Professional Disc Hunter

If you know anything about me, you know how much I love going to record stores, and that I especially love taking my time sifting through everything they have in stock. (Hey, somebody’s gotta do it.) And whenever I’m in Los Angeles, as I have been all this week working on a number of upcoming S+V stories, I set aside at least one full afternoon to spend at Amoeba Music in West Hollywood. We’ve blogged about the wonder and grandiosity of Amoeba before, of course. But with Record Store Day 2012 right around the corner, I figured I’d get my prime shopping time out of the way before I queue up with the other RSD-exclusive hunters on Sunset Boulevard bright and early tomorrow morning.

My usual Amoeba mission is simple: Find things I can’t easily obtain elsewhere. Yes, I always have a running list of “wants” with me at all times, but much of the fun at Amoeba is in finding the unexpected.

Naturally, I begin in the vinyl section, which always seems to get bigger and bigger every time I’m here. I usually go through the rows alphabetically after I check the individual slots for Bob Dylan, King Crimson, Neil Young, and Frank Zappa. This time, I find something I haven’t seen in person — Freedom, Young’s 1989 return to rock on Reprise that has different mixes of three songs that appear on the import-only Eldorado EP from earlier that year. I pull out the inner sleeve, which isn’t bent or ripped (always a plus, though not necessarily a deal breaker) and inspect the vinyl. Its surfaces are clean, and there’s no grime, scratches, or fingerprints; this one’s a total winner at $9.99, and it goes right in the basket. Can’t wait to get it home and cue up the epic rambler “Crime in the City (Sixty to Zero Part 1),” hear Linda Ronstadt’s sweet harmonies on “Hangin’ on a Limb,” absorb Neil’s furious, practically distorted guitar blowouts on his cover of “On Broadway,” and marvel at the frenzy of the driving electric version of “Rockin’ in the Free World” that closes Side 2.

I pick up eight more LPs to fill in various collection holes and head into the jazz section. Way in the back in some bins on the floor underneath some jazz discs are a few rows of DVD-Audio and SACDs. I check this area every time I’m here because sometimes a gem pops up, like a Peter Gabriel or David Bowie SACD. I spot a copy of the DTS release of Frank Zappa’s Halloween DVD-A that came out in 2003, overseen by surround-sound progenitor-offspring Dweezil Zappa. I already have a copy in my home library but want a second one to play exclusively in the office, so I add it to the bin. $14.99.

Next, I move on to the CD section. I tend to start in the used area because that’s where the finds and rare stuff are. I start at the Z’s since I’m in the back of the store and move row to row from right to left, sometimes crossing over into the new section to check out box sets. First thing I come across is something on my active list, The Yardbirds’ new, import 5-disc box set on Easy Action, Glimpses 1963-1968. It was out of stock at a few of the shops back in NY and NJ I’d been to recently, and I knew Amoeba would have it. $65.98 makes it the top-ticket item for the day.

Row by row, I find my kind of goodies, starting with the dual-layer promo demo disc for Pink Floyd’s Money, culled from the 2003 SACD for The Dark Side of the Moon, for $19.99. The only thing I don’t like is that Amoeba put price stickers on both the front and back of the cardboard sleeve, plus a rectangular white “PROMO ONLY” sticker on the front for good measure. Um, hello, we’re collectors; we don’t want covers to be marred like that. Money should be in a sealed plastic bag with the stickers on the plastic instead, which Amoeba does with so many other collectible items. Still, I’ll take it.

Let’s see, what else? Still in a Floyd mode, I grab Beyond the Wildwood: A Tribute to Syd Barrett with covers from the likes of the Mock Turtles and the Shamen for $4.99; Garbage’s Milk with three remixes for $4.99 (I have most of Garbage’s singles and EPs, but not this one); and Depeche Mode’s Playing the Angel for $6.99. This Angel is a great find because it’s the version that has the second disc with Ben Hillier’s 5.1 mix, and it’s is the first time I’ve ever seen a copy. Score.

Add in the new issue of Prog with Ian Anderson on the cover discussing Thick as a Brick 2 (we’ll be reviewing Steven Wilson’s 5.1 mix of it soon), Ulver’s The Norwegian National Opera 2-disc Blu-ray and DVD set, and a few other things, and my total for this visit runs $255.25. For me, that’s a relatively conservative total, but I’m also looking ahead to what I’ll be spending during Saturday’s mission. What will I find on RSD? We shall see… Happy hunting, fellow seekers.