Last visits to a fine old store

The Exclusive Company is closing. Say it with me: Oh no! It has been a legendary small chain of record stores, the kind of store immortalized in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity and the movie it inspired. But Mr. Giombetti died a few months ago, and his heirs are closing the stores.

I went the other day to see the old place in Green Bay before it’s “stripped to the bare walls” and, of course, to pick up a few clearance deals. Even the new stuff is 25% off, and the pre-owned LPs, CDs, DVDs and the rest is 50% off.

What I came home with:

John Sebastian and Arlen Roth Explore The Spoonful Songbook — I didn’t know this 2021 album even existed, and it was the first thing on the turntable when I got home. I was a casual Lovin’ Spoonful fan in the 1960s but became a fanatic when I encountered the John B. Sebastian album. Here, Sebastian and a host of guests, including Geoff and Maria Muldaur and the MonaLisa Twins, lovingly recreate some of the old master’s greatest songs. At 78 his voice is a little creakier than it was in his 20s, but the smile in it won’t go away.

In early 2020 I faced a choice to see John Sebastian perform live again (I saw him twice – three times? – in my high school and college years) either an hour from our current home or an hour from my childhood home in New Jersey, and I seriously considered going to both. The fearsome response to the pandemic canceled the whole tour, so this album is a wonderful consolation prize, and one I can revisit over and over. (I’m telling ya, own your favorite music!)

The Complete Artie Shaw, Volumes III, IV and V. I’ve had Volume II for years but had never seen these additional collections. Volume III followed Sebastian & Roth onto the turntable — it features Shaw at the height of his career in 1939 and 1940, including the incomparable “Frenesi” and Gramercy 5 gems like “Summit Ridge Drive,” which introduced strings and harpsichord to big band music, respectively. Three double albums at $2 each — best deal of the day.

Rickie Lee Jones is an artist I’ve always wanted to explore, and here are her debut album with “Chuck E’s in Love,” the legendary Pirates album, and an album I never heard of (The Magazine) for good measure.

The Contemporary Ballad Book by Joan Baez — another double-record set of her early folk on Vanguard Records, which didn’t release bad records.

Down in the CD aisles I grabbed Past Tense: The Best of Sparks and A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip to get my Mael Brothers fix. They are my latest obsession — where have I been for 50 years while they’ve cranked out 25 wonderfully quirky albums? Also the new Jethro Tull album, The Zealot Gene — at 25% off, why not?

And finally, Peter Jackson’s World War I documentary They Shall Never Grow Old, of which I’ve heard wonderful things and now I’ve brought it home.

It hurts to see a great old store go away, but I’m glad I got one last binge in. This stuff looks awesome. Actually, I went back the next day, because you can never see everything in one 15-minute browse, can you? And I kept thinking about one item I had not grabbed — a five-disk set of Carter Family recordings from 1929 to 1934 that cost about $20 with the discount. Once I had that in my hands, I discovered I had missed bins full of records priced at 19 cents and boxed LP sets at 29 cents. As I type this up, I’ve been listening to fine jazz by Pete Fountain, Pee Wee Hunt and Stan Kenton that I purchased for pennies. It feels like a crime.

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