Countdown to Record Store Day, Part 2: J&R

J&R Vinyl
One corner of the J&R vinyl department
Now that Tower and Virgin have vanished from the New York music retail scene (RIP), the only place in town to still get that old school multi-floor record store fix is J&R.

This is the place to go when you’re looking for new CDs and vinyl (they do have some used bins but it’s far from their specialty). J&R has three major strengths when it comes to serving the music buyer: selection, scope, and price. A pretty good combo if you ask me!

The main floor is mostly given to a very large pop/rock section. When it comes to classic artists like The Doors, Steely Dan, and Talking Heads, you’ll usually find their full catalogs plus some unexpected import items. Lots of lesser known artists too. Captain Beyond? Humble Pie? Free? Pretty much if it’s in print, you have a good chance of finding it here. They also carry a lot of indie labels, so you’ll find stuff from Relapse, Light in the Attic, Merge, Nuclear Blast, and on and on.

In addition to the rock/pop selection, you’ll find dedicated sections for oldies, rap & hip hop, a good sized jazz room and large classical and opera rooms, country, blues, and a sizable world music collection. There’s also a dedicated “audiophile” section (with gold CDs, SACD and DVD-A releases), folk and gospel sections, and more.

J&R’s regular prices are on the low side, and, even better, they always seem to be running some kind of sale. New releases in particular seem to go for sometimes surprisingly low sale prices.

Well, that’s a long intro. Let’s get to the Record Store Day stuff. J&R is definitely the place to go in NYC if you’re looking for the special limited releases, particularly the more mainstream ones like the Stones, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix items.

J&R window sign
Some of the items coming on Saturday.
I talked to Senior Store Manager Charlie Bagarozza and Marketing Manager Wayne Olsen at the store on Tuesday. Record Store Day has grown exponentially since it’s debut in 2008, so much so that in 2009, Wayne says, there was more demand for the special items than either record stores or record labels had expected. Customers weren’t able to get everything they were looking for. But this year both record companies and shops are taking extra steps to make sure that the demand is better met. Wayne said he’s feeling good about the stock they’ve been getting in in preparation for Saturday. That said, these are limited items, and Record Store Day is expected to be even bigger than last year, so get there early! The store opens at 9 a.m., but keep in mind that there was already a line formed outside before opening last year.

In addition to the special releases, J&R has a lot of fun stuff going on including free giveaways, autograph signings, and performances (including one by Judy Collins). Check the full list of goings-on here: J&R Record Store Day Events.

Did I mention that they’re running a sale all week on all CDs and vinyl in the store? Yeah, J&R is a pretty great record store.

Countdown to Record Store Day, Part 1: Princeton Record Exchange

Prex Storefront
Princeton Record Exchange
If you live on the East Coast you’ve probably heard of Princeton Record Exchange (or Prex as it’s affectionately called). Heck, if you’re into records, you’ve probably heard of it wherever you are; it’s a pretty famous spot.

I’ve known about it for years, being a dyed-in-the-wool record geek myself; but I never made the trip before this past Saturday. I can report to you now that the place lives up to the hype!

Prex didn’t look huge when I walked in (years of hearing the name had clearly charged my imagination) but my estimated browsing time of an hour easily ran over another 40 minutes and could have gone on well beyond that. They’ve got a ton of vinyl, CDs, box sets, DVDs (if you’re into that kind of thing) and who knows what else, in new, used, and budget divisions.

I spent most of my time with the rock and jazz vinyl and CD sections and trawled very fruitfully through the budget CD wall and “new arrival” bins. Then I spent some more time with the punk and metal sections, and marveled at the selection of box sets — including dedicated bins for out of print Mosaic boxes! That’s the kind of detail we’re talking about. But I didn’t get near the big classical section, or into the vinyl “recent arrival” bins, let alone all the understock — TONS of understock. So when you make the trip, be sure to give yourself lots of time.

Prex Mosaic Bin
The Mosaic Bin at Prex
Another thing that was interesting about the shop is that it was very busy the whole time I was there — and this was, I take it, a typical Saturday. The folks running the place were nice, and helpful, and there was a lot of upbeat talking and trawling going on in the shop. New stock streams into the racks fairly constantly. It’s a fun environment.

Aside from the ogling (and the purchase of a number of choice items), the other point of my trip was to get the skinny on the Record Store Day preparations from Jonathan Lambert, the store’s General Manager. Turns out that not only is this a big week for Prex because of Record Store Day, but they’re also kicking off a week-long 30th Anniversary celebration on Saturday. There will be live music (in Hines Plaza, a block from the store), raffles, freebies, and, of course, a huge amount of limited edition merchandise.

The raffles are pretty amazing, starting with T-shirts and gift cards, and culminating in prizes like a USB turntable and a grand prize of BOTH the Beatles stereo and mono box sets. The free raffle tickets will be available at the library concert and at the store throughout the week. There’s going to be Prex 30th anniversary stickers and even temporary tattoos too.

Prex Raffle Sign
The Raffle at Princeton Record Exchange
And then there’s Saturday’s main attraction: the over 150 limited edition titles released on Record Store Day, including 7″ singles from Elvis Costello (on Hip-O), Elvis Presley (on Legacy/Sun), John Lennon (on Capitol) and Peter Gabriel (one on Realworld b/w Stephen Merritt, the other on Jagjaguwar b/w Bon Iver), a 4 LP vinyl reissue Wilco box set from Nonesuch, and lots more. (You can check out the complete-for-now-but-still-growing list here: Record Store Day Special Releases.)

Jonathan said that he feels good about the diversity of titles and quantity of stock they’ve been receiving, and hopes that Prex will be able to meet customer demand for the limited edition items. But, considering how busy Prex is on a normal Saturday, I’d say you’ll definitely want to get there early if you have your eye on any of those special items!

Visit Princeton Record Exchange on the web: www.prex.com