10 Best Record Stores in Metro Phoenix
© 2004 by Tomasz Sienicki, via Wikimedia Commons Phoenix is flush with record stores. Here are 10 you should know.
There is no shortage of vinyl -- and places to get it -- in the Valley. Jazz, blues, rock, psych, soul, oldies, Latin, children's, soundtracks, surf, drag, indie, metal, punk . . . it's all here somewhere. The key is finding who has what you want. More often than not, each record store has at least a little of everything. Yet, not all record stores are created equal. Some focus on vinyl and only vinyl, and most stock some CDs (they're not dead yet), while others are more "full-service," offering everything music-related under the sun from DVDs to movies to T-shirts to musical instruments.
On a recent sunny Wednesday, I sped about the Valley to see which music outlets offered up the best vinyl. I also was interested to discover which stores offered a comfortable shopping experience, with reasonable prices and knowledgeable employees. Of course, every record shop has its own vibe and atmosphere -- that's what makes each so fun to explore -- and there are plenty of variables. Therefore, as a former record store owner, someone who has been involved in record collecting since age 10, and has been in more record shops across the globe than I care to remember, I know something about what makes a good record store.
Here's what I've come up with, ranked from worst to first:
10.) Bookmans Entertainment Exchange
With stores all over the Valley, Bookmans, despite the quantity at each location, seems to sell vinyl only as happenstance. It feels as if people just bring in the vinyl to unload since they're selling their books, and they don't really care what they get for it. That's why Perry Como and Lawrence Welk albums rival REO Speedwagon's Hi-Infidelity and The Eagles Greatest Hits as shelf fillers. If you're patient, diligent, and determined, you can find the occasional rarity or oddity. Prices seem to vary wildly -- depends on who's behind the counter some days, I suppose -- but overall, the discount seller seems intent on moving product, so most items are a decent value. Bookmans also sells DVDs, CDs, musical instruments, and video games. Thankfully, it's well organized, which is nice, but let's face it -- the place isn't named Recordmans, so save this record shopping experience for last.
Lauren Wise Asylum Records
9.) Asylum Records
It's loud in Asylum. If you're looking for metal, hardcore, or something heavier, this is the place to shop. It's well stocked with similar DVD offerings, too, the Valley's best. The proximity to Club Red probably helps drive that side of the business. There's plenty of rock, too, particularly hard rock albums, but also too many marginal titles. The condition of the vinyl here, well, let's just say there were many rougher pieces. Sadly, even beat-to-hell Beatles albums are marked way up, and even common rockers -- $2 LPs at best in so-so shape -- were pushing $6 and up. Admittedly, I didn't look at everything -- it was too loosely organized. A few divider cards for specific artists, then a bulk card for the rest of that letter. This makes it too frustrating to dig hard. Avoid the world section, too, as it's packed with non-world easy listening and whatever doesn't fit easily somewhere else. A pain. On repeated visits the new arrivals section became the only place worth visiting unless I had something specific in mind. Cool notes: The giant Kiss stand-up in the back and the wall of picture discs at the front. Plus, the Siamese cat too. I think he runs the show.