Monday, March 26, 2012

New Vinyl Find

If you've been reading my blog, you know that I listen to digital sources as elevator music and prefer others when critical listening. The problem is that there just s not enough good source material around, even in used record stores.

Last Saturday, a friend drove me to a place in Tampa called Banana Music and my opinion was reversed. Billed as the largest record store in the world, I was skeptical when walking up the creaky stairs to the "warehouse" location, one where after sifting through the oodles of records purchased by their buyers each week they find the true treasures of this medium. I was shocked - in a good way - as to what I found.

First, the store was in an older part of St. Petersburg, Florida, where rent is cheap and things like one-person auto repair shops shared the area. We parked next to such a garage with the only door accessing the business was the garage door, the mechanic dutifully twisting wrenches under the rusty old beater of a car. An overbuilt metal stairway - some Led Zeppelin fans could call this a stairway to heaven - rose from the next door lot like a fire escape in the Bronx. With reservation, I opened the door and went inside.

After winding around a metal floor-to-ceiling scissor gate and around a few hard turns, a long counter appeared similar to that of my memory of my first record store of my childhood. Stacks of jazz albums were everywhere waiting to be sorted and rows of record racks and neatly organized boxes were everywhere. It was unbelievable as to how many pressings were in this facility.

Aisles about two feet wide ran like a shopping market through floor-to-ceiling racks of records, all labeled by category and the portion of the alphabet it represented. The level of effort and persistence it took to organize this was clearly evident, unsurpassed by even the finest book libraries..

Being a classical music lover, I asked for that section. "Over there in the back corner is where the high-end stuff is" a kind salesman replied pausing for a moment while helping another customer. I dashed around the maze and eventually found an unbelievable find.

There, against the side wall in the corner of the building, was boxes and boxes of the best vinyl I have ever seen in one place. The box on the floor in front of me was where I started. I am a fan of Fritz Reiner, the conductor of the Chicago Symphony, during the era when the brass section was unsurpassed. A brilliant conductor, Mr. Reiner and Zubin Meta are at the top of my most sought after conductors.

Flipping through the records there was one, and then another, and then two more of the same recording and then four more in a row, all different pressings. Then I realized the entire box was filled with the RCA LSC-series numbered recordings of this conductor only. The entire box! Pressings that I believed to be lost were there. Pressing I never heard of were there, right in front of my eyes! Carefully removing one disc from its sleeve, the vinyl appeared to be essentially untouched. I nearly fell off my chair.

Now the prices of these rare recordings were also remarkable, but in a world of shrinking resources, they too were reasonable, especially since they were all in one place. Most albums started at $20 and the most rare and in the best condition fetched hundreds. And that was just the Reiner box!

Well, this tale of love could go on for hours but let us say that this is indeed a remarkable place, one that I would recommend to anyone serious about finding and appreciating quality source material as any good analog audiophile should be.

Here is the link: Enjoy!

Yours for higher fidelity,
Philip Rastocny

I do not use ads in this blog to help support my efforts. If you like what you are reading, please remember to reciprocate, My newest title is called Where, oh Where did the Star of Bethlehem Go? It’s an astronomer’s look at what this celestial object may have been, who the "Wise Men" were, and where they came from. Written in an investigative journalism style, it targets one star that has never been considered before and builds a solid case for its candidacy.

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