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Vinyl records get groove back with music biz and young fans

Vinyl albums are available for fans throwback disc Cosmic Trading Post 1407 E. Lincolnway Valparaiso. Proprietor Greg Karras said albums

Vinyl albums are available for fans of the throwback disc at Cosmic Trading Post, 1407 E. Lincolnway, Valparaiso. Proprietor Greg Karras said the albums sell well. | Photo provided

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Did you know?

When it comes to valuable vinyl records recorded by the Beatles, several are generally considered to be on the Vee Jay label.

Vee Jay Records was formed in Gary in 1953, and eventually opened offices in Chicago and Los Angeles.

“Introducing ... the Beatles” from 1963 is one of those coveted albums on the Vee Jay label, as is “The Beatles vs the Four Seasons” (1964).

Vee Jay released Beatles records during the height of Beatlemania in 1964, but lost contractual rights to the legends that same year. Capitol Records would go on to become known as the home of Fab Four music.

Updated: March 17, 2014 11:11AM



Ben Kowalski is too young to have been around during the heyday of vinyl records, but he likes them.

As a matter of fact, the 2013 graduate of Valparaiso High School concedes he has spent “more money than I should on them.”

Kowalski’s vinyl collection traipses from the old-school sound of Elton John and Pink Floyd, to the jazz of Billie Holiday, to the contemporary rock of the White Stripes.

Now attending Columbia College in Chicago, he savors the slower-paced, full-bodied nature of putting a turntable needle to a record.

Music on the fly from mobile gadgets is a different world when compared to spinning vinyl.

“It requires your attention; it becomes an event to listen to music,” the 19-year-old Kowalski said. “You listen to the entire record as the artist intended it. It’s a richer experience.”

In the springtime of 2013, fans of vinyl albums could begin buying them at the Cosmic Trading Post in Valparaiso.

Currently, more than 4,000 used vinyl albums are in stock, according to Greg Karras, who, along with wife Joyce, owns Cosmic Trading Post and a comic-book/games venture named Galactic Greg’s that is in the same building.

Karras said the throwback vinyl albums are popular.

“Classic rock and pop artists sell extremely well,” Karras noted. “Jimi Hendrix sells really well ... .”

The music seller said he might charge $9.99 for a David Bowie album in good condition.

REO Speedwagon’s offerings are also available at the Karras business.

“You can buy one of their most popular albums for $4.99,” he related.

Just a couple of years ago, vinyl record sales hit their highest level since 1997, boasting global vinyl sales in 2012 that were up by more than 50 percent from the previous year, according to The Washington Post, citing a report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

The BBC — Britain’s broadcasting titan — reported late last year that the United States has more than 20 companies churning out vinyl records — the standard way to bring home selected music, until compact discs started cutting into their territory in the early 1980s.

Lou Samaniego is a Portage musician who said he was surprised to see “a lot of younger kids” being drawn to vinyl records in the last few years.

“I got a feeling they’re looking for something that can’t be obtained through an MP3, which is that whole experience of that big vinyl album — the album cover, the album artwork, possibly some things that come inside the album,” said the 43-year-old Samaniego, an established singer/guitarist in Northwest Indiana’s live-music scene.

Chad Clifford is another Portage artist who can understand why the big discs have not gone away.

“There is a sound to vinyl and there is an ambience to vinyl that I don’t think is captured by a MP3,” said Clifford, a 45-year-old singer/guitarist. “I do think that there’s a special place in people’s hearts for the sound and the feel and interactive beauty of vinyl.”

Clifford, the owner of Front Porch Music in Valparaiso, isn’t knocking the current audio technology.

“There’s beauty in both digital and vinyl,” noted the lead singer of the Crawpuppies, one of Northwest Indiana’s most in-demand pop bands.

However, Clifford said the advancement of streaming audio and the like comes with a price.

“I think what got lost in that is going to the record store, buying the album, looking at the artwork the whole way home in the car, and opening up the album, taking it out of that sleeve, hearing that click of the needle on the record,” he offered.

Classic rock bands such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones and AC/DC rose to fame on the strength of big-disc albums.

Those records span about 12 inches in diameter.

Karras related that albums by the Fab Four, Stones and AC/DC sell “really quick” at Galactic Greg’s/Cosmic Trading Post.

Those type of storied acts have often been targeted in purchases of vinyl during recent years.

“I think when you talk about vinyl, more people are buying older stuff on vinyl because it was recorded for vinyl,” Clifford said.

Bands like the Beatles were indeed recording their music with the turntable in mind — not the digital technology of today’s small, mobile devices.

Big-disc vinyl is helping younger generations connect with hallowed artists like the Beatles, but youth-friendly superstars of today — such as Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber — also have their work available on vinyl.

Samaniego thinks the resurgence of LP (long-playing) vinyl is tied to its flashback appeal.

“It’s more than the audio to me, to me; I have a feeling it’s more nostalgic,” said the musician, who performs as part of Chris and Lou, and with the band Rito.

Aficionados of vinyl point to a warmer sound that digital dynamics can’t match.

Whatever factors have ballooned the demand for big discs, they are a hot commodity that Karras wants to take advantage of at Cosmic Trading Post.

“We will be carrying new vinyl,” said Karras, indicating his business plans to complement its used-record reputation with unopened pressings within the next few weeks.

“The marketplace kind of tells you where the action’s at,” Karras said. “You can’t go wrong with Beatles, Stones, (Led) Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath ... .”

The unused vinyl albums that Cosmic Trading Post plans to sell likewise will feature contemporary artists with youth appeal, Karras said.

Cosmic Trading Post also sells 45-rpm records, which feature a song on each side of the disc, and were popular decades ago.



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