Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Brown and Brown Present: Barrie "WLTGFG" Bryant

Barrie 'Wholetthegoldfishgo' Bryant, another member of the Record Collector's Guild, was kind enough to lend his expertise on collecting. As you will read, Barrie is the real deal. His collection runs as deep as his knowledge, and I'm sure you will get a kick out of reading his well structured responses. ENJOY!

Barrie is right- You never know what you are going to get at a thrift shop!

What do you collect and why?

WLTGFG: I mostly collect music old and new and I get it in any way that I can get it. I do get most of my music from buying vinyl LP’s since records are plentiful and quite often inexpensive. For instance, when I walk into a thrift shop or wherever I think music media will be offered for sale, I quickly scan for all things music related. I’ll usually look at vinyl LP’s first, then the 45’s and 78‘s. Next I’m on to the CD‘s, 8 tracks, cassettes, and open reel tapes, though I rarely see open reels to even consider them.

Last year I downloaded a Billie Holliday collection off the internet and into my computer for 99 cents, but that’s the extent of money spent on digital downloads. I’m just not interested in digital downloads since I do 99.99 percent of my listening on better sounding home electronics.
As for specific artists I collect, I’m especially fond of Van Morrison and have most of his 40 official live & studio LP releases (excluding the best of compilations) as well as a few radio station only interview discs. I’ve found that when most people think of Van Morrison, they aren’t sure he did anything very good after Veedon Fleece in 1974. Well, I’ve got news for everyone, ‘cause Van Morrison has released great new material almost every year since Veedon Fleece with 31 more titles to his credit. And the best news of all? Van Morrison never stopped releasing vinyl! During the mid-1990’s, Van Morrison records were not produced in USA, but in UK and sometimes also Holland.
Miles of Van...

I’m also fond of Manfred Eicher’s ECM jazz label and have at least 70 of these. This fascination began in 1984 when I first heard Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays late at night while driving through a Louisiana bayou with two fraternity brothers. We were on a spring break road trip and the road had just been resurfaced and repaired with these big blue reflectors in the middle of it. Listening to As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls on the radio that night was so surreal, and we were the only people out there. I didn’t actually buy the album until January 1985. I had dropped out of college to join the Marines, and I was in Amphibious Reconnaissance School on Coronado Island, California. My buddy there had a jeep with no top and he drove us up the coast to see his girlfriend at San Luis Obispo. We stopped by a Tower Records and I picked up the cassette to play in my Sony Walkman. Once again, I was listening to this music late at night while driving up a dark highway, only this time it was cold and windy. That day I also bought the ECM label release Chick Corea RETURN TO FOREVER featuring Stanley Clarke, Flora Purim, Airto Moreira, and Joe Farrell. Listening to these, I was hooked!

Another label that I collect is SIRE. It’s very difficult to get 97000 series catalogue number LP’s issued on their first label variation from 1969 and early 1970 and usually these records are expensive. But the 30 year running yellow label variations with violet logo are plentiful and there are some great artists featured. Bands like Talking Heads, Pretenders, Ramones, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Replacements, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, Ministry, Climax Blues Band, Focus, Nuggets compilations, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, and much more besides and this can keep a collector busy.
Pretenders S/T on Sire records - an album that Barrie and I both agree on

Other specifics in my collection include more than 50 classical and Flamenco guitar. Listening to Flamenco, I loved Sabicas the most until I discovered Manitas de Plata, “Hands of Silver“, whose true name is Ricardo Ballardo.

I’ve a load of solo and concerto recordings for violin, cello, and piano in my collection. One of my favourite pieces of music is Beethoven Opus 61, the Violin Concerto in D Major and I have 14 different renderings of this piece. Some favourite artists playing it include Henryk Szeryng, David Oistrakh, and Nathan Milstein. As for cellists and pianists that I love, I single out Gregor Piatigorsky, cello and Sviatoslav Richter, piano as faves. But there’s so much music and so many more artists to whom I listen, including the amazing living artists, violinist Midori Goto and cellist Natalia Gutman.

Lately, 20th Century composer Dmitri Shostakovich has taken center stage on my stereo. I love his quartets, as well as those from other composers like Bartok and Beethoven. Chamber music is an intimate portrait of both the composer and the artist rendering the music.

