Saturday, November 23, 2019

Technoir Records [Park Ridge IL]

Upon discovering the unfortunate demise of Raffe's, I simultaneous discovered the birth of Technoir.  As you can see in the store front above, it truly is the spiritual successor.

It was a quick dual bus jaunt to take myself from my door step to Technoir's which was nice on a bit of a blustery day.  I could tell from the outside that this place was well put together.  The inside followed suit, perhaps even upped the ante.

Extremely tidy, clean around every corner, this place is clearly curated carefully.  Brand new bins, simple but effective tables and nice well decor all around.  Again, more Raffe's memorabilia hangs on the west wall which is a very nice touch.

I tore through the jazz section, A to Z.  Everything is bagged, a small sampling of new vinyl was mixed in but mostly old stock (which I prefer).  Next I glanced at the 'new arrivals' bins, three of them nearest the counter.  I was the only customer and it was quite peaceful and the clerk (owner) was spinning an interesting array of genres.  I found three possibilities swiftly in these bins.  I let a Walter Wanderley release go, which I regret pretty shortly after and still do now.  That was dumb.  I grabbed a Shadowfax promo 12" single which I still have not listened to.  I hope I enjoy it but I worry I will not as I see now that it is truly a different era from the one I know best.  I found Lani Hall's 8th - I swore a while ago to a moratorium on her discography as I have the first four already.  For sentimental reasons (her's and my own), it was hard to leave this one behind as it recalls the Chicago neighborhood she hails from in it's title.  In my warped brain I thought I ought to save $3 by getting the Shadowfax over the WW album, but it isn't much savings at all when you consider it is a single vs an LP.  But these are the bizarre rationalizations that record collectors, drug addicts and other obsessives make about their sinful trades.

I've actually been listening to tapes lately, as if I need another type of media to collect.  But before I could explore that I started thinking about how much I've been listening to this Squeeze tape and I wondered if they had it in vinyl.  They did - no brainer, could not resist.  It was only $3.99, probably because it has some water damage to the jacket, but somehow the inner sleeve (original) and vinyl look clean. Next I did indeed dig the wall of cassettes and scooped a Judas Priest album (which I must say has amazing fidelity for it's age, already ran through side B).

Definitely was impressed by this shop and glad to know I can get there easily via Pace.  I shall return!


At some point I think this blog will just become a time capsule as every single place I have ever visited and documented will be gone.  I heard about one of the below closings earlier this week and got to thinking I ought to sit down and see what other shops I once enjoyed (or at least visited) are no more.

I've had only a few experiences like the one I had at Funk Trunk, the kind where you are one on one with the clerk or even the owner (as in this case).  And you can actually chat in a relaxed way, and peruse the vinyl and hopefully come up with something.  I had a great night in Rogers Park, had an awesome meal and got fairly drunk.  Not enough stores like Funk Trunk out there and they all seemed destined not to survive....too pure, too real. 

This one hurts.  Some of the early days of this blog were based around my visits to Logan Hardware.  Simple but very important records in my collection were copped there and many an arcade game were played in the back room.  I remember just feeling like I owned the place, it was never that crowded on a cold Sunday afternoon, and it was easy to get to via public transportation.  I'm just glad I'm not sitting here saying 'I wish I had gone more'.  I took advantage, thank god.  I was in Logan Square this week and I wanted to get a drink but it was pretty early.  I thought that Logan Hardware would be a great way to kill sometime but found out they were gone.  Ended up sitting in the library which was fun in it's own way, but today I mourn the passing of a great one.

Another one that was fairly easy to get to, a fun bike ride through Portage Park on a warm weekend.  Distinctly remember going there on Record Store Day one year and definitely pulled some important vinyl out of there.  This post was inspired by finding out about the closing of Logan Hardware just a couple days ago, but this place as well.  I woke up, still in bed on this fine Saturday morning and thought maybe I'd have another ride out there.  Again, stymied by time, now lost, and you just can never get it back.  The article you see about outlined the new store in Park Ridge which is interesting because when I went to Google Maps (why? Because part of me knew it had been a while and I expected the worst, apparently rightfully so) the new shop TechNoir kept coming up which I didn't understand.  I am still considering biking over there today or maybe taking the bus.  At any rate, Raffe's was grimy in the best way possible and I played and went to a few shows at Memories next door (which has changed names many times).

