The Roundabout Records Roundup – Sound House Records Edition

At the end of the summer, I ran into Sound House Record’s Matthew Klein in the SinglecutNorth Taproom for one of the brewery’s regular Slipmat Sunday events.

I was wearing a “Sweetheart of the Rodeo ” T-shirt, paying homage to my favorite album by The Byrds (and my favorite country-rock record of all time), and Matt had a clean-as-a-whistle second-pressing of the album displayed at his table. While I have somewhere in the neighborhood of four copies of the Gram Parsons-led classic, it still made me excited. I asked Matt, if we truly love an album, do we ever really stop looking for an upgrade copy? That he would even tolerate such a question is reason enough that we are friends.

At the semi-regular pop-up event at Singlecut (where I also sell vinyl on a semi-regular basis), Matt brought six crates of great stuff that would appeal to a wide variety of listeners. Aside from the slim selection at Crossgates’ Newbury Comics, Sound House is really the only place in the Capital Region with an extensive selection of new/sealed vinyl and the curation of new stock by Matt and his business partner George Weinisch is the culmination of decades of close-listening and vinyl tourism.

At Singlecut, I grabbed an archival reissue of psych-Zamrock legends Witch’s 1974 album “Introduction,” released on Now-Again. This “blood red” colored vinyl copy is a nice affordable addition to my IKEA Kallax shelves (originals of this record can top $300 for a decent copy). We live in a golden age of obscure vinyl reissues, and while this copy was hardly an “audiophile” copy, I was just happy to crank tunes like the British-Invasion-inspired “You Better Know” and the soulful psych of “Feeling High”. I missed Witch’s relatively recent show at No Fun this summer, and I regret it. Unlike many bands of the era, Witch had a surprisingly diverse sonic palette. At times, they sounded like Zambia’s stones, but their organ sound and distorted guitar playing always harkened back to more of a “Nuggets” niche garage sound. The instrumentals here are part James Brown and part teen dance magic. 

I also grabbed a reissue of Wire’s “Chairs Missing” – one of the great post-punk albums of all time. While many would name-check “Pink Flag” as Wire’s best (and you won’t get arguments from me there), but “Chairs Missing” (released in 1978) has always been my favorite. I once had an original copy, sold it, and have regretted it ever since. So there I was buying it again. The reissue sounds fine, and I had to have it because “Outdoor Miner” is one of my top songs of the era. Listen to the original, but also try to track down a cover by The Feelies –they kill it.

I told Matt I was thrilled to see him in my neighborhood (I live two minutes from Singlecut) and that I’d see him on his turf as soon as I could.

Sound House: In the Store

Between online record-buying, parenting a three-year-old and the start of the school year, it took me until last Friday night to finally find an afternoon where I could take the 20-minute drive down to Troy to spend an hour browsing at Sound House. While I’d been to the 52 King Street location a half-dozen times, it would be the first time for my brother who was getting me out of the house for a perfect night: crate digging, burgers at Nighthawks, and a night of music at “No Fun” with Albany-formed Another Michael headlining.

Sound House, which opened in 2021, is the closest thing our area has to a true boutique shop. It is CLEAN and so are the records (used records are ultrasonically cleaned, which saves nitpicky collectors like me the trouble of doing so at home). The lighting is also ideal for checking condition, and the size of the shop is perfect for a two-hour dig. The shop had pretty much completely turned over its merchandise since my last shop, so it was cool to hit the bins.

The layout of Sound House is also the stuff a record collector dreams of. My two favorite areas in any shop are the rarities wall and the new arrivals. Sound House features a behind-the-counter mini wall where a Charlie Parker 10-inch on Dial caught my eye, but was well out of my budget for the night. Another larger wall stretched along the rock section and featured a number of more affordable collectibles. The new arrivals featured a robust new/sealed section that included a number of albums that had been released that day, along with a used new arrivals section that had a nice variety of genres represented.

Matt and George are the closest of friends who have plenty of overlapping musical tastes, but they also have their own areas of expertise. George leans heavily into experimental territory and avant-classical, while Matt’s tastes range from The Grateful Dead to the modern spiritual jazz represented by labels like International Anthem. I loved the addition of their “George Picks” and “Matt Picks” sections. I’ve been a firm “Matt Picks” believer ever since he suggested I snag a copy of jazz saxophonist Charles Lloyd’s 1972 album “Waves.” Do yourself a copy and find a copy – it’s the definition of “cheap heat.”

At this point, I decided to do something I rarely do. I asked about a particular record. With thousands of records on my shelves and the personality of a seeker, I’m often much more interested in stumbling upon something than I am in checking things off a “want list” (which I don’t have). But, I’d recently missed out on an auction for folk/blues guitarist Chris Smither’s 1972 album “Don’t It Drag On.” While this isn’t the rarest or most-expensive record in the world, it’s something I have hardly ever seen in the bins of a record store. But hey, what the hell? I asked Matt. In fact, I couldn’t even remember the title. I just said, “Hey, Matt, this is a shot in the dark, but do you happen to have that Chris Smither record, that early one?” Sometimes long-married couples can communicate with a look, and sometimes record nerds pick up what you are laying down even when you can’t form a comprehensible sentence. Maybe Matt just gets me. He went to the far corner of the store and grabbed a well-worn (but clean and passable) copy. In fact, it had been his, and now it is mine! 

“Don’t It Drag On” was released on the Poppy label which makes most record collectors think of Townes Van Zandt. It was recorded at Bearsville Studio in Woodstock in late autumn, early winter, and it sounds pretty much like a Woodstock winter. The record was produced by legendary jazz producer Michael Cuscuna and has that real “in the room” quality. It features a number of rustic covers of Dylan, Dead, and Stones tunes (“No Expectations” is the highlight here) along with blues traditionals (a great Statesboro Blues) and smart Smithers originals (“I’ve Got Mine” and “Every Mother’s Son”). Smither wouldn’t release another solo album until the 80s, although he did maintain a long working relationship with Bonnie Raitt, who considered him something of a secret weapon.

