Vinyl You Need: Bleecker Street Records

On September 15, 2016

Vinyl You Need calls up the people who work at record stores and asks them what records they think are essential. This edition features Bleecker Street Records.

Bleecker Street Records was one of the first important record stories I ever sought out in New York City. Sure, I’d frequented the Virgin Megastore in Times Square when it was still open. But those were the days in which I still stayed within greater Midtown on each annual visit to the city.

Located within a mile of the original CBGB club and deep within the West Village, the Bleecker Street Records I remember was dank and lit by too-bright fluorescents. I found great grunge live bootlegs along its shelves and rows of CDs that lined the ground level. If you weaved your way down the narrow staircase, however, you’d get to a basement level full of records.

These days, Bleecker Street Records has moved just down the street to its new location on West 4th Street. Yet, it still maintains it reputation for vintage and out of print vinyl, as well as the rare CDs that I collected and coveted as a kid. So, we checked with Peter Kaye at Bleecker Street Records to see what records you should own on wax.

Five Essential Records to Own on Vinyl

Peter Kaye
Manager, Bleecker Street Records

Artist: The Edgar Winter Group
Album: Shock Treatment
Reason: Let's start at the beginning. This was the very first album I ever bought with my own money! I was a young lad ready to shake off The Carpenters (who still rule, by the way) and I was hungry for rock—the heavier and the freakier the better! The album cover sold me, hook, line, and sinker. What a collection of freakin' freaks! Rick Derringer looked absolutely beautiful in his black leather and Edgar Winter, albino brother of Johnny Winter, was total F R E A K! Notable, too, is the inclusion of Dan Hartman, who would later have success with the disco classics "Relight My Fire,” "Instant Replay," and "I Can Dream About You." It is Mr. Hartman's performances that really set this album apart. If this LP was released today, it would turn heads. The LP incorporates elements of jazz-rock, hard rock, and radio-friendly rock, and it’s all played with top-notch skill. Be sure to listen to "Queen Of My Dreams" by Dan Hartman, where he sings and plays all the instruments except drums. Close your eyes and you'll swear that you are listening to Led Zeppelin in their prime. This track alone is enough to immortalize this LP foreva' 'n' eva'!

Artist: Montrose
Album: Montrose
Reason: When punk rock broke, I was the only kid in high school who got into it. This was a very effective formula for "instant outcast." Anyway, I was wearing my Iggy Pop t-shirt one day when that scary kid across the street said, "Hey, Punk Rock! Come here." He was older and a real sex, drugs, and R'n'R drummer. We were told, "Never go in that kid's basement!" That's where his band rehearsed and where he gave me a copy of Montose’s almighty debut album. "Learn this note for note and you'll be okay,” was the advice I was given. Montorse's first album is widely recognized as the high-water mark of American hard rock. They were called the American Zeppelin. Sadly it all fell apart all too quickly. Still this forgotten gem is essential listening to anyone interested in the genre. Oh, and it's the first recording of Sammy Hagar, who does an excellent job and without any cheesiness, whatsoever. "Rock Candy," "Rock The Nation," "Space Station #5," and "Bad Motor Scooter" still melt pavement and minds!

Artist: Freur
Album: Doot Doot
Reason: I was 21 when I walked into a room to catch the final moments of Freur's video for the song, "Doot Doot." As often happened in the ‘80s, with so much new music coming from every side, I remarked aloud, "What the hell is that?!" I saw five new wave/glam freaks administering the final movements of that sublime single awash with cascading synth swells and animal noises. Some guy was playing what looked like a broom handle! What the hell was this angelic, yet primal music? Well, these same guys would eventually become Underworld. But before any of that came this little know, little understood band that played highly idiosyncratic music (if you can even call it that!). They pre-dated Prince by having an unintelligible squiggle for a name, too! The excess of the ‘80s produced many strange and forgotten bands. This is one, but brother, what a fantastic enigmatic slice of life it is!

Artist: Scritti Polittti
Album: Cupid & Psyche
Reason: Scritti Polittti is not so much a band as one principal player—Green Gartside. It’s been said that Mr. Gartside had some extreme political opinions, but thankfully, we are spared any such tripe on this remarkable album. Production values we're crazy inventive. I am sure this fairly well known LP has influenced many that came after it. Perhaps it is dated now, but truly, you just never heard such a thing before! Tales were told that the drummer would come into the studio and hit this or that once and then be sent home. The record was then put together from these collected sounds. It must be said all this innovation was done for the highly honorable goal of making one hell of a dance record. Every track is an aural assemblage assault paired with Mr. Gartside's fragile, breathy vocals. Maybe you had to be there to "get it" but, damn, this album still sounds vibrant and alive with good energies!

Artist: Pat Metheny Group
Album: Offramp
Reason: Okay, the album won a Grammy (Best Jazz-Fusion Performance) and is known for containing the groups signature tune, "Are You Going With Me?," but neither of these reasons put this album on my list. Being a new wave/hair metal dude, this album had no business getting my attention but, it did. Pat Metheney is a bit of mystery, as is this wonderfully atmospheric instrumental LP. The record has many textures and moods, courtesy of the then-new guitar synthesizer, which takes the listener on a great journey from it's frenzied beginning through a myriad of emotions to the peaceful resolution. This is one of those albums that can be played from start to finish as a perfect and complete set of tracks. And for those thinking that jazz-fusion is pretentious, one Metheny story succinctly negates that notion: Mr. Metheny once had the bottom knob of his guitar strap break off. He looked around for something to mend this problem. The solution? He stuffed his toothbrush in the guitar where it stayed for years in the studio and in front of audiences. Pretentious? I think not.

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