Saturday, October 22, 2016


Artist: U.N.
LP: U.N.
Song: "Get It On"
[ listen ]

The last and final record store I visited in Buffalo was Revolver Records on Hertel Avenue. I had saved the best for last. The store's owner, Phil, told me that he's only had his shop open there since November of 2015. Before that he attended record shows and sold records out of his garage. There was tons of stuff to look through at Revolver Records, and all of it was reasonably priced. The most I paid for an LP there was $15; the bulk of it was between $3 and $8. I bought so many records here, Phil had to give me a box instead of a bag. 

He'd recently gotten a bunch of great disco records in, including this sexy 1979 U.N. LP on Prelude Records, written and arranged by Tony Green. It was $6. If you'd asked me if it was possible for a great disco track to feature a saxophone solo, I would have said that it was not. But according to the U.N., I would have been dead wrong. I've just read a terrific interview with Tony Green by Seattle's own Kelly Wayne Hughes, where Tony reveals that those are models (not musicians) on the U.N. cover, and that lead vocals on the LP are handled by Goldie Alexander.

[ Revolver Records — Buffalo, NY ]

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Swan Silvertones

Artist: Swan Silvertones
CD: Amen, Amen, Amen: The Essential Collection
Song: "The Day Will Surely Come"
[ listen ]
Song: "Mary Don't You Weep"
[ listen ]

The fifth Buffalo record store I went to was the oldest one in town—Doris Records, founded in 1962. Their advertising suggested that they've got jazz, gospel, hip-hop, R&B, blues, etc. so I was pretty excited to check them out. Sadly, though they're called Doris Records and they've got a vinyl LP painted over their doorway, they don't actually sell any records. They do sell CDs though, and cassettes, and clothing, and other odds and ends. Since I was determined to obtain a Doris Records souvenir and my rental car had a CD player, I decided to poke around to see what I could find. 

I asked the young guy working there (not Doris, I presume) if they had any old gospel music from the 1950s or '60s, but he said no. All their gospel music was from the 1980s or newer. To make conversation, I suggested that they should consider offering used LPs there, since I bet people would probably bring in all kinds of neat stuff that they could sell. He replied only that he'd forgotten that white people like to buy other people's used stuff. I was taken aback, so only grinned and agreed, "They sure do!" 

As I continued to browse the gospel section and the helpful sales clerk continued to tell me that they didn't have what I was looking for, I suddenly came across this sun-faded Swan Silvertones CD on the shelf. Bingo! From that point on, this wonderful gospel group became a major contributor to the musical soundtrack of my road trip. Swan Silvertones serenading you at top volume at 7:30 in the morning while you're zipping through the misty, sun-lit farmlands of upstate New York, headed toward bacon and just doesn't get much better than that.

Swan Silvertones on YouTube:
[ "Only Believe" ]

[ Doris Records, Inc. — Buffalo, NY ]

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Raymond Rasberry Singers

Artist: The Raymond Rasberry Singers
LP: He Doeth All Things Well
Song: "Drive Him Away Lord"
[ listen ]
Song: "The Chariot's Coming"
[ listen ]

If you ask me, some record stores should be required to call themselves 'record museums' instead. These are the stores that stick prices on their LPs that are so hilariously high, you just have to assume the people running the shop have never stepped inside another regular record store before—and they've certainly never browsed through the dollar vinyl at any of their local neighborhood thrift stores.

When a store's barrel-bottom 'bargain' price for an LP is $8 and you're asked to fork over $10 or more for thrift store staples like this one, or this one, or this...well then you're not actually in a record store at all. You're in a museum. Sadly, you might actually find really neat records in the bins at the museum—like this one for example, or this one—but they'll be priced at $45, $75, or even $100, which of course no normal person should ever be willing to pay. You'll often find a date included on the LP's price tag that shows when the record was put into stock, so you can see for yourself that these outlandishly-priced records have been languishing in the bins for six, seven, or eight years or more, with nobody getting to hear them. And since the prices are never reduced, you can return there six, seven, or eight years later to marvel at the exact same vinyl exhibit that will still be on display. I hate record museums, and I just want to slap the morons who run them.

If you're the record-hoarding curator of a record museum, but you actually do want people to purchase and enjoy the music in your store, it's an easy problem to fix. Just ask the guy who runs Black Dot Records in Buffalo, a terrific little vinyl boutique on the northwest side of town. You'll find arrival dates on the price tags of the used records there, and if an LP has been in the bins for 10 months or more, it's automatically 50% off. If an album has been sitting in the bins for over 15 months, then the discount is 75%. It's smart, it's simple, it's fair, and it gets the records out of the store and onto people's record players at home. If I lived in Buffalo, I would always start my record hunting here

[ Black Dots Records' discount pricing structure ]

This 1960 gospel LP by The Raymond Rasberry Singers had been at Black Dots since January of 2016, so I didn't actually get a discount. But it was marked at just $3.99 anyhow, so they're not peddling their vinyl at museum-piece prices to begin with. There's no listening station available, but Josh, the owner of the place, offered to play some tracks from the albums I was interested in on the system in the store. I knew I'd be buying Ray Rasberry's record two seconds after the needle hit the groove, since I'd struck gospel gold!

