Vinyl Freak

Love Letters to a Dying Medium

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 208 color photographs Published: June 2017

Author: John Corbett

Art and Visual Culture, Cultural Studies, Music > Jazz

From scouring flea markets and eBay to maxing out their credit cards, record collectors will do just about anything to score a long-sought-after album. In Vinyl Freak, music writer, curator, and collector John Corbett burrows deep inside the record fiend’s mind, documenting and reflecting on his decades-long love affair with vinyl. Discussing more than 200 rare and out-of-print LPs, Vinyl Freak is composed in part of Corbett's long-running DownBeat magazine column of the same name, which was devoted to records that had not appeared on CD. In other essays where he combines memoir and criticism, Corbett considers the current vinyl boom, explains why vinyl is his preferred medium, profiles collector subcultures, and recounts his adventures assembling the Alton Abraham Sun Ra Archive, an event so all-consuming that he claims it cured his record-collecting addiction. Perfect for vinyl newbies and veteran crate diggers alike, Vinyl Freak plumbs the motivations that drive Corbett and collectors everywhere.


"Vinyl Freak could have easily been a stale trip down memory lane by a record collector. Yet Corbett takes an almost philosophical look at how music passes through listening mediums and what that means for listeners. As a result, the text will appeal to both vinyl freaks and non-freaks as it speaks to the transience of pop culture and its intersection with everyday lives." — Amanda McCorquodale, Foreword Reviews

"... since the discussion is at least as much about the music being collected as the vinyl package, there is also a lot of intriguing music in the book. Much (but not all) of it jazz, and all of it worth seeking out: it comes with Corbett's highest recommendation."
  — Mark Sullivan, All About Jazz

"[A] fascinating look at a subculture og hard-core collectors and a gold mine of information about various kinds of music and recording esoterica.... The illustrations of the record covers under review are fascinating and the author's musical savvy is daunting. This lively book could appeal to a wide range of readers." — David Keymer, Library Journal

"... one of the most readable books about the arcane magic of hunting down and listening to rare and unusual albums, or even rediscovering them from your own collection." — Jon Newey, Jazzwise

"As a person who is not quite an over-the-top Sun Ra aficionado but is certainly more than a casual fan, I am forever grateful for Corbett’s obsession. As a person who is always interested in discovering new and obscure music, I am also forever grateful for Corbett and his publisher compiling this collection of reviews. Although I read several of them in their original incarnation in Downbeat, this little book is now my reference guide for music I need to check out. Thanks again, John Corbett." — Ron Jacobs, Counterpunch

"[Corbett's] new book digs deep into the culture of the vinyl lover and digs even deeper into his personal record collection. In the process, he exposes a beautiful and dusty world largely forgotten but kept alive by that dead medium known as the vinyl record." — Christopher Laird, PopMatters

"Corbett really is an 'equal opportunity ear filler' and is willing to acquire the music he really enjoys in any format. With Vinyl Freak John Corbett invites us to join him in the pleasure of discovering new sounds to indulge our ears. So what are you waiting for? You’ve been invited. Highly Recommended!" — Chris De Chiara, Avant Music News

"Corbett still has an obscene record collection, but he's realized that his greatest mission is to share and educate—to arrange things so that others can experience the joy that he does. As much as anything I've read by him, Vinyl Freak does precisely that." — Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader

"John Corbett is one of my favourite music writers. This book gathers up his elegaic and highly informative columns for Vinyl Freak magazine along with a series of mediations or essays on his love of music, an engaging mix of autobiography, reflection and storytelling. There are lots of colour pictures of record sleeves too." — Rupert Loydell, International Times

"Corbett unspools his jazz history impressively, and his ear and pen are acutely attuned to each other.... For audiophiles in general with an appreciation of the anomalous, Vinyl Freak will point to singular performances by musicians perhaps unfamiliar to most of us – Staffan Harde, Tristan Meinecke, The Three Souls, Johnny Shacklett, Klaus Doldinger, Paul Smoke Trio, Ernie and Emilio Cacares, Baikida Carroll – and on and on." — Ron Slate, On the Seawall blog

"Corbett's deep knowledge in his chosen fields yields many valuable insights about records you may never have even heard of, let alone heard. Sure, he appreciates the classics, but he favours outliers. Admirably, he wants to broaden the canon (it would behoove readers to keep a notebook handy to tabulate all the records for which they should search).... And that is the motor of Vinyl Freak: an insatiable desire for the next revelatory recording, offering a thrilling portal to discover a hidden facet of your identity through a work of art. And if it impresses your mates or seduces a potential lover, so much the better." — Dave Segal, The Wire

