The Howling Review: Zap Records, Kingston
May 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
In April, I went to a yoga retreat on Wolf Island.
A perfect excuse to cruise Kingston for vinyl…
I was eager to poke around my staple, Brian’s Record Option, for hard-to-find, classic rock albums. To my shock & horror, he was closed! Gutted, I walked against the whipping wind down Princess Street. Trying so hard not to think about it, making it impossible not too, my pal Paula turned to me and said, “What about this”? Cutting through that overcast, hazy Sunday, shining in electric yellow, blue and red stood Zap Records. Thrilled, I entered. Needless to say, this place rocked. Not only did I walk away with three solid albums, I could have easily picked up many many more. Neatly organized, standing about-face, were rows of waxy delights; Bluegrass, Soundtracks, Hip Hop, Rap, Break Beats and of course, the ‘Buck Bin’. It was the perfect scenario for me to loose my s**t. Breathing in some calming prana (still practising my freshly harnessed yoga techniques), I with nimble fingers searched. The gent, who was manning the shop, was very helpful in finding any selection I could ask for. Immediately, I requested the Stones and found a bevy of Rolling beauties sure to break my bank. Limiting myself to only 3 albums, the real challenge lay before me; how to choose? The sure fire way to cleave the wheat from the chaff is examining the record itself. I selected the Stones “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out” and “Through The Past Darkly” along with the Faces “Ooh La La”. Pulling away the standard plastic protector and the cover, each album was in mint condition. This is a rarity. When hunting for second-hand records its very common to have your hopes dashed by scratches, dust and being warped or worn.
Here are some tips to help you make a quality investment:
Dust: Now, when you’re looking for flaws, the one that gets overlooked is dust. What you want to avoid are noticably dusty surfaces. When the dust is so deeply imbedded in the tiny grooves, it can really dampen the sound. Those quintessential pops & hisses you hear is the needle going over the dust. If the particles are really big, then the needle can skip or even worse, go backwards creating the ‘broken record’ effect! Eeeek! My Uncle, who gave me & my sister his entire record collection, taught me an amazing trick he learned growing up back home in Malaysia. Bascially, you wash the album. Get 2 sinks or basins and fill one with very lukewarm, clear water and the other with soapy water (use a mild dish soap, a few drops should suffice). Get a soft cloth or natural sponge and gently cleanse the disc in a the direction of the grooves, ie circular. Gently wash of the residue in the clean water and let it dry on a rack. Voila! I’ve done it before it works like a charm.
Warped or Worn: The surface of the record should have a mirror-like finish. This indicates that the quality of the vinyl used has stood the test of time. If it looks like an orange peel, leave her be. The grooves have been been worn out therefore effecting the sound. No amount of washing will help an album this far gone. You can determine if its warped by laying the album on a flat surface and looking across it (a sectional view, if you will), you can immediately notice if its wavy.
Scratches or Scuffs: The most obvious flaw you will find on a record. In my experience, the whiter the scratch appears, the deeper it is. Sometimes you find faint, hairline marks that sometimes don’t make a difference to the sound quality. The best way to make sure that the album is solid; ask the clerk if he can play it for you.
Buyer Beware; you are purchasing, in most cases, a used item. Always ask to listen to it before you buy, then you will know for sure if it was meant to be. I managed to score these albums for $50, which I think is a steal. If you’re a Beatles fan, you’ll be chuffed! They have so much and they had some Stones v. Beatles albums too! If you’re a 78 collector, you are in luck. They area above the cash and behind the counter hangs a huge shelving unit packed with 78 books and collections. I was told that Jeff Healey would always come into Zap specifically to snag some 78’s. They also have scores of 7″s to scope out including the Return of the Jedi soundtrack. If you’re a serious collector or love that thrill of the hunt, and happen to be in the Kingston area, I highly recommend this vintage vinyl haven.