n 1993, when Paul Olszewski took over Jim's Records, a Bloomfield record store that opened in 1976, Paul's Compact Discs was born. Let's shoot forward to the year 2000, when your humble author found out about Paul's. In my senior year of high school, I only made it to Paul's a few times, but freshman year of college at CMU changed that. At that time, let's say Fall 2001, the walk from Oakland to Bloomfield seemed epic, whereas today there is little mystery. Each trip resulted in new discoveries, often based on album packaging. Arve Henriksen's debut release for Rune Grammofon was one of those surprises. Bought solely based on the album cover, this was an important buy since it introduced me to Kim Hiorthøy's design work and the Norwegian jazz/prog scene via Rune Grammofon.
The most distinct memory of a purchase is Jim O'Rourke's Insignificance. That said, it isn't very distinct. I remember two possibilities: it was the album's release date and Paul's had it in stock OR it was a week after the album was released and Paul's now had it in stock, but this was after I walked there the previous week. Since it was November, it was cold. Drizzling. Remember saving up for this album as money was much tighter at the time. Brought my discman so that I could listen to it on the walk home. This record blew me away. This was before I had personally met everyone who played on the record, so no real personal attachments to anyone. But the music was insane. It is still insane to me. Hilarious artwork, too.
Paul's was pretty instrumental in Vale and Year's modest success from 2004 to 2006. They carried each album, book, and possibly a copy or two of the rare Holy Music and Art 2xCD Box. Paying outright for copies of the records helped us a lot. Paul's CDs' support of local music was always great, from featuring new releases on the "new release" wall to making room and making time to display show posters.
With an always helpful staff, the store had a real community feel, and it was a place where you could actually talk about music (without guilt or rolling eyes). For instance, once I found out that my burned CD (via audio galaxy) of Eberhard Weber's The Colours of Chloë spawned a label's aesthetic (ECM), the staff, namely Jason Baldinger, helped me track down some other, somewhat hard to find, copies of Weber's releases -Fluid Rustle took awhile to find. (This was before I realized that all these records were at Jerry's for $3 since few have a high opinion of the "ECM sound").
Last example and then a few nods. I had been reading "Blue" Gene Tyranny's allmusic.com album reviews for years before realizing he's one hell of a musician and composer. Blue's Out of the Blue had been sitting at Paul's for a while. I would pick it up each time and then put it down. Really had no idea what it sounded like and didn't want to take the risk. When The Somewhere Songs/The Invention of Memory was stocked last year, I thought the album cover was nice enough for an "experimental" release, so I picked it up. On first listen, I thought a three-song song cycle about aliens was kind of lame and I regretted the purchase. But then, I realized that I really enjoy songs about government conspiracy, conflicts of interest, manipulation, secret societies, religions, and friendships. That was "The Somewhere Songs". "The Invention of Memory" is even more complex with a longer narrative and with a surprisingly tonal compositional structure. Thomas Buckner's voice is so endearing to me, and apparently very alienating to most of the people I've played this for. So, this is to say, thanks Paul's CDs for stocking such an unsellable album.
Bonus treat: A rare LP cover of Out of the Blue.
A few other important purchases:
- The bulk of Frank Zappa's catalog from the Mothers of Invention debut through Sheik Yerbouti
- Gastr Del Sol's entire catalog
- Paul Giger - Ignis
- Electric Masada - At the Mountains of Madness
- Glenn Kotche's Introducing
- Fritz Hauser - Pensieri Bianchi
- Archie Shepp - Attica Blues
- John Cage - Indeterminacy
With Paul's Compact Discs' closing yesterday (March 31, 2012), the impact probably won't hit me until I walk in the store again. But very luckily, everyone can go back to the store since Karl Hendricks has already opened and will soon grandly open Sound Cat Records in the same location. The Sound Cat stock maintains a lot of the new releases, while adding some odd detours in jazz, experimental, and archival releases. So, just want to give a huge thanks to Paul, Jason, Bob, Karl and some past staffers Caulen and Morgan. Thanks for all the recommendations and conversations!