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Best record shops in the United States

I recently spent a week in Baltimore, dealing with lousy family stuff, desperate for sanctuary. Instead of turning to booze or crab cakes, I drove to Fells Point, right on the harbor, and took solace at the Sound Garden, one of my favorite record stores. • The place is a madhouse of vinyl, CDs, DVDs; your head will spin for the first 10 minutes inside. But it's also absolute geeked-out nirvana, a cacophonous cocoon of music and Day-Glo price tags, of posters and album art. Charm City businessmen and tourists mingle with the inked and tattooed, and music, the great equalizer, is the only topic of talk. (If you're wondering, I bought Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline on vinyl. $9.99. A bargain.) • Anyway, that trip got me thinking about other safe havens around the U.S.A. So here's a quick list of my favorite record shops.

. Amoeba Music, Los Angeles A slice of heaven in West Hollywood, this is your best chance to buy rare vinyl records next to Ben Stiller or Dave Grohl.

. Bananas Music, St. Petersburg One of the biggest record stores in the world — and yet most folks in Tampa Bay have no idea how to get there. Give yourself a day to get lost in the stacks.

. Princeton Record Exchange, New Jersey I spent an hour in this mecca, then drove around the ivy-kissed campus listening to a used copy of Bob Dylan's Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid soundtrack.

. Daddy Kool, St. Petersburg A block from the St. Pete Times building, I've burned many a lunch break — and paycheck — in this small but satisfying store.

. Melody Record Shop, Washington, D.C. I spent nine ink-stained years at the Washington City Paper. It feels like I spent just as much time in this Dupont Circle staple.

. Generation Records, New York City I bought rare Dylan "live recordings" in this Greenwich Village shop. You'll never catch me, coppers!

. Shangri-La Records, Memphis There's nothing like touring the soul-kissed Stax museum, then filling up a big bag with Otis Redding 45s. Bliss.

The Training Camp Playlist

Your Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened camp Saturday, kick-starting the NFL's 2009 season. I'm a football junkie (alas, a Boston-bred Patriots guy) and an unrepentant wagerer, so part of me is jacked about this. And yet, training camp also signals the end of summer, the start of school, the slow approach of winter, my gray hair, my aching back, my inevitable death, the latter of which will no doubt be linked to a Sunday bratwurst consumed in some stadium parking lot. Wow, that's depressing! To lift my spirits, and ring in the new football season, here are 10 rumblin'. bumblin', stumblin' songs:

1 Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Pat Benatar

2 The Pass,


3 Can I Kick It?, A Tribe Called Quest

4All Kinds of Time,

Fountains of Wayne

5 Hail Mary,


6 Catch Me Now I'm Falling, the Kinks

7 Throwing It All Away, Genesis

8 Run Like Hell,

Pink Floyd

9 We Are the Champions, Queen

10 All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight, Hank

Williams Jr.

Want to contribute your own song to the Training Camp Playlist? Go to Sean's Pop Life blog at He can also be reached at or (727) 893-8467.

Regina Spektor

Album: Far (Sire)

In stores: Now

Lilith redux? If the '90s were dominated by serious singer-songwriters

rallying around Sarah McLachlan's earnest

girl power, the '00s are about those outside the

Lilith Fair, the ones too nutty to fit in with Sheryl Crow and Dido. Along with St. Vincent, Nellie McKay and Miranda Lambert, Regina Spektor keeps you off balance. One second, she's singing like a sad robot (Machine); the next, she's building a disco-baroque boogie around dolphin noises (Folding Chair).

Soviet kitsch: Born in Russia, raised in NYC, Spektor is "anti-folk," melodic and piano-driven, psychedelic and weird. She bends words to fit her melodies — and sometimes she simply invents a new language (see Eet). She's also capable of gut-check beauty, including a poignant look at religious hypocrisy (Laughing With).

Reminds us of: The Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Download this: Laughing With

Grade: A

Cheap Trick

Song: Sick Man of Europe

Album: The Latest (Megaforce)

In stores: Now

Be a Pepper: The playfully spastic glam-poppers from Rockford, Ill., haven't changed much over 15 albums — and that's a good thing. The quartet's innate Beatles buzz is even more enhanced since singer (and Tampa Bay resident) Robin Zander and his mates have been focused on live re-creations of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. (CT will play a series of Pepper gigs at the Las Vegas Hilton in September.)

8-track revolution: As well as being available digitally, on CD and on vinyl, The Latest can also be had in 8-track form. How cool is that? That's a slick marketing ploy, but it makes some artistic sense, too. The 8-track was a clunky king in the '60s and '70s, and first single Sick Man of Europe has a reckless retro feel, a multilayered psycho-punk edge. Zander's voice hasn't lost any high-reaching sex appeal, Rick Nielsen shreds almighty and drummer Bun E. Carlos and bassist Tom Petersson can still drive a song hard and fast.

Reminds us of: Cheap Trick rocks Ford Amphitheatre (with Def Leppard and Poison) Aug. 14.

Song grade: B+

Album grade: B+



Best record shops in the United States 08/01/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 1, 2009 4:30am]
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