Hello Records in Corktown, Detroit — a hidden gem for audiophiles

3 11 2012

Sometimes the best is small, well-worn and unassuming.  Sometimes the coolest places to hang and the best stores to patronize are hidden in the dark recesses of urban and suburban areas.

In the heart of Corktown, Detroit, Michigan’s “oldest neighborhood,” is Hello Records.  It’s a vinyl lovers dream!  It’s located at Bagley and Trumbull (two blocks from the former Tiger Stadium.)

Hello Records is a small cozy space.  A really cool, easygoing guy — with a ton of music knowledge — Wade, owns and operates the place.  He has jam-packed the small store full of records.  I don’t think there is much that he doesn’t have (at least at one time or another.)  In Hello Records you’ll an amazing selection of rock, soul/R&B, funk, country and jazz records.  Not surprisingly, Motown works are plentiful.  I, personally, have loved the selection of 45’s of classic and lesser-known Marvin Gaye albums, compilations and 45’s.

This is a very no-frills store. You won’t find CD’s, DVD’s and cheap music merchandise.  You’ll just find LP’s and 45’s at great prices.  Since I’ve been buying vinyl the last month or more, I’ve gotten used to checking out antiques malls, digging through boxes of moth-ball-scented records at (various) Salvation Army and other thrift stores.  Records in antique stores can be reasonably priced; mostly they’re a tad over-priced.  The best you can hope for in a second-hand store is to find maybe two albums out hundreds, that you really like.  Not so with Hello Records.  The selection is so good — probably due to constant rotation (no pun intended) — I can’t help but walk out of there at least $10 lighter in the wallet.  That doesn’t sound like much unless you consider I’m popping in there 3-4 times per week.

Wade knows customer service.  His prices are reasonable and he seems inclined to reward customers buying a lot of material at once and repeat business.  The quality of most of the higher and mid-priced records is excellent.  The records are generally very clean and listenable.  If a record has snap, crackle and pop, but is still listenable, you’ll get it for a nice price.

For me, this is one of those places I could imagine myself loitering in for hours!  Places like this are all but dead.  Hopefully growing interest in vinyl will keep this great place going and other real record will spring up (again) in our cities and suburbs.

Hello Records in Corktown, Detroit, Michigan

 

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The new originals (Part 1)

1 07 2011

My oh-so-clever title comes from a bit in This Is Spinal Tap.  One of the fictional band’s early incarnations was called The Originals.  But the name was taken, so the band changed its name to The New Originals.  That little joke best sums up how I would describe those artists that find that sweet spot between sounding unique but borrowing heavily from the past.

You can count them on two hands.  Maybe you’d have to count with your toes.  There aren’t many, but they’re out there.   Some singers and musicians have the knack for taking an old sound and making it entirely their own.  They don’t sound derivative.  They don’t sound like a cover or tribute artist.  They’re not blatant ripoffs.  At the same time, they sound entirely familiar.  Part of their appeal is that they have captured the best of what came before them.

Over the years, I’ve come to love some of these performers.  I recognized that they were heavily influenced by older styles or musicians, but I never understood that I liked them as much for the fresh spin they were able to put on the old stuff.  Some of these artists have been doing this seemingly forever and others are new to the game.   Here are the new originals that I like best:

  • Stray Cats — I grew up listening to 50’s music.  I was never lucky enough to hear pure rockabilly, but I heard enough old-time rock to know what rockabilly should sound like.  Along came Stray Cats, coming somewhere out of the 50’s revival of the late 70’s (think: Grease, “Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley,” Sha-na-na’s TV show) and the punk scene.  They had the balls of a punk band but the soul of guys like Gene Vincent and Carl Perkins.  What was original about them was. . . well. . . they just had their own style.  It can’t be stated much clearer than that.  Brian Setzer also brought something of a crooning vocal style to throw into the punk-abilly mix.  While they were throwbacks, they were just themselves.  They can’t be accused of stealing any single artists style but no one has been able to imitate them.
  • Raphael Saadiq — I admit up front, I’m just discovering his music.  I remember Tony! Toni! Tone! but I had no idea who he was or even that he was still in the music business.  But I heard talk about his newest album and got my hands on his last one, The Way I See It.  I’m blown away.  His voice: amazing.  The sound: it could have been recorded at the Motown studios in Detroit 40 years ago.  The fell: old school R&B.  The lyrics: solid.  While he’s definitely a traditional R & B artist, I don’t think he could be fairly accused of unoriginality.  In a sea of crap music, he has made fresh again a sound older than most of his fans.
  • Brian Setzer — Since his Stray Cats days, Brian has wandered back and forth between rock-infused big band or swing and rockabilly, but his most notable solo work has been with the Brian Setzer Orchestra.  Out of all the so-called new originals I like, he has admittedly been the most derivative.   He’s covered swing and rock standards as well as old Stray Cats tunes.  Where he gets marks for originality is that he made swing and big band sound like a new style.  His sound, like grunge, felt like it was born in its own time, even though it was not.  It fit its era for reasons I can’t quite explain.   He was also largely responsible for launching the swing revival in both music and dance.  Bands like Squirrel Nut Zippers and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy should pay royalties to him for having helped (re)popularize the style.  (Note: I’m not claiming Setzer/BSO was first in time, just early, highly influential and fresh.)
  • Young Veins — From the outset, understand that I’m not saying these guys have had any significant impact on the music business.  I only know one other person that likes them (and he only knows of them through me.)   Two of the guys, Ryan Ross and Jon Walker, left Panic! At the Disco to form Young Veins, probably doing more to upset Panic! fans than to generate positive buzz about the new band.  But their album, Take a Vacation, sounds like it was recorded in 1965.  It’s 4 parts Kinks, 1 part Beach Boys.  It’s so Kinks-esque that I’m sure some would call it a rip-off.  It’s arguable.  I felt, when I heard it, that YV had managed to capture a Kinks-like groove but make it their own.  It certainly isn’t Kinks for the 2000’s.  Their sound is all 1960’s.  For my money, it lands in that sweet spot between borrowing too much and not borrowing enough.

