Josh Rosenthal’s The Record Store of the Mind: A Consideration

Before founding and operating his consistently rewarding label, Josh Rosenthal worked in the big-time music industry. Prior to that he was in college radio and even earlier was just a budding music junkie, seeds planted in childhood gradually blossoming into Tompkins Square Records. Along the way he’s naturally amassed some stories, viewpoints and favorites, and some of them are corralled in his new book The Record Store of the Mind. Folks with sizable collections should find it a welcome companion, and those just getting the fever will likely have their horizons broadened and want lists substantially increased.

A little over halfway through The Record Store of the Mind, in a chapter simply titled “Jazz,” Josh Rosenthal bluntly states a personal requirement regarding the particular section’s topic; even in traditional jazz, or “inside” stuff to borrow the parlance of the music, a discernible “outside” element still needs to be present or the end result will fail to grab his interest.

Non-jazz buffs might not get it; for one thing, the conventional (received) wisdom is that above all else jazz must “swing.” But Rosenthal’s prerequisite makes total sense and is a fairly common barometer; for instance, this writer adores the titanic outside piano of Cecil Taylor and also loves the inside with undercurrents of out mode of Bill Evans but has hardly ever been swayed by the (at least to these ears) firmly inside style of Oscar Peterson.

Of course, the parameters of “out” will vary by listener; is it enough to experiment, or does there need to be an aspect of friction at play? And like, what’s your take on Ahmad Jamal? But I digress, as digressing is a foible that afflicts music nuts and yes indeed, music writers as well. However, it bears noting that Rosenthal keeps close to the various points at hand throughout his collection.

I raise the jazz angle because Rosenthal is a consummate “inside-outside” record guy; spawned from the tried-and-true background of youthful music discovery (an early fave was Billy Joel) and the urge to collect in general (specifically autographs, an impulse shared with friend and classmate Judd Apatow), the opportunity to work in high-school and college radio further honed his direction. After crossing paths with Alex Chilton and Elvis Costello while broadcasting, Rosenthal landed a job at Columbia just in time for the ‘90s to temporarily turn everything upside-down.

Given some of the idiosyncratic characters inhabiting record collecting and releasing, Rosenthal’s music biz story, peppered as it is with Kate Bush, Psychedelic Furs, and Public Enemy, is pretty refreshing and enhanced by a true music lover’s sense of detail; on the subject of rap he not only speaks on the relevance of 3rd Bass and Cypress Hill, but deepens the context with mentions of EPMD, Bytches With Problems, and even Tim Dog of the fleetingly notorious diss track “Fuck Compton.”

The book’s memoir portions are a treat, but the energy devoted to spotlighting underheard records is even more satisfying; the chapter covering The Youngbloods’ Warner Brothers-funded custom imprint Raccoon Records provides major insight into a true bygone era and justifies The Record Store of the Mind’s purchase price all by its lonesome. And the lengthy list of old-time releases is about as handy a resource for the upstart and veteran collector as I’ve yet to stumble across.

Outside the old-time milieu Rosenthal greatly prefers singer-songwriters and solo guitar instrumentalists (as fans of Tompkins Square’s Imaginational Anthem series know very well) to bands, and he openly admits a whole lot of well-loved and highly praised music doesn’t speak to him at all, expressing befuddlement over the shocked and exasperated reactions garnered after confessing disinterest in a specific musician or band.

And although Rosenthal’s work lacks the weightiness of music-tome staples by Greil Marcus, Peter Guralnick, Robert Palmer, and Robert Gordon, it’s still writing of considerable value, combining experience, enthusiasm, inquisitiveness, and honesty; like the best art journalism, it’s really a component in the never-ending dialogue.

Yes, this even applies to lofty music criticism and the lowly record reviews in the entertainment section of the free weekly; at their most useful both are far less concerned with the doling out of judgment and are instead a method of examination, hopefully articulated through a well-considered individual perspective. Readers will react and then carry it forward.

The Record Store of the Mind may seem a modest endeavor, but Josh Rosenthal furthers the eternal discussion with class and solid prose. Additionally, he pulls-off an impressive trick, casually dishing a wealth of knowledge in a manner that’s non-intimidating to information-thirsty novices while also retaining appeal for more weathered record hunters. In short, it’ll make a worthy addition to one’s music-related bookshelf (or for that matter, a fine gift), holding enough recommendations in its pages to insure frequent consultations.

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text