The most recent of all.  Can't say I will miss Val's...I went once long ago and never had any inkling to return.  Yeah, Val was there and yeah, she was rude.  If someone thought that stuff was cute or ironic they are a better man than me.  I paid way too much for what I bought that day but it was so long ago I didn't know better.  Oak Park Records is still kicking and certainly I'd recommend them if you are in the area, even if Val's was still open.

Very recent news here.  It does look like Old School survived but I had no idea they moved.  Interestingly, I went down to Madison St right around the date above because I went to the Army Surplus across the street.  I didn't notice or think about Old School, but I don't know why I didn't.  Glad to see (I think/hope) they are doing OK because I had a good visit there and remember it well. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Building my dream system (System #1, living room)

I covered a few months ago how I attained a bunch of vintage gear from my Uncle Rick.  I quickly purchased the other components I needed to make it work.  I got some speakers on craigslist and a receiver on eBay.

The speakers worked out great.  What an excellent purchase.  The turntable has had some odd mechanical issues but nothing that prevent me from using it and it too has been great.  However, I outlined early on that the receiver (an SR340) was giving me a ton of problems.  The FM tuner was wonky...I could get it going again but after a bit it would crap out on me again.  But more importantly (and I did not cover this in my original post, because I did not notice initially), I was having trouble with the 'phono' selector button.  I first noticed when I was listening to 'Three'.  I could tell something was muddy but it was subtle.  Finally I used the balance control to isolate the channels and noticed the left channel sounded horrible!  It was muffled and muddy and sounded like crap.  After some experimenting, I noticed that when I switched to 'phono', depending on how I depressed the button, it would actually sound fine, like it was properly 'engaged'.  So I got in the habit of sort of punching the button (with my finger) when I'd want to play a record, which is stupid because at this point I had given up on using the FM tuner so it was basically already always in phono.  At this point I started to determine that I needed to step my game up and get a working system.

But I toughed it out for a while longer and it seemed like the sound problem went away.  Out of paranoia I'd often check the channels using the balance control and both sounded really clear.  A miracle! Well, not quite.  One day I was listening to 'Dissident Aggressor' and during the chorus I realized that I could not hear the high pitched backup vocals! Now this damn receiver was playing the right channel out of both speakers! 

I took the whole thing apart looking to see if there was somewhere I could clean the contacts for the button but it is a more complex arrangement than I figured.  Eventually I decided that if I could replace the whole button it might work.  I even started to consider stealing one of the buttons from the other inputs which I didn't use, but then I realized that the phono button had a different number of contacts than the others.  This is the style of button in my receiver, but on a very different board.  

I did look at some individual buttons but at that point I was pretty bummed out on the whole thing and was starting to decide that I just wanted to replace it.  It is a pretty crappy receiver to begin with and I disliked a number of features, all of which was clearly implemented to save money.  So this is not a unit worth putting money into.

So I determined that if I bought a new receiver I had some criteria:

  1. has to be Marantz
  2. has to be a higher end unit that is worth taking somewhere to have fixed if necessary
  3. has to have a volume knob (old one had a stupid slider)
  4. has to have a VU meter or some other visual display with flashing lights and such
So I started searching on eBay for local pickup and came across the SR 8110 DC.  I loved this thing right away.  It had a 5 band EQ and a bunch of other bells and whistles.  

I found someone selling one (actual pic above) and I made an offer for $125 expecting a counter offer but they let it expire. I should mention the seller is in Blue Island IL which is less than an hour away.  I really wanted to do local pickup if possible because of not only the cost to ship, but the danger of damage.

Eventually I did talk to the seller :

But then I started to have second thoughts, and felt like I needed to shop around a little more, plus the guy made me wait a few days, plus an additional day and I really had wanted to pick this up on a weekend, and not during the week.  So I blew him off and went back to the drawing board.