Here’s the thing: at least in the world of pop/rock or R&B, there is nothing truly original.  The foundations were laid long ago and artists can’t play in those styles without sounding like somebody.  It just can’t be done anymore.  As Beastie Boys once said, “Only 12 notes a man can play.”  So whether something sounds fresh depends on whether the artist can trick you into feeling like you’re getting something uniquely his or hers.  These performers, in my opinion, have done that to some degree.

To be continued…





“Detroit”

6 05 2011

I’m enjoying Gorillaz new album, The Fall.  This song, “Detroit,” is about my hometown.  It reminds me of a cast off from McCartney II.  There’s not much too it, but I like it.





Motown celebrates its 50th anniversary with Detroit gala

22 11 2009

Motown founder, Berry Gordy, Jr., with guests Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves and Kid Rock, among others, celebrated Motown’s 50th anniversary with a downtown Detroit bash.

http://www.clickondetroit.com/video/21692588/

What fantastic music was made right here in Detroit.





“All Summer Long” the anthem for the State of Michigan?

31 07 2009

Has Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” yet been named the official song for the State of Michigan? It’s only a matter of time.

Kid Rock is, no doubt, the highest profile Michigander in the entertainment world today.  Sure, Madonna’s a bigger star, but she doesn’t readily admit to being from our great state.  To hear her talk, you’d think she was born and raised near London, England.  Kid’s different.  He promotes Detroit and the State of Michigan whenever her gets a chance.  He’s proud of where he comes from, too.

The song’s also about a summer spent in “northern Michigan.”  I hear told that in bars in that part of the state, everyone yells “It was summertime in northern Michigan” when that part of the song plays on the jukebox.

It’s not exactly my favorite song.  But it’s still very popular around these parts.  I can almost invision some cornball politician bringing a bill before the state legislature to recognize the song.  Politicians these days like to pretend that they are hip and cool and that they dig rock n’ roll.

Whatever the case may be, I do appreciate Kid’s love for his hometown and his home state.  Cheers to you, Bobby.





The Hockey Song

14 05 2009

My Detroit Red Wings are in the Stanley Cup playoffs again.  Tonight they play the Anaheim Ducks in game 7 of the Western Conference semi-finals.  It’s do or die for the Wings and I’ll be cheering for them loudly and proudly.

This is a great time of year, especially here in Detroit.  We are spoiled because the Red Wings go to the playoffs every year.  Hockey’s not nearly as exciting during the regular season.  But playoff hockey can’t be beat.

In honor of the Red Wings and the sport of hockey, I’m putting up “The Hockey Song.”  Enjoy.





Puttin’ it on wax in Motown

3 05 2009

Until today, I had no idea that vinyl records are made in my hometown, the Motor City.  The May 2, 2009, Detroit News ran a feature article on Archer Records Pressing company which manufactures vinyl records.  Apparently the company is one of maybe a dozen companies in the entire world:

It is unclear how many record-making companies still exist. Web sites count between eight and 10 worldwide, and three to five in the United States.

Check out Archer Records Pressing’s website http://www.archerrecordpressing.com/

Apparently the techno music scene in and around Detroit has help keep the company going.  There is no mention of it in the article, but I wonder if small companies like this are hired to press vinyl for major label releases.  Vinyl is making something of a comeback and lots of artists these days seem to want their music on vinyl.

This is just one more example of why Detroit is and has been a major player on the world stage of music.