Fantastic Plastic and other treasures

For most record and CD collectors, normal stores like FYE and Hot Topic really don’t fulfill the need for rare and underappreciated music. The Top 40 hits are normally all that music stores have in stock. Places do exist, however, that can fill the need for new music while buying your old music from you. To find out where the best rare records, CDs and even books are hidden, one must take a walk off the beaten path.

Asylum Sights and SoundsLocated at 6566 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg is a place that seems to exist outside of time. A fan of classic rock, pop or funk would be right at home in this establishment. Asylum is a store that sells almost exclusively used items. Employee Hal Smith said about 85 percent to 90 percent of the stock is used.

Tie-dye sheets cover the large glass windows and the walls are lined with rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia ranging from the busts of Kiss to Elvis Presley collector’s plates.

The store has an earthy feel, particularly when passing by the clothing rack filled with “hippie threads.” Here, one can find tie-dyed blouses, colorful shirts made of light cotton and various band shirts. Next to this is a wide array of incense and burners shaped like dragons and castles.

The vinyl section is filled with artists from many genres, but few albums were less than 20 years old. Artists such as Grand Funk Railroad, The Kinks, Joni Mitchell, Rush and Foreigner can be found in the racks.

Prices can vary depending on the record, and Asylum’s prices on vinyl are generally good. However, if it is a particularly rare release, do not be surprised if you have to pay a little more – it just depends on the record.

For example: The album Lola, by The Kinks sells $15.99, but The Kids Are Alright, by The Who sells for only $10.

The CD selection at Asylum is geared toward the more popular Billboard artists as well as oldies. The CDs are consistently well priced, about $10 on average, if the CD is older. There is a wider array of genres here along with many new artists. One can find anything from Imogen Heap to Abba to Incubus in this section.

The personnel are very knowledgeable and truly have a passion for music. Smith was able to answer all of my questions and talked at length about the bands he had seen in concert or had been following for years.

In addition to the buy, sell and trade services, Asylum also does CD repair and sells relatively recent DVDs at an average of $8 each.

Vinyl FeverWhen most people think of a used record store in Tampa, Vinyl Fever is often mentioned first. Located at 4110 Henderson Blvd., this place has somehting for everyone. Vinyl Fever appears to be set up like a throwback 1950s soda shop, except with album art and posters of musicians everywhere. The walls are covered with colored record sleeves, and there are even records hanging up for sale.

The store is split up into two main sections. First are the new CDs and DVDs, which are competitively priced. The new DVDs, mainly music related, run the gamut of prices depending on the popularity the artist. David Bowie might sell in the $25 to $35 price range, whereas Metal Church might sell in the $15 to $20 range. However, what sets Vinyl Fever apart from other stores isn’t the prices – it’s the selection. It is so large that if by some slim chance Vinyl Fever does not have what you are looking for, employees should be able to know where to find it. Many big name and indie-label bands are in stock from every genre imaginable. Metal, punk, techno, dance and rap all have equal shelf space here.

As the name suggests, it is the record collector’s one-stop-shop. The back half of Vinyl Fever is devoted primarily to new and used records. Unlike many of its competitors, it has vinyl from bands like The White Stripes, Pinback, Children of Bodom and Radiohead. For those hardcore collectors looking to have a vinyl backup of their favorite new CDs, this place is paradise.

The real bargains can be found in the large section of used records from every decade. The vast and varied section of Vinyl Fever’s used records, CDs and DVDs are priced low. Used CDs usually range anywhere from $1 to $15. The $1 CD rack is the perfect place to look for that much beloved Marcy Playground album, once loved in the late 90s that featured the song “Sex and Candy.”

An interesting feature of Vinyl Fever is that it accepts competitor’s gift cards, from places like Best Buy & Barnes and Noble.

The employees were also very helpful and had no problems suggesting new releases or rare items in accordance with the customer’s preferences.

Mojo Books and MusicMojo’s advantage over other stores is location. Down the street from USF at 2558 E. Fowler Ave., Mojo’s is home to one of the most anachronistic shops in town. Without a gimmick like Vinyl Fever or Asylum, Mojo is less popular but has unique advantages.

Mojo is for the thrift store junkies, those who take immense pleasure in discovering vintage fortune. Skinny plank-like bookshelves give this establishment a very old and calm atmosphere.

Mojo has a good selection of new and used CDs, vinyl, DVDs, books and, shockingly enough, VHS tapes.

It feels as if one is awash in a sea of frayed, parchment-like book bindings. Some very cheap and very rare books can be found here. Mojo has books in many languages and genres. The most interesting find at Mojo was the collection of Little Golden Books adapted for Disney films. From the moment I saw the gold leaf design on the spine, childhood memories came flooding back.

Though the books eclipse the music at Mojo, the music selection is still top-notch. It is less likely to have the Top 40 and rap artists that bigger name stores tend to carry and instead focus on providing music from the alternative, oldies, 80s and indie groups. Think of it as a scaled-down version of Vinyl Fever’s inventory.

Most of the vinyl is used, and many genres and decades are represented. About a dozen boxes of ancient $1 records sit on the floor, waiting to be rescued. Mojo has a respectable selection of new vinyl as well, mainly from the alternative and indie genres.

The prices for CDs and records at Mojo aren’t much cheaper than their competition, but when taking into consideration the gas used to drive to south Tampa and back from the USF area, it makes a huge difference.