Sound House certainly has something for everything and they had THE thing for me on Friday, but they also have something for more adventurous listeners. Aside from the requisite rock, jazz, soul, new releases, and folk, Sound House has very well-curated free-jazz, world music, electronic music, and avant-classical sections. I consider myself a more-than-moderately adventurous listener and so I grabbed a couple of pieces that I thought represent the somewhat more esoteric-than-expected selection at Sound House. 

My free-jazz selection was “Children of the Forest” by Milford Graves with Arthur Doyle and Hugh Glover. This was released as a double-lp with a high-quality gatefold in May 2023 by Black Editions Archive. The pressing is dead quiet and sounds phenomenal for what amounts to an archival release. Cool photographs and liner notes, too. The release compiles three separate recording dates in 1976 made in percussionist Graves’ basement laboratory in Queens. According to Glover, who contributed percussion and saxophone to the record, the group was very interested in Congolese tribal music at the time. The polyrhythms represented here are rather thrilling and exhilarating examples of NYC improvised music of the time period. For me, Graves was the quintessential percussionist of that period. I look forward to other releases from BEA in the Milford Graves series.

In the world section, I asked for some assistance from Matt, and he gave me the go-ahead on Hailu Mergia’s & The Walias Band’s “Tezeta.” I’ve bought a number of records from the Awesome Tapes from Africa series, and I was glad to hear that this collection of Ethiopian Instrumental soul-jazz got a positive reaction from Matt. The keyboard-driven record is a fascinating document of mid-70s nightlife in Ethiopia – the Walias were the house band at the Addis Ababa Hilton. Much of their act was a reimagining of traditional Ethiopian music as pop music and the record has a real lounge vibe. But it’s also a classic example of DIY ethos. The band had its own label, released its own cassettes, and owned a music store where they sold their albums.

I could have grabbed a lot more, but Sound House was closing, it was time to eat, and live music was waiting for us at No Fun 

Another Michael: The Merch Table

At No Fun, Another Michael played a tight set of mostly new songs off of “Wishes to Fulfill,” their recent release on Run For Cover Records. Singer/guitarist Michael Doherty, bassist Nick Sebastiano and company noted that for several of the songs, it was the first time they were playing them live as a band. “Guitars”, “Angels” and “Baseball Player” were particularly resonant songs off the new record.

But nothing in the show compared to hearing Doherty sing the truly beautiful song “New Music.” Doherty’s falsetto is simply remarkable and it was thrilling to hear it from about five feet away while a crowd full of 20-somethings sang the lyrics right back to a local songwriting icon who has a bright future and an already extensive repertoire. 

Doherty is something of a blend of a young David Crosby and Pinegrove front-man Evan Stephens Hall. Despite the band’s Albany/Saint Rose origins and snowy-day Albany lyrics, they share quite a bit with the style of music that has been coming out of their now-native Philadelphia for several years. From the unmistakable influence of Pinegrove to bands like Waxahatchee, Modern Baseball, Swearin’, and Radiator Hospital, Philly has been one of the most consistently exceptional indie scenes of the 21st Century. Another Michael’s brand of folk-influenced indie music might well be the most poppy (see “Big Pop”) and it will be quite interesting to see their trajectory in years to come. To my ears, they are one of the most exciting groups with local ties since groups like Hand Habits, Quarterbacks (Kingston, NY), and The Kamikaze Hearts (who really should have been huge).

Because I had to have “New Music” on vinyl, my brother grabbed me a copy of “New Music and Big Pop” from the merch table and the 2021 record has been on my turntable on repeat. And yes, I ended up ordering a copy of “Wishes to Fulfill” online just the other day. This is what live music does to the record-buyer. You get something at the merch table, but some other song bounces around in your head, and all of a sudden, your $20 ticket has turned into $75 spent and a couple more records on the shelves. 

Post-Script: Saratoga Record Riot Returns on 10/21

Speaking of my overflowing record shelves, I’ll be selling records at the Saratoga Record Riot at the Saratoga City Center, (522 Broadway) on Saturday, 10/21.

Early buying kicks off at 9 a.m. ($15) with general admission ($5) at 11 a.m. The show runs until 5 p.m. and features live vinyl DJs all day, curated by Ed Martuscello from Sweet Side Records in Glens Falls.

The event will feature 55 tables of collectible vinyl and cds in genres from punk to funk to hip hop. Local vendors and plenty of others who travel into town from all over the northeast. I’m bringing a big collection of folk-rock and country-rock that includes a bunch of desirable titles and a fair amount of promos. I’ll also have jazz, indie rock, weird stuff, classic rock, and some bargain cds. Think of it like the best record store in the region that is only open for one day. In other words, don’t miss the crate-digging party and come out to talk (and buy) music. 

Ross Marvin, aka Roundabout Records, is a local English teacher who buys, sells, and trades vinyl records, primarily at the Albany and Saratoga Record Riots.

Look for his orange signs at the Saratoga Record Riot on Saturday, 10/21, from 9a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Saratoga City Center!

Records purchased for the column

Sound House Records Pop Up at SinglecutNorth Taproom:

  • ”Chairs Missing” by Wire
  • “Introduction” by Witch

Sound House Records:

  • “Children of the Forest” by Milford Graves with Arthur Doyle & Hugh Glover
  • “Don’t Drag It On” by Chris Smither
  • “Tezeta” Ethiopian Instrumental Music by Hailu Mergia & The Walias Band

Another Michael Merch Table:

  • “New Music and Big Pop” by Another Michael

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