NYCD: The Blog

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


It's that time again, when we write something along the lines of "Wake up, folks! Time to start buying CDs and enjoying music again!" And, as usual, we'll get responses like "Hey guys, great email! I read it while I was burning my friend's CD collection onto my hard drive and checking out the new Playstation game. Keep up the good work! And let me know when someone starts making good music again!" Not to mention a few, "How dare you say to me I don't enjoy music anymore? Why, I just downloaded a song by the Shins the other day!"

As music retailers who are suffering through the worst time for our industry since we opened over 13 years ago, we can't help but take the turn of events a little personally. And it's not just us. The people behind the scenes -not the creepy, money-loving putzi who don't know the difference between Bob Dylan and Matt Dillon, but the die-hards who create and produce the music you "used" to love - are all suffering right now, as well. Why should anyone care about these people, or us, for that matter? Well, maybe you shouldn't. You've got your own fish to fry. But that doesn't change the fact that at one time, the same people who drooled over a Johnny Cash box set, and its wealth of unreleased material, now seem to think anything more than buying "I Walk The Line" for 99 cents on iTunes is unnecessary.

Somehow, we are being led to believe that it has become as dramatic as Sophie's Choice to decide between buying a CD, seeing a movie, or owning the second season of "Grey's Anatomy" on DVD. Don't get us wrong -- just because the economy seems to be getting better doesn't mean you are required to spend your disposable cash on a CD. Just don't blame the musicians. Don't blame the record execs. (Not this time, anyway.) And don't blame us. Just a few short years ago, "unreleased bonus tracks" were three very exciting words that got people all sweaty and happy. Now, those words get the proverbial "eye roll," as if we're trying to sell you a hot Rolex or asking you to play three card monte.

What happened?

It seems that people are trying to find ways to not WANT to buy music anymore. We have heard excuses ranging from downloading, to the tired ol' "CDs are too expensive." (No they aren't. They haven't been for years, now. While people were busy not going to record stores, the prices generally came down.) Another common reason for this drop in music sales seems to be the endless choices of entertainment. Video games, computers, and expensive toys seem to be giving music a scary run for its money. But wait, haven't video games and computers and movies been competing for the music fan's dollars since the '80s?

The single most blasphemous excuse, and the most inaccurate, is "There's no good music to buy." Have you bothered listening to some of the music you bought 20 years ago? It was CRAP! Try telling us the "Beverly Hills Cop" soundtrack is better than anything that's out there now. Seriously, try getting halfway through "Neutron Dance" or "The Heat Is On" without gagging. So it's not like you haven't settled for garbage before now. Besides, there's plenty of great music out there to buy. There always is. It's not about "settling" for anything. It's a matter of caring enough to look for it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


When the Beatles' two Capitol Albums box sets were released a couple of years back, a surprising number of our customers stayed away from them, accusing the surviving Fabs and EMI of needlessly milking their legacy. Never mind that ever since we'd been in music retail, we'd been turning away customers who came in looking for those American Beatles albums that had never been officially available before. When Love was released in November, a lot of people bought it. But there were a fair share of naysayers too, who claimed it was a ripoff without ever hearing the mashed-up, remixed and remastered music that was hailed as revelatory by a good number of fans, us included. Now, rumor has it that the entire Beatles catalog is going to be remastered this year for the first time since their albums came out on CD in 1987. And of course there are the usual number of moans and groans from people who are crying "Ripoff!" yet again.

You know what, people? You're WRONG.

Let's look at it by the numbers. Starting with Hey Jude, a collection of stray tracks and singles that was released shortly before the band's breakup in 1970, EMI has released 23 Beatles compilations, not counting the straight CD reissues of the original British albums. Of those, six consist partly or entirely of previously unreleased music. Four are collections of singles and rarities that weren't included on the British albums. Four are generously timed, well thought out hits compilations.

Which leaves a grand total of nine questionable Beatles releases in 37 years. Among those are the
Capitol Albums sets, which diehard fans had been requesting for years, and the first Beatles album Tony ever owned, the excellent 2 LP set Rock & Roll Music. And not a skimpy, ten song budget collection in the batch. By comparison, in the '90s alone, RCA released over 50 Elvis CDs, a good chunk of 'em short collections of random hits, and Frank Sinatra's various labels put out over 30 "new" collections of his -- some essential, many pointless.

So why do the Beatles get such a bad rap for supposedly abusing their legacy? Maybe it's because, when they put out a "new" record, it's handled with enough care, as far as production, packaging and promotion are concerned, that it inevitably sells well. Elvis and Frank Sinatra, the only artists of comparable stature, can have half a dozen comps sneak out under the radar, without anyone apart from obsessive fans knowing they exist.

Even something as inessential as the Yellow Submarine Songtrack, released in 1999, had a lot going for it. Not only did it expand an album that was originally six songs and a side of George Martin's orchestral music into a tasty 15 track collection, but it also was remixed and remastered so that it had the best sound of any Beatles CD to date. And as a result, it made the Top 20 of Billboard's album chart.

Hopefully, when one of our newsletters trumpets the impending arrival of the Fabs' newly remastered catalog, you'll remember this little math lesson -- and give a last listen to your crappy-sounding, 1987-vintage Beatles CDs -- before you go around poo-poohing the news.

Friday, January 26, 2007







LILY ALLEN - ALL RIGHT, STILL. The cute little British phenomenon is making everyone crazy-go-nuts with her first single and video, "Smile." What can we say? We think she sounds like a 16-year-old girl trying, not entirely successfully, to sing. Call us cranks. You won't be the first. Needless to say, we are not impressed, and it's still going to be big.

CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH - SOME LOUD THUNDER. This is supposed to be big too, we guess. But we played the first one in the store when it came out, and about a half dozen people, including the staff, actively hated it. So we're expecting to "Clap Our Hands Over Our Ears And Scream 'Turn That Off!'" with this one, but feel free to buy it, because what do we know? We still like the Beatles.

THE IMPRESSIONS - THIS IS MY COUNTRY/THE YOUNG MODS' FORGOTTEN STORY. Now THIS -- THIS is music! In and out of print for years now, these two absolutely classic soul records can be found on this fantastic and essential new reissue. Curtis Mayfield at his finest.

NORAH JONES - NOT TOO LATE. The following is from Bob "Hate 'Em Or Really Hate 'Em" Lefsetz's newsletter: "Everyone knows that the Norah Jones album is gonna stiff. She was too big too fast with too little a personality and identity to sustain her success. The tour numbers tell us everything. There aren't enough believers."

Now what the hell does that mean? She's already had two multi-platinum CDs with whatever personality she's accused of having. Just because her audience would rather listen to her in Starbucks than go see her play live doesn't mean the CD won't sell. It just means that the industry is probably going to hurt sales by saying things like "It's a bomb" before anyone gets to hear it. We've heard it, and you should buy it, whether or not she changes costumes during her shows. Available as a CD or limited edition CD/DVD with, apparently, boring live footage of her not changing costumes in front of 4 people.

MADONNA - THE CONFESSIONS TOUR. A CD/DVD package by a woman with lots and lots of personality, but it's still going to sell less than the Norah Jones album, because who really thinks of Madonna as a live artist? An expensive live package by an artist who lip-syncs is going to save the industry? Still, the DVD probably has footage of her up on that mirrored cross, which is kind of cool in its own blasphemous way.

SNEAKERS - NONSEQUITUR OF SILENCE. (We believe that's the first time we've typed "nonsequitur.") The not-exactly-legendary but still very good '70s power-pop band which featured Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter gets compiled on this reissue from Collectors' Choice. It features the Don Dixon-produced EP from 1976, their full-length album from 1978, and their reunion record from '92.

LEWIS TAYLOR - THE LOST ALBUM. This very pasty, Moby-looking Brit created a buzz with his US debut, Stoned, thanks to his strong sound which belied his wimpy looks. Taylor takes the pop sensibility of Todd Rundgren, the lush production of Pet Sounds-era Brian Wilson, and the vocal attack of Marvin Gaye, and wraps it all up into one big, shiny package with a bow on it. This record, we believe, was recorded prior to Stoned, and has more than enough gems to keep everyone happy.

VARIOUS ARTISTS - ENDLESS HIGHWAY: THE MUSIC OF THE BAND. A not-bad tribute to the Band featuring some really strong performances by Rosanne Cash, My Morning Jacket, Death Cab For Cutie, and Jakob Dylan with Lizz Wright. Better than your average tribute record, even if Widespread Panic ruin "Chest Fever."

HARRY CONNICK, JR. - Not one but TWO new releases! CHANSON DU VIEUX CARRE is Harry and a 17 piece big band running through a heartfelt repertoire of New Orleans classics. This record does not focus on Harry's Sinatra-like crooning, but on his underrated James Booker-like piano playing. OH, MY NOLA is the vocal record that features Connick running through some more New Orleans classics, many by Allen Toussaint and Dave Bartholomew, as well as a handful of originals. Both these records were high on Connick's priority list, and are highly recommended. Connick is a major talent even if you didn't like "Copycat."

LORRAINE ELLISON - SISTER LOVE: THE WARNER BROS. RECORDINGS. Ellison never scored many hits, but serious soul fans know what a great singer she is. This limited edition package ("limited edition" meaning "pricey, so we're only making a few") contains her classic recordings from 1966-73, including 24 previously unreleased tracks.


FRANK SINATRA - ROMANCE: SONGS FROM THE HEART. For obsessive collectors, this new compilation includes a previously unreleased alternate take of "Nice N' Easy" and the first Stateside CD appearance of the beautiful ballad "If You Are But A Dream." For non-obsessives, it's a great 21 track collection with nice packaging, liner notes, and a good selection of uptempo songs as well as ballads.



The lineup for this year's NEW ORLEANS JAZZ & HERITAGE FESTIVAL has just been released, and Weird Al Yankovic got shut out again. Both Sal and Tony have been cranky for different reasons over the last three weeks, but just say "JazzFest" in front of Sal, and the bile magically disappears. The same thing happens with Tony when you say "steamed dumplings."

THANKS FOR READING THE BLOG! Our readership is up to seven people now, and we are damn proud. Don't forget parts 4 & 5 of our award losing series "THE PASSION OF THE CRANKS," coming next week!

DON'T FORGET TO SELL US YOUR CDs AND DVDs! Because without you, we're just flying TVs around the world. Oh no, that's Jet Blue. Without you, we're even crankier. (OK, we know many of you think we really are cranky, and we really don't enjoy life, but it's just a facade! We're loads of fun! We're just trying to make you laugh through the misery that is our current retail life... KIDDING, KIDDING! Ha ha ha, we're laughing! Life is good! We love everybody, and everyone loves us! Almost everyone... Ha ha ha! Oy.) (Seriously, sell us your CDs and DVDs, we need the product. Call or email for details on how we can give you money for stuff you don't want anymore!)


It is so cold in New York City right now that the rats are wearing Uggs.

