The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sam the Record Man


I read that the Sam the Record Man store on Yonge Street in Toronto is closing at the end of June '07. I visited it 2 years ago, right around that time. Sad, I never got there in vinyl days - but they did have an impressive jazz selection - I got an UZEB CD that no other store in Toronto had for sale. Also, even 2 years ago, they were no longer turning on the big neon lights - which was just as well, as it was hotter than all hell during my first (and so far only) visit to Toronto. When I can find the photos I took of Sam's, I'll post 'em. R.I.P. yet another record store. Toronto, I feel for you. We're still smarting from the loss of all those Tower Records stores. Now you have to go to Japan to shop in a brick & mortar Tower store. Which I will do in a few weeks.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: Sam The Record Man

I've been privileged to shop there on three occasions. Twice in 1992 when it was just CRAMMED with vinyl. Too bad I was just 6 months ahead of my GREAT VINYL EPIPHANY of 1993, when I realized that there were vast amounts of music I cherished that would never make the leap to the new format and began buying primarily vinyl, in earnest, for the day when I would master it myself to CD. Even though I didn't get burning equipment until 1998. My first CD burner cost my company well over $3000 in 1993 and after 5 years of disuse [it was a real bear trying to burn CD-ROMS in the DOS based software - time consuming and buggy as all get out] I asked if I could take it home. It became my first burner. I must add it worked effortlessly with my 1993 Macintosh I also had at the time even though the unit itself was almost as large as my Mac!

I went back to Sam in Dec. 2001 and by that time it was all CD/DVD. The vinyl that I SHOULD have paid attention to in 1992 was gone. There was no more of the vast laserdisc stock - DVD only now. In 1992 I bought hundreds of [Canadian] dollars worth of amazing CDs that you could not buy on the web at the time as the internet did not yet exist. I passed up all of that vast volume of vinyl! The last time, I only bought a handful of CDs there but my major score was another store that was on the second floor up on Yonge St. where large amounts of excatly the postpunk music I was gunning for was present in a stunningly well-organized array. I wish I could remember the name of that place as it was like El Dorado to me.

Be that as it may, the next year's trip to Yesterday & Today Records in the final days of their brick & Mortar store in Maryland was well and truly THE BOMB of vinyl! Just about every record I wanted all impeccably organized and fairly priced. It took about 7 hours to go through that store and then trim my purchases down to a managable level.

Sigh!

6:39 AM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

Jim-san,

We can speak at length about ‘vinyl epiphany’ – how I wish I’d properly gone to Japan in the 80’s – vinyl time! I can’t imagine it. How would I have carried everything home?

I have the LP “Home” by Procol Harum to thank for my ‘vinyl epiphany’ – about 1996 or so, I needed a credit to be found on the interior of that LP sleeve, went into the other room to check it – and my LP of it was gone! Shock, horror! Well, I knew who was to blame, if indeed any blame can be generated: my own stupid self. I sold the LP off once a CD of it was obtained. A CD without the proper liner notes, I might add. A CD that sounds ‘flat’, I might add. Etc.

Ran right out and had to spend $5 on a replacement copy of “Home” – wow, about a dollar more than I had to pay for the original, 25+ years previously. Have since done this with hundreds of other examples – but – with any luck at all – I didn’t usually have to pay more than a buck or two to ‘replace’ crummy CD’s with groovy vinyl.

And, of course, nothing generates nostalgia like a nice large unsorted rack of records – what mysteries and record company hypes are in there? Remember when this was the ‘gotta have it’ record – that quickly made it to the 50 cent bin? Oh, there’s that guy’s second solo album – or wait – his third solo album?

When I first went to Japan in 1994, the laser discs were all still there – but nobody in Tokyo had my Scritti Politti laser disc anyhow! I did buy (and carry home) some LD’s, but…not nearly what I would’ve, once upon a time. These days, I don’t even really look at the DVD’s in Tokyo – they’re rather expensive, shall we say. And then there’s the matter of the million (plus) weirdo CD’s in Tokyo.

So, we both got to see Sam The Record Man in Toronto, albeit not at it’s peak. I innately understood it’s history, it’s importance etc. But all I got to buy from Sam was UZEB “Uzeb Club” (C$23.95), NEIL YOUNG “self-titled debut solo album” (C$5.99), THE DAOU “Head Music” (C$0.99) – still with it’s “Sam – I said it, I did it!” sticker.

- Ron

7:03 AM  
Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: Vinyl

CDs can certainly sound crummy. It is a [subjective] fact that the 7" edits I mastered of "Love Song" and "Sweat In Bullet" in 2002 sound miles better than the offical Virgin masterings of the LP cuts done in 1985 with the [then] state of the art. Added to today's miseries is the ugly spectre of compressing music for "hotter" CD mastering! MADNESS!!! Music is compressed on FM because the medium of transmission has big limitations. Nevertheless, the clear trend now is for CDs that are compressed to sound like they have been broadcast on FM with reduced dynamic range but greater VOLUME!!! An engineer friend of mine says that he winces every time he is told to do this but he enjoys eating so he complies. If he refused to do it, other engineers would be lining up to take his place.

That said, even when listening to the relatively rare phenomenon of voluptuous, pristine vinyl, I am hideously aware of the fragility of it all. With my creaky floorboards, I take care not to even move in my chair or walk when digitizing my vinyl. The fetishistic hassle of actually playing records has certainly passed me by!

I have never been an "audiophile" though I have always striven to own the hottest source of music [ie. never bought tapes except when cassette only - Reel-to-reel was all but dead by the time I was buying in force in the tail end of the 70s]. I just basically want to hear the damn tunes and the CD has been very good to me. I condemn it not, though the truth of CDs are that it's a garbage-in/garbage-out medium but if the music is mastered with care and knowledge of what the original production was striving for, a CD can certainly be an acme of sound.

Lately, I have been recording my raw vinyl masters in 24 bit sound fo the day when I may upgrade my home burned CDs. I then archive the raw audio on to DVD for the day when I may have even better NR software/mastering methodologies. Even though mathematically, I am fully aware of the reasons why the CD spec is what it is [note: I have read a technical volume fully examining the Red Book standard in toto back in 1988 - fascinating reading regarding the Nyquist Theorum] I can also state unequivocally that listening to the raw 24 bit audio on my computer sounds even better than the 16 bit final red book version. Keep in mind that I record in 24/44.1 - I am not venturing into 96K audio, it eats up humongous disk space and dithering the sound down to 44.1 for CD makes for far uglier math than the relatively clean process of going from 24 to 16 bit depth. This handy page explains a lot and, hey presto - he also advocates 24/44.1!
www.tweakheadz.com16_vs_24_bit_audio.htm

8:05 AM  
Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: 24 VS 16 bit

Here is the correct URL:

www.tweakheadz.com/16_vs_24_bit_audio.htm

somehow the forward slash got lost - grr.

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: Sam's Peak

Actually, Ron... 1992 was far from chopped liver! The store was about 40% vinyl! So I saw Sam's at it's peak but didn't act on the vinyl - dios mio!

12:36 PM  

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