Joe's Albums must- stop shop for vinyl collectors and music fans in Worcester
When I was a sophomore in high school, my dad bought me my first album on vinyl. Granted, I did not own a turntable until almost two years later. Nevertheless, there is something to be said about the pure satisfaction of having The Best of Elvis Costello and the Attractions hanging on my wall patiently waiting for the day that it could finally be played. I mean, none of my friends even knew who Elvis Costello was, let alone owned anything on vinyl. Admittedly, once I got my hands on my dad’s CD collection my freshman year of high school, I might have turned into a bit of a music snob. Although my openness to other genres and recent releases has increased over the years (except still not country, sorry Grandma) my love of vinyl is something that has not.
Joe’s Albums is a local record store that deserves an honorable mention. With its recent relocation to 317 Main Street, it is the latest addition in the collection of businesses that have transformed the downtown area over the past few years. Besides being basically the only place in Worcester to purchase vinyl at a reasonable price, the overall atmosphere alone in Joe’s makes it worth the trip. The owner, Joe Demers, worked in the corporate world prior to opening up Joe’s Albums a little over six years ago. The store ran online-only for the first two years before expanding to its first location on Pleasant Street. When I sat down with Joe to ask him a few questions, the first thing I noticed was his black Doc Martins (I approve, Joe). This is a seemingly irrelevant detail, yet I feel as if it needs to be mentioned in order to paint the entire picture.
With the recent move, I thought it was only fitting to start the interview by asking Joe the pros and cons of the new location. For him, perks include its larger size, more central location, increased activity in the area and the fact that the building is also a performing venue. The only issue to date is parking, yet that seems to be a recurring issue wherever you go in Worcester. Upon arriving, I failed to bring change for the meter. Luckily, Joe came to the rescue and gave me a few quarters (I returned the favor by purchasing Bon Iver’s 22, A Million after the interview). I have been a customer of Joe’s Albums for about a year now, and I must agree that the new location is definitely an improvement, both in its size and décor. What makes small record stores like Joe’s special is the fact that if you go there enough, they actually know you. I mean sure, I could order all my records online, but where’s the fun in that?
As an Audio-Technica advocate, I could not resist asking Joe his opinion on the Crosley turntable debate. To this question he laughed and replied, “Haven’t we had this discussion before?” He has mixed thoughts on the subject. On one hand, they allow consumers to enter the market without spending a lot, as they are priced low. On the other hand, they tend to be quite problematic. They break fairly quickly and are prone to skipping. “If that’s someone’s first experience and its poor, they might write that off to vinyl in general.” I hate to admit it, but as a frequent Urban Outfitters goer, there was a time that I also longed for one of those floral print Crosley turntables you see in store. I had no idea about the problems associated with Crosley until my dad explained it to me. That being said, I know how aesthetically tempting those turntables at Urban Outfitters can be. Just do your research and proceed with caution.
If you’ve seen High Fidelity, you probably understand how I couldn’t help but wonder if Joe’s vinyl collection at home was anything like Rob Gordon’s. To my disappointment, his collection is not organized autobiographically but alphabetically. So if one day you somehow you find yourself browsing through his personal collection, you’d be able to find Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” without having a doctorate in Joe-ology. His collection consists of about one thousand records. Joe’s top five albums of all time? Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, The Clash’s London Calling, The Replacements’s All Shook Down, Ten Thousand Maniacs’ In My Tribe and Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.
With all the music-streaming apps available today, it is not a surprise that many find vinyl obsolete. Although one can make a decent argument for both sides, there is a recognizable difference in the audio quality of vinyl compared to MP3s. With this in mind, I asked Joe his thoughts on the future of the vinyl industry. He thinks that it is “difficult to know whether the recent resurgence is a fad, or if it will go away”. According to Joe, whether people are getting back into vinyl or being introduced to it for the first time, they are noticing the difference in sound quality between vinyl and music downloaded or streamed from the Internet. The difference is simple—when you download or stream music, you are listening to compressed audio files, impacting the quality of the sound.
Vinyl is far from the least expensive way to go when it comes to music listening, yet it is definitely superior to others in quality. Joe is hoping that because people are investing a fair amount of money into their vinyl collections, the industry will continue to grow. Personally, I don’t see myself giving up on my vinyl collection anytime soon. It is a hobby of mine that I would love to share with more people my age (no offense, Dad). That being said, I encourage everyone to check out Joe’s Albums, open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Remember to bring change for the meter.