Your friends,
Christine Ebersole and Gary Kroeger

Friday, January 19, 2007





THE BEE GEES - REMASTERS. Many of you had doubts when we raved about the Bee Gees box that came out in November. Now, you have the opportunity to buy their first three albums (Bee Gees 1st, Horizontal and Idea) individually, without shelling out the big bucks for the box. Same 2 CD remasters, same great bonus tracks, same rave reviews from us. If you have to pick one, we recommend starting with Horizontal, but they're all great. Remember, this isn't the disco stuff, but lush, hook-filled '60s pop.

FRANK BLACK - CHRISTMASS (CD/DVD). Live acoustic recordings plus some new studio stuff, along with a live DVD by the enormous lead singer of the PIxies.

CLINIC - VISITATIONS. Their third record since their breakthrough album Walking With Thee still has the trademark Gang-Of-Four-meets-Charlatans
-UK sound, but the songs are their strongest in years.

ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN - VERY BEST OF: MORE SONGS TO LEARN AND SING (CD/DVD). What makes this compilation different from their last six compilations is that this is the only one to be released in January 2007. Plus it's got videos.

FACES - DEFINITIVE ROCK. If the single disc best-of wasn't enough for you, but the 4 CD box set was too much (although we don't think there's such a thing as too much Faces), this new 2 CD collection expands upon the single disc, and actually gives you a taste of some of the rarities from the box set. Not a standard to be found! Highly recommended.

THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE QUEEN - THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE QUEEN. Damon Albarn from Blur and the Gorillaz and Paul Simonon from the Clash release a new project which is supposed to sound like world music with a little British punk mixed in.

GRATEFUL DEAD - LIVE AT THE COW PALACE: NEW YEAR'S EVE 1976. Apparently popular in their time for playing long live shows and eating jam, these "hippies" still have quite a following. This live document is their 933rd live record, but only the 874th to feature "Playing In The Band."

LEE HAZLEWOOD - CAKE OR DEATH. Reportedly the last album by the legendary singer-songwriter, this features new recordings of some of his classic songs. Now we know he's sick, but what if he gets better? Or is inspired to make another quick record? Don't write Mr. Hazlewood off yet!

KRISTIN HERSH - LEARN HOW TO SING LIKE A STAR. It's like we always say. When life hands you lemons, make a Kristin Hersh record.

JOHN MELLENCAMP - FREEDOM'S ROAD. The new album featuring the Chevy commercial, the yogurt commercial, the cat food commercial, the insurance commercial, and a remix of "Pink Houses."

MOE - THE CONCH. His first record without Larry and Shemp is... oh, it's not that Moe? Oh, these are the guys who are pretty big on the jam circuit, selling out places as big as Radio City Music Hall. But then again, Dispatch just sold out three nights at Madison Square Garden, so what does that tell you?

THE SHINS - WINCING THE NIGHT AWAY. Critically acclaimed, their third record is certainly their strongest to date. A little less lo-fi and a little more grownup, the melodies are strong and the arrangements are clever, but not too clever.

TWILIGHT SINGERS - STITCH IN TIME. A 5 song EP from one of our favorite rock bands, with guest appearances by Joseph Arthur and Mark Lanegan.

VARIOUS ARTISTS - THE GOLDEN AGE OF ELEKTRA RECORDS (BOX SET). A 5 CD compilation from what David Fricke calls "the greatest rock n' roll label ever." We'd like to call this new set a 5 CD compilation from "one of the greatest rock n' roll labels ever, and also a very good folk label." This has it all -- Tim Buckley, Phil Ochs, The Doors, Love, Queen, Judy Collins, Paul Butterfield, and last but not least, Bread. You wouldn't know it from what we just wrote, but it really is a damn good compilation.

THE WALKMEN - PUSSY CATS. We love Harry Nilsson, and we like the Pussy Cats album, and we don't really like the Walkmen. But why the hell would someone choose the ninth best Nilsson album as a cover project? Future projects by the Walkmen include re-recording Neil Young's Everybody's Rockin', Bob Dylan's Knocked Out Loaded, Frank Sinatra's Watertown, and the Doors' Other Voices.

PAUL WELLER - HIT PARADE (BOX SET and SINGLE CD). The US versions of these fine career-spanning compilations are now available at a more affordable price from the supercool Yep Roc label. If you need to be reminded, the single disc is a career-spanning best-of, while the box set devotes a disc to each phase of his career -- one for the Jam, one for the Style Council, and two to his solo career. Highly recommended.


YOU AM I - CONVICTS. Released in Australia last year, this excellent, punky power pop album is finally being released Stateside. Some damn fine high energy rock n' roll. Think late '60s Who crossed with early Jam, plus a smidgen of the Replacements.

JOHN HAMMOND - PUSH COMES TO SHOVE. The last few John Hammond records have been good, solid blues records with a modern sound, but this new one, produced by G. Love, gives Hammond his best record in years. It doesn't stray far from the gritty grooves of his previous records, yet something about it makes it more appealing. It could just be that G. Love has inspired Mr. Hammond. Highly recommended. Only in theaters!

SONNY ROLLINS - SONNY, PLEASE. We've read almost nothing but positive reviews of Rollins' first studio album in five years. The one so-so review is the one that we most agree with. There's nothing wrong with Sonny's playing -- there never has been. It just seems like the musicians backing him are kind of sleepwalking through the arrangements, and the production is borderline amateurish. But don't forget, anything new from Mr. Rollins is worth your time.

SOUNDTRACK - BILLY STRAYHORN: LUSH LIFE. Music from the PBS special about the brilliant songwriter and arranger, featuring performances by various combinations of Joe Lovano, Hank Jones, Paul Motian, Bill Charlap, Dianne Reeves, and Elvis Costello. Nice stuff! Highly recommended. Only in theaters!



