Monday, December 29, 2008

Old Wax Merges With New Technology

written by Robert Benson

There is a very simple audio question making the rounds these days; why vinyl? The answer is just as simple-millions of music lovers are discovering the superior sound that vinyl offers. Add these newcomers to the millions of audiophiles and collectors who are already sold on the benefits of analog sound and one can understand why there is a ‘vinyl revival.’

With the renewed interest in vinyl records, many web sites have been launched to help vinyl lovers find their rare audio treasures. One such site,, can not only steer you in the direction of online retailers who sell vinyl records, but in a unique twist also alerts visitors to real ‘brick and mortar’ stores in the US.

The man behind is Rob Lambert who has, not only a keen interest in vinyl, but is developing a unique, interactive website to help his visitors with all their vinyl needs. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Rob, let’s learn more about the intriguing site:

Why vinyl, what is the allure? When did you start collecting, what kind of collection do you have?

“I have always loved all kinds of music in all formats. I was born in the early seventies, so my mother had a decent collection of records that included artists that I still love to this day: CSNY, Joni Mitchell, etc. But by the time I started purchasing my own music, it was on cassette and then CDs. I still have a huge CD collection (and the MP3 versions of those on my computers) and so I am not anti-digital music. Initially, in the early 2000's, I started buying my all-time favorite records solely for the artwork to frame and hang on my walls. But one thing led to another and, and as I mention in my “about” section, I bought two palettes of (random) records which led to me actually getting a nice turntable. It then became about the whole experience. Sitting down and LISTENING to the music, looking at the artwork, and yes, the superior sound.

Today my collection is all over the board (see my favorite artists below). I probably have 1500 records or so (not counting lots of leftover boxes of junk from my big palette purchases).”

When did you launch

“End of October 2008.”

Why the fm domain?

“On a technical level, .fm is the country code top-level domain for the Federated States of Micronesia, a group of islands located in the Pacific Ocean.

Initially, I was going to build a website primarily for mobile devices. I wanted a name that was as short as possible (easy to type on little devices). An alternative to “.com” allows the possibility of finding a good, short three letter domain. I noticed the exploding trend of music-related sites using the “.fm” extension (,,,, etc). FM conjures up the feeling of classic rock radio, especially of the 70's, and to me, that goes hand-in-hand with the old school technology of vinyl records. The first short word related to vinyl records that came to mind was “wax” and sure enough, was available!”

Tell me about the future plans for the site?

“For sure:

• Better integration of the main site with the blog (see for some videos of me and other initial blog posts)

• Continue to add more records and record data

• Continue to add more vendors where specific records can be purchased online

• Continue to add more brick-and-mortar record stores

• Add record fairs to the “Find Records in Your City” sections

Other strong possibilities:

• Allow outside users to rank and comment on record stores and fairs

• Mobile/iPhone friendly version for researching records while shopping at thrift stores, garage sales, used record shops, record fairs, etc.

• Additional audio and video samples of records (but I don't want to make digital music a central part of the site).”

Where do you see vinyl, in let’s say 20 years?

“You know, I really have no idea. I truly hope that bands and labels continue the current trend to put out their new music on vinyl (and include a digital download with the purchase). It seems that the younger generations are currently really discovering, not only the allure of buying new music on vinyl, but also classic music on used vinyl from the Beatles to Pink Floyd to the Ramones – I hope that trend continues too.”

What kind of music do you listen to?

“Some of my all-time favorites: Dylan, Zappa, Hendrix, Miles, Coltrane, Mingus.

More modern 90's/2000's favorites: Wilco, Flaming Lips, Arcade Fire, My Bloody Valentine, Sufjan Stevens, My Morning Jacket, Beck, Radiohead.

I have a place in my heart for classic metal/hard rock: Sabbath, Megadeath, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, etc.

And all over the board: Johnny Cash, Public Enemy, Fela Kuti, Ali Farke Toure, Phish, Django Reinhart, Nick Drake, Grateful Dead.”

Tell me more about your company Zabada, I understand that you are working on a new service for the web and your mobile device that will make finding and collecting vinyl records easier and more fun.

“Zabada, Inc. is my company and the company technically owns The initial spark for me actually getting to work on a vinyl-themed website was my desire to look up information about records from my iPhone while looking for records at fairs and stores. But once I started building the site, I decided to put most of my energy into collecting data on records and then record stores. At that point the mantra for my site came to me: “helping you find your favorite albums on vinyl-both online and in the real world” and I decided to hold off on building the mobile interface and build a standard website (by the way, the site is relatively usable on the iPhone as it exists right now!) There are lots of great options to buy records online, but I decided that it would be great to make it as easy as possible for a user to, for example, on one page be able to see all of the options and prices for buying the Beach Boys' Pets Sounds on the internet including used versions and reissues. As I mentioned earlier, this is one area where I continue to put a lot of energy to improve the results and vendor options.”

