Archive for record stores

Jammyland Records

Posted in music, record stores, Tom with tags , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2008 by criticalreviews
60 East Third St. (between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
East Village, NYC

So I know I just posted about Count Ossie and I my be bombarding you with reggae, but I feel that it is necessary to get this up before Jammyland is gone.

On Sunday, I found out that Jammyland will be closing come the end of May (I assume due to a rent increase or loss of their lease). This is a really sad day for reggae, and music in general in New York City. Jammyland has been a reggae mainstay in New York since 1993.

Physically Jammyland is a very long and very narrow store, and if there is someone buying something at the counter it is even hard to fit in the door. But it is loaded with all things reggae. They have the largest selection of reggae LPs, 45s, and CDs I have ever seen (and t-shirts too). My experiences in the store have always been enjoyable….the sweet smell of incense and trying to lean over the mounds of Jammyland t-shirts on the floor in boxes to flip thru records. The employees are always friendly…from making recommendations, to answering questions, and even sometimes putting records on the store stereo so that you can hear them before you buy. Occasionally you will even go in and a DJ will be spinning 45s to figure out what he/she is going to purchase to play in their set later that night.

The first time I went in the store it was the most overwhelming experience I have ever had record shopping. I was more comfortable in Hospital Productions, at least I knew a handful of the names on the shelf. For those who don’t know Hospital Productions is the noise/black metal store, that is located in the old Jammyland recording studio, that you enter by walking into the Jammyland store front…going to the back of the store, and then down a ladder in to the windowless Hospital Productions. I knew literally nothing about reggae the first time I went in, and although the guy working tried to help me I had no direction and no idea what I liked. On my second visit I picked up the Soul Jazz’s Studio One Dub, and after getting some advice I went back and purchased a big handful of LPs.

The first couple of times that I was in the store I was totally blown away…and that was for two reasons: 1) the store has a killer selection, and 2) I was starting on a new genre of which I literally owned nothing. While Jammyland didn’t always have what I was looking for they always had something to temp me…it wasn’t their fault…I realize when I am looking for albums that came out twenty or thirty plus years ago that they most likely will be out of print. But with Jammyland you never know…one day that record just might be there. Someone in Jamaica or England might have been clearing out a warehouse, and if a couple copies are found… they will end up at Jammyland (that is how I happened upon Grounation). Even if they don’t have that specific obscure LP you are looking for the collection of Greensleeves, Pressure Sounds, and Soul Jazz records should be enough to hold you over. Jammyland, from what I understand, even makes trips and orders directly from Jamaica to get Jamaican pressings of albums you typically wouldn’t see in the States (I have picked up random Linval Thompson, and Sly and Robbie records, as well as a Jamaican press of The Upsetters’ Return of the Super Ape).

Their prices are also hard to beat. I love being able to walk into a store, and if you look a little bit you can walk out with a rad roots or dub record for as cheap as $9.99 (I find it a rare occasion these days when you can get a new record for $10, but at Jammyland as long as your willing to look this can happen often). But as you can assume some records go up in price pretty quickly…it is just as easy to spend $25 on an album as it is to spend $10.

Jammyland is a bit messy and disorganized but so entirely unique that it couldn’t exist anywhere else (well maybe in Brooklyn). I sit here listing to Augustus Pablo’s Africa Must Be Free by 1983 Dub (the second record I ever purchased from the store) reminiscing on Jammyland…I guess it will never completely be gone as long as their mail order is still in action, but it is really sad to think that I will never be able to walk into this shrine to Jamaican roots music again.

While I was told that the store was looking for a new location there is no word yet of if it will happen/where/and when, and I guess this means Hospital Productions will also be looking for a new home too. This will be two tremendous (hopefully temporary) losses for New York’s music scene. I plan on making at least a couple more trips to these wonderful stores before they are gone…they are a great example of what independent record stores should be.

If possible show your support in the next month…I’m sure Jammyland and Hospital Productions will both appreciate it.

Photo of Jammyland from the NY Times

also related: my review of Hospital Productions.

(Tom)

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