The dog days of January are almost over. Come on people! SELL US YOUR CDs AND DVDs! KEEP US IN BUSINESS! How many other emails do you get begging you to go somewhere and get money?

CHECK OUT our five part series "THE PASSION OF THE CRANKS," parts 1, 2 & 3 of which are already posted, along with a public bitch-slapping of Sal and his opinion by our loyal readers!


New releases from LUCINDA WILLIAMS (wait till you hear this one -- wow!), FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE, WILCO, HOLLY COLE, and two from HARRY CONNICK, JR., as well as the long-awaited expanded remasters of the SLY & THE FAMILY STONE catalog.


How many blues guitarists does it take to change a light bulb?


Your friends,
Elysian & Totie Fields

Thursday, January 18, 2007


This week's #1 record on the Billboard charts, the Dreamgirls soundtrack, sold a paltry 60,000 copies, an all-time low since the SoundScan method was put into use to tabulate weekly sales in 1991. Six or seven years ago, 60,000 units sold in a week would put you somewhere around the bottom of the top 20. If the sky isn't falling in the music industry, it sure feels like it is.

People in the industry, and the people who write about it, all have their theories about why nobody is buying music anymore. A big part of it, certainly, is now that everyone has a computer with a CD burner, a lot of former music buyers are now simply copying their friends' discs. The closing of chains like Tower gives prospective customers fewer places to buy CDs, and it also results in fewer impluse buys. And of course there's the over-hyped downloading revolution, which, while still only a tiny fraction of overall music sales (less than 6% in 2006), is nonetheless eating into physical music sales.

Even though all those things play a part in what seems to be the slow death of the music business as we know it, I think it's something a lot more insidious and far-reaching than the question of how we listen to music. It's more about how we hear music, and why.

There are now 300 million people in America, and it seems like there are also 300 million satellite radio stations, 300 million band pages, and 300 million bloggers who write about music. Never before has the music scene been able to tailor itself to suit so many individual music tastes. Even Top 40 radio, which was designed to be all-encompassing, is itself fragmented into rock-oriented Top 40, dance-oriented Top 40, and so on. Listening to music can obviously be a very insular, individual experience, allowing us to create our own unique environments. It's why the Walkman, then the Discman, and now the iPod have been so successful. It's why niche formatting has taken over at radio.

But the emphasis on individuality has taken away something important, even vital, to pop music's success -- the communal experience. I don't think Nirvana is the greatest band in rock history. But in 1991 and '92, when millions of us were swept up in the grunge explosion that completely changed pop music for a few years, it felt like they were. It was thrilling to feel like we were a part of something that was bigger than our own personal tastes. Buying a Mudhoney or a Pearl Jam CD felt like making a statement -- screw the status quo, forget all the prefab trash that's been shoved down our throats, this is what speaks to me. To us. Because part of the excitement of that time was knowing that millions of people all over the country felt the same way and were listening to the same thing.

Even a few years later, when the boy band explosion seemed to negate everything that grunge stood for (and against), the spectacle of millions of teenagers squealing their lungs out over the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync made us pay more attention to the music, and instead of dismissing them as a bunch of pretty faces, we realized that they also had some excellent singles. It wasn't the same kind of communal experience as grunge was by any means, but it was an exciting time nonetheless.

Since then, there hasn't been a movement in pop music that could make music fans of diverse demographics and tastes all stand together and say "Yes, this is good." For all the great music that's been made in this decade, both popular and obscure, it's never equaled more than the sum of its parts. Nobody in particular is to blame, because it's damn near impossible to engineer that kind of explosion. It always seems to just happen spontaneously, and the record execs are usually as surprised as anyone when it does. But now, thanks to the fragmentation of the pop scene, it seems unlikely that we'll ever even have the opportunity to reach such a consensus again. Music is now engineered to reach certain sets of ears, and only those ears. No doubt there's a radio station on XM or Sirius that will play Beyonce followed by the Shins followed by the new Who record. But even that station will be designed to reach only the "eclectic listener" demographic or whatever they'll choose to call it, and nobody else.

People like Sal and me (and probably you too, if you've read this far) don't need pop phenoms to get excited about music and buy it. Music is our lives. We go searching for good stuff, be it old or new or in a record store or on iTunes or eBay. But there aren't enough of us for the biz as we know it to stay alive. It needs those casual fans -- for whom it takes more than just another Tuesday of new releases to get excited about buying music -- to take notice again. The people who got on line for Nirvana CDs in '91, and maybe even Backstreet Boys CDs in 2000, have gone missing. Is the apparatus to get them back still in place? Is the top 40 simply in need of a good, grunge-styled shakeup? Or is the mere idea of an across-the-board hit hopelessly outdated? Your guess is as good as ours.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


I spent a good part of the late 70's and most of the 80's playing drums in various bands. One band in particular, Pep In The Cat, was the working band. We made several demos, played many gigs, had some interesting opening slots (Badfinger -- minus Pete Ham & Tom Evans -- Big Joe Turner, and Defunkt), but most of all, had an amazing time. Now when I say it was a working band, I mean, I'd go to the gig, play all night, and get paid very little or nothing, a lot like my current job as a CD retailer. Yet, both jobs have one very important thing in common. Joy! Yes, amidst my complaining, I had a wonderful time then, and for the most part, I am having a wonderful, poverty-stricken time now. At Pep In The Cat's peak, a moment in time where we were close to being signed and we all thought we were going to be rock stars, the band would literally pack the clubs. A one A.M. showtime on a Tuesday was the norm, and STILL, people would come out. Lots of people. To see...well... a bunch of nobodies.