"John Corbett revels in the knowledge he's gained from a life spent rooting round shops and chats with like-minded souls. It's the final section that will resonate with most, detailing his experience unearthing an entire house-worth of Sun Ra memorabilia, it is so vividly written that you can almost sense his pulse racing as he ecstatically rifles through priceless artefacts." — Record Collector

"Corbett's encyclopedic knowledge puts his own kind of vinyl freak/discaholism in a historic context. . . . He adds a list of 113 rare LP’s from his own collection that were never reissued, all gems of experimental music and sound poetry. This spectacular list may convince even the most sane ones to sell all their belongings and begin to hunt these rarities." — Eyal Hareuveni, Free Jazz blog

"Corbett writes with both enthusiasm and a keen ear, the upshot of which is that high-dollar rarities and cheapies that shred get near-equal attention." — Clifford Allen, New York City Jazz Record

"John Corbett shows how vinyl collecting serves archival and perhaps even societal purposes. By actively reanimating obscure and hard to find vinyl, he demonstrates that 'vinyl freaks' make worlds available that otherwise might be lost. Vinyl Freak opens up a world of vinyl, revealing recordings, musicians, as well as cultural history, that remain written in the grooves of decades-old records." — Janet Borgerson & Jonathan Schroeder, Popular Music and Society

Vinyl Freak is a good read, a well-written collection that helps with the fun and overwhelming project of trying to come to grips with the huge amount of music preserved in the LP era. I cannot imagine even casual collectors making it through Vinyl Freak without adding several items to their wants lists.” — Carlos Peña, ARSC Journal

“Corbett’s graceful writing in confessional mode reminds us that the psychological drives underlying vinyl freakiness must be considered in tandem with more ‘rationalist’ perspectives that focus on the curating of archives and the production of knowledge about music.”
  — Nabeel Zuberi, Journal of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music

"Thoroughly researched and clear passion, Vinyl Freak is a must for the jazz lover in your life." — Lisa Jade Bentley, Lisa Talks About ... blog

"The book stands out for its individuality, quirkiness, and authority. . . . A literary version of an audio earworm—and a worthy read. . . . An unashamedly esoteric, engaging, and quite authoritative book that is capable of serving several audiences well." — Darren Ingram, Notes

"The spirit of this book, it’s generosity and enthusiasm all work to support John’s preferred status as a 'Freak' not a 'Snob.' I love records. I love books. A beautiful book about crazy rare and out-of-print records?! Heaven." — Jeff Tweedy, Amazon Book Review

"People who are just getting into vinyl—or who are returning to it after a long time away—will value John Corbett's enthusiasm, personal approach, and vast knowledge. Even the most diehard jazz enthusiasts, collectors, and crate diggers can learn from Corbett's insights." — Mac McCaughan, member of Superchunk and cofounder of Merge Records

"John Corbett has the too-rare ability to combine academic rigor with very readable prose, and he tells good stories. As an avid record collector and close listener to a broad array of music, Corbett really knows his subject. You can practically smell the musty cardboard." — Kevin Whitehead, jazz critic for NPR's Fresh Air