So here we have new technology merging with a rather old audio format that is now becoming mainstream again. The future looks bright for vinyl records and the future is also bright for as Rob continues to develop his plans and help vinyl lovers find their treasures.

Count Five Singer Dies

Singer/songwriter John Byrne of the 1960’s garage-rock band “Count Five” died on December 15, 2008 of kidney and liver failure.

The band was known for their ‘one-hit-wonder’ single called “Psychotic Reaction,” a song that Byrne had written. The song peaked at #5 on the Billboard charts in 1966. The psychedelic fuzz guitar cut has been immortalized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 songs that helped shape rock music.

Count Five was formed in 1964 in San Jose. Byrne, who played rhythm guitar and sang, joined lead guitarist John Michalski, bassist Roy Chaney, drummer Craig Atkinson and Ken Ellner, who also sang and played the harmonica.

The seminal rockers released their debut LP, also named “Psychotic Reaction” in 1966. They followed that with a few more singles, but were never able to repeat the success they had with their legendary single.

After the band broke up, Byrne returned to college at San Jose State University and became an accountant; later managing a Montgomery Ward store in Northern California. But his daughter said that he never quit playing music.

“Maybe I made some mistakes,” Byrne related to the San Jose mercury News in 2002, when the band got together for a revival. “I was determined to get through college. Maybe I was wrong, but I’m glad I’m an educated man. At least when people talk to me, they know I’m not an idiot.

COUNT FIVE- Psychotic Reaction

Delaney Bramlett Passes Away

Singer/songwriter Delaney Bramlett, who worked with the likes of George Harrison and Eric Clapton, passed away on December 27, 2008, as a result of complications from gall bladder surgery. He was 69 years old.

Born in Pontotoc, Mississippi in 1939, Bramlett worked the cotton fields as a teen before eventually enlisting in the Navy. After his three-year stint was completed, he relocated to Los Angles, landing a gig as a member of the “Shindogs,” the house band for the TV Pop show “Shindig.”

Bramlett formed the short-lived Southern blues-rock band called “Delaney & Bonnie & Friends” who toured as the opening act for the super group “Blind Faith.” The group had their biggest hit LP in 1970 with “On Tour,” with Eric Clapton as a member. The album peaked at #29 on the US charts and spawned a minor hit called “Comin’ Home.” As their notoriety grew, they became friends with many rock stars throughout the world, even joining up with John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band for a tour of Europe.

Over the next two years, the duo recorded three more albums, none being able to match the success of “On Tour.” But as their albums sales were falling, they suddenly found themselves as hit makers. In 1971, they cracked the US Top 20 two times, first with “Never Ending Song of Love” (which went to #13) and Dave Mason’s, “Only You Know and I Know,” which peaked at #20.

Additionally, during his time with Delaney & Bonnie, Bramlett was writing and producing music for other artists. Among his best known songs were “Superstar” (written with Leon Russell) and the legendary cut, “Let It Rain,” which was co-written with Eric Clapton. Bramlett is also credited with teaching George Harrison how to play the slide guitar, leading to Harrison playing the instrument on his single “My Sweet Lord.”

He also performed with other top rock stars including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Dave Mason, Billy Preston, J.J.Cale, the Everly Brothers and Mac Davis.

After his divorce from Bonnie, Bramlett recorded three solo efforts between 1972 and 1978 and then dropped out of the music scene for a couple of decades. He became a ‘born-again’ Christian and wrote advertising jingles. He returned to music in 2000 and released three more solo albums, the last being 2007’s “A New Kind of Blues.”


Home - Stax, 1969
Accept No Substitute - Elektra, 1969
On Tour with Eric Clapton - Atco, 1970
To Bonnie from Delaney - Atco, 1970
Motel Shot - Atco, 1971
D&B Together - Columbia/CBS, 1972
The Best of Delaney & Bonnie - Atco, 1972/Rhino, 1990 (compilation)
Hi-Five - Rhino, 2005 (compilation)

Delaney, Bonnie & Friends - Comin' Home

Rising Vinyl Sales Keep Small Shop Afloat

As John Schlapak attaches labels to a stack of merchandise in his Westwood, NJ record store, a post-grunge pop song reaches its chorus on the radio. “See, this is a typical example,” he says, scrunching a face that has seen its share of fads come and go, “some moaning, groaning song that’s going nowhere and no melody.” Like it or not, Schlapak now runs one of the hippest shops in town.

