Today was payday, and my day off, so I decided to drive a half-hour south to the used record store in Appleton, Wisconsin.
I visit the used record stores only on or just after payday, if only to avoid financial ruin. I also spread out my visits, lest I wind up looking at the same old stuff month after month.
When I pulled up in front of the store, there was a sign on the door. After 25 years in business, the New Frontier Record Exchange is going out of business. Stan Erickson and his partner Fred and thousands of old vinyl albums have to be out of the building by Tuesday.
As used record stores are wont to be, New Frontier is cluttered. You have to move old stereo components and pieces of guitars and drum kits to look at some of the bins. You can’t look at all of the bins, either. There’s just too much stuff piled on top. No complaints, though. It’s just the way it is.
Or, in four days, the way it was.
New Frontier sits in a narrow old storefront on a side street on the east end of Appleton’s downtown. It’s just off the main drag and a couple of blocks from the Lawrence University campus. I can only imagine New Frontier’s heyday in the ’80s, in the time before CDs arrived.
So I spent more than an hour at New Frontier this afternoon, leisurely going through the bins. Because it was the last trip, I picked up a handful of albums, if only as a way of saying thanks.
Today’s haul included:
“Local Hero” soundtrack, by Mark Knopfler, from 1983. (Now that I think about this, we may already have this on vinyl. Oh, well. It’s one of our favorite movies from that time.)
“Greatest Disco Hits,” a 1978 compilation album by the Salsoul Orchestra. Upon closer inspection, there was another album inside the jacket — “Disco Boogie Vol. 2,” also on the Salsoul label and featuring some early Tom Moulton mixes. “Just take it,” Stan said.
And a couple of Christmas albums — Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” from 1984 and still another vinyl copy of “Christmas Jollies,” the 1976 album by the Salsoul Orchestra. I bought a copy of the latter a couple of months ago, but it was in pretty bad shape.
I took another Christmas album up to the desk, but Stan had to look up the price.
“You don’t want this,” he said quietly. He pointed to the price guide.
That album, “Merry Christmas Baby,” a 1956 compilation of R&B Christmas singles from the Starday-King label and put out on the Hollywood label, goes for $100 or better on vinyl.
Well, yes, I do want it, but $100 is beyond my budget today. “I’ll put it on eBay,” Stan said. Guess I’ll have to settle for the CD version.
Another Christmas oldie but greatie also was beyond my financial reach today: “Charles Brown Sings Christmas Songs,” from 1962. Guess I’ll have to pursue the CD version of that, too. (Update, five or so years later: I eventually found a vinyl copy of this.)
However, having picked up the following album this afternoon more than made up for the disappointment of not being able to get the others. Enjoy these cuts.
“O-o-h Child” is a terrific pop-gospel rendering of The Five Stairsteps’ hit from 1970. I have four versions of this song, including the original, and they’re all great.
“Wake Up to What’s Happening” is fairly self-explanatory, a song of its time. However, the message applies now as then. And, yes, it cooks! It has a great mix of rhythm section, strings and horns.
“O-o-h Child” is available on “Oh Happy Day! The Best of the Edwin Hawkins Singers,” a 2001 compilation on CD.
“Wake Up to What’s Happening” is available on “The Very Best of the Edwin Hawkins Singers,” a 1998 import compilation on CD.