Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Slow Jam Dedicated to Israel

A man by the name of Israel has been instrumental in opening my eyes to the joys of a soulful slow jam. Israel owns a "hole-in-the-sidewalk" record store in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. His shop, if you happen to figure out his unconventional hours, is a diamond in the rough full of some common and uncommon records at reasonable prices. One thing I love about going into Israel's shop is the music that he plays on the house stereo, which is often some sweet soul dating from the 60s to the 80s. Israel loves his slow jams and digging through his dusty records in a dimly lit basement below the street, I've gained a real appreciation for some sweet harmonies sung over a sinewy syncopated beat made sweeter by some sensuous strings. Thanks Israel.

Download: Touch Me (Reaching Out For Your Love)

The songs we have here are from a 45 I found at Israel's. I first found his spot walking down Fulton Avenue in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. There has always been a Clinton Hill, but when real estate wasn't as desirable as it is now, this same neighborhood was easily mistaken for Bed-Stuy. In fact the Notorious B.I.G. used to live with his mom on my old block (St. James Place between Gates and Fulton) but you never heard him rhyming "Window Sill" with "Clinton Hill."

One day I was trying to find a hardware store open on a Sunday and cruised down Fulton moving further and further away from the nearest latte stand when lo and behold I saw a corrugated plastic sign written in black sharpie that read "Jazz, Soul, Disco, Reggae Records LPs and 45s." The sign was was propped up on the sidewalk just above a metal trap door leading to the basement of a building. The metal door was closed shut and the man in the Jamaican restaurant upstairs didn't know if the owner was around or if he'd open his shop that day. He suggested I come back in a couple hours. I did and no one was there. A couple weeks later I came by to find the metal doors open and a 2/3 sized knight-in-shining-armour on the sidewalk with the same sign hanging around his neck. I headed downstairs, careful not to hit my head on the low ceiling jutting out with a sign reading "watch your head." Inside I met Israel, who's been running this record shop out of the basement for years selling used records and tapes and the occasional stereo or turntable.

There is some order to the shop, but nothing is labeled and you'll still find piles of records that defy any attempts at organization. It's in these piles where I usually find the good stuff. You have to spend at least an hour here to find and listen to some records on the crappy-sounding "listening station." Nothing is priced so you have to ask Israel for prices, which usually fall in the $3, $5, $7, or $10 category unless you have access to his special pile from the back which could you run you up to $85 a record (for a mint, promo Roy Ayers "Coffy").

The 45 we have here is a $3 find if I'm not mistaken and had me initially sold on the Stevie Wonder cover tune, but its the Johnny Bristol tune on the A-side that I listen to the most. The album is not too rare (pictured to the left), but I can't say I've seen it that many times and the cover probably turned me off before I knew there was gold buried within.

Download: Creepin'


josh said...

i can't believe you just give up your spots like that!

the ambassador said...

you'd have to look pretty hard to find it even still. i didn't give an address or even cross streets and really, how many jamaican restaurants are there in that neighborhood . . . many.