I could go on and on about a lot of things. I’ve left out so much that I love, like Gladys Knight, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, Helen Merrill, Tom Jones, Tower of Power, Tom Verlaine & Television, The Pogues, Talking Heads, Rory Gallagher & Taste, Al Di Meola, Chick Corea, Roy Haynes, Billy Cobham, Bill Evans, Michael Brecker & Brecker Brothers, Ralph Towner, Egberto Gismonti, Steve Tibbetts, Barre Phillips, Zara Nelsova, Maria Callas, Jose Carreras, Rudolph Serkin, Vladimir Horowitz, Glenn Gould, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Michael Ball, Elaine Page, Sarah Brightman, Cleo Laine, Andreas Vollenweider, Caravan, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and many, many others.
How big is your collection?
WLTGFG: My collection of LP’s is 4,500 strong; 1,200 classical/opera, 700 jazz/r&b/soul, 1,700 rock, 175 country, 175 original cast and soundtrack, 250 male & female vocalists, 150 international, 50 Windam Hill, 50 comedy, and 50 children‘s. And I have a small 45’s and 78’s collection featuring roughly 100 titles each. As for CD’s, I estimate more than a thousand.

Explain your storage/display techniques.
WLTGFG: July 2 was my birthday and I went out and bought myself another 5-tier metal shelf unit that will hold 750 more LP’s

O.K. So now it’s holding 750 LP’s that I had waiting in the wings for shelf space! And that could very well be the most common response from a record collector, or any collector of shelve-able goods for that matter! I now have five of these units and two others that are similar, but a bit smaller.
All of my collection is finally together in my man cave…the basement. Since the walls are partially underground, there’s not a lot of fluctuation in temperature down there. Plus living at Wyoming where the humidity levels are low, the basement provides a better atmosphere with a little higher humidity (40-50 %) than upstairs provides
And I thought my double humidifier system was overdoing it :)

Insulating the walls behind the shelves provides better mold protection as well. Just because it is less humid doesn’t mean we don’t have dreaded mold, but it is less common. And there is space between the shelves and the wall so air circulates there.
I like to sleeve LP’s in crystal clear sleeve protectors, and if I could stop the urge to purchase vinyl I could purchase more of these protectors for my records. I also like to clean new-to-me used records that need it and slip them in fresh new plastic inner sleeves. But again, I am way behind the curve with this project.
Now that’s all about storage. As for display, I like to get those cheap LP frames from Hobby Lobby or Michael’s Arts & Crafts when they are on sale for $6.00 a piece and hang a few framed covers on the walls. I have a few right now, but I’ve given plenty of these away as gifts to friends. So I can’t keep them around very long for myself. Plus my wife and I are professional artists and have plenty of our own artwork to hang!

Tell us about an odd record in your collection.

WLTGFG: After my father died in 2007, my stepmother handed me a box of family photos and whatnot, and then handed me an acetate recording of my father from 1949 when he was 9 years old! This is something his aunt took him to make at a Ben Franklin five & dime store. I was super excited to hear it. It’s two sided, one being 33 1/3 and the other 78.

What elusive gem are you still looking for?

WLTGFG: Van Morrison ASTRAL WEEKS on UK issue Warner Bros. orange label.
Barrie states that this is the best sound copy, but will set you back a good $100 for the listen!

How do you keep track of what you have/need?

WLTGFG: In my wee little head.

Discuss your stance on using the Internet for collecting? Are you only using Ebay, or a combination of stores and online?

WLTGFG: Ebay is a great place to find what I need. It’s also a great place to sell on rare occasion what I don’t. But GEMM has proven to be worth a look as well as Musicstack. I got a scarce Van Morrison at GEMM that had been selling for more than $80 for just $8. I’m always shopping the deals!

But there are independent sources for vinyl on the internet as well and they are always worth checking. If I google a title, it has happened that I’ve been linked to a collector’s website who’s flipping what I need. So the internet is invaluable.

I’ve also learned a great deal from using the internet to research records. My introduction to using the internet for this purpose came in June 2007 when I found Record Collector’s Guild dot org. The Guild has really taught me a lot through its network of knowledgeable collectors. Plus I’ve made some great friends with whom I’ve visited in person when traveling, and one regularly who is just 110 miles north of me here in Wyoming. The exchange of knowledge, leads, gifts, trades, and deals with members of the Guild has been rewarding, to say the least.

Brain with guilder Dave 'Cactus Cowboy' Rose.
Check out Dave's 20,000+ collection HERE!

Barrie with Scott

Barrie with Mart

Do you have any routines surrounding listening?

WLTGFG: I listen whenever I get the chance. I listen to what my wife won’t listen to when I’m in the studio and she’s in the house, or when she’s in the studio and I’m in the house! She loves music, but not everything that I like to hear.

I rarely have the chance to just sit and listen to music without being occupied by something else, such as making a picture frame. But that’s alright since it takes me from 20-40 hours to design and make one! The beauty of being a self-employed artist is that I get to be at home most of the time and that means being near my music and stereo gear (I have three units; one in my office, one in my man cave, and one in my studio!) But when I started listening to music as a child and into my teens, I had plenty of time to just sit and listen. Oh, the good ol’ days.