Earlier this week, I played my first gig as a (mostly welcome) new member of a band in almost 20 years. The Cool Jerks, a band of friends who have been playing music together for 25 years, invited me to sit in with them. I was a utility man, the Randy Velarde of cover bands. Over the course of two hours and two sets of good, old fashioned rock, rhythm & blues and soul, I jumped from drums to congas to tambourine, all the while, doing my best "Pip" or "3rd Top" on background vocals. Again, joy! Even on a frigid night, friends and family came out and had a good time.

Something struck me though, as I tried to focus on the crowd from the stage. This was obviously a crowd who came out to have some fun. (Well, all but 2 or 3 of them.) There were no big names on stage. There were no articles in The New York Times praising the Cool Jerks for their influence on hip-hop. This wasn't a one-off reunion. It was simply, "Come see your friends and hear some of your favorite tunes, have a few beers, and dance."

Now, for all the bellyaching about the price of concert tickets, the Stones can still pack 'em in by the truckload for slightly less than the price of a used car. Kids will always go to see their favorite bands because, hey, what else are you going to do when you're 18? But a lot people in my age range -- roughly 40-50 -- seem, for whatever reason, to have lost whatever impetus that used to get them out to see live music by someone other than a friend or a living legend from the classic rock era.

One obvious answer is this. Once you hit 40, you'd really rather not stand nuts to butts in a crowded club for your 10PM headliner. Sometimes, the start time is even later. And while monsters like The Stones and The Who can get away with the crippling price tag, others such as Lindsey Buckingham, Boz Scaggs, and the long absent Bob Seger, seem to be having trouble filling smaller-than-stadium size venues for less than half the price. $125 a ticket for Bob Seger seems like a bargain when the Stones' premium seats are $450. But really, $125 is about $75 too much. Basically, no one can afford to go to the big shows anymore.

And what about new music? Band of the moment Arcade Fire is playing a small church, and tickets are fetching $1000 on eBay. That's right, $1000. Passion? Or stupidity?
I say, some of the former and a lot of the latter.

What concerns me is what falls in between these extremes. Good bands, in tiny places, for little money, NOT selling more than 75% of the room. What's worse is the sad, empty jazz clubs of NYC. It shouldn't be easy to see ANYONE at the Village Vanguard on any night of any week! If Branford Marsalis plays a rare club date, then OK. Make your reservations early because, a special event like that, will no doubt draw the crowds. But when jazz legends like Curtis Fuller or Louis Hayes play to a half-full club, for an admission price of $15, it seems to me that something is terribly wrong. The Village Vanguard holds approximately 100 plus people. Are there not 100 people in NYC on any given night who want to see live jazz for 25 dollars? Hard to believe.

It's not the fault of die-hard music fans, who will go out to see pretty much anything, any time, at any cost. It's certainly not the fault of the artists. Maybe it's nobody's "fault." But the casual music fans, the people who can take or leave going to see a show, are choosing to leave it. Maybe to music fans, it's just too hard to understand how someone could choose any other sort of entertainment, or in some sad cases, no entertainment, as their choice for an evening. But in the words of a wise old friend of ours, "Just like if you build it, they will come, if you don't come, they will tear it down."

I know to many of you readers, this just sounds like fanatical music retailers taking out their frustration on a bunch of strangers. And in some ways, it is. But you can't deny the fact that music has been on life support for too many years now. And all of us have our hands on the plug.


Back in the days when music was something that was only available in physical form, Sal and I would ogle whatever new releases or used CDs came into NYCD and say "That's mine, I'm taking it home." (Hey, why do you think we got into music retail in the first place? So we could get first dibs on all the discs that came in.) Nowadays, rarely a day goes by that I don't hear my partner talking about how he goes to bit torrent sites to "grab" live shows by his favorite bands and "throw them on iTunes."

Those phrases are telling. Music has gone from something we "take home" -- shepherding it into our inner sanctums, in a sense adopting it into our lives -- to something we "grab and throw." Violent words. We could do the same thing with a ball, or a toy, or a piece of trash. And that, I think, is what the digital revolution has wrought. We're becoming less music collectors than music accumulators. The question is, is this a good thing?

On one level, of course it is. Having more music than ever before at our fingertips, at a lower cost than ever before, and without the hassle of having to store it in physical form, is liberating. A friend of ours is burning us 34 hours of Bob Dylan's radio show. God knows when we'll ever find the time or the inclination to listen to all 34 hours, but it doesn't matter. If it's next week or 40 years from now, the shows will be on our hard drives, waiting for us. And that's pretty cool.

On another level, though, having unlimited access to cheap music... well, cheapens the music.

The records that stick in my head the most are the ones I bought when I was eight or nine years old, when I had to save my allowance for a couple of weeks so I could go to King Karol or Woolworth's and buy one record. And I would listen to that record dozens, even hundreds of times. So I would have to carefully choose which record to get, because a dud would mean I'd wasted my six or seven bucks AND two or three weeks of my time and energy, which I invested in learning that record note for note. As a result, I'm still sick of Blondie's "Parallel Lines" 25 years after I last heard it, because I played the damn thing so much in fourth grade. But I still probably know it better than I know my favorite record of, say, 2004, which is... um... what was it again?

Now, I'm not saying that we should have to fork over a week's salary for a CD (the major labels already tried that in the late '90s) and force ourselves to listen to it 500 times. But there's also something to be said for a music collection that's really a collection, rather than a bunch of stuff you've burned from friends or downloaded from eMusic and plan to listen to eventually, if you even remember you've got it on your hard drive.

