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Vinyl Views is our weekly blog where we feature album recommendations from our store team (Shayne and Jaxon), and reveal picks from guest contributors.  This week we honor Moms!

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I can’t play any instrument or carry a tune, nor do I have any vast musical knowledge to impart.  All I have is a love of music that spans generations of musicians and musical genres.  And I’m happy to provide endless stories about where I was, and maybe even what I had on, when I first heard a song, album, singer or group, that moved me in some way.  

Memories of popular music from my generation include Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Rock ‘n’ Roll, war protest songs, lyrics of the sexual revolution.  The musical scene was then, and continues to be, intense and dizzying in its rapid change.  Rap, Dubstep, Techno, Emo, Noise Pop, Post Rock, Lo-fi — I have given up on keeping up.  But whenever I hear music that moves me in some way, I’m eager to listen and learn.  And to share.

So now I have a son with a record store, a grandson who works there and is a fanatic about everything vinyl, and another grandson whose entire life revolves around producing and performing music.  I’d say that makes me a PMAVO (Pseudo Musical Authority Via Osmosis).

Artist: Genesis
Album: The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

The storyline for Genesis’ 1974 concept album, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, introduces us to a young Puerto Rican boy, Rael, who finds himself in New York seeing and participating in many bizarre experiences on his journey to self realization.  The band performed this double-album masterpiece on a world tour that brought them to my hometown of Grand Rapids, MI on February 2, 1975, a date forever in my memory.  This was the first concert I ever attended, and although  it was 46 years ago, everything about it made such an impression on me that I can even  remember what I wore, right down to the very expensive gray cable knit sweater with faux fur collar I bought just for the occasion. 

The Lamb’s weirdly sexual and bizarre story is hard to follow for anyone not under the influence of some mind-altering drug.  However, even in my unaltered state I didn’t care that I couldn’t understand what Peter Gabriel, lead singer and lyricist for the album, was attempting to say.  For me the music and performances were simply magical, and still rival anything I’ve seen produced since that time.  The concert left me both hoarse and breathless.

I was thrilled that my family (Trevor, Margot, Jaxon and Miles Toppen) bought me the re-released double album for my birthday last year.  It’s still magical. I can’t recommend just one particular song; since the double album tells a (bizarre) story, you need to listen to them all.  Carve out a chunk of time and enjoy the experience.  Happy listening.

To get you started, check out the title track The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.


Artist: Eva Cassidy
Album: Songbird

Before her death from melanoma in 1996, Eva Cassidy was a 33-year-old artist little known outside of the Washington D.C. area where she lived and performed.  Two years after her untimely death, two of her breathtakingly beautiful recordings, Fields of Gold and Over the Rainbow, were played by BBC Radio 2, posthumously making her an overnight hit in England and Ireland, then the US and the world.  Eva is now considered a world-renowned Jazz/Folk/Blues artist who left us much too soon. 

We discovered Eva shortly after the BBC played her beautiful arrangement of Over the Rainbow, and then started collecting all of the music she had recorded.  Two of my favorite albums are Songbird and Time After Time, both released after her death.

My husband, Jim (aka Bumpa), and I listened to these two albums over and over, and just couldn’t seem to get enough of Eva’s beautiful voice and the haunting way she could deliver a message.  But it was on the way home from my younger sister’s memorial service that I truly listened to and felt the words of I Know You by Heart from Eva’s Songbird album.  The words seemed to have been written for me and the way I was feeling right then about my sister, Heather. 

“I see your sweet smile

Shine through the darkness

Its line is etched in my memory

So I’d know you by heart.”

I recommend Eva Cassidy’s album, Songbird.  Every song is beautiful, but I especially recommend “I Know You By Heart.” 

Check out the track  I Know You By Heart.


Artist: John Prine
Album: Prime Prine

When I moved from Michigan to California in 1988 to ultimately marry my husband, Jim was a huge John Prine fan.  An American country folk singer-songwriter, John’s 1976 compilation album, Prime Prine, was the first I heard of this masterful lyricist.  I was introduced to his unique voice and sometimes-funny, sometimes-sad, but always-memorable lyrics by listening to his music on cassette tape as we drove through the Bay Area backroads.

Many of Val’s customers know about John’s local roots growing up in Maywood, and his long music career, which began at the Fifth Peg, a Chicago club where he first performed his original material during open-mic night.  Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert heard John by chance at the Fifth Peg, and wrote the first review of his music, changing the course of John’s life with words such as:  “He appears on stage with such modesty he almost seems to be backing into the spotlight. He sings rather quietly, and his guitar work is good, but he doesn’t show off. He starts slow. But after a song or two, even the drunks in the room begin to listen to his lyrics. And then he has you.”

One of the first times I came into Val’s I saw a picture of John on the wall by the Elvis bathroom.  There he was standing next to Shayne and his mother, right there inside the record store.  When I commented on it, Shayne told me that John knew Val quite well and would often come into the store to visit her when he was in town.  In fact, John was in Val’s shortly before his death in April 2020. I wish I had been there on his last visit and been able to tell him how much his music has meant to me.