I decided that if I was going to buy something that I wanted it to be tested and refurbished to some extent because I did not want to deal with any more problems right off the bat.  So I started hunting on ebay again and came up with something that looked almost two good to be true.  This is the actual pic from the auction and clearly not very good, better pics are below.

I was most impressed by the seller's extensive explanation of the unit and what he had done to it.

For your consideration is a Marantz SR-5100 that I have had for a lot of years.  When it arrived it had a blown power module (PM) (pins 8&9 shorted) and the AC plug was whacked off.  Both of the original power modules STK0050II (50 Watt) were replaced with Darlington Power Pack STK0080II (80 Watt)  It was used for quite awhile and then set aside.  It’s down size time and the Marantz was elected next to leave.  What’s been checked and adjusted to call it refurbished? Well, it got the dust blown out.  WHAT! you wanted MORE???????? Well OK!!
Tuner Section: 
The AM & FM just got the peak & tweak
In general I use HP 8648 & 3336C slaved to GPSDO (not necessary it’s just what I have),  RCA WR-52A, Tektronix 2465BCT, Fluke 87 and more.  NOTHING HAS A VALAD CAL STICKER
The tune up procedure in the tech manual looked good before I started but need a slight mod for setting the oscillators.  The “Full open and Full Closed” points left the slide rule pointer OOC.  Went back to what I have done since the end of the 50s.  Set the oscillators to the Max and Min dial markings.  The slide rule pointer now tracks just fine.
The FM mute level setting (with “FM Mute” was overly aggressive for the quality of the tuner at 12.5uV.  I set it at about 4uV and it unmutes full quieting and STEREO.  No use masking usable signals or having to put up with off channel noise.  Personally I leave the mute off so I hear everything anyway.
Signal level meter could not be turned off enough to just read full (5Points) at 500uV an absurd high level that also masked usable signals.  Another reason signal level meters are known as “Guess Meters” in other circles.  It is set  so you get a reasonable low end evaluation of signals
Tuning LEDs RED GREEN RED (meter) centered (GREEN) at center of FM STEREO decode.
Not part of tune up but I noticed the Mute was sluggish maybe a bit flaky compared to other units.  The FM chip maker NEC has a slightly different caps suggested for that part of the chip on their data sheet.  Putting in the NEC suggested caps made a BIG difference.  The original electrolytic caps tested OK but I have had lots of Electrolytic in audio service that would not work right test fine.
I also suspect the tune up instructions were “Cut N Paste.”   The old way with glue and scissors because of some wording.  This is NOT uncommon in SMs. 
POWER AMP check: 
Also tests the AUX input.
Power meter setting is specified 50W into 8 Ohms.  That’s 20V @ 1KHz or at 4 Ohms 14.1VAC @ 1KHz. Calibration pots bottomed out while still get the 50W LED at less than 50W.  50W seems to be about middle of the 50W LED not a bad thing
Power results: 
8 Ohms 1 channel driven wave form distortion on scope started around 19.3 VAC RMS on Fluke or about 91Watts.
4 Ohms both channels driven distortion of wave form started about 19.3 VAC or about 93 WPC
I suspect the limiting factor is the PM not the power supply from the above results.
Also I had been using a 2A AC fuse which promptly blew with both channels driven so I installed the specified 4A fuse for testing the PA and will include it in the box.  A new 2A fuse was installed after the 50wer setting
Pots and switches got DeOxit treated.  My experience with DeOxit over more than 30 years is you need to repeat it now and then.  I prefer to use a small syringe and large diameter needle.  The spray cans just make a mess and waste a LOT.
The brown stuff on the bottom of some boards is an OLD glue of some sort used to secure parts scabbed to boards most likely factory modifications that were not uncommon.
Power Supplies: 
Checked for AC ripple.  Nothing needed attention.
So what are the ISSUES?They are only cosmetic so Look at the pictures:
1) A couple of the grid openings in the top left of the case have been damaged and a small piece of wood glued to the inside for reinforcement.
2) The chassis around the power transformer has some what I think is moisture damage.
There are no electronic or mechanical issues I know of.
General Information: 
Those things we all knew back then but are not common knowledge now.
Most vintage amps are not immune to stupid.  Crank this one up past 50WPC 50 ohm or 63WPC 4 ohm something will fail.
Most likely first will be your woofs.  They sound real mushy when the glue on the voice coil melts and the coils start coming apart.  Old dry varnish on VCs fails faster than on newer woofs.
Got big CVs?  You can blow something amp easily enough.
The under rated 2A fuse installed may be little protection.
The rear accessory sockets are not protected by the fuse per the print.  One is switched and the other is not.  Plug a short into one and blow the cord or your breaker.  The other add the power switch to the list.