Maybe I'm a reactionary, or a sentimentalist, or a businessman running scared. Or all of the above. But I think there's something to be said for having to put a little effort into finding music you can get passionate about. Because lately, it seems to me, a lot of people just don't have the passion they used to have for music. Don't get me wrong -- they probably listen to it as much as ever. They may "grab and throw" more music now than they ever "took home" before. But how much of it really grabs US? How often do we even listen to full albums anymore, let alone absorb them and let them affect us the way we used to?

Obviously, things will never go back to the way they were. There are too many casual music fans out there who are thrilled that they'll never have to go to a record store again, delighted that they can now buy one or two songs from iTunes rather than having to invest in a whole album's worth of music, overjoyed that they can free up all the shelf space that used to be taken up by records, tapes and CDs.

In the meantime, Sal and I still ogle the new releases and incoming used discs, and still take home a big pile of them every week, where we lovingly place them on our overcrowded CD shelves (for all his talk of grabbing and throwing live shows, there are few people who love CDs more than Sal). A lot of our regular customers still do the same thing. But how many of us are left, and for how long will we even be able to do so? For all that we've gained in the last few years, something important is being lost as well. Something that a lot of us may not even realize has been lost, until it's too late to do anything about it.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Normally this would go in the "Comments" section of the blog, but because newsletter reader Michael Wells didn't post it there, and because we think it's a response worth reading, here it is:

I loved your store and very much enjoy the blog but I gotta take exception with your recent slagging of Paul Westerberg.

The 4 records he released 2002-04 on Vagrant (totally DIY, playing every instrument, recorded in his basement) "Folker", "Come Feel Me Tremble", "Stereo" and, especially, "Mono" are terrific and inspired. Things may have fallen off a bit during his major label solo outings but there's good stuff on them, as well. "Open Season" was a one-off cartoon soundtrack. "Let It Be", it ain't but it's not a "proper" PW release. No one's claiming it to be. And I maybe a fanatic, but some of that's even not half bad. "Love You in the Fall", for instance. His last two tours have been absolutely the equal of great Mat gigs in my opinion. Veering dangerously and without warning from disaster to redemption, ultimately.

I fucking love the guy, what can I say? I think he's an inspiration. Like for fuckups around the globe. I like you guys, too, so I guess that's why I'm leaping to his defense. At least he hasn't take up the goddamn lute.

Also, don't know if you saw this, he had some horrific accident over the holidays and put a freakin' screwdriver through his hand. Like impaled it. The left hand. His fretting hand. His doctor said he wouldn't play guitar for a year. So, if ya wanna look it one way, maybe this'll give him time to rethink direction and make another "Let It Be". Don't forget, tho', "Gary's Got A Boner" was on there as well...

In friendly disagreement,

Michael Wells

Michael, we still think Paul's recent records, while better than 1999's godawful Suicaine Gratifaction, are lifeless and boring. But maybe it's wrong to bash a guy when he's got a screwdriver rammed in his hand. Especially after he reunited the Replacements for two fun new songs on their recent best-of compilation. Get well soon, Paul!

Friday, January 12, 2007






and now... THE NEWSLETTER!



THE HOLMES BROTHERS - STATE OF GRACE. The Brothers have been making records since the late '80s, but it was only with the release of the Joan Osborne-produced Speaking In Tongues a few years back that they really seemed to find their voice. Their followup, Simple Truths, produced by Craig Street, was in the same vein -- soulful, even a bit preachy, but no less wonderful. Now, Craig Street is back behind the boards with State Of Grace, which could be the best of the lot. The majority of the instrumentation is done by the Brothers themselves, with help from such studio greats as Larry Campbell and Glenn Patscha, and the repertoire features some Holmes Brothers originals along with some of the most unique cover versions you'll ever hear, including a duet with Rosanne Cash on Hank Williams' "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)," a couple of Lyle Lovett covers, and the crown jewel, a version of Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me" that will leave you frozen in your seat -- check it out!


AMERICA - HERE & NOW. This band got a bad rap for songs such as "Muskrat Love" and one of their biggest songs, "A Horse With No Name." But back in the '70s, their string of hits, produced by Sir George Martin, as well as some fine album tracks, made them a most respectable pop band. So much so that such luminaries as Adam & Chris from Fountains Of Wayne and Ryan Adams, plus not-such-luminaries like Ben Kweller and Nada Surf, all jumped at the chance to work on this new release. And you know what, dear readers? It's a damn good listen. Just think Fountains Of Wayne for the over-40 crowd. Also comes with a bonus live disc recorded just a few months back, featuring "Muskrat Love" and "A Horse With No Name!"

LOCKSLEY - DON'T MAKE ME WAIT. After a year as an Internet-only item, the debut from this Brooklyn-based band is finally made available with additional material. You may already know the title track, as it's been used on the Showtime network and a new commercial for either a car or soap, we can't remember. Regardless, this is Beatlesque power-pop at its finest. (WOW! 3 for 3 so far! But wait, there's more!)

PATRICK SIMMONS - ARCADE (REMASTER). Those wacky people at Wounded Bird Records pull another one out from the memory banks with the 1982 solo debut from one of the less attractive but very talented members of the Doobie Brothers. Features the kind-of-a-hit single "So Wrong."

THE SMITHEREENS - MEET THE SMITHEREENS. For the 25th anniversary of the Smithereens' existence, the boys pay tribute to the greatest band of all time by recreating, note for note, Meet The Beatles. It is so precise that when you throw it on iTunes, the database actually brings up Meet The Beatles. Well done, Smithereens!

