Waxing lyrical about “wax”

The retro, analogue sound of vinyl is back in vogue. According to a recent article in the New York Times, all the major music labels and many of the smaller ones are currently releasing vinyl. There has also been an influx of new pressing plants as most of the major new releases have a vinyl edition. This is a very significant turn of events. So much so, in fact, that a retailer like London Drugs is once again selling vinyl LPs! What’s next? Saturday afternoons spent searching for 45’s and buying malted milks at the lunch counter?

Inside Neptoon Records
Inside Neptoon Records store. Photo: C. Hagemoen

There are a few “record stores” in Vancouver that have survived the swing from vinyl to CDs to iTunes and back! I recently visited one with my 20-something niece – Neptoon Records and CD’s on Main Street in Vancouver. It is a pretty cool space, with an eclectic mix of old and new releases.

Exterior of Neptoon Records & CDs on Main Street in Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Opened in 1981, Neptoon is Vancouver’s oldest independent record store according to its website. Or, is it? I was around (and buying LP’s) in 1981 and I think Zulu Records on 4th Avenue also opened in 1981. Perhaps then, we are only talking about “months” older here (32⅓ years?). Regardless, both stores have survived the digital revolution. Other Record Stores in Vancouver include: Red Cat Records; Dandelion Records & Emporium and Vinyl Records on West Hastings.

London Calling
One of my all-time favorite albums, I own this on vinyl, cassette and CD – bought in that order.

I own what I think is the greatest sound system ever invented. You can’t even buy anything like it anymore. And no, it’s not an 8-track player. It is this fantastic hybrid creature made by Toshiba (ca. 1989) – a combination turntable, dual cassette and single disc CD player, complete with speakers. For almost 25 years it has taken me through the 20th C evolution of sound and (apparently) back again. I am probably due for an update, as most of the time only one speaker works – but I still love its versatility.

I am not an audiophile, so I won’t wax poetic about the sound quality of vinyl vs. CD [Better or worse? Discuss!]. Personally, I don’t mind the pops and hiss of vinyl, but at the same time I can admire the clarity and depth of a digital recording. Either way – I’m good.

What I do miss about vinyl is the same thing I miss about the analogue versions of all other digital objects – the physicality of the object.  You can’t hug a byte.  You can’t hold a bit in your hands. You can’t even admire the physical appearance the digital object, but you can do all of that with a vinyl LP! [ And yes, I have hugged a record before – see below.]

partridge family album
Cover of the Partridge Family’s – Up to Date (1971). [Notice the appearance of the original “Chris”]
The ritual of flipping through a stack of LP’s, selecting the one you want to play, pulling the album out of the cover sleeve, inspecting both sides of the record and blowing away any dust, placing the record on the turntable’s spindle, gently pulling the tone arm towards the edge of the album, and slowly lowering it to the record’s surface…hearing a few pops and then… music! Finally settling back in your comfy chair with the album jacket in your hands reading the liner notes and admiring the cover art. And what cover art it was!

Herb Alpert cover
The infamous Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass – Whipped Cream & Other Delights cover (1965). (Sorry to dampen the fantasy, but that is mainly shaving cream and not whipped cream)

According to some older male acquaintances, this “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” cover spawned many a young man’s fantasy in its day.

Based solely on the cover art, I have become a big fan of Jonah Jones albums.

I dig chicks
Cover of “I Dig Chicks!” – Jonah Jones, 1959.
Jonah Jones
Cover of The Jonah Jones Quartet’s – Swingin’ on Broadway – 1957.

I acquired both “I Dig Chicks!” and “Swingin’ on Broadway” at the same time and they make a great pair hanging on my wall ( the music is not bad either). I just love the  photography on the covers of these records. They perfectly evoke a devil-may-care attitude of the jazzy 1950s. Just a bunch of happy girls in slacks hanging about town in Technicolor!

I would love to find these other two Jonah Jones albums…

Jonah Jones cinema
The Jonah Jones Quartet – “Swingin’ at the Cinema”, 1958.
a touch of blue
“A Touch of Blue” – The Jonah Jones Quartet, 1960.

Aren’t they great? I just love that mid century style…and speaking of a touch of blue…

Blues & Brass
Cover of Blues & Brass – Elmer Bernstein (1956).

The graphic appeal of this album cover is fantastic, from the typeface to the colours.

But, It’s not just the ladies (and the colour blue) that is appealing. Let’s not forget about the fellas…

Nat king Cole
Nat “King” Cole – “Just One of Those Things”, 1957.

The intensity of the red and the abstract painting in the background contrasted with the elegance of Nat “King” Cole makes this album cover a keeper. In my opinion, Capitol Records produced some great cover art in the 1950s.

It all started in the late 1930s when Columbia Records hired commercial artist, Alex Steinweiss as its first art director. He is credited with introducing the concept of original cover designs for albums. Originally, records were placed in brown, tan or green paper covers, with little or no decoration. “They were not attractive, and lacked sales appeal” Stienweiss noted in a 1990 interview. By the late 1940s all the major record companies were following Columbia’s lead.

By the 1960s and 70s album cover art had become an important part of the culture of music. Think of the Beatles’ now iconic “Abbey Road” album cover and the Rolling Stones’, Andy Warhol designed, “Sticky Fingers” cover (where the original release featured a working zipper).

Vincent Price
“Co Star: The Record Acting Game!” spoken word album featuring Vincent Price. ca. 1950s

This Vincent Price album is priceless! Doesn’t Vincent look absolutely debonaire with his cigarette and pencil thin moustache? A “record acting game”? What fun! That Vincent Price he was always showing up in the oddest of places! Unfortunately, I don’t actually own this album, but I found the cover image on this great website – LP Cover Art. An entire website devoted to paying “tribute to the great old LP covers of yesteryear”.

In the case of my collection of vintage LP’s, I am judging albums solely by their covers – or at least the visual appeal of the cover. If the music inside turns out to be good, well then, that is just the icing on the cake!



6 thoughts on “Waxing lyrical about “wax”

  1. For those who want their vinyl fix just outside of the Vancouver area, The Beat Merchant is a great place to check out in Steveston…Great post, Chris! The Rolling Stones, Some Girls Cover is one of my all time faves (and the music inside was timeless)

  2. “Up To Date”.. ever notice that Simone was on the cover, but Reuben wasn’t? Yes, Up to Date, Sound Magazine, Whipped Cream… they’re all in the basement.

      1. My Up-To-Date (still in its original shrink wrap) is at my side. Christmas, possibly 1971, more likely 1972. I remember thnking, “Who the heck is that”? Crofton was late to join the Partridge Family, The only networks we could see started with a ‘C’ CBC, CTV, CBS.

        Any channel in TV guide with black numerals on a white background , KOMO, KING, KIRO, KCTS, KTNT, KTVW.. were the snow you skipped by changing the channel from 6 to 12 in 1/10 of a second….unless Dad was in the room.

        CBC picked up TPF by Season 2. Cablevision finally came to town c. 1972.

        Eventually…… http://youtu.be/LOiKa51ll-k From the first note it’s…. Danny got Reuben to sell our song? (hah. No Reuben, no nothin’)

        0:42…. Jeremey Gelbwaks .

      2. Dave Madden had an interesting pre Partridge career.

        December 17, 1931 (age 81) Sarnia, Ontario, Canada

        Dial Phones. Sidewalk Dates. SX-70… Whip-N Chill!!! I Think I Love You [r Blog]

        (Go outside …
        But I’m blogging
        blog yourself outside/off to bed

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