I corresponded after purchasing a number of times via email with the seller about music and audio and just life in general.  Steve is from Tennessee and was super helpful and just seems like a great guy.  I got the thing home and hooked it up and the heaven's parted - this thing sounds great!

I did finally get around to crimping a new spade terminal on my turntable ground wire because of course as soon as I dared to touch the wiring I had all kinds of ground hum but fiddling with things made it go away and now it is dead silent.  I kept the antenna from the SR340 and the tuner on this thing sounds amazing! Clear as a bell and very loud.  I couldn't be happier!

I love the VU meter.  The action on the tuner knob is satisfyingly 'heavy'.  At last I have a volume knob instead of a slider but unfortunately it is 'digital' - it increments and 'clicks' as you move it.  Still, I can live with this.  It has 3 tone knobs but just set at flat it sounds amazing.  At last I have achieved my dreams and I have a master system!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Run to the Record Dump

Made my annual pilgrimage down to the south side to dig through records.  Almost 6 years since I went down there.  I just created a new tag to combine all my visits into one easy link so click away down below.  I have documented 5 trips but I can think of at least one other one where I drove and didn't post about it.  So this is #5 or 6.

Been having serious problems with anxiety lately and decided that maybe I could distract myself enough by doing an all consuming task.  And guess what - it helped.  Big time.  When I got home I was soaked from the rain, I changed my clothes and took a crazy nap, something I have not been able to do in a while.

It took me about 7 hours to get there and back and that is because the schedule on the way home just worked out.  I don't try to make a schedule on the way home because I am not going to rush my record shopping.  When I am done, and when I eat and I feel like going home, then I check the schedule.  And I only waited about 25 minutes at the station which was great.  But it is for sure a long day.  I did make a schedule on the way down there.

As usual, I kind of wandered around in there, totally overwhelmed and unsure what to get.  I came across two huge boxes of polka 7" that were clearly raided from Bel Aire.  I wrote about this on my last visit - clearly Beverly Records bought up all the remaining inventory when Bel Aire shut down.  I knew this a year ago, but I did not know about the 7".

It was pretty insane because there were a number of 7" and artists in general that I had no idea ever released anything on the label.  I photographed a bunch to add to discogs.  I never get phone reception in there, I wanted to check to see if stuff was documented already or not, but had no way to check.

I ended up with a small stack and when I got to the counter the guy gave me the usual Record Dump price treatment:

"How much were these marked for?"
"They weren't marked"
"They are $2 each".

If you were going to just make up arbitrary prices, you just do it to begin with.  The only reason I tolerate it is because I do want to see the place remain in business.

Lorraine And The Sonatones - Making Memories / Can't Take My Eyes Off You

Glad to grab the other 7" (see below).  Still want Making Memories really bad, hope to score that one day somehow.

One of the more obscure Bel Aire acts, these guys were from Hammond Indiana and backed up Richie Gomulka on a rare album I hope to find one day.

It is pretty crazy to think that even if this was repressed, this has to be 50 years old.  But not just that - this was either manufactured prior to Bel Aire existing, or in the very early days (notice it has the same McKinley Park address).  So this then got moved to Bridgeview many years later with the rest of the inventory, and now it sits in Beverly.  And I thought my journey today was a long one! Glad to own this.  The guy behind the counter even knew this was Eddie Blazonczyk which is even more impressive than knowing who that is, period!

