In the groove

New group shar­ing love of vinyl at Syd­ney book­store

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY CAPE BRE­TON POST STAFF

It’s a Tues­day evening at Ed’s Books and More, and a swampy, south­ern rock song slith­ers through the stacks and shelves that line the cosy down­town shop.

This is the third gath­er­ing of Vinyl Sid­ings, a group Paul Mac­Dougall re­cently formed for peo­ple who love lis­ten­ing to vinyl records and, per­haps just as im­por­tant, en­joy shar­ing over­looked and un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated al­bums with a sim­patico au­di­ence. Tonight’s of­fer­ing is “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now,” an eclec­tic and in­flu­en­tial 1974 al­bum by L.A.-based band Lit­tle Feat, and about a dozen peo­ple are seated in a snaking loop of mis­matched chairs, lis­ten­ing ab­sorbedly to the strange fu­sion of rock, coun­try, blues, gospel, jazz and other in­flu­ences.

“We’re look­ing for clas­sics, some­thing ob­scure, some­thing maybe you haven’t thought about in a while — that kind of thing,” Mac­Dougall ex­plains be­fore giv­ing the group a brief his­tory of the band (lead singer and gui­tarist Low­ell Ge­orge formed the pi­o­neer­ing en­sem­ble af­ter Frank Zappa kicked him out of his Moth­ers of In­ven­tion be­cause, ac­cord­ing to one leg­end, he thought Ge­orge de­served his own band; Ge­orge died of an ac­ci­den­tal drug over­dose shortly af­ter the orig­i­nal lineup broke up in 1979; oh, and keep an ear out for fu­ture coun­try mu­sic grand dame Em­my­lou Har­ris and blues queen Bon­nie Raitt sup­ply­ing back­ground vo­cals on sev­eral tracks.)

The scene is pretty much what Mac­Dougall en­vi­sioned when his brother told him about a group that lis­tens to vinyl al­bums in a Hal­i­fax li­brary.

“I thought, ‘Holy mack­erel, that sounds like a re­ally cool idea. The only thing we need is the record player — I’m sure there are peo­ple in­ter­ested in vinyl — and a place to do it,’” he re­calls.

So, he talked to friend Ed Gil­lis, who of­fered his Charlotte Street store, as well as his Re­al­is­tic Clar­inette 120 turntable, and Vinyl Sid­ings was born. The first meet­ing, a few months back, fea­tured War­ren Zevon’s “Bad Luck Streak in Danc­ing School,” fol­lowed by “The Heart of Satur­day Night” by Tom Waits.

For Gil­lis, who didn’t quite warm up to “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” un­til the ‘B’ side (“It was so for­eign to me, that first side”), ex­pe­ri­enc­ing new mu­sic is only part of the ap­peal.

“Any lit­tle con­tri­bu­tion you can make, whether it’s art, or lit­er­a­ture, or mu­sic, for the down­town Syd­ney en­vi­ron­ment, it’s all won­der­ful,” he says. “It’s been great. I love it. I just en­joy the at­mos­phere and the peo­ple are all great peo­ple. The mu­sic, not that it’s se­condary, but it’s only part of the ex­pe­ri­ence for me.”

Po­etry, not mu­sic, drew Deb­o­rah Long to the last two Vinyl Sid­ings ses­sions.

“I was writ­ing a poem, ac­tu­ally, about mu­sic, and specif­i­cally about some­thing play­ing on an old phono­graph,” she says, adding that she feels a vis­ceral con­nec­tion to mu­sic played on vinyl.

“There’s a real im­me­di­acy to this. It’s the same as the dif­fer­ence be­tween hold­ing a book in your hand and turn­ing the pages while read­ing it late at night, or read­ing it on a tablet.”

As for “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now,” Long calls it a “re­ally in­ter­est­ing mix,” say­ing she was fas­ci­nated by the blues and jazz el­e­ments.

“I re­ally liked it.”

Steve Ma­cLeod, who rec­om­mended the al­bum for the group’s lat­est au­dio ad­ven­ture, stands out as “the Vinyl Guy,” even in a room full of en­thu­si­asts. He es­ti­mates his con­stantly grow­ing col­lec­tion in­cludes 9,000 sin­gles and more than 2,000 al­bums.

“That’s what I grew up with — I grew up with vinyl,” he says. “I was around when the eight-tracks were out but I didn’t catch on to them so much. Or cas­settes. Or CDs. I’ve just al­ways liked the vinyl.”

For Mac­Dougall, it’s as much about the rit­ual as sound qual­ity, or even nos­tal­gia. While he’s lov­ingly main­tained his col­lec­tion of hun­dreds of al­bums over the years and still has what he calls his “orig­i­nal” turntable, it seems there’s just some­thing about a nee­dle in a groove, vi­bra­tions and vinyl, or, as he puts it, the “phys­i­cal lis­ten­ing of mu­sic.”

“To me vinyl, it’s the whole beauty of it, the sim­plic­ity of it,” he says. “There’s some­thing about see­ing the nee­dle, see­ing the arm go across. You phys­i­cally see what’s go­ing on.”

He’s passed that ap­pre­ci­a­tion for clas­sic mu­sic — and vinyl — on to his son, Sam Mac­Dougall. At 18, he’s eas­ily the youngest per­son at this Vinyl Sid­ings ses­sion, but head bowed and eyes closed as he soaks in the sounds, he’s clearly in his el­e­ment lis­ten­ing to an al­bum that was pressed 25 years be­fore he was born.

“I think it’s great,” Sam says. “From a young age he in­tro­duced me to mu­sic and I feel the same way as he does about it.”

Although there’s no fixed sched­uled, Mac­Dougall says Vinyl Sid­ings will meet ev­ery month or so — “You don’t want to overdo it, but you don’t want peo­ple to for­get about it” — and he ex­pects the next get-to­gether to take place in mid-June. New mem­bers are al­ways wel­come and peo­ple can find out about fu­ture meet­ings by fol­low­ing Mac­Dougall on Twit­ter (@ franey­moun­tain), drop­ping by Ed’s Books and More at 446 Charlotte St., or phon­ing the store at 902-564-2665.

CAPE BRE­TON POST PHOTO

Joe Samp­son stud­ies the cover of “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now,” while Ed­win MacLel­lan, from left, Deb­o­rah Long and Sam Mac­Dougall lis­ten to the al­bum dur­ing a Vinyl Sid­ings meet­ing at Ed’s Books and More on Charlotte Street in Syd­ney.

CAPE BRE­TON POST PHOTO

Paul Mac­Dougall places a copy of “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now,” a 1974 al­bum by L.A.-based band Lit­tle Feat, on the turntable dur­ing the lat­est Vinyl Sid­ings ses­sion at Ed’s Books and More on Charlotte Street in Syd­ney.

CAPE BRE­TON POST PHOTO

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