Coffee Cup Reading: Reel & Vinyl

8 Jan

 

Ever heard of Al Green? Well most have heard ‘Let’s Stay Together’ from Pulp Fiction:

 

A love song that somehow masterfully sets up the *ahem* complicated relationship between Marcellus Wallace and Butch. “Z’s dead, baby. Z’s dead.” It was a hit single and a forgotten gem to most until Tarantino resurrected it.

I for one am now embarrassed to confess that I thought the genius of Al Green started and ended there. Blame it on the generation gap, not doing my homework to dive deeper than Marvin, Isaac and Stevie, or the baby boomers keeping the best stuff to themselves.

But that all changed this December.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and my brother and I ventured into Heritage Records. We live nearby and we’ve always wanted to check it out – it’s one of those places that you drive by all the time, but never seem to step inside. Our hipster sister (hipsister?) asked for a record player for Christmas and as the caring guardians of the musical family trust, we felt it was our duty, nay, our Jimmy Page Rock God given right, to ensure that her collection got off to a roaring start.

Heritage Records is unlike most places. It only resembles other record shops. Slightly dingy, cluttered, an overload for the senses. Colourful old concert posters were draped on every available vertical surface. Narrow aisles filled with records just waiting to be flicked through.  It’s a place that looks like it’s about to go out of business but it’s still packed full of the oddest assortment of people outside of a folk festival.

And so my brother and I dove in, flicking and finding. It takes work and time to find the right records, like trying to find an 17.5” dress shirt at the Bay (all you tall guys know what I’m talking about). But it’s an enjoyable trip. There’s always some random album cover that makes you laugh. Or some record you forgot about. I found a great Johnny Cash concert poster from a show he did in Edmonton (!!) in the 60s.

And sometimes you get a little help. About 10 minutes into our visit, there was a sound of a scratch on the speakers. I looked up to see the owner of the store, he of bedraggled hair and misplaced teeth, change the record, and after the needle fell, it went a little something like this:

 

I’m not going to get all righteous, arguing about vinyl being better than mp3s, in sound and quality, or bemoan the fact that our generation only listens to singles easily digestible via download, and they miss out on the album experience. I don’t know if vinyl is dead and I don’t know if I care that much.

All I know is that Al Green sounds goooood on vinyl. Like real good.

This is funky shit. Not your Sunday morning going to church shit. This is the guy playing hooky, but still minding all the lessons of his holy soulbearers. It’s groovy. It’s a little dirty. But it makes you want to move. Have sex. Or cook enchiladas, I haven’t decided. I dare you to not start nodding your head like you are no longer a white troglodyte yuppie living in the burbs. You are now a tight panted soul singer in a hot and sweaty Southern dive bar and you don’t care who sees you strut like a deep fried rooster.

Each song was an affirmation, a groove building on the one before it. After ‘Tired of Being Alone’ I asked the owner who it was.  By the time The Ram’ came on I was hooked.

“You planned this didn’t you?” I asked him. We smiled knowingly at our High Fidelity moment as I paid for Al Green Gets Next To You, in all its delicious vinyl glory. Then I went on my way, leaving my brother still giddily exploring the discount rack for great covers by cheesy 70s rock bands.

Listen to the whole album below, or better yet, go get it. And if you find yourself a little disillusioned in this day and age, just get over to your local record store. Here’s hoping you will have an experience like I did. And Hell, I don’t even own a record player.

 

PS – And if you are wondering what I bought our sister:

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It’s a start right? 🙂

 

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