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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 hear from Jeff Elbel!

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I live in Wheaton, but my heart is on Harrison Street at Val’s Halla. Digging the crates and playing music in the front window is the absolute best. I support NASA research for my day job, and I write about music for the Chicago Sun-Times and Illinois Entertainer. My band Jeff Elbel + Ping has released several albums, but we’re finally releasing our first vinyl LP. The Threefinger Opera is a fun record telling a true story, with guests from The Fixx, Calexico, The Claudettes and more. There’s one week left in the LP campaign, and backers get a pile of bonuses including a 20th anniversary vinyl reissue of our debut album No Outlet. Val began stocking the No Outlet CD in 2005, and I was so honored. Support from tastemakers Shayne and Jaxon is also a huge deal. I look forward to bringing the LPs to the store and singing more songs in the window! Visit Ping’s campaign until September 30!

Artist: Midnight Oil
Album: Armistice Day: Live at the Domain, Sydney

Australia is loaded with great guitar bands including AC/DC, The Church, Hoodoo Gurus and more, but my favorite live band from anywhere is Midnight Oil. They take the power of the Who and the politics and attitude of the Clash and turn it all up to 11. Most people will recognize their indigenous rights anthem “Beds are Burning” from Diesel and Dust. I’m super old, so I saw that tour in 1988. The group took a very long hiatus when singer Peter Garrett decided to put his money where his big mouth was, becoming the equivalent of a senator in Australia’s Parliament. The Oils regrouped for a worldwide tour in 2017 that played at the Vic Theatre, where the band made a one-off performance of their breakthrough 1982 album 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Chicago rock radio listeners will probably remember “The Power and the Passion” from that album. I loved it, but it wasn’t enough because they didn’t play my favorite song “Hercules.” It’s a ferocious rocker about the Cold War and nuclear testing in the South Pacific. I drove to the Cleveland show to hear it. No dice. So, I finally made a trip I’d wanted to take my whole life and saw two shows in Brisbane on the band’s final leg in Australia. The Oils played “Hercules” at the last one! Armistice Day captures the final show of the 2017 tour in the band’s hometown.

.Check out the song Hercules

Artist: Emmylou Harris
Album: Wrecking Ball

I was always a rock and roll guy, and very late to appreciate country music. Thanks to Daniel Lanois for changing that. I became interested in Lanois and Brian Eno based upon U2’s The Unforgettable Fire. Cheating in my entries here, I saw U2 support that album at the Aragon Ballroom in 1984. It was the only tour when they played “Wire,” my favorite song of theirs. I began following Lanois’ production on albums including Peter Gabriel’s So and Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy. I had dipped my toe into country music when someone gave me Lyle Lovett’s Joshua Judges Ruth and I realized what an amazing songwriter he was. In 1995, I was ready to hear Lanois’ new production. I knew Harris by her reputation, but didn’t know her voice, her talent, or her groundbreaking material. Harris was 48 at the time and Wrecking Ball was a gutsy departure from early favorites like Elite Hotel, but I didn’t know any better. I just knew that I was haunted by Harris’ angelic, expressive voice in the setting of Lanois’ moody atmospheres on songs like “Where Will I Be,” the rustic “Deeper Well,” and hard-luck story-song “Blackhawk.” I had to see these songs performed. I was living in California then and managed to score a hot ticket to see the Wrecking Ball tour at the Troubadour in Hollywood. Lanois joined Harris’ incredible band with Buddy Miller, Daryl Johnson, and Brady Blade for a 45-minute encore. They played a version of Jimi Hendrix’ “May This Be Love” that was so overwhelming it made me cry. I’ve chased that experience ever since.

.Check out the track May This Be Love

Artist: David Bowie
Album: A Reality Tour

I had followed David Bowie since 1980’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), but like many people my age I became a big fan when MTV put “Let’s Dance” into rotation. The album version of “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitar totally hooked me. I tracked Bowie’s career backward and forward. I loved Tin Machine, and Bowie made bold moves with Outside and Earthling in the 90s, but it seemed that the ‘70s albums would always have his best songs. Reality followed 2002’s Heathen by just over a year. He must have been on a hot streak, because it all clicked. There were creative interpretations of other people’s material like Jonathan Richman’s “Pablo Picasso” and George Harrison’s “Try Some, Buy Some.” The best cuts were Bowie’s own, though. “New Killer Star” had an anthemic space-rock chorus with glitch-pop electronics and soaring guitar by Gerry Leonard. “Fall Dog Bombs the Moon” was sublime pop with subversive roots about characters profiteering during the early stages of the Iraq War. And then there’s the final song, “Bring Me the Disco King.” It’s transfixing. It’s beautiful. It’s harrowing. It’s the most irresistible song about death I can name. The arrangement features Mike Garson’s jazz piano and manages the major feat of unseating “Life on Mars?” as my favorite Bowie number. The band didn’t always perform it on the Reality tour, but I saw “Disco King” performed during an encore at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on February 2, 2004. Even in my lousy seat, time stopped. That summer, I returned to Illinois. Bowie never toured again. 2010’s A Reality Tour documents that final run.

Check out the track Bring Me The Disco King

BONUS BOWIE: My favorite Chicago-based Bowie experience was seeing Bernard Fowler sing “Diamond Dogs” in 2018 with A Bowie Celebration at the Vic. Bow wow, baby!

