Audiophile Diaries II

Category : Blog Archive May 20th, 2009

I made my first trek to Half Price Books to look for LPs today. Most of them sell for between $2.98 and $5.98, which is quite a steal, but still on the pricey end for an under-employed grad student looking to really stock up toward a summer’s worth of listening.

Then I discovered the $.25 clearance rack. Yes. Here we go. For only 1/4 the cost of a single iTune, I could have . . . well . . .

Let me just say, it’s a good thing my research interests are steering me toward 1.) camp, 2.) kitsch, and 3.) opera. These things can be found in abundance on the $.25 rack. As can Andy Williams. LOTS of Andy Williams.

I had to laugh, thinking back to an incident several years ago when a random guy (who was both literally and figuratively five cans short of a six-pack) burst into the admissions office at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where I was then an employee. He was carrying a pile of sopping wet Andy Williams records that he had just unearthed in a dumpster diving expedition and started insisting to one of my coworkers that because Andy Williams had graduated from high school in Cincinnati, the College-Conservatory of Music should add these LPs to our archives. Poor Josh tried everything to dissuade the inebriated gentleman, from explaining that the admissions office wasn’t really in charge of the archives to telling him we already had copies. Unfortunately, “drunken lunatic with easy listening albums” wasn’t one of the situations covered in our customer service handbook; Josh wound up simply accepting the records.

I re-trash picked them from our circular file and gave them to Josh for his birthday some weeks later. From then on, they hung on the wall in our joint cubicle area, and Andy William’s water-stained face watched me work for the better part of six months.

At any rate, this afternoon, as I was on my hands and knees flipping past a multiplicity of covers featuring Andy’s familiar face, someone interrupted: “Excuse me,” he said, “but do you know where I can even get a good record player these days?”

My determination to find something of value on the discount shelf must have made me look like a serious hi-fi enthusiast (that, and when it starts to get hot and humid like today, I am able to channel Janis Joplin with my hair). I felt seriously cool.

At least, I felt seriously cool for about forty-five seconds, until I was forced to admit that my turntable came from the nostalgia impulse buy section at Restoration Hardware.

What remained of my dignity was promptly compromised as the Emo-scene kid who helped me at the register held back a giggle fit while he rang up the following Andy Williams-free albums, for a grand total of $3.21:

Montserrat Caballé: Verdi Rarities (RCA Victor, LSC-2995, 1968)
Carole King: Fantasy (Ode Records, SP77018, 1973)
Licia Albanese/Jan Peerce: Highlights from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (RCA Victor, LM-2054, 1956)
Elisabeth Schwartzkopf et al: Highlights from Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Angel, S36340, ca. 1955)
Bette Midler: Songs for the New Depression (Atlantic, SD 18155, 1976)
Igor Stravinsky: Rite of Spring, Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic (Columbia, ML 5277, 1959)
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Requiem, featuring Placido Domingo/Sarah Brightman and conducted by Loren Maazel (EMI/Angel DFO-38218, 1985)
Dionne Warwick: I’ll Never Fall in Love Again (Scepter, SPS-581, 1970)
Choir of the Vienna Hofburgkappele: Gregorian Chants for Christmas (Turnabout, TV 34181S, ND)
Richard Tucker: What Now My Love: Richard Tucker Sings Today’s Great Popular Favorites (Columbia, ML 6295, ca. 1966)
Mario Lanza: Lanza Sings Caruso (RCA, ARL1-0134, 1973)
Enzo Stuarti: A Tribute to Mario Lanza (Spinorama, MK 3091, ND)

So, not exactly the sweet rock albums I went in looking for. Maybe next time I’ll pony up the $6 for Led Zeppelin. But at $.25 a pop, I was able to indulge every other whim. The Gregorian chant record, for example, was purchased because I laughed out loud at the timeline on the back which includes the entry: “10th-12th centuries: Gradual decline in pure Gregorian creative activity; the vogue of troping.” I was also very intrigued to see that the string section on the Carole King album included Glenn Dicterow (now concertmaster of the NY Philharmonic).

I will, of course, let you know if this smorgasbord turns up anything good. I’m currently listening to Richard Tucker tackle “Sunrise, Sunset” with full operatic bravado (and vibrato). It’s deliciously overdone, with overtones of Caruso and undertones of Mario Lanza envy. I kind of love it.