While album sales plummet in the age of new media and its profit-killing MP3’s, the format that brought Schlapak into the music business in 1979 is seeing a resurgence. With artists from Brian Wilson to Radiohead releasing vinyl versions of their latest albums and an entire label - Eyeball Records in New Jersey - planning to release all new albums in the format, nostalgia is definitely in.

If it weren’t for the CD displays, you might swear Music Merchant was trapped in a time warp. 8-tracks, a 1960’s era scale and an assortment of indeterminable old gizmos collect dust atop shelves of calcified records. The aisles are made narrow by neat rows of boxes labeled with a black marker. Schlapak, a white haired man in his early 60s, fiddles diligently behind the counter. A slow, but steady stream of customers picks through the unwieldy collection of an estimated 30-40,000 albums on a clear Saturday afternoon.

As the proliferation of digital music choked off industry earnings, Music Merchant has seen its share of competitors come and go, crowded out by big box retailers. Shlapak’s secret? “I watch my overhead.”

Of course, not every record store has the luxury of a one-man payroll, and even he was forced to close Music Merchant’s second location in the in 2004.

“In this environment, I think that if you’re holding your own you’re doing pretty well,” Schlapak said. “CD sales are down, but vinyl sales make up for it.”

U.S. album sales fell 9.5 percent in 2007, and the fate of this year’s sales numbers seem bleak considering an even more uncertain economic environment. Shlapak concedes that if not for the apparent rebirth of vinyl, especially new releases and pricey collectibles, he would likely be out of business. Music Merchant estimates that vinyl sales make up 40 percent of business, with the rest going to compact disks.

In a world where the “medium is the message,” as author Marshall McLuhan wrote while trying to make sense of media in the 1960’s, Shlapak believes music is reasserting itself as a permanent work of art through vinyl. “CD’s are disposable and have no value as a collectible,” he says, affixing a label to a CD case and placing it on a growing stack.

An older man in a cabbie hat, a bald middle-ager in a flannel shirt and a young guy with a black hooded sweatshirt and tight jeans begin a slow climb up and down the aisles in search of a hidden gem. Shlapak says his customers prefer vinyl records for the warmer sounds, durability, trendy retro appeal and album art larger than a handheld frame. Plus, he’s noticed that teenagers often raid his 49 cent discount pile, probably looking for kitchy bedroom art.

In the back of the store, John’s twin brother Tom Schlapak sorts through a stack of records. He’s got a regular job, but comes in on weekends to perform the “therapeutic” task of refurbishing records. Tom, like his brother, speaks with deliberative pauses, gazing into the salmon walls with a faint smile as he recalls better days for the industry. Also like his brother, Tom is armed with a laundry list of complaints about the modern music industry.

“It has no soul,” Tom paused momentarily, searching for a way to make his point clearer. “Excuse the expression, but it has no balls.”

The prospect of big box stores shifting to collectible vinyl draws smirks from the Schlapak brothers, whose shop is filled nearly to capacity with 30 years worth of merchandise. John figures there is little chance retailers like Sam Goody could build a competitive archive.

“I can’t get out from underneath it,” Tom said, summing up his efforts to clear more room in the store. “There’s just so much stuff.”

Live in the NJ area? Make sure to visit the Music Merchant in Westwood, NJ. Don’t live in NJ? Then support your local independent record store!


"Air and Sea Battle is your pretty okay source for half-decent media."

Mapleshade Finished Platform for Turntables

I want to thank John over at for this great review!

AUDIOPHILE AUDITION focuses on recordings of interest to audiophiles and collectors, with an accent on surround sound for music, and on all hi-res disc formats. Over 100SACD, DVD Video/Audio and standard CD reviews are published during each month, and our archives go back to January 2001.

Mapleshade Finished Platform for Turntables

Air-dried solid maple was found to be the best-sounding support for turntables and other components.

Mapleshade Finished
Platform for Turntables
SRP: $230 (for 18” x 15” x 4”)

1100 Wicomico St., 5th Fl.
Baltimore, MD 21230


I’ve never gotten around to asking Pierre Sprey if he selected the name Mapleshade for his mostly-jazz record label before or after discovering that air-dried solid maple was the very best support platform to put under turntables and other audio electronics. It may be tied in with his project 25 years ago upgrading the famous Maplenoll turntable. After much experimentation, Sprey found that air-dried solid maple - which he obtains from an Amish woodworking shop - provided the best possible turntable isolation compared to all the other possibilities - air suspension, sand boxes, marble, glass, magnetic floatation, hi-tech constrained layer damping, and carbon fiber composites. He found the alternatives all dead-sounding and smeared when compared to solid maple bases.

