Go­ing postal

Why not pam­per your shelf each month with a smartly cu­rated sur­prise? Jim Irvin joins a new record club.

Mojo (UK) - - Filter Reissues -

THE RE­TURN of vinyl as a deluxe life­style ac­ces­sory means the in­evitable re­turn of record clubs. Start­ing in the 1950s, these were handy for any­one too time-poor to shop for them­selves, or liv­ing in a store-less wilder­ness, but by the 1980s had become vast, soul­less in­sti­tu­tions that lured you in with four al­bums for a penny and then bul­lied you into reg­u­larly buy­ing un­sur­pris­ing block­busters you didn’t want. No such con­cerns with the new breed of record club, such as Vinyl Me, Please, a smart, bou­tiquey out­fit from the US that tar­gets a cer­tain stripe of con­sumer and su­per-serves them with crys­tal re­mas­ters of crate-dwelling rar­i­ties served up in heavy­gauge sleeves, 180-gram coloured vinyl, with obi, plas­tic outer bag, art print, notes book­let, cock­tail recipe and a maraschino cherry grown on the south slopes of an exclusive Ja­panese or­chard. OK, I made up the last one. VMP was founded in 2013 by Matt Fiedler and Tyler Barstow, who were soon joined by spokesman Cameron Schae­fer, who de­scribes VMP’s aes­thetic as “unironic” and their ideal cus­tomer as “the su­per­fan or col­lec­tor who recog­nises that the great­est mo­ments are the re­sult of serendip­ity, who lis­tens to coun­try and rap with­out apol­ogy, metal and soul with no dis­so­nance.” They have three sub­scrip­tion lists (or Tracks, as they call them, slightly con­fus­ingly): Es­sen­tials, their flag­ship cat­e­gory, fea­tur­ing their cho­sen al­bum of the month, which can be any­thing from Miles Davis to My Morn­ing Jacket, St. Vin­cent or Betty Davis, Wilco or Nina Si­mone; Clas­sics, which are all jazz, blues and soul reissues cu­rated with the au­dio­phile in mind (re­cent of­fer­ings: Carla Thomas, Dar­rell Banks, Max Roach, Lit­tle Mil­ton), and the self-ex­plana­tory Rap & Hip Hop (Com­mon, Goodie Mob, Snoop Dogg, MF Doom). There are plans afoot for fur­ther Tracks. “Our mem­bers are ask­ing for a Crate-Dig­ger sub­scrip­tion,” says Schae­fer. “Soul Jazz, Light In The At­tic, left-of-cen­tre stuff that Gilles Peter­son would love. Metal, elec­tronic and coun­try are also in de­mand.” Cost­ing $32-42 per month for Brits, depend­ing on the length of time you sign up for at vinylme­please. com, sub­scribers are sent a weekly blog and given the chance to swap their al­bum of the month for any record in the care­fully se­lected cat­a­logue, so ev­ery­one goes away happy. Apart from the three main Tracks, there’s an on­line store stock­ing al­bums the team ad­mires, adding up to 70 new ti­tles each month, some of them edi­tions avail­able only to VMP mem­bers. File Un­der was sent a Clas­sic and an Essen­tial to sam­ple the qual­ity. The Clas­sic was the ex­cel­lent Lafayette Afro-Rock Band’s Soul Makossa. I knew a lit­tle about this funky French cu­rios­ity from 1973; its ti­tle song a cover of the Manu Dibango tune bor­rowed by Michael Jack­son (for Wanna Be Startin’ Some­thing), but the liner book­let told the whole story in nicely em­pur­pled prose. The fol­low-up, Ma­lik, is also avail­able in the store for fur­ther lis­ten­ing. The Essen­tial choice, The Sil­ver­tones’ Sil­ver Bul­lets, is an in­trigu­ing Tro­jan rar­ity pro­duced by Lee Perry, ap­par­ently in one night. It’s patchy, but the songs that de­liver are re­ally im­pres­sive. This kind of ob­scu­rity, tough to dis­cover oth­er­wise, is where this ser­vice re­ally scores. The hand­some art print and cute cock­tail recipe? Though un­likely to be us­ing ei­ther this month, one ap­pre­ci­ates the ef­fort. At­trac­tive, thought­ful, col­lectable, re­mas­tered from orig­i­nal sources wher­ever pos­si­ble, VMP edi­tions are un­de­ni­ably well done. If you’re their kind of lis­tener, and have the spare cash, a sub­scrip­tion will bring you a lav­ish, reg­u­lar treat that’s tough to re­sist.

“Pro­vid­ing tough-todis­cover ob­scu­ri­ties is where this ser­vice re­ally scores.”

Up­town funk: Lafayette AfroRock Band, 1973.

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