THE STRANGLERS - SUITE XVI. Our old boss thought the Stranglers were the third best band in rock history, behind the Beatles and the Sex Pistols. This is why he now sells toilet parts.


CHARLES TOLLIVER - BIG BAND WITH LOVE. In the early '70s, Tolliver was one of the brightest young trumpeters around. As a matter of fact, his Live At Slugs performances from 1970 are some of the hottest live albums of the period, and some of that material is now available through a special box set from Mosaic Records. But if you don't want to go whole hog with an expensive box, this new release is just as smokin'. A big band which features Craig Handy, David Weiss, Clark Gayton, and Robert Glasper rips through some Tolliver originals and standards including a brilliant take on Monk's "'Round Midnight." The high-energy performance of this band is barely contained. The soloing, at times, feels like it'll ride you right off the rails. This kicks ass! It's an ass-kicker!

AL GREEN - THE DEFINITIVE GREATEST HITS. For those of you who still don't own an Al Green compilation, this new set is quite good. 21 remastered tracks featuring all the hits right through his most recent releases on Blue Note, plus a bonus DVD with six performances both old and new. Everyone should own at least one Al Green album, and this is as good as any.

DIANA ROSS - I LOVE YOU (CD/DVD). It's her first new studio album since 1999, but who noticed? To be quite honest, we haven't listened to Miz Ross since the classic Nile Rodgers-produced Diana album in 1980. Maybe we'll listen to this one if you ask nicely. We're a little curious. After all, she is the stepmother of Leona Naess. But we draw the line at her cover of "Take My Breath Away." The DVD features 40 minutes of Diana twirling in the rain while people get their pockets picked.



GET YOUR BUTTS OVER HERE WITH YOUR COLLECTIONS! It's two weeks after Christmas. You're all broke. You need some money. And we need your CDs and DVDs. Get here toot sweet! We pay top dollar or even more top store credit! Call or email to make a date to SELL YOUR STUFF!

And now, it's time for...


Just about every artist was better in the early part of his or her career. Elvis peaked before he went in the Army, the Beatles' solo careers don't measure up to their group work, Elton John's first six records have more good songs than his last 46, and so on. But there are certain artists whose recent material is so inconceivably bad that we can't even listen to their good old material anymore. Some may think we shouldn't take this personally, but we think otherwise, because we are the fans who gave them fame and fortune in the first place, and now we feel abandoned. Here are a few examples:

STING: Sure, he pissed a lot of people off when he left the Police at the peak of their career to go solo, and it pissed even more people off when he won a Grammy for best jazz performance in 1985. But that's not his fault. And his first four solo records ("Dream Of The Blue Turtles," "...Nothing Like The Sun," "The Soul Cages," and "Ten Summoners Tales") really were damn good, even if they didn't sound like the Police. But since then, Sting has all but abandoned the pop music that he's best at. Even when he tries to revisit his classics, it's usually some sleepwalk through "Roxanne" or "Message In A Bottle" with the aid of some current pop star in the spotlight. Now, by delving into world music, classical music, and most offensively, 16th century lute music, he's poisoned the well. You couldn't fault the guy for trying to expand his musical horizons. But he's made it known publicly that he thinks all current rock and pop music is boring. You know what we'd like to do, Sting? We'd like to take that lute and shove it up your tight Tantric ass.

THE REPLACEMENTS: One of the most passionate and exciting bands of the '80s would be so reckless onstage that their performances could veer from tight, rock-solid punk brilliance to drunken covers of Petula Clark hits within minutes, and their fans loved them for it. Records like Let It Be, Tim, and Pleased To Meet Me influenced more bands than their record sales might indicate. Once they broke up in the early '90s, however, frontman Paul Westerberg got on the wagon, fell in love, had a kid, and ruined it for everyone by making some of the most boring, soulless, insipid, flaccid, utterly crap albums in rock history. In order to pay the bills, his most recent album was the soundtrack to an animated film, and even four year olds thought it was wimpy. You know what, Paul? We heard you fell off the wagon on your last tour, and even that didn't work. Maybe you should try leaving your wife next.

DAVID BYRNE: If you could love a pretentious asshole, then you had to love David Byrne. The first four Talking Heads records are arguably some of the most influential and groundbreaking albums ever made. Three skinny white guys and a skinny white gal who met at RISD and pooled their talents in New York City laid down some of the nastiest grooves since the heyday of Fela and James Brown, and made it cool to be a nerd in the process. But Byrne's ego got in the way, and the beginning of the end began. Sure, Rei Momo, Byrne's 1989 post-Heads solo debut, was a little bit of fun, and we thank him for turning us on to so much great Brazilian pop via his "Beleza Tropical" series. But then, it was one debacle after another. Forays into avant-garde neo-classical doody like "Music For The Knee Plays" and "The Forest" were painful, and even his most recent attempts at pop records were little more than the B-level material heard on latter-day Heads records like Naked and True Stories. Now, we have this pompous release on the horizon: a collaboration with Fatboy Slim on the life of Imelda Marcos. You know what, David? Shut yer piehole. No one gives a s**t anymore except people who go to see you because they think you wrote "Take Me To The River."

There are many others who fall into this category, such as Prince, Joe Jackson, and the aforementioned Elton John. Some of you may wonder why we didn't include Rod Stewart, who went from being one of the greatest performers in rock history to a man who makes us ashamed to say we like music. There is nothing more unlistenable than Rod Stewart's recent success in the form of poorly sung standards with poor arrangements and poor production. But for some reason, we can still get off on the Faces and his early solo work without thinking of the travesty that he's become. Go figure.