About half of the enhancement is due to heavy brass footers from Mapleshade, which are available in versions which screw right onto the shafts for the rubber feet that came with your turntable. I have the heavy brass Mapleshade footers which come to a very sharp point. My turntable is a SOTA Star with vacuum holddown. The first enhancement I did was to have SOTA replace their spring-loaded suspension with an elastomer suspension, which I found to be far superior. Then I added the Mapleshade heavy brass footers, which screwed onto the existing threaded shafts under the SOTA table. These then sat on a thick MSB constrained-layer steel isolation plate, which rested on four blue vibration feet on top of an Arcici inflatable turntable support - the whole affixed securely to a low CWD cabinet.

I had two problems with this setup: One was that when pushing down the SOTA record clamp, it bottomed out the Arcici base and sometimes caused changes to the leveling observed on the leveler on the turntable. The other was that moving across the room with anything less than “don’t wake anyone up” foot action, the vibrations would be transmitted to my Transfiguration Spirit pickup cartridge in my SME-V tonearm, if not causing it to actually skip. This always amazed me in spite of the air-bladder support for the turntable and the super-heavy isolation plate.

I had compared several of the new Everest CD reissues with the l996 CD reissues as well as the 1994 DCC vinyl pressings of some of the titles. The vinyl pressings never sounded any better than the CDs and often sounded nearly identical, which surprised me.


It took some courage to disassemble the entire Arcici/MSB support system and replace it with the simple 18 by 15 by 4 solid maple Mapleshade platform. (They also have two sizes for larger turntables: 24 x 18 x 4 and 24 x 24 x 4; a 2-inch-thick version has been discontinued.) The platform sits on four squarish Isoblock feet, which are another Mapleshade tweak which sells for only $24 a set and consists of layers of ribbed rubber and cork. On top of the 4-inch maple platform go the three pointy feet of the brass footers on my SOTA table. (This particular model has been discontinued but Mapleshade has a couple dozen different brass feet available now - threaded and un-.) It took some effort to get the table leveled at the top. I had to purchase some thinner nuts at the local hardware store in order to have one nut to tighten against the underside of the SOTA table and another on the same shaft to tighten against the special heavy brass feet. (The foil-covered box under the SOTA is my phono preamp, which requires additional shielding to reduce interference from a local rock FM station.)

Listening Tests

After demagnetizing my cartridge, readjusting the VTA and leveling the turntable, I returned to the comparisons of the CDs and LPs. Now the vinyl did sound slightly superior to the CDs, which it had not before. There was more air and a more natural high end that never became steely or annoying in the high end as on some of the CD versions. There was undoubtedly more life in the sonics than I had achieved with the supposedly foolproof Arcici/MBS plate system.

In addition, the two big cons with my previous setup had disappeared entirely! I could press down heard when clamping the record clamp without bottoming out, and I could tango or samba in the middle of my listening room floor without transmitting the slightest noise to the turntable. There is a noise transmission test track on the Analog Productions Test LP, and with the previous Arcici/MSB setup I could get quite a loud thump in the speakers when tapping on any part of the base or table. With the Mapleshade setup, I could only get a slight thump when I tapped vertically really hard on the actual maple base - not from any other point.

Mapleshade - besides turning out many fantastically-realistic and inexpensive jazz CDs - has come up with a variety of tweaks for audio systems. Some of them are a bit beyond the pale to my thinking - such as their cable supports which tend to collapse - but others are amazingly effective. Another great accessory for both vinyl and CDs/DVDs is Mapleshade's Ionoclast Ion Generator - much more powerful than the old Zerostat and less fuss and cost than the Bedini spinner. They also provide excellent lists in their catalogs of free or nearly-free tweaks you can do yourself for your audio system (such as lifting your cables up off the carpet). They have a variety of maple platforms and feet for loudspeakers and electronic components, and have also introduced a new cartridge and tonearm upgrade, as well as a vinyl cleaning system they claim superior to any vacuum cleaning system. Their maple platform concept is surely a winner in my estimation!