I also bought not one but two copies of this.  Which is especially stupid since I already own it.  I foudn this and the 'Making Memories' 7" I mentioned above.  I thought I had one but I couldn't remember which and had no cell reception to check discogs.  So I figured to hell with it, I'll just buy both.  But then in the wildness of two huge boxes of 7", I got the A and B side mixed up and thought I had two different records.  So in my mind, I found three records and I had one already at home.  So now I have two extra copies.  I'll leave one at work to listen to there, and maybe I'll gift one to someone one day.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Savers [Las Vegas NV]

I was perfectly happy to check Nevada off my list with my visit to Record City.  But that night I wanted to have a few drinks and selected the Huntridge Tavern at my watering hole.  After a couple fairly wild bus rides I found my way and what do you know - there was a Savers in the same strip mall! It was a half hour before close so I'd be remiss not to stop inside and see what they had to offer.

They didn't have much in the way of LPs but they had a ton of 7", tons of picture sleeves.  Too many to go through so I just took a glance.

Two 80s classics here - of quite different genres.

File these under 'actors pretending to be singers'.

The one on the right (Bob Welch) I considered buying because I've always loved the song, but I didn't want to sit with it at the bar (which was dumb).  The second one I thought was interesting as it is clearly foreign - the kicker is that someone recently paid $80 for this!  Just the fact that this has been sold 8 times says a lot.  Looks like Anna-Frid Lyngstad is one of the four members of ABBA and everyone knows they have a devoted following.

So the next night - my last night in town - I rushed back again to grab it.  I already knew at that point I'd grab some others as well.

I could see immediately that someone had been meddling in the past 24 hours! My heart raced because I could not find this damn 7"! So I took a deep breath and figured I'd just go through every single in the bins because who knows what else I might find.  There must have been at least 150 of them, it was interesting because I even found a few doubles (or triples!).  So it must have been someone's collection.  It took a while but I did the deed and did eventually find what I was looking for - and then some!

Believe it or not I actually had even a few more than this but I did a catch and release on a handful.  Here is the breakdown:

Deniece Williams - Let's Hear It For The Boy

Couldn't pass on the picture sleeve.  I am a fan of Niecy, grabbed an LP a couple years ago in Grand Rapids.

Classic track.  I put a quick video on Vimeo a few years ago in tribute.

One of my favorite songs ever.  RIP Bob.  This will go well with the Mexican import I snagged in Kentucky a ways back.

I have the original (or at least earlier) issue of this single which I found in a Goodwill in Orlando, and the LP which I got in Canada.

Funny because I only know this song from Kai's cover on the same Canadian LP I just referenced.  I knew this was the original and it was too odd to find both of these singles together not to grab them both.

Came across a bunch of Stevie singles and kept hoping I'd find this one.  Then the song came on the radio in Savers.  A little while later, I found this.  Sounds unbelievable, but it is true, I promise.

Grabbed this strictly for the instrumental B-side.  What purpose was that supposed to serve?

What a classic track.  Reminds me of childhood.  Wish I found the picture sleeve, but alas I did not.

Novelty, couldn't resist the picture sleeve.

What a classic, looks like this is the original issue from 1959.

See my comments regarding the Don Johnson single above.  Fun fact: when this came out in grade school the video was on all the time.  Also my dad was a big fan of Moonlighting.  I always thought Bruce Willis smirk was cool (still do) and I used to try and imitate it when I was a kid.

Pretty played out song, but again, could not leave the picture sleeve behind.

Same motivation as the John Waite single.

What an atrocious piece of garbage.  Can't believe it is the promo.  The cover makes me want to vomit.  What does a dirty shirt and little sunglasses have to do with hip hop?

And of course Lars Berghagen & Anni-Frid Lyngstad - En Kväll Om Sommarn / Vi Vet Allt, Men Nästan Inget .  I just listed this for $40 OBO  I was able to peel the Savers sticker off no problem which I was worried about.  There is another sticker, so old and dry its ready to fall off.  It says 'Hirsch's Skivor' which means 'Hirsch's Records' and is/was a record store in Denmark.  This didn't come out until 1971 but the store had been around a while, here is a photo I found from the 1960s.  Wish my time machine had some fuel!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Record City [Las Vegas NV]

Been planning this trip for a long time.  A week long journey that starts in Phoenix, then ends here.  I was going to take a bus but that didn't work out, so I flew between cities.  Record City was very conveniently placed, as I am staying (and working) near the convention center.  I loved the look of the place from the outside, and knew it would be my bag.