John earned four Grammy awards for his music and one for Lifetime Achievement.  There is no denying the impact he has had on other songwriters and millions of fans.  As testament to his impact on the music industry, husband Jim wanted me to add the names of some musicians who have sung John Prine’s original music:  Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Cash, John Denver, Tanya Tucker, Bette Midler, Kris Kristofferson, Cher, Joan Baez, 10,000 Maniacs, George Strait, as well as many other artists whose names you probably know if you have a broader base of musical knowledge than I have.

John Prine first had me with the song, Sam Stone, which tells the sad story of a Vietnam vet returning home with a drug addiction. The first line of the chorus gives you insight into the song’s strong message: “There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes.” It’s the first track on the Prime Prine album, which I highly recommend.

Check out the track Sam Stone.

Artist: Carole King & James Taylor
Album: Live At The Troubadour

Of course Mother’s Day is on the horizon but also my Mom’s birthday is coming up! Do I make a playlist? Do I do two?  Maybe I’m a Mama’s boy, maybe I have too much to work with and maybe shut up!  She deserves the whole month!  

While we weren’t at this specific performance, we did see James & Carol on this tour.  Imagine having such a catalogue in your pocket that “So Far Away” was the second song and not the second encore?!
Less than ideal venue, but perfect company.  We had a blast. 

Check out the track You’ve Got A Friend.


Artist: Various
Album: Clueless Soundtrack

Leaving the theater it seemed clear to us that people would/should adopt that manner of speaking! Sadly it seems we were the only ones. Driving home and defining “The Pinnacle Of Cinematic Snackage.” You need to get the ratio of popcorn, soft drink, and Twizzlers just so!  

It combines to euphoria! 

Check out the track Rollin’ With My Homies.


Artist: Alison Krauss
Album: Now That I’ve Found You

Alison Krauss has one of the most beautiful voices on the planet, objectively! My dear Mother almost ruined her for me however…  Family trip and all we listened to were these two songs recorded back to back to back (I was ready to pull a “Ladybird.”)  Fortunately I revisited her years later and was surprised to discover she actually recorded several great albums worth of music!  Imagine!

Check out the track Baby, Now That I’ve Found You.

Check out the track When You Say Nothing At All.

Repeat ad nauseam for full effect

Artist: Count Basie
Album: The Atomic Mr. Basie

One of the biggest parts of my mom’s life has been swing dancing, specifically Lindy Hop. She and her partner Riley had placed in the top 10 in national dance competitions back in the day – not too shabby!

Whenever I talk to her about jazz music, she always tells me her two favorite artists are Count Basie and Duke Ellington. For this week’s Mother’s Day version of Vinyl Views, I have chosen what is likely the most iconic and recognizable Count Basie album. It is a classic with a very fun, danceable vibe. It feels like stepping back in time and wandering into a jazz club with loud music and, of course, a packed dance floor of lindy hoppers. And while my mom wasn’t there during the time of this album’s release, she would have been in those clubs dancing if she was.

Check out the track Li’l Darlin’.


Artist: Prince
Album: Love Symbol

I hear all of these stories from when my parents were still dating about them being in a beginners bowling league at the Diversey Rock ‘n Bowl. The stories range from them wearing extremely crazy outfits consisting of capes and wigs, and all other sorts of shenanigans.

One detail that is often tied to these stories is the music. There are certain songs that they always requested the DJ to play while they were “bowling”. I put this in quotes because I do not think that this group was all that committed to the sport, and was perhaps a little more committed to the party they seemed to be having. Anyway, one of the songs that they begged the DJ to play was James Brown’s “Papa Don’t Take No Mess.” I’ll have to write about James Brown in the coming weeks in another Vinyl Views.

The one quintessential bowling soundtrack song was definitely “7” by Prince. It was released on Prince’s 14th studio album which has become known as “Love Symbol.” and it featured the backing band New Power Generation. You all remember this time – the artist formerly known as Prince with the strange Symbol (and that kick-ass guitar in the same shape). Yep, it was that time. There was also a direct-to-video film that was produced and directed by Prince called “3 Chains o’ Gold.” which is based on the storyline and songs from this album.

This is perhaps not the best-known or beloved Prince album, but hey, it’s Prince, so the band is tight and there is pure genius behind it all. It is worth checking out. BTW – I have other good Prince stories to share in connection with my family that I will have to save for a future week. In the meantime, Mom – strap on those bowling shoes and rock out

Check out the track 7


Artist: Lauryn Hill
Album: The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill

My dad and I love to talk about music in the car. One day we were talking about the artists that influenced our music tastes the most. After that conversation, I realized I should try and have this same conversation with my mom. To be honest, I don’t talk about music as much with my mom as I do with my dad, just because she has never been as into it. But on a recent car ride, we started talking music and she talked a lot about Lauryn Hill.

I always knew she enjoyed the album “The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill”, but I didn’t realize just how much. When we struck up our car chat, she said she used to play this album all the time back in the day, and that it might be her favorite album of all time. What? I usually associate my mom’s musical taste with big band swing music (refer to Count Basie pick I just made). What surprised me even more is when she dropped the bombshell telling me about when she SAW LAURYN HILL WHEN TOURING FOR THIS ALBUM! She said they had amazing seats and the concert was mind-blowing! How had I never heard this story before? Hey everyone, talk to your parents. They may have been cooler than you think at some distant point in the past.

All that aside, this album is truly a masterpiece, and if you somehow have avoided this album in the past, listen to my mom and check it out now.

Check out the track Doo-Wop (That Thing)

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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