Check out the track Diamond Dogs

Artist: LCD Soundsystem
Album: Coachella ’04

Last week was largely dedicated to shows I wish I could go back and attend so it’s only natural that this week we spread the “jelly” and focus on the shows we were fortunate enough to see!

No song captures the braggy nature of this concept better than Losing My Edge by LCD Soundsystem (it also kinda describes my relationship with Jaxon lol.)  As it happens I have an appropriate “But I Was There!” experience with them.  The very first year my friends and I went to Coachella in 04 (seriously, look at that lineup, are you shitting me?!) LCD was just starting to blow up.  They played in one of the smaller tents in the unenviable time-slot right before the big Pixies reunion followed by Radiohead.  Ian and I decided to forego a better spot in the massive crowd and we along with a small assortment of like-minded folks were treated to a killer dance party!  The next time they played the fest in 07 it was decidedly a different story, moving from side tent to main stage, with a much much larger audience and swapping the sweaty t-shirt for a pristine white suit.

Check out the track: Losing My Edge


Artist: Bo Diddley
Album: Fitzgerald’s ’04

That very same year we got a really special gift.  Bo Diddley, THE Bo Diddley was going to play in basically my backyard at our very own Fitzgerald’s!  Val in her generosity took a small group of us for this momentous occasion.  It ended up being even better than we could have expected.  We all had dinner at the restaurant (then Wishbone if I’m not mistaken?) before wandering in to the club, much too early.  We figured we’d just have a couple beers and post up somewhere, instead out comes Bo and the band to do soundcheck, and by soundcheck I mean they play the whole freaking set for just us!!  It was surreal.  Also in attendance that night was one Mr. John Cusack, who had no small part in influencing my decision to move to Chicago to run a record store.

P.S. If you haven’t already, make sure to grab your tickets for the inaugural Berwyn Blues Fest this weekend!

Check out the track: Hey Bo Diddley

Artist: Prince
Album: Coachella ’08

Could there be any doubt?  At this point in time Coachella was just something we did every year, we didn’t even wait for a lineup announcement.  So we bought tickets for this year the moment they went on sale.  A week before the event itself I was browsing around on the message boards when all of a sudden the whole page changed into a giant Prince symbol!  My shriek may have woke the dead.  I’ve told this story many times in the years since but for those who haven’t yet heard it, this was the second time at the fest where while hanging in the back of the crowd at the main stage there was a sudden mass exodus, affording me the opportunity to run up and grab the bar.  With that comes comfort and safety while everyone else around you is being pulverized.  With our spot secure, we were right up front for Kraftwerk into Portishead into Prince, who brought along with him Morris Day & The Time and Sheila E!  I honestly can’t imagine this concert experience ever being topped.

Check out the track: Creep

Artist: Jeff Tweedy
Album: Play It Forward

I have been to a handful of unique concert experiences. In this week’s Vinyl Views I will recall some of my favorites.

Last October, I enjoyed one of the most unique live experiences I will probably ever have. My neighbors run an amazing organization called Intonation which is a non-profit that brings music to under-served communities through schools. Each year they have a big fundraising gala, but because of Covid-19, they had to come up with something else. They held a very limited (gatherings were 50 people or less) concert in their backyard and the headliner was none other than Jeff Tweedy!  Because they are my neighbors, I was able to camp out in my backyard and get a one of a kind viewing experience seeing Jeff Tweedy play a private show for free. It was amazing.  He played songs from his then-upcoming album as well as some of the classic Wilco songs. After the show, I was lucky enough to catch him on the sidewalk as he was leaving and he was gracious enough to autograph my in-hand copy of Whole Love. Here is the recording of the exact show that I was at.

Intonation Play It Forward


Artist: The Cure
Album: The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Back in 2019, my family took a vacation to New York for Spring Break. It was around the time of my brother’s birthday and my parents were looking at what things were going on near NYC to celebrate his birthday. They learned that the induction ceremony for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame happened to overlap with our trip, and it was being held in Brooklyn! My parents got tickets for everyone for his birthday gift, and when he opened it, I was excited to learn that I would be able to mooch off of his gift. The inductees were The Cure, Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Radiohead, Roxy Music and The Zombies. Sadly, Janet Jackson and Radiohead did not perform, but all of the rest of the artists did. The two biggest standouts for me were The Cure and The Zombies. I was already a huge Cure fan at this point, so getting to see them live was an absolute blast. They even opened the set with Shake Dog Shake, which is one of my favorite deep cuts in their discography. At this point, I hadn’t yet discovered my love for The Zombies. I knew the hits, but I wasn’t familiar with much else. When a group of dinosaurs walk on stage and are still able to blow your mind, that’s when you know that they were and still are something special. I immediately listened to Odyssey and Oracle when I got home, and it became one of my all-time favorite records.

Check out the track Shake Dog Shake


Artist: Frank Iero
Album: Live At El Club Detroit 2019

Getting to see your favorite artist live is an amazing experience. My dad, brother, and I took a pilgrimage up to Detroit to see him play a show at a small club named El Club. I was so excited, as it was going to be my first time seeing Frank live (and I was ditching school a little early to do so). I had an absolute blast at the show, and he played all of my favorite tracks. It was a very memorable night and is one of my most valued concert experiences. 

Check out the track I’ll Let You Down

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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