This shack has a hell of a lot of records crammed inside! They had tons of autographed memorabilia also, all over the walls.  They had a ton of used DVDs for sale and they put some empty cases to good use.  I've never seen anyone do anything like this but I've thought about it many times.  People are stupid or lazy and they leaf through the vinyl with one hand and leave the stack leaning forward when they are done.  Or it might tip if they don't leave a gap at the back.  They jammed these in there so it is impossible.  Always drives me nuts when I see stacks leaning forward and I always try to fix them when I see it that way.

Didn't find much in the jazz bins.   At the end of the jazz bins were some unmarked but assorted additional jazz.  Found some interesting stuff in there.  The two below both are relevant to my interests.  The first for the addition of Kenny Burrell on guitar (looks like there have been many reissues of this); the second because it is live.  Decided to pass on both.

I kind of wandered around the store, couldn't find much of interest.  Did see a copy of Ascension (it was $80, don't know if it was Edition I or II) and Interstellar Space, don't know if I've ever held a copy in my hand before, for either.  A lot of Coltrane in general, but mostly live albums and compilations.  I was just about ready to go when I spotted something from a few racks away, in a section I wouldn't have bothered with.  I paid a whopping $3 (cover is kind of beat but vinyl looks mint) for an Italo-House classic I've loved for probably 20 years.  It was in the front of the stack or I wouldn't have seen it, and I certainly wouldn't have looked.  I first discovered this in a Bobby D mix many years ago - I sat down one day to figure out what it was, he only plays a minute or two in the mix.  No brainer on this one.  Glad I scooped it.


I can't believe I have come this far - 40 is a good round number, a hell of a milestone.  If I had been able to drive, I was all ready to go way the hell out of my way to St. George Utah and check that state off the list also.  I'll get there eventually!

Sunday, August 25, 2019


I have written about my love for barbershop music on this blog many times over the years.  As one could imagine, this is largely an 'underground' genre...while it has a large and devoted following, you don't hear of the relevant quartets in the mainstream media, ever.  So 99% of the releases out there are private press, they were paid for (studio time, pressing, etc) by the members of the quartet.  But there is one exception.

Chord was a record label out of San Antonio Texas in the early 60s.  The man behind the curtain was Mike McCord, who was a lifetime barbershopper himself, active in many quartets and choruses.  He selected some of the biggest and his most favorite quartets and released full length LPs for a number of years.  There are a total of 18 releases across two 'series', I discovered and researched these through countless eBay deep dives.  After a long period, I was finally able to acquire all 18 myself via that method.  It was rewarding to finally get them all, this huge piece of barbershop history.

I was contacted by none other than by his son (also named Mike) through discogs when he saw I was the person who added most of these releases to the database.  We had a likely conversation through a number of messages and he mentioned that he had access to some old releases that were part of his father's estate!

I didn't hear from him for a number of weeks and thought it was a dead end until one night (I was in a hotel in Louisana) when I got a discogs message with his phone number asking me to call him.  I didn't hesitate and we talked for quite a spell.  He apologized for the delay and said the box would soon be on it's way.  He told me mostly what I should expect, then he insisted on sending me the load for free and even refused to let me pay for shipping! A short time later, an expertly wrapped parcel arrived! 

As expected, I got a motherlode!