written by- John Sunier

Classic Rock Videos

The mamas and the papas - California dreamin

Top 5 eBay Vinyl Record Sales

Week Ending 12/27/2008

1. LP - Ricard Marrero & The Group "A Taste" TSG - $4,196.85 - Start: $143.00 - Bids: 19

2. LP - Pink Floyd "Dark Side Of The Moon" Toshiba-EMI Japan alternate cover - $3,899.99 - Start: $3,899.99 - Bids: 1

3. LP - Leonid Kogan "Lalo Symphonie Espagnole" EMI-Columbia UK - $2,347.00 - Start: $9.99 - Bids: 23

4. LP - The Beatles "Yesterday And Today" SEALED MONO - $2,010.00 - Start: $19.99 - Bids: 44

5. 45rpm - Buddy Cantrell "You Ain't No Good" / "Why Did You Leave Me" Tuska - $2,000.00 - Start: $500.00 - Bids: 8

This week a real oddball item tops the list, a jazz funk LP from Richard Marrero on the TSG label bids up to almost $4.2k. This is the second record from the TSG label to appear this year. Now after more than twenty years as a collector and almost a decade behind me as a dealer, I know some history of most of the top 5 items. But the TSG label is a mystery to me. The only information I could find was here. It appears to have been a kind of bootleggy tax scammy steal the master tapes kind of operation from the 1970s. If anyone knows more history please send a comment.

In the #2 spot a DSOTM from EMI Japan gets its asking price at a penny less than $3.9k. This record, with alternate cover art, was to have been made available only through mail-order, but was pulled by the label over internal conflicts about the cover art.

A classical LP of performances by Leonid Kogan, out of the UK, sells for more than $2.3k and gets the #3 spot. Next, a sealed mono Yesterday and Today #4 sells for $2k without revealing if its a paste-over butcher cover.

And last, a Buddy Cantrell 45 on the Tuska label bids to exactly $2k.

As always, I want to thank Brian over at for his reseacrh and this great data!

This Date In Music History-December 29


Bryan Holland, vocals, guitar- Offspring (1966)

Yvonne Elliman- singer (1951)

Neil Giraldo- Pat Benatar group (1955)

Ray Thomas- Moody Blues (1942)

Marianne Faithful (1946)

Mark Day- Happy Mondays (1961)

Rockabilly songwriter and country star Ed Bruce was born in Keiser, Arkansas in 1939. He wrote the classic "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys."

Swamp rocker Charles Mann was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1949.

Badfinger drummer Mike Gibbons (1953)

They Are Missed:

Cozy Powell, drummer, Whitesnake, ELP (Dec 29, 1947-April 5, 1998).

Orchestra leader Paul Whiteman died in 1967 at the age of 76.

Vocalist Gene Tanner of the "5" Royales, an early R&B vocal group, died in Winston-Salem, N.C. in 1994. The Royales originally recorded "Think," which would later become a hit for Aretha Franklin.

Singer/songwriter Tim Hardin died at age forty, of a heroin overdose in 1980. He is best remembered for "If I Were a Carpenter" (a hit for Bobby Darin in 1966 and the Four Tops in 1968) and "Reason to Believe" (a hit for Rod Stewart in 1971).


The top three songs (and five of the top seven) on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1969 all came from Motown labels.

Today in 1951, the song "Cry" by Johnny Ray topped the charts and stayed there for 11 weeks.

Barbra Streisand made her first recording in 1955, at the age of 13.

The Beatles began recording "Penny Lane" in 1966.

In 1963, after Capitol Records agreed to release the Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" as a single, New York's WMCA became the first American station to play it today.

Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes plead guilty to arson charges in 1994 for setting fire to and destroying boyfriend Andre Rison's $1 million-dollar Atlanta mansion.

Sets of commemorative stamps in memory of Bob Marley were issued in Jamaica in 1982.

In 1984, Band Aid were at #1 on the UK singles chart with “Do They Know It's Christmas?” and Madonna was at #1 on the US singles chart with “Like A Virgin.”

Jim Croce scored his second #1 US single of the year in 1973, when “Time In A Bottle” went to the top of the charts. Croce was killed in a plane crash on September 29, 1973.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience made their debut on the UK TV show “Top Of The Pops” in 1966 performing “Hey Joe.”

In 1963, the Weavers, who at one time were America's most popular Folk group, gave their farewell concert at Orchestra Hall in Chicago. The group had hits in the late 40s and early 50s with songs like "Goodnight Irene" and "On Top of Old Smokey".

In 1967, singer, guitarist and songwriter Dave Mason quits Traffic, one of the UK's most popular and successful rock bands, to embark on a solo career.

The first big Rock festival held on the east coast, “The Miami Festival,” got under way in Hallandale, Florida in 1968. Tickets sold for six and seven dollars and 100,000 people turned out for the three-day event. Those appearing included the hottest acts of the day, Jose Feliciano, Procol Harem, Three Dog Night, Chuck Berry, Fleetwood Mac, Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell, The Turtles and Canned Heat.