Amoeba opens up the Vinyl Vaults
A digital treasure trove of rare wax
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 19:02
Ask around on any Berkley or San Francisco street corner, and you’ll likely be told that Amoeba Music is the place to be if you want vinyl. The California chain’s three outlets have withstood a market that claimed better-known names like Virgin and Tower with a spunky attitude and support from a ton of artists playing free shows in its stores.
Now Amoeba is showing the same respect for digital wares as it has for cold, hard wax, launching a massive project to digitize rare and sought-after records that have never met a server before. "What you see now is the lost-between-the-cracks, underappreciated, undervalued (music) from dead labels, (obscure) artists, stuff that we really stand behind,” Jim Henderson, co-owner of Amoeba, said to Variety. Some albums are so obscure, their bands so mysterious, that the money made from their sale must be kept in escrow—in case some musician rises from the dust of the past to claim it.
A cursory visit to the Vinyl Vaults will reveal a number of intriguing oddities. A guide to wine appreciation by horror legend Vincent Price here, a number titled “Don't Jump Off The Bridge” from a forgotten ‘50s doo-wop outfit there. But a discerning eye will turn up a number of fascinating items:
- A number of early Louis Armstrong 78s from his tenure in Fletcher Henderson’s swing band. Amoeba’s pages and pages of digitized record contain some of his brightest trumpet and cornet work before and after he became a household name.
- 1982’s atrocious Alien rip-off Forbidden World has been embraced as a movie so wholeheartedly awful that it’s become a cult flick. Now that Amoeba has dusted off and uploaded Susan Justin’s moody electronic score, it can once again be discovered as a solid, ahead-of-its-time synth extravaganza.
- Sun Ra, the Interplanetary Traveler from Saturn and jazz bandleader has long been a patron saint of crate-diggers. Jim Henderson’s effort to digitize his collection of 144 Sun Ra albums is worthy of the man’s spaced-out, yet prodigious career.
According to Henderson, the Vinyl Vaults experiment has been an undertaking six years in the making, employing 200 people and creating a huge database of album reviews and biographies. If vinyl collecting is a religion, than the fine folks at Amoeba are surely doing the Lord’s work.