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By Joel Reese. Jessie Sardina and Sarah Very | Photo: Leland Meiners | August 16, 2016
Despite predictions that said otherwise, records have not become extinct (take that, CDs!). Instead, vinyl’s revival has grown, with the sales figures to prove it. Here, three Chicago companies that are helping spread the word.
“Our mission is to preserve parts of music history that are disappearing,” says Ken Shipley, co-founder of Little Village-based record label Numero Group. “We’re in a race against time to save music that’s on the verge of becoming extinct.”
This past summer, the label opened a factory outlet offering its entire catalogue at 2533 S. Troy St. You’re not likely to hear many songs from the Numero Group collection on your local airwaves. Which is not to say they don’t have an occasional hit. One lovely tune, “You and Me” by Penny & the Quarters, played a pivotal role in the 2010 Ryan Gosling film Blue Valentine. The recording was from a formerly “lost” soul band from the early 1970s.
Shipley hopes to keep getting exposure for music that would otherwise never be heard again. Many of the pieces in the Numero Group collection were literally on the verge of being tossed out with yesterday’s trash. “People would say, ‘Well, my dad used to have this hobby of making music and I don’t know where to put this hobby now, so let’s just put it in the garbage,’” Shipley says. “Entire worlds are just being thrown away.”
The Numero Group collection spans myriad genres, including jazz, blues, pop, soul and house. Some of it is older than 50 years. The catalog includes more than 175 lovingly curated items, including everything from double-album Belize funk/calypso/soul compilations ($20) to 45s of overlooked Chicago soul singer Otis Brown ($7).
“There’s not one thing to preserve,” Shipley says, “there’s everything.” –JR
On the heels of its uberpopular Bluetooth Gramophone, the Chicago-based audio startup Gramovox continues to elegantly meld throwback style with high-tech performance. Case in point: the company’s newest innovation, dubbed Floating Record, which completely reimagines the clunky record players of old. A vertical arm extends from a sleek walnut veneer base, not just creating rich analog output but also displaying the record as art. Music to our ears. $400 –JS
THE RIGHT TRACK
Whether it’s the easy conversation in the store’s aisles, the sleek texture of the record sleeves or the crisp, new-record smell permeating from the shelves, Pilsen’s newest vinyl sanctuary, 606 Records, delivers the classic music-shopping experience. On display at the front of the store are albums from what founders Drew Mitchell and Tim Unsell call “Dark Horse” labels, or smaller independents, including two of Mitchell’s Chicago-based favorites, International Anthem and Midwich. The rest of the store’s neatly packed shelves are filled with other owner favorites like artists Christian Loffler and Soldiers of Fortune, as well as small international labels like Buenos Aires’ Exile Records. “We’re fortunate to be exposed to so much amazing music,” Mitchell says. “Many of our customers discover music simply by hearing it in-store.” 1808 S. Allport St., 312.585.6106 –SV