Thanks for reading!

Until next week, we leave you with this:

In the words of the great Louis Armstrong, "There are some people that, if they don't know, you can't tell them."

Your friends,
Lovely Rita and Vaughn Meader

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Our good friends over at RIGHT WING TRASH have posted their TOP TEN CDs of 2006. Better late than never, I say. We're still waiting for POPSURFING'S list, although the promise to listen to every cd released before making a decision on the Top Ten, may certainly leave us waiting a very long time.


While Wynken and Blinken Marsalis are busy doing their high profile activities to bring jazz to a much broader audience (read:rich people), the two lesser known and in many ways more exciting and talented Marsaliseses, Delfeayo & Jason, continue to stay low profile and play jazz for jazz fans.

Delfeayo's most recent release, "MINION'S DOMINION," is a fantastic record that features the late great drum legend Elvin Jones, in his final recorded appearance. And last night, at the most odious of all NYC venues, the Blue Note, Delfeayo Marsalis and his sextet, paid tribute to Mr. Jones with a solid, if somewhat safe set, that featured the Baby Marsalis, Jason, filling in on traps.

The band included the very tasty Anthony Wonsey on piano, bassist Gerald Cannon from that jazz mecca we call Milwaukee, and Mark Shim & Dave Liebman both on tenor, with Delfeayo leading the way on trombone. The material was as I said earlier, a bit safe. Two Marsalis originals opened the set, "Brer Rabbit," and "The Lone Warrior," the latter written for Elvin Jones. Both songs were your standard 15 minutes workouts, giving each musician time to loosen up. Everyone on the bandstand was quite capable, but no one, aside from Jason on drums, offered anything to take home.

It was on the next song, a slow, heartbreaking rendition of Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World," where the band wore their hearts on their sleeves. Delfeayo took the melody to new heights on the trombone, and turned this song into a gospel.

The band closed the set with the Duke's (Ellington not Snyder)"It Don't Mean A Thing, If It Ain't Got That Swing." Again, all band members got their moment, but it was Jason's drum solo that got the biggest ovation, as it usually does. Tall and lanky, Jason Marsalis somehow manages to create tone and more important, melody on his drumkit, while still astonishing the audience with his speed and often unorthodox soloing. He turned an average night into something to remember.

Now, back to the Blue Note. I don't know anyone who resides in NYC and goes to the Blue Note unless they absolutely have to. It is expensive, unfriendly and uncomfortable. It is a tourist trap, regardless of its history, and a mostly unpleasant experience for all.

I made my reservation almost a month ago for this show. I try to catch Jason Marsalis anytime he is in NY. My wife and I arrived 30 minutes prior to showtime, and got seated behind the piano, with a perfect view of Anthony Wonsey's ass. We were seated at a table for 4, with 6 people and had to watch most of the show by staring at the reflection in the designer mirror, opposite the stage. Thanks to the wooden paneling across the mirror, it often looked liked Mark Shim's head on Delfeayo's body, or Gerald Cannon plucking Dave Liebman's sax.

Delfeayo Marsalis said something very interesting soon after he took the stage last night. "Back in the 1900's, horn players had to make their horns sound like voices in order to get gigs. We are sort of keeping that tradition, only we still can't get gigs." Well Delfeayo, it's not only jazz and its musicians who can't get respect. It's the fans, as well. And you can thank the Blue Note for keeping that tradition. See you at Jazz Standard.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


To mark the 30th anniversary of "Roxanne," the Police will reunite for a tour of the UK and the States in 2007. Also, A&M plans on releasing a multi-disc boxed set, "in the same vein as 'Message In A Box,' which included their entire studio recordings and rarities. You can read all about it here.

So, riddle me this Batman, what geniuses at Universal came up with the idea to release another boxed set? What will this new one have on it, if the first one was their entire recorded output? Outtakes from "Rumble Fish?" And, if 50% of The Who can charge $250 a pop, what could The Police possibly charge for a full blown reunion? I bet, $350 a ticket. That's $340 for Sting, and 5 bucks each for Andy and Stewart.

Only in theatres!!


The new March release from Ry Cooder, "My Name Is Buddy," is a 17 song affair sung from the perspective of a cat. Now there is no indication that this is a children's record, so one must assume that Cooder has not taken the deaths of 4/5 of the Buena Vista Social Club too well.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


The Christmas and New Year's holidays just weren't the same without that last minute rush of retail business like the days of old. As
NYCD starts year #2 of office work, we look forward to keeping the music alive. I know, a very cheesy thing to say. But, if we say it enough, maybe, just maybe, things will take a turn for the better. It is for the love of music that we plan on hanging around a bit longer. (It certainly isn't for the love of money.) Our goal is to stay positive! We started the new year, healthy and somewhat happy. Two very important things.

An old friend called to say hello for the holidays and we discussed many things, including the things that cause us stress. Our jobs, our health. Not to mention the smaller pointless things like slow subway service. OR the terrible, expensive coffee at Starbucks along with its slow service. Rod Stewart. Paris Hilton. Movies over 95 minutes. As I continued with my litany of complaints, he interrupted me and asked me, "If you only had 3 months to live, would you give a shit about the subway or Starbucks or any of this?" My answer was, "Of course not." "So why do you care now?" He had a point. So I've decided, from here on out, not to care about those things. And neither should you. Enjoy your life! Fill it with music. And for those of you with 3 months or less to live, can we please have your CDs? WE ARE IN DESPERATE NEED OF STUFF TO SELL!!!

In the words of Danny Rose: "Acceptance. Forgiveness. Love."