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“Hello, Boils & Ghouls! SPOOPY VINYL VIEWS is our CREEPY blog where we feature album recommendations from our “SCREAM TEAM”  – SHAYNE “THE SKINWALKER” & JAXON “STILL AT LARGE”, and also from our GUEST UNDERTAKERS.

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I’m originally from Forest Park, and I had the privilege of getting to know Val a bit when she was around. My mom owns a business down the street that I worked at, and on my breaks, I would swing by and soak up as much musical information as I could at Val’s. The records I picked up there, and my experiences chatting with Val have had a serious influence on me as a person and as an artist.

When I was in high school, I drove a 1993 Honda accord. I loved that car. It had red-velvet seats and only a cassette player for music.

I would stop into Val’s from time-to-time and pickup cassettes (at the time I think the most I paid for one was $1.50).

All the following tapes lived in that car on loop for years. They hold a special place in my heart because they were some of the first records I really listened to front-to-back. Of course, there was the magic of analog that I couldn’t quite put my finger on at the time: the warmth, the warble, etc.

These aren’t necessarily new or esoteric, most folks have probably heard of them in some way or another. But, I believe they are some of the best records ever made, and its worth digging back into these if you haven’t spun ‘em in a while.

My main gig is as the bandleader of Saltwater Tap. We describe ourselves as a folk-funk group. We have one EP out and have released a couple of singles in the past few months. None are on vinyl, but it’s something we’re exploring.

We’re super excited to be playing our first show back on October 14th, at a new venue on an urban farm, Livestock Chicago, at 3234 W Carrol.

I also play in the backing band of and help produce records with singer-songwriter Cait Arq.

Artist: Paul Simon
Album: Graceland

Growing up I’d heard the hits from this record around the house (You Can Call Me Al, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes), but it wasn’t until I grabbed this tape that I understood those tracks in the context of the whole album. One of the best things about having an album that plays indefinitely is you hear more and more of the arrangement. You shift from being introduced to this new piece of art to actively studying the smallest part of the canvas. This is a record that is ripe for this type of listening.

The South African musicians from Ladysmith Black Mambazo play in a style that’s unfamiliar to the American ear and it really sort of shifts you into a different state of consciousness. There are all sorts of little motifs that exist in the back of the mix that you might not catch until the 58th listen or so.

If you grab the deluxe record, you can hear this great bonus track with a song-exploder style breakdown of the title track, narrated by Simon. It adds yet another layer of complexity to this already brilliant piece of work.

I think Simon’s songwriting on Graceland is some of his best. It’s had a huge influence on me and my songwriting. He has this ability to write with a sense of absurdism that somehow tells a lucid story. I think this is best summed up by the line in I Know what I Know: “as if everyone here would know exactly what I was talking about.”

In that moment, you know exactly what he’s talking about, even if you don’t. Additionally, this is a record you can absolutely nerd out over in terms of basic songwriting principles. From verse to verse, Simon keeps everything square, and uses clever rhyming schemes to keep you engaged and curious.

Not only has this record had a huge influence on me, but I have had many precious moments of discovering that other people have had a similar experience. My dad and I have listened to this on road trips (admittedly, a few times through), and I’ve made several new friends with this being our core shared interest.

Saltwater Tap has covered Gumboots, and it was an absolute blast to learn & play.

Check out the track I Know What I Know

Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Album: Blood Sugar Sex Magik

Certainly a shift in tone from Graceland, BSSM was my first real foray into the Chili Peppers. This record was a real place of refuge and catharsis at the peak of my teen angst. It was certainly the soundtrack to lots of teenage shenanigans for me and my peers. Let’s just say I might have blown a speaker or two with this album specifically. But how could you not? Could you blame our pyrotechnic obsession with sticking paper clips into outlets at our high school on this album? Maybe not, but it was certainly playing at the same time.

Musically, this record is somewhere between funk and punk, which was a totally new sound for me. This was also one of my first moments where I realized the power and beauty of well executed track-listing. This whole album plays front to back in one continuous stream, to the point where you might not even know where one song ends and the other begins.

Its funny, I identify as a songwriter more than anything else, but on some albums, I am so much more drawn to the attitude and spirit of the song than the lyrics themselves. This album is one of those. To this day, I might only be able to sing along with 30% of the lyrics…. even though I’ve listened to the album thousands of times. That said, I could tell you exactly where Chad Smith started using some accumulation of cowbells and pots and pans (its 3:00 into Breaking the Girl). I honestly don’t know why this is. I think part of it has to be that the Chili Peppers really create a cinematic experience with this record. You’re far less concerned with the dialogue in this “film,” so to speak, than you are by the cinematography and general spirit of it.

Whether you listen to this record in the same way or not is up to you, but I really think its one that lends itself to just being sucked into its universe, its ethos so to speak.

Check out the track Breaking The Girl


Artist: Joe Cocker
Album: With A Little Help From My Friends

Last but definitely not least, this record was revelatory for me. Opening with Feeling Alright, you feel instantly like it’s 1969 and you’re at Woodstock.

There is something so characteristic of the sound of music at this time, the way it was produced, and the spirit behind it. Big Brother and the Holding Company, Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, all really existed in a similar sonic universe.

