Once upon a time, Tower Records was the place to go for aural satisfaction throughout much of the world and was an important part of my life beyond my own overwhelming love for music. I worked for Tower for twelve years at the chain’s first store in Sacramento and then for nine more at the company’s corporate office before it fell victim to changing trends in technology. Without Tower as the predominant music retailer, independent stores like The Beat and Dimple ruled Sacramento by default. Tower founder Russ Solomon tried to make a modest comeback with R5 Records in a location where one of his famous stores once stood, but it came and went after a few years of struggling to make a profit. R5’s demise freed things up for former employee Dal Basi (who had also been a longtime Tower buyer) to start his own store with the help of partner Nicholas Lujan. Located on K Street in the heart of Midtown Sac, the small shop holds quite an impressive collection of great titles. Their emphasis is decidedly on vinyl, which reportedly has had a very healthy market in recent years, and they’ve always got something pretty cool spinning on a turntable. Still, I’ll admit I’ve never looked back once I began collecting CDs, so I was eager to see what they had waiting for me in that format. Within a minute of browsing on the store’s opening day, I found about five discs I was interested in buying! Granted, the limited selection means you likely won’t be successful if you’re seeking something in particular, but anyone who’s serious about music in general will almost certainly leave with an unexpected treasure or two. During my initial visit, I was surprised to find a bootleg collection of demos by The Screamers, a legendary L.A. punk band that failed to release a proper album before they prematurely broke up. I’ve also purchased terrific stuff by Pylon, Neko Case, Suede, Devo, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, U2, The Louvin Brothers, The Vaselines, Pere Ubu, Galaxie 500, The Replacements, Annie Lennox, The Lemonheads, The Strokes, Simply Red, The Pooh Sticks, Bettie Serveert, and Sacramento’s own Ricky Berger. I was also offered a free mixed CD of power pop that Dal was cool enough to throw together for early bird customers, and unlike The Beat (which has admittedly gotten a lot of business from me over the years), Phono Select’s used CDs are reasonably priced and can go for as low as three bucks. The cozy size of the store makes it a comfortable place to hang out and chat with the guys, and if there’s anything you want that you just can’t find anywhere else in town, Dal or Nich will gladly order it for you if it’s available.
Update: Phono Select can no longer be found in Midtown Sac, which is unfortunate for me cause it had been just a few blocks from my apartment until February 2013. The current address is 4370 24th Street.
For more information about Phono Select, please go here.