Vinyl Hunter: Adventures in Record Shops

Download this, download that, why does nobody care about the slab of black matt? I love buying vinyl, and have unearthed some treasures. Try telling that to today's yoof...
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Download this, download that, why does nobody care about the slab of black matt? I love buying vinyl, and have unearthed some treasures. Try telling that to today's yoof...

Those looking for a challenge this Christmas, try befriending a troubled teenager and then explaining the process of purchasing music when you were young to them and see if they still want to hang out with you afterwards. Seriously, it’s a deal breaker.

Describe hiking to record shops, the hours painstakingly rifling through long rows of empty vinyl covers, attempting to perfect the ninja-fast flick-lift-drop motion without missing a hidden gem, as a lengthening queue of fidgeting music nerds grows behind you like a regenerating worm that you’d just halved with the dangerous end of a spade.

Tell the hoodie about crab walking to the counter with a three inch stack of artwork under your arm, before handing the lot over to a man with a cool haircut and an intimidating music mind the size of a large watermelon who would totally own you in a musical brag-off, before waiting patiently for him to return with each flat vinyl circle so that you can now join another queue behind a turntable to try before you buy – a process which requires tightrope walking levels of deftness and concentration, as you dedicate just the right amount of time to each tune to decipher whether it’s worth parting with the last of your wallet for, whilst simultaneously avoiding the impatient wrath of the jazz-funk maniacs behind you screaming in their heads for you to hurry the fuck up or be killed.

Don’t be fooled by the easy going cord trousers and demi-beards, they’re all daydreaming of launching into you with a series of over-the-top karate chops.

Feel free to add details of a few long excruciating minutes spent on music lectures at the shop counter, should the staff be exercising the record shop equivalent of cold calling pensioners to flog them useless deals on their gas and electrics by actually urging you to buy records that “demand a place in any collection”. But rarely do.

Once done, tell the agog young adult – who will by now be enraptured! - about the process of returning home alone, then taking time to actually listen to your new records one after the other. Perhaps over and over again, from crackle start to different-kind-of-crackle finish, until they play themselves on permanent loop in your brain whilst you sleep.

Then you’d hurl more fun into the mix by testing yourself on the names of people on backing vocals, or someone who turned up one afternoon in the recording studio to get loaded on cocaine, have sex with everyone at once, and guest star on bongos.

Explain how you used to READ the credits on the back of the sleeve like they were part of an amazing book and you were the kind of person who bothered reading books AS ENTERTAINMENT. If it sounded good enough you’d write the name of the producer down, with a view to finding more records like this. Then you’d hurl more fun into the mix by testing yourself on the names of people on backing vocals, or someone who turned up one afternoon in the recording studio to get loaded on cocaine, have sex with everyone at once, and guest star on bongos.

Brag openly about how you have a couple of thousand records at home now in your collection if your new best buddy ever wants to have a look at them!

Then stop - silently endure the crippling cock punch that comes from knowing deep down that they’re worth the best part of sod all, and then  take a sobering moment to notice that the street kid left about thirty seconds in to your shit boring story to go and throw stones into a pond and delete you from his iPhone forever.

Anyway, all of this leads totally seamlessly to a small list made up of five great soul records once discovered in one of these old fashioned shops of which the above eulogy was about... should anyone still be reading...

Milton Wright, Friends and Buddies

Milton Wright is responsible for one of the greatest floor filling soul tracks of all time – Keep It Up - and he was the much less successful brother of Betty Wright. The aforementioned track is just one of the highlights on a brilliant record, which comes complete with a zany futuristic synthesiser sound that would have bewildered much of the world in the early 1970s. It also features a cracking track about a man going without sex for the entire evening. Unheard of at the time.

Willie Hutch, Color Her Sunshine

Willie Hutch is probably better known for his Blaxploitationsoundtrack The Mack, and penning I’ll Be ThereforThe Jackson Five, but this record finds him on fine form as a solo artist doing his thing. His voice sits somewhere in the middle ground between Marvin Gaye and Bobby Womack, which is something like mixing spoonfuls of honey with jagged bits of broken glass. And it’s also a compliment.

The Natural Four, Heaven Right Here on Earth

If you’re a fan of brilliant R&B groups like The Temptations or The Impressions, then you should definitely give The Natural Four a crack. They were signed to Curtis Mayfield’s legendary Curtomlabel, produced by Leroy Hutson (more below), and made the kind of smoothsoulmusic that would be the perfect accompaniment to an evening massaging big handfuls of margarine into your lover’s sweat-sheened thighs. Dim the lights, unbutton your shirt to preposterous proportions, take your trousers and underpants off, then pressplay.

Esther Phillips, From a Whisper to a Scream

She was a tragic star, Esther Phillips – loved heroin, absolutely loved alcohol, eventually died when her liver packed in. But before that, she managed to record probably the most heartbreakingsoul track of all time, when she coveredHome is Where The Hatred is by Gil Scott Heron. This album lost out to an Aretha Franklin offering at theGrammys in 1972, but even the greatest soul singer of them all conceded that Esther’s was the better record that year. She was totally right.

Leroy Hutson, Hutson

It’s weird that Leroy Hutson isn’t held in higher esteem. As a singer, producer and songwriter, few soul artists from the 1970s even come close. He was famously roomied with Donny Hathaway at university, but never quite hit the same heights as his frat house buddy. Literally every record he made was excellent.

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