Thursday, January 5, 2012
BARGAIN BIN FINDS
Of course, department stores don't sell music anymore, and neither do music stores for that matter. As for delete bins, I didn't have the first clue where I'd find one these days, until I was helped by the modern miracle that is Facebook. A record-and-movie collecting friend from a far-off land (well, Nova Scotia), informed the world that he had, in fact, just scored a bunch of great CD's at a bin sale. He was raving, so I could tell this was an old-school, look-what-I-got score, the kind you feel happy about for months. The only problem was, I wasn't about to drive to Nova Scotia that day.
"Do you have a Giant Tiger?" Hell yes, we got one of them around here. Just down the road from my office, in fact, on my usual lunch hour walk. I never did find out what my pal was doing in Giant Tiger in the first place, but bless his heart, that's where he found his bin, and knowing how these things usually work, if one chain store has them, there's a good bet they all do. It wasn't too many hours before I was headed to Le Tigre Grande to try my luck.
And there it was. Now, things have changed of course. They are CD's, not vinyl, and surely it won't be just $1.99 for a cut-out. No, it wasn't. They were a dollar. Even. A buck. Ridiculous. Who said the music industry was hurting? I mean, if Giant Tiger can sell them for a dollar, think what the music company must have charged. That's a pretty substantial loss on planned revenue (my brother teaches Management Accounting at some university, and I stayed awake long enough to hear that one time).
Not all the hoped-for treasures that were found in Nova Scotia were in this bin, and it's possible I got there too late. But I had no trouble grabbing seven in the ten minutes or so it took me to devour the bin. The first thing I saw was a Ray Charles collection called How Long Blues, with tracks I didn't recognize. For a buck? Go for it. It turned out to be his very earliest recordings, singles he cut while he was still working the circuit, before being grabbed by Atlantic Records and helping invent soul music. It's solid stuff, bluesy stuff that just lacked the oomph he would get a couple of years later with better production. Score.
Then, a soundtrack caught my eye. Soundtracks are crapshoots for music companies, because you never know if you'll get a hit or not, and much depends on the movie. Nobody predicted Fame, Flashdance or The Big Chill would make fortunes at the music store as well as the box office. But for every one of those, there are twenty of these: Arctic Tale: Music From and Inspired By The Motion Picture. I didn't see it, but there are polar bears on the cover. More importantly, there was a sticker that said Brian Wilson, Aimee Mann, Grant-Lee Phillips, Pearl Jam, The Shins and Sheryl Crow. Most of these can be found on the artist's regular discs, but one of the Aimee Mann cuts is exclusive to this, I didn't have either of the Phillips numbers, and the Crow is a good one from her first album, Keep On Growing, which I don't own, so ya, I'm in for a buck.
Sometimes you get carried away, and I carried away a couple of mistakes. A 50's collection caught my eye, mostly because I've seen too many Mad Men episodes and those early seasons had the cool Dean Martin vibe, and Big Hits of the 50's sounded cool, but when I got it home, it was almost identical to another set I already owned from EMI. Turns out they had just pretty much repackaged it and changed four tracks or so. If anybody wants to groove to The Four Preps singing 26 Miles (Santa Catalina), just bring me a coffee and we'll trade. And I'll owe you forty cents.
Delete bins can also make you sad. I like music, and records and CD's, they have been my favourite possessions my whole life, and when I see great albums tossed in a jumbled pile of mostly junk, knowing all the hard work the artist did, only to have it reach such an ugly end, I feel for them. I still buy it of course, but it does make me want to aim a kick at the buying public at large, who didn't shell out the fifteen bucks for it the first time it went on sale. It looks like West Coast label Boompa Records gave up on its stock. I pulled out two mid-2000's discs by Canuck alt-songwriter Leeroy Stagger, who I enjoy, and another from the Boompa label, the second disc by the very talented Lullaby Baxter, Garden Cities Of To-Morrow, from 2006. This art-pop gem has long been a favourite, and I simply bought another copy to give to the first person I can think who'll love it. Charming, heartfelt lyrics, brilliant arrangements featuring strings, vibes, flutes and things, it's the best buck you can spend. Baxter, who has resided in Moncton the past few years, is thankfully readying new material and with any luck we'll have more soon.
It wasn't the best bargain bin I've ever flipped through, but it took me back to early thrills in my record collecting days, and best of all, it had me taking risks and getting welcome surprises. That's the best feeling there is, especially for seven dollars.