New York Mixtape (1+2)

After two and half months away, Jenny and I returned to New York. We spent our time in London well – hanging with friends, writing, reading and patching our bruised psyches back together. We were better for it. Coming back felt strange – at once like we had never left and no longer belonged. We only spent a week in the city. It was mostly a social call, checking in with those closest to our hearts before departing south to Mexico City. My only plan was to wander between my favorite record shops and take some photos for the New York installment of my series The Big Dig. I had told myself I wasn’t allowed to buy any records during our travels. It didn’t make any sense to add any weight to my already overflowing bags. Needless to say, the temptation proved too great. The bins called out to me and my fingers couldn’t resist. In the end I offered my aching heart a concession – I was only allowed “little records” (45s). The compromise developed into a wonderful constraint. I love singles, but when I’m out digging I rarely have the energy to approach them after attacking the rest of a shop’s stock. Boxes of 45’s take time and effort. Rather than quickly scanning a cover, you have to carefully examine labels one by one.

My biggest complaint during the last couple of years has been the dwindling supply of great albums in shops. The records aren’t coming through the door like they once did, and when they do they get snatched up fast. It’s begrudgingly driven most of my buying online. I love record shops. I could happily lose the rest of my life in them, but recently I’ve struggled to find a good reason to go out digging. Time and time again I’ve come away empty handed. Wandering the city armed with my new constraint proved a different experience. Serious collectors of 45s are a different breed. They often strike me as the most devoted and extreme record collectors. Most vinyl fans, particularly new converts, don’t have what it takes.

Back in the 90’s, 45s were the only bits of vinyl I bought. They were an extension of my obsessive collecting of independent music from that era. The CD was king, but many of the bands I loved pressed otherwise unavailable material on singles. If I wanted it, I had to buy the 45. As the years went by and my tastes expanded, the same rough principle began to play out. Particularity with Soul and Reggae, the best tracks (and often artists) only existed on 45. My yearning for this music drove me into the small boxes below the shelves. The rewards proved endless.

At this point, I have thousands of 45s. I have trouble keeping track of what I have and what I don’t. I regularly buy second and third copies, unaware of the mistake until I return home. As I wandered the streets of NY, armed with my “little records” constraint, I noticed a smile stretch across my face. Record shopping was fun again. Every box was an adventure and yielding reward after reward. For the first time in years it felt like there were records out there. The reason was simple. Most heavy 45 collectors have collections more advanced than the street can satiate, and few others buy them at all. Most people don’t bother to look and see what’s in the boxes and the bins. For a collector like myself, who is both serious about 45s, but whose collection is not yet constrained to the rarest records, the bins of NY are the perfect reward.

In the end I came away with about a hundred 45s during our week in the city, a number of which were second copies of things I already have. Most of what I picked up topped out a buck or two, so the week turned out to be an inexpensive and rewarding time. We spent the second half of the week staying with our friend Jenna, who had recently picked up a turntable with a USB output, so I took a morning to make two mixes drawing from what I found. The first is constrained to Soul and Funk, the second is mostly Rocksteady with a scattering of other eras of Jamaican music. I hope you enjoy.


Jean Wells – I Feel Good
L. J. Reynolds & Chocolate Syrup – What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)
Denise LaSalle – Good Goody Getter
Ella Washington – You Gonna Cry, Cry, Cry
Gloria Jones – I Know
Charles Wright – (Well I’m) Doin’ What Cums Naturally
Mary Love – If You Change Your Mind
L.J. Waiters & The Electrifiers – If You Ain’t Getting’ Your Thing
Tommie Young – Everybody Got A Little Devil In Their Soul
Irma Thomas – Good To Me
Bill Moss & The Celestials – I’ve Got a Satisfied Mind
Betty LaVette – Let Me Down Easy
Johnny Nash – Tryin’ To Find Her
Brooklyn Skyways – The Holy Ghost Is Here
Shirley Jo – Trust Each other
Jimmy Lewis – There Ain’t No Man That Can’t Get Caught
Ripple – I Don’t What It Is, But It Sure Is Funky
The Raeletts – Here I Go Again


Dave & The Upsetters – Shocks of Mighty
Lee & The Clarendonians – Night Owl
Theo Beckford – Georgie & The Old Shoe
Niney & Maxie – Pum Pum
Ebony Sisters – Let Me Tell You Boy
Delroy Wilson – Have Some Mercy
Derrick Harriott – Since I Lost My Baby
Gaylads – My Jamaican Girl
The Paragons – Joy in My Soul
Melodians – You Are My Only Love
Big Youth – Chucky No Lucky
Dobby Dobson – Trouble Jim
The Heptones – I Shall Be Released
John Holt – Time and The River
Freddy McKay – Love is a Treasure
Techniques – You Don’t Care
I Roy – Teapot
Freedom Group – Free At Last
Brent Dowe – Build Me Up
Maytones – Searching For You
Carl Malcolm – No Jestering
Slim Smith – Keep Walking
U Roy – Penny For Your Dub
Horace Andy – I May Never See My Baby
Roy Shirley – Hold Them (Plus One)
Jimmy London – Bridge Over Troubled Water
Slim Smith – Will You Still Love Me

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