In an iPod world, Broadway goes vinyl

Records Department
By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  March 30, 2011


Dave Lifrieri, owner of Analog Underground on Broadway, was in the eighth grade listening to Beatles and Led Zeppelin on vinyl when the CD player — and the inevitable avalanche of remasters — made their full arrival.

And he just wasn't buying it.

"I wasn't convinced," he says. "Why do you have to go back and make it sound better?"

It was, perhaps, the inevitable response of a boy put in a strange sort of trance, several years previous, by his first Fisher Price record player — "I listened to Winnie the Pooh over and over and over," he says.

Yes, Lifrieri, 33, was a vinyl man from the start.

Little surprise, then, that MP3s — with their compressed sound and soulless form — don't move him.

They're great tools, he says, a quick and easy means of transmission. But "they're ethereal," he says, "they're just information."

"You put a record on and its 20 minutes a side," he says. "It's a full program . . . it's in the room with you. It's a tactile event."

That he could sell this tangible experience with some success — Analog Underground, 10 months old now, must be considered established — is not entirely surprising.

While overall album sales dropped 13 percent nationwide last year, vinyl sales were up 14 percent.

Of course, if record collecting is a sort of rebuke to the digital age, it has been fundamentally altered — even enhanced — by it. Indeed, Lifrieri says he can't pretend that he's offering a commodity his customers can't get anywhere else. They plainly can — on the Interzone.

But he does provide the enthusiasm and the expertise of a diehard. He is a curator and, for those not schooled in the mechanics of record players and vintage sound systems, a teacher.

"We enter a relationship," he says, bearded and corduroyed, of his customers. "I can connect you to this other world."

His shop, next to Nick's on Broadway, occupies the old Stairwell Gallery space.

It's small. Hardwood floors, brick walls, and wooden displays. Lifrieri says he's cultivating a '70s library feel.

Lifrieri will take you from that Bob Marley record you like — call it the "A" record — to the "B" and the "C": a disc by the Congos, produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry at his Black Ark studio in Jamaica, that looks in retrospect like a transition to dub; and another by Prince Far I, who called himself the "Voice of Thunder."

He has vinyl from labels like Mississippi Records that have dug up obscure blues artists. There's a gospel funk record — "like James Brown, but all about God" — and noise, too. Lifrieri carries a smattering of local stuff. Daily Life's new flexi disc — the sort of thin record that used to appear on cereal boxes or in music instruction books — sits on the front counter.

"It's not resistance to digital," Lifrieri says, of his shop. It's just that "we've gone pretty far, pretty fast and maybe we've lost something."

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  Topics: This Just In , Music, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley,  More more >
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