I had honestly never heard anything like this music before this record. The gospel vocals, the in-your-face production, it all made me convinced this was some of the best music ever made. There was just something so big about it. That wall-of-sound style of music production really enchanted me.

This album, and a lot of the music of this era is also interesting to think about as a performer and songwriter, because most of the tracks are “covers,” but now they aren’t really considered that way. This was right around the time that the singer-songwriter model was emerging, and performing songs written by other people was still standard practice. Joe Cocker was a master of innovative “covers”

That said, the few originals on here are phenomenal, and I think they’re a testament to Cocker’s under-appreciated songwriting talent. “Change in Louise” and “Marjorine” both tell immensely enticing stories and leave you wondering what’s going on.

“Marjorine, where have you been, did you meet the queen?” Like, what!? What’s going on there!?” Also, for the longest time, I thought Cocker was saying “each time I go to town, I see your face in the Clouds” it wasn’t until years later I realized it was “crowd” and the meaning changed for me.

Of course the title track on here is one of the coolest renditions of a Beatles tune you’ll ever hear :). 

Check out the track Marjorine

Artist: The Crypt Keeper
Album: The Crypt Jam

Is it too soon for Spoops? We say thee NAY! “Still At Large” and I couldn’t wait to get started. By sheer coincidence all three of my picks for this inaugural Spoopy Vinyl Views are singles rather than albums. I could have saved them for a playlist but I think these icons deserve special attention.

Yes of course this happened. I miss the days when everyone with a modicum of fame, even puppets, was mandated to crap out a rap record. Many of those endeavors border on criminal but surprisingly The Crypt Jam kinda slaps? Maybe I’m just the right audience for it and maybe it works because it’s a rubber ghoul spitting out puns, I dunno. What I can tell you for sure is that the video is something to behold!

Check out the track The Crypt Jam


Artist: Fat Boys
Album: Are You Ready For Freddy

What?  You thought I ran out of Freddy songs?!  Honey I barely scratched the surface! (see what I did there?)  For a while Freddy was a marketing juggernaut and they were all too eager to slap his ugly mug on and/or lend his gravelly voice to every product imaginable.  He was basically Spider-Man.  I previously highlighted the incredible “Freddy’s Greatest Hits” which has nothing to do with the movies at all, and the iconic “Nightmare On My Street” which kinda does but doesn’t include Robert Englund and features a Freddy look-alike in the video.  So, how is it that Will Smith couldn’t get that officially licensed but here we have The Fat Boys, with Robert Englund, and a music video intercut with scenes from the films? You’d have to ask someone at New Line, all I know is that it rules!

Check out the track Are You Ready For Freddy


Artist: Elvira Mistress Of The Dark
Album: 2 Big Pumpkins/13 Days Of Halloween

I’m not sure why I didn’t use this last year, embarrassment of riches I guess. The Queen herself, still as fabulous as ever (seriously whatever crossroads bargain she made, sign me up!) This single, released by Third Man Records of all things, consists of two songs written and produced by Fred Schneider of B-52’s and (name-drop humblebrag) he showed me the work in progress years back while visiting the store!! My love of music, horror and camp is well-documented, imagine me trying to hold it in while Fred queues up this soon to be released video on my shitty laptop! And bonus, the B-Side is another Freddy song (sorta.)

Check out the track 2 Big Pumpkins

Check out the track 13 Days Of Halloween

Jaxon is switching it up this week with a custom playlist!  Check it out here or come into the store and listen to it in our Sounderator (tricked out 1940’s refrigerator that you sit in while enjoying a tasty selection of tunes).

From: Jaxon:

With October coming up, I decided to start my month of spooks early with a playlist of songs that were the formula The Cramps used and turned into their signature Halloween flavor of punk!  Enjoy these raw and crazy gems.

Access the Spotify Playlist Here =>   

The Phantom

Song: Love Me


The Fugs

Song: Frenzy


Los Saicos

Song: Demalicion


Bunker Hill

Song: The Girl Can’t Dance


The Trashmen

Song: Surfin’ Bird

The Sonics

Song: The Witch


The Standells

Song: Batman



Song: The Crusher


The Monks

Song: Complication


The Surfaris

Song: Wipeout


How Do I Order Music (Or Other Things)?

Val’s is now open again (safely)! Bring a face mask and we will sanitize your hands on the way in.  Social distancing, of course.  Val’s halla has worked hard over this quarantine period to launch its Online Store which has thousands of titles for you to choose from.  We will continue to add inventory everyday, but just let us know what you are looking for!  We are happy to look through our off-line inventory of over 50,000 titles to see what we have for you.  Also, we place orders with our distributor every Monday which means we see them in our store by Tuesday (most of the time).  We sell records (as well as turntables), CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks, DVDs and more.  To get started, you can Click Here to access the Online Store, or fill out the form below to let us know what you are looking for.

What About Delivery?

Val’s is offering Curbside Pickup and No-Contact Delivery Service to customers who live within a 5-mile radius of the Oak Park Arts District. Orders can also be shipped to customers outside that radius for a flat fee of $5.  Order as much as you want – still $5 shipping! Stay safe and be well!

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