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

John Corbett is a music critic, record producer, and curator. He is the author of Microgroove: Forays into Other Music and Extended Play: Sounding Off from John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein, both also published by Duke University Press, and A Listener’s Guide to Free Improvisation. His writing has appeared in DownBeat, Bomb, Nka, and numerous other publications. He is the co-owner of Corbett vs. Dempsey, an art gallery in Chicago.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Track One / Formation of a Freak  1
Track Two / "News of My Death, Greatly Exaggerated," Quoth the Record  5
Column One / 2000–2003
Philly Joe Jones, Philly Joe Jones  15
Paul Gonsalves, Cookin'  16
Takashi Furuya with the Freshmen, Fanky Drivin'  18
Carsten Meinert Kvartet, To You  20
Melvin Jackson, Funky Skull  21
Gloria Coleman Quartet featuring Pola Roberts, Soul Sisters  23
Elmo Hope Ensemble, Sounds from Rikers Island  24
Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, Brotherhood  26
Morris Grants Presents J.U.N.K.  28
Tom Stewart, Sexette / Quintette  30
Kenny Graham and His Satellites, Moondog and Suncat Suites  31
John Coltrane, Cosmic Music  33
André Hodeir, Jazz et Jazz: Jazz Experiments; Triple Play Stereo, Pop+Jazz=Swing; Bill Russo Orchestra, Stereophony  35
George Davis Sextet, various acetates  37
Staffan Harde, Staffan Harde  39
Art Pepper, Chile Pepper  42
Jack Wilson, The Jazz Organs  43
Craig Harris, Tributes  45
Quintet Moderne, The Strange and the Commonplace  46
A. K. Salim, Afro-Soul / Drum Orgy  48
Tristan Meinecke, home recordings, 1939–43  50
Chico Hamilton Quintet, Sweet Smell of Success  52
Lehn-Strid, Here There; Klapper-Küchen, Irregular  54
Bill Leslie, Diggin' the Chicks; Thornel Schwartz with Bill Leslie, Soul Cookin'  55
Tony Scott and His Buddies, Gypsy  57
Herbie Mann, Great Ideas of Western Mann  58
Track Three / Freek, Not Snob  61
Column Two . 2004–2006
Afreaka!, Demon Fuzz  69
Contemporary Sound Series  70
Beaver Harris / Don Pullen 360-Degree Experience, A Well-Kept Secret  72
Mike Osborne Trio, Border Crossing  73
The Three Souls, Dangerous Dan Express  75
Steve Lacy, Raps  77
Halki Collective, Halki Collective  79
The Amran-Barrow Quartet, The Eastern Scene  80
Charlie Parke acetates  82
Tommy "Madman" Jones, A Different Sound and Just Friends  84
New York Art Quartet, Mohawk  86
Paul Gonsalves / Tubby Hayes, Just Friends; Paul Gonsalves All Stars Featuring Tubby Hayes, Change of Setting  88
Anthony Braxton, New York, Fall 1974  90
Herbie Fields Sextet, A Night at Kitty's  91
Air, 80° Below '82  93
Guy Warren with Red Saunders Orchestra, Africa Speaks—American Answers!  94
Barry Altschul, Another Time, Another Place  96
The Korean Black Eyes, "Higher"  97
Rufus Jones, Five on Eight  99
Johnny Shacklett Trio, At the Hoffman House  100
The Mad-Hatters, The Mad-Hatters at Midnight  102
Klaus Doldinger, Doldinger Goes On  103
Max Roach, Solos  105
Dick Johnson, Most Likely . . .  106
Phil Seaman, The Phil Seamen Story  108
Paul Smoker Trio, QB  109
Khan Jamal, Drumdance to the Motherland; Franz Koglmann, For Franz / Opium  111
Track Four / Brand New Secondhand: Record Collector Subcultures  113
Column Three / 2006–2012
Walt Dunn, seven-inch singles  123
Leonard Feather, The Night Blooming Jazzmen  125
Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Modern Jazz Expressions  126
Archie Shepp, Plays the Music of James Brown; Cozy Eggleston, Grand Slam  128
Black Grass, Black Grass  129
Yoke & Yohs seven-inch  45
The Bill Dixon Orchestra, Intents and Purposes  132
Orchestre Régional de Mopti, Orchestre Régional de Mopti  134
The Jihad, Black & Beautiful . . . Soul & Madness  136
Milford Graves / Don Pullen, Milford Graves & Don Pullen at Yale University  137
Heikki Sarmanto Sextet, Flowers in the Water; G.L. Unit, Orangutang!  139
Ernie and Emilio Caceres, Ernie & Emilio Caceres  141
Maarten Altena, Papa Oewa  142
London Experimental Jazz Quartet, Invisible Roots  144
Sunny Murray, Big Chief; Solidarity Unit, Inc., Red, Black, and Green  146
Dick Wetmore, Dick Wetmore  147
United Front, Path with a Heart  149
Joseph Scianni, Man Running  150
The Residents, The Beatles Play the Residents and the Residents Play the Beatles  152
John Carter / Bobby Bradford Quartet, Flight for Four and Self Determination Music  153
Johnny Lytle Trio, Blue Vibes  155
Orchid Spangiafora, Flee Pasts Ape Elf  156
Noah Howard, Space Dimension  158
Baikida Carroll, The Spoken Word  159
Randy Weston, Blues  161
Charles Bobo Shaw Human Arts Ensemble Çonceré Ntasiah  163
Lee "Scratch" Perry, Double-7  164
Eddie Shu / Joe Roland / Wild Bill Davis, New Stars—New Sounds  166
Cecil Taylor / Tony Oxley, Ailanthus / Altissima  167
Unidentified Kenyan Highlife Band, seven-inch test pressing  169
Track Five / Specialty of the House  173
Track Six / Anything Can Happen Day: Sun Ra, Alton Abraham, and the Taming of the Freak  221
Column Four / 2016
Le Sun-Ra and his Arkistra, "Saturn" seven-inch single; Tom Prehn Quartet, Axiom  243
Track Seven / Run-Off Groove  247
Acknowledgements  249
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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