  • I got a number of Sweet Adelines competition albums I was missing: 1956, 1957, 1959, 1962, 1963, 1973, 1984.  I already had a couple but this was huge.  1963 I had never even seen before so that had to be added to the DB
  • Got a sealed copy of the Golden Staters album I had seen so many times before (but did not own)
  • Got a reissue/comp I had seen before but did not own, quite a rarity (I already own the original issues, on Chord, of course)
  • Got a spare copy of a Gaynotes album I already had, but never hurts to have two for something this rare! (Ironically I already owned two copies of the other album for the same reason!)
  • Speaking of the Gaynotes (Mike said he thought of Mo Rector as his uncle when he was growing up - wow!), I also got the original private press issue of their first album, this is a holy grail and probably the biggest score of the box.
  • Got a few more SPEBSQSA competition albums I didnt have ('56, '58, '59)
  • From the same era, got the Play Tonics album 
  • A previously unknown Saints LP!
  • Got duplicate copies for 14 of the 18 Chord releases (again, I already had the entire discography).  Why would I want duplicates? BECAUSE THESE WERE PERSONAL COPIES OF THE PERSON WHO OWNED THE LABEL!!!
But probably the greatest score of all was a previously unknown Chord release! It is unique in a few ways: it is a 10" (everything else was an LP) and it is actually a regional Sweet Adelines album! How many of these were ever pressed I do not know, but I'd bet pretty few.  What an unbelievable score!

Just goes to show you: networking is key! Discogs has netted me some cool stuff before but nothing like this.  However I almost treasure even more the chance to have a long telephone conversation with the son of the founder of a historic record label - I am very fortunate.  Thank you Mike!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Ghost of East Side Records/Double Nickels Collective [Tempe AZ]

After a week in Palm Desert I made the four hour drive back to Phoenix for one more night of fun before my flight the next morning.  This would be my opportunity to get out and about, see the city a bit, and of course check out some records.

I left Palm Desert by 7am.  Stopped to get gas and Starbucks then didn't touch the brake until around 11am.  Returned the rental car, took the rental car shuttle back to PHX.  Then I called the hotel, took the hotel shuttle and was able to check in early.  I dumped my bag and headed right back out the door.  I walked about 2.5 miles in the heat, stopped for lunch, just so I could get a bike.  Staying on the east side of the airport, Tempe was more accessible then Phoenix so that is where I searched the map.  

It was about a 4 mile ride south to Double Nickels.  I saw two Google Map places next to one another - I knew that it would be unlikely for two record stores to be so near one another and it turns out they are one in the same, just a shop with an identity problem that can't decide what it should be called.

I almost went to another shop in town but in the video description they immediately stated that they sell 'new vinyl'.  Hearing that as the first part of the description is disturbing and I am glad I listened to that, so I didn't go.  I only bring that up because Double Nickels is a mess - and this makes me feel very at home.  Not because my records are a mess (not even close) but this is the kind of record shop I have been to many times before, all over the country.  There were even not one - but two dogs in there! This cute little guy barked like a pitbull but then rubbed up against my hand like a cat.

When I walked in there was some atrocious noisy jazz playing and 4 different people were all chatting, I couldn't even tell who worked there and who was a customer....or maybe just hanging out! It was a good vibe.  I dug through all the jazz but didn't see anything interesting.  I dug around the shop and was more entertained by listening to the other conversations in there than anything else at that point.

They had some bins devoted to punk and hardcore, I leafed through them but nothing caught my eye. There were some boxes in the back marked 'private press' and would you believe I instantly found this thing - tones from home! (I think I am even more impressed that there are 17 releases for this 'artist' on discogs!)

I also spotted another vinyl of interest in the same box.  I started making a list on discogs a while ago for a particular stock cover.  Since then, I've ever had others contribute my messaging me to let me know about others they find in the database.  Well I found a new one in this box! The artist was in the DB but the release was not.  So I took photos and just added it myself.

I ended up walking away empty handed but that's OK.  When I arrived, I looked at the storefront on Southern Ave but realized I was actually looking at the back of the store (technically there is a door, but the shop wasn't using it, meaning I have to walk around back).  There was a fellow standing outside of the coffee shop next door and I asked how the hell I get inside.  He told me to go around back, but said I could cut through his shop, which I did, and thanked him.  When I left Double Nickels, I went back to make good on the favor he showed me.  I sat in the AC for a while, drank some water and also had a double macchiato and a scone.  After that, I made it up to 10 miles by spinning around Tempe in the heat.  It was hot - but not as hot as the desert further west which I already miss!


