I used to visit the CD store Newbury Comics on the outskirts of Cambridge all the time (the one across from the Fresh Pond shopping area, about every other weekend). There, in less time than it would take to search for facts online, you could glance at a rack of an artist’s discs and learn if some foreign remastered edition of a title had been released. Newbury Comics carried a deep enough stock to make that possible; pretty reliably the rack gave you an accurate portrait of the last five or so years of an artist’s catalogue, up to the present moment.
Now that I am living in a town where the CD stores are unable to afford to stock much, there’s really no way to use the physical eye to see what has been released. (I suspect that is fast becoming the case everywhere, as buyers abandon physical stores). Of course for artists I really care about I can check the websites of the artists themselves. But to recreate the experience of flipping through a variety of artists, here are the resources I’ve been using most:
- The Ideal Copy: The “What’s New” section of this online store has a focus similar to that of Newbury Comics — a sort of “1980s to present” alternative focus. Mind you I don’t buy anything from The Ideal Copy, I just like them as a news source. Second:
- CDUniverse.com: This is a good online store, often with lower prices than Amazon and more accurate track information. And they seem to know what titles to stock many copies of, meaning that even a year or two after a title has become obscure on Amazon, CDUniverse probably still has it if it is by an artist who they feel is skilled. Nice.
- The IMWAN forum: This message board is skewed a bit towards the 1970s, which doesn’t interest me, but it is a good place to hear the latest chatter about what artist is remastering his or her catalogue. I think I heard about the remaster of Pete Townshend’s All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes there, for which I am grateful (he’s one of the few 1970s artists who I think was any good).
Update: Since I can’t reply to my own syndicated feed, I’m going to reply to my housemate’s Livejournal comment here. My housemate said “Your primary problem is that Newbury Comics was always a terrible music store to begin with. Their prices were exorbitant, their selection minute, and their employees indifferent and uneducated on anything even remotely interesting (that didn’t have to do with comics or local music).”
Clearly we each have an entirely different impression of Newbury Comics. Newbury Comics was always the best new CD store in the Boston area for several reasons. First, prices. Newbury Comics was for many years engaged in a price war with Tower Records, which Newbury Comics consistently won by selling most domestic CDs for $11.99 or $12.99, compared to Tower’s $14.99 and $15.99 prices (often through $2 coupons printed each week in the free version of the Boston Phoenix newspaper). Granted, prices are now high everywhere, but there’s no truth to the claim that Newbury Comics was or is more expensive. Second, selection. Despite most of their locations being kind of small, Newbury Comics maintained a deep selection of so-called “alternative” music, music that in my youth was introduced to Boston by the new radio station WFNX, which for several years was the source for new music in Boston. Eventually Boston’s oldest radio station WBCN copied WFNX’s playlists as alternative became mainstream, and I suppose that is why my roomie got the impression that Newbury Comics became a “shill” for WBCN. In fact, WBCN followed where Newbury Comics had led. Disclaimer: I didn’t like all of their locations. I didn’t care for their Harvard Square store (too loud), and I never went to their Boston store (too small). Their Fresh Pond location was “just right” (who’s been eating my porridge?).