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