Barrie notes the pack of cigarettes to the right. He quit smoking in 94, though is still VERY addicted to records!

Are there types of covers you look for, or is it all in the grooves?

WLTGFG: I don’t usually collect covers since I’m so into the music, but I have picked a few titles based on cover art. One in particular is Edna Isaac and the Green Sisters - Christians Catch Hell. I just couldn’t pass that one by, and there was no record in it anyway.

But I also recently missed getting a South Africa issue Van Morrison Astral Weeks featuring different colours on the cover, but I would have listened to the record so I guess this would have also been about the grooves.

Several years ago it occurred to me that I would love to collect the actual original illustrations or photographs used for some album covers. It would really be cool if I had the Frank Kelly Freas paintings featured on Queen - NEWS OF THE WORLD, wouldn’t it? You see, my wife and I are professional artists and had done art shows with Mr. Freas for a while until his death in 2005, so it didn’t seem ridiculous. Another great cover is the black and white photo from Bill Evans’ UNDERCURRENT release of 1963. So I researched and discovered one for sale at Sotheby’s auction, and once the gavel struck the podium the selling price was well over US$10,000! And I bet Mr. Freas’ paintings for the Queen album art would be close to that price or trump it should they be offered. I still don’t think collecting these is a ridiculous notion, but they’re certainly out of my reach at the moment.

The sad story I must relate to your readers is that I had a NM copy of NEWS OF THE WORLD with me at a show in 2002 where I knew I would see Mr. Freas. But I was too embarrassed to bring him the album for autographing, and instead only obtained his autograph in the recently released book from Paper Tiger featuring him and 24 other fantasy & science fiction artists, one of whom is my wife. Because my wife was also included in the book he did it freely, but Laura, Mr. Freas’ wife, would have collected $10 from me for having him sign the album cover!

Do you have a long-term plan for your collection?

WLTGFG: My long-term collecting plans certainly include filling the Van Morrison LP gaps as well as getting a few variations like the UK issue orange label Astral Weeks. And I’ll try to keep all of the Van Morrison records regardless of whether or not we downsize to move into a motor home (remember, we’re Bohemian-like artists) or whatever.

What is the longest you looked for a record before getting it? How did you feel once it was in your hands?

WLTGFG: I looked for The Silly Record by Stoo Hample as performed by Frank Buxton for a decade before finding it. My brother and I listened to this as young children in the 1960’s and it was such an influence on our behaviour that I just needed to get the real record back into our lives. How I found it is a great story.
I was digging in a Springfield, MO thrift store that was stocked with about 1,500 mostly trashed TUC and worse records. In comes a guy and he begins digging where I'd already been. Considering the number of records, it took a while to get through it all. So a conversation strikes up between us and I mention a title I'm looking for....THE SILLY RECORD on Columbia Harmony label. It's a children's record and he says he doesn't usually purchase those. Well, he can see that I'm not getting much from the junk in there, and so he decides to carry the two titles he pulled to the cashier and move on to the next thrift. Since I'm behind him, I realize he's probably headed to the second thrift shop nearby, the one right behind this one! And he'll get to that vinyl first, dagnabbit!

I was right. I walk in, and here's this guy with a stack of wax. It looked like 20 or so titles. Anyway, he says he's amazed about something.....and then he hands me THE SILLY RECORD. He stammers around a bit and then says that if he gets home and finds out that the record is worth a lot, like more than US$100, he's gonna contact me and ask for it back.

Needless to say, THE SILLY RECORD is the only title I scored at that second thrift shop. And he never called me to get it back since there is no sales history anywhere for this title. It's one of those titles I might have paid $50 to get and he would have paid nothing for, but it is certainly dandy that I got it for a quarter. And in such a bizarre way. I have not seen or heard of another one since, but would like one if anyone has it since I gave this copy to my brother.

What’s your all-time favourite record, regardless of value or rarity?

WLTGFG: Van Morrison Poetic Champions Compose. It speaks to the romance my wife and I now share and first shared when we got together as a couple back in 1993.

What is the saddest record story you know.

WLTGFG: That Dave Matthews Band only issued one title on vinyl, Before These Crowded Streets, before doing so again last year with Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King. Before These Crowded Streets is scarce and so expensive, usually selling for more than US$200. But that adds to the fun of collecting records since obtaining a copy will spring much joy on me once I get it!

A BIG thank you to Barrie 'Who Let The Goldfish Go' Bryant for being such a great sport and letting us into his hobby. It is very exciting to see another well rounded collection.

Coming up next: Laura Kelly...The first female subject on IDIGS!

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