Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cruising Used CD And Record Stores


The 885 Most Memorable Musical Moments project has forced me to re-evaluate all of the things that influenced my taste in music. One of these influences is the used CD store. Until now I never realized how much music I discovered in these hallowed shrines. The greatly reduced prices of most of the inventory in these stores are a major enticement to gamble on discs and artists I haven’t heard before.

In the 70s the first used record store I fell in love with was Plastic Fantastic in Bryn Mawr, PA. Used LPs could be purchased for only $2.98. At the time I believe new LPs were selling for around ten dollars. The store stocked everything from the mainstream to the obscure. That store is long gone but I'll always remember it because it was my introduction to the used market.

Moving on to today we find that, as usual, instead of trying to be innovative and adapt to the new ways of doing business, the big record companies are still trying to make the world operate their way. The companies naturally despise these stores and, just as they have done with their war on digital downloading, they are trying to make it illegal to sell used CDs. The mega-labels do not seem to understand that the sale of used CDs can stimulate their own bottom line.

For instance, in the last couple of years I discovered several bands because of second-hand CD stores. While everyone knows who the Dixie Chicks are, including me, I never paid any attention to them. Then one day, while perusing the best used CD store I ever shopped in, the enormous and excellent Princeton Record Exchange, I saw the Chicks mostly acoustic CD, Home. This special edition with a bonus DVD was only ten dollars. I decided it was time to learn what this band was all about so I took the plunge. Home turned out to be a great disc so it wasn't long before I purchased their other three albums featuring Natalie Maines. All are units the record companies wouldn't have sold if it wasn't for my shopping excursion that day in Princeton, NJ.

The same can be said of two other artists I discovered at another used store, Disc World, in Conshohocken, PA. This is a much smaller store but a lot of quality stuff is still easily available. Most of their CDs are priced at $7.99. They have several CD players that allow shoppers to preview discs before purchasing them which is how I decided to buy CDs by two veteran Celtic-rock bands, The Young Dubliners, and a band that has since become one of my favorites, The Saw Doctors. My discovery eventually led me to the entire Saw Doctors catalogue. The rest were all purchased brand new from various retail outlets. I also recently bought a new copy of the latest CD by the Young Dubliners.

My latest gem was found at a used store in Manhattan for $7.99. Two Shoes, by The Cat Empire has become one of my favorite new CDs of 2007. I now eagerly anticipate their next album that I will most likely buy either online or from a local store.

The amount of rarities, out of print discs, and overstocked items that take up an entire large wall at Princeton is stunning. Most CDs stacked on this wall are only $2.99. It was here I discovered a re-issue of an early 50s jazz album, Live At Oberlin by The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Michelle Shocked's very rare Kind Hearted Woman, and the initial release by CPR, the first of three albums David Crosby recorded with his son in the late 90s. I also found two Shelby Lynne CDs, two by Stevie Ray Vaughan, and one by Diana Krall.

The Exchange also deals with a few collector's items. They stock a few of the long out of print CDs WXPN has released as part of their Live at the World Café series. The only one I do not own is volume one. I was very happy when I found it, but unfortunately it was outrageously priced at $99.99 so I had to take a pass.

I know that, just like many other traditional things associated with the consumption of recorded music, the used CD store may soon become a thing of the past. After all, how can anybody buy or sell used mp3 downloads? In the meantime shopping at these stores will continue to be great fun and the purchases I have made at many of them have certainly provided me with many memorable musical moments.

1 comment:

  1. If you liked The Cat Empire's "Two Shoes" CD, look for their first Australian (self titled) release. I either got it at CD Universe or TCE's web store. I LOVED "Two Shoes", but when I heard "The Cat Empire" I wondered how it was possible that it hadn't been released in the U.S. before. To me, it's a far superior work.

    Their follow-up to "Two Shoes", called "Cities" is pretty good, though uneven. They are calling it a 'project', and it seems like they were just fooling around with different styles, etc. What a talented band, though.

    Oakland, CA