The Raymond Rasberry Singers on YouTube:

[ Black Dots Independent Record Boutique — Buffalo, NY ]

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Artist: Stratavarious
LP: Stratavarious
Song: "Let Me Be Your Lady Tonight"
[ listen ]

Record Theatre at 1800 Main Street (there's another location further north on Main Street that I didn't get to visit) is the third record store I stopped into on my trip to Buffalo. I actually went here twice—first on my premiere day in town, then again two weeks later to pick up a $3 Inez Andrews LP that I'd stupidly passed over the first time I was there.

Filled with CDs, DVDs, books and records both used and new as far as the eye can see (I wasn't wearing my glasses), Record Theatre is a total throwback to...well, actually, a remaining holdout from, the days of the giant entertainment retailers of the 1980s—complete with vibrant neon advertising stuck to the walls inside. Wherehouse Music leapt immediately to mind the instant I stepped inside. Record Theatre does have a decent amount of used vinyl for sale, but I only turned up a few real gems after rummaging through everything they had. This sexy 1977 harp-centric Stratavarious LP is one of them. It's perfect listening for today's gloomy afternoon calm before the typhoon or hurricane or whatever it is that we're expecting to descend upon Seattle tonight at 6pm.

[ Record Theatre — Buffalo, NY ]

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Val Stöecklein

Artist: Val Stöecklein
LP: Grey Life
Song: "Say It's Not Over"
[ listen ]

After leaving Record Baron I headed northward to M&B Record Exchange, which is in yet another Buffalo suburb called Tonawanda, just north of Kenmore. The friendly owner, Bob, showed me around the small store, including a preview of some of the new stuff he'd just gotten in. He even offered me a cold can of Pepsi, which I gladly accepted. I can't picture that ever happening in a record store in Seattle. You'll get "cold" here, but it won't be a Pepsi. 

Unlike at Record Baron, Bob has a vinyl listening station at his shop. This 1968 Val Stöecklein folk LP caught my ear; I'm a sucker for the strings. Born in Kansas in 1941, Val was lead singer for The Blue Things before suffering a nervous breakdown while on tour, after which he left the band in 1967. Offered a deal for a solo record by a friend at Dot Records, Val recorded "Grey Life," but then pulled out of an arranged promotional tour at the last minute. The record flopped. He tried jump-starting his musical career a few times after that, both in Kansas and in Nashville, but without success, according to AllMusic here. Val committed suicide in the spring of 1993 at the age of 52. 

Along with Val Stöecklein's sad and lovely record, I also found a few other gems in the bins at M&B Record Exchange that made it worth the northward drive. Bob was on the phone when I put this Syndicate of Sound LP on the player. When he finished his call, he said to me, "I noticed you passed on that Syndicate of Sound record, but you should listen to "Rumors" on side one and crank the volume way up." I did that, and now I have that album too. Thanks, Bob!

[ Val Stöecklein: 1941 — May, 1993 ]

[ Bob at M&B Record Exchange ]

[ M&B Record Exchange — Tonawanda, NY ]

Monday, October 10, 2016


Artist: Drum
LP: 12" single
Song: "Bite-It" 
[ listen ]

I had a feeling Buffalo and I were going to get along pretty well, but I had no idea I was going to fall in love. I even bought these t-shirts to prove it. 

Buffalo is so much more my style than what Seattle has become over the past ten years. Buffalo is like a fun night out bar-hopping with The Bangles circa 1983, whereas Seattle has turned into an uppity vanilla-scented candlelight dinner with Swing Out Sister, where you're not allowed to smile at anyone and you have to be home in bed by 11pm. I mean, the prices on menus at restaurants in Buffalo still have decimals on them!  

Don't get me wrong...oh, forget it. Get me wrong. I don't care. The first record store I visited the day after I flew into town was Record Baron, in the north part of Buffalo. It's actually in a Buffalo suburb called Kenmore. The shop was full of great stuff stacked up all over the place, just the way I like it for digging. Dan, the owner, is a super friendly guy who gave me the two-minute tour, then set me loose in the bins, though he did first point out a few gems he knew I'd like. 

I found plenty at Record Baron worth posting, but settled on this 1984 hip-hop single by Drum (I was hoping maybe they were called Dr. Um) in which lead singer Gillespie Kelly performs a Swahili rap taught to him by someone called Mesfin the African. It's a doozey. The record doesn't seem to be particularly rare, but the copy I found has been sealed in plastic for the past 32 years, so it was a treat to break it open and finally drop a needle on it.
[ Drum ]

[ Record Baron — Kenmore, New York ]