with this though it was a bit odd in comparison to the quite casual vibe of my other favorite stores.  But after I had been in there 10 minutes another boss poked their head out and demanded that I check my coat also.  Am I going to stuff 12"s down the sleeves or what?

However as I briefly mentioned in a previous post, I am not a snob for condition but I also don't want junk - well they do not seem to have anything less than mint in this place, and the prices reflect that.

The only thing I seriously looked at was 'We Are Not Amused' by Straw Dogs - an old out of print heavy rock album (ironic stylistic choice in this place) I had on cassette as a kid.  But even in battered condition it was nearly $10 - no thanks.

So I walked away with nothing - except my coat and bag which I retrieved before I hightailed it out of there.  See ya, wouldn't want to be ya, Dusty Groove.

Permanent Records, Ukranian Village

I visited Permanent Records on October 19th 2013.  The Metra Milwaukee West line takes me from my stop 1/2 mile from home to the Western Ave. stop which is just about another mile or so.  Permenent Records is my ideal store, just the right size and just the perfect equlibrium of interesting obscure stuff and standard 'commons' at bargain prices to dig through.

I found two records I had been looking for and great prices on both.

1) Hitmen - Rack 'em Up 7"  At the time, I did not have any of the Hitmen singles or their variations - this was the first, since I have attained all 4.  This was the black vinyl variant of their second release, this one on Quincy Shanks records.  I saw Hitmen live two or three times back in the late 90s and while I was familliar with their first release on Rocco from back then until mid 2013, I was never aware they had another release floating out there.  I found this in just minutes after I arrived as the 7"s are right near the front door - I was thrilled to say the least.
2) Weather Report - Heavy Weather.  Weather Report is not one of my favorite fusion groups but this album is immortal and even I know that.  Scored this for $2.99 like the 7" above, found it in the back bins mixed with 100s of other randomized releases from all genres.

Reckless Records, Wicker Park

My Chicago record store visit checklist got off to a start back on March 24th 2012.  My brother and I went down to Logan Square for my birthday (Longman and Eagle) and when we were done making gluttons of ourselves we headed to Wicker Park to go to Piece.

Aside from all the eating and drinking, I made my first ever stop at Reckless Records in Milwaukee, just around the corner from Piece.  I picked up Ripping Rhythms  as well as the first Mahavishnu Orchestra album.  The Shep Fields ended up being some rather tame big band type jazz with limited use of the instrumentation displayed on the cover but the Mahavishnu is one of my all time fave fusion records so I was glad to score that.  I came across the second album this summer at a flea market but it was beat to shit and had to walk away.

I was in the neighborhood on September 23rd 2013 for a visit to Piece and had some time to kill before friends arrived so I wandered back in and picked up a couple new vinyls:

1) Joe Jackson - 'Look Sharp' 2x10".  The collectible pin was missing and the jacket and records are beat but they play great, and its just one of my favorite albums ever.  Would have passed if it was the simple 12".  Paid a staggering $1.99.
2) Added to my Sergio Mendes discography with 'Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars' by Cannonball Adderley featuring everyone's favorite Brazilian pianist.  Also out the door for $1.99 but this is far better condition.

Just like everyone else, I have a 'want list' and things I look for but the best record stores to me give me some unorganized crates to dig through without having so much junk that its overwhelming.  And while I don't want useless, ruined vinyl (the records above as as low as I'll stoop) I don't need $30 mint conditions either.  This is why Reckless Wicker Park remains one of my favorite stores - they have plenty to dig through and a great mix of obscure stuff to my own tastes (and beyond, but without being ridicolous) and lots of 'regular' old records to spend an hour or more sorting through.  I must visit whenever I find myself in the area.