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Record Collector [Idllywild CA]

On vacation in Palm Desert, I finally had a chance to knock the great state of California off my list.  There were a couple candidates in the area but this place was too good to pass up.  Way up in the mountains, I'd need to drive an hour down treacherous winding roads.  The Google Maps place didn't even have a photo, the street view showed what looked like a shack.  Was this place even real? I called once to confirm and got no answer.  So I called again a bit later and the person that answered did confirm their hours so I planned to set out on a Tuesday afternoon.

The drive was as wild as anything I've ever attempted.  Once I drove through Big Horn National Park in Wyoming and it was similar to that but I daresay even more dangerous.  It required all my mental faculties and somehow I made it.  Oh, did I mention the heat (this is excessive for this area, up in the mountains, but something I've already become accustomed to out in the desert).

The same guy I spoke to on the phone was there.  He told me that this is the second location of a larger shop in LA.  He said he has known the owners for over 30 years and worked at both locations.  He said that he watches this shop about half the week and the owners daughter watches it the rest of the time.  He even told me that the owners aunt lived in town and recently died and he goes to check on the cat, presumably in an otherwise empty house.

He told me up front that the store was mostly classical but also had jazz.  And that's it! No other genres.  Luckily for me, jazz is the first section I go to in any store but alienating the vast majority of people who want to look at rock albums doesn't make sense.  The building was beautiful.  The wood work was masterful and the bins were clearly made by a craftsman, probably the nicest I've ever seen.

It was a bit odd because there were no other customers (actually, a couple did come in but upon being told that they only had classical and jazz, they bolted) so it was just me and this bearded old timer.  He sat in a chair in the 'front room' (which was all classical) and I was in the 'back room' where the jazz was.  So we couldn't see each other and he only spoke when spoken to.  Finally I commented that I found it odd that a record would not be playing with all this silence.  He had the best response ever: he wanted to save electricity! He did offer to put something on but I told him it was OK.

I looked through every single jazz album.  12 bins I think, probably 1200 records I'd guess, maybe more.  I pulled out four but only bought one, and of course I have some regrets there:

  1. I have a good selection of Kai Winding albums on Verve in the mid 60s.  This stuff isn't very high brow but is very listenable and a lot of fun.  I came across one I've long been aware of but decided to leave it behind.  
  2. I dont't buy just any CTI album I find (almost though) but I thought it would be a good idea to check out some Gabor Szabo.  I started to feel like some of his 60s work would be a better buy, so I did a catch and release on that one. (I do own his collaborative album with Paul Desmond which came out in the same era, regrettably I've not spent much time listening to it.)
  3. I knew of Lalo Schifrin as the man who wrote the score for Enter the Dragon long before I knew he was a jazz musician.  I picked up one of his older vinyls at a garage sale a long time ago and always enjoyed it.  This one caught my eye because it is on Verve but also of course for the lengthy and ridiculous title.  I carry some serious regret I left this one behind.
  4. I have a special affinity for Joe Farrell.  First of all, he is from the Chicago area.  He died young, what a shame.  But he worked with so many of my favorite artists, especially the landmark debut from Return to Forever.  Discogs says I have 14 albums he appears on and I think only one is an album he is actually credited as the main artist (joint credit, with George Benson).  There was no way I was going to let this one go: CTI 6000 series with an all-star cast of side men, of course including the Mahavishnu himself! Little did I know at the time this was also the original 1970 issue (it was reissued by CTI in 1976).

I decided to toss back the Lalo Schifrin and Kai Winding right off the bat.  I brought the remaining two CTI records up to be priced (the old man priced everything on sight, I had already asked).  He wanted $20 each which I knew was a bit bold, even for a place like this so I told him to kick the Gabor Szabo and I made off with the Joe Farrell album.  It is in mint condition with the original inner sleeve (same goes for the Gabor Szabo, though it did have a snipped corner).  So I'm happy that I made out with a souvenir from such a wild day.  I topped it off by attempting to do a 500' climb (over about 1.2 miles) on a really crappy rental bike I stuffed in my car.  I gave up about 75% of the way and took a wild ride which topped 30mph on the way down!

Arizona and Nevada are on deck in the next month.  In fact, I'll probably have two shots at Arizona, but the first will be only two days from now and I'll be taking advantage!