I am keenly aware of my leaving a few record shops off my last article – due to A not knowing about them or B lack of time to visit them – so I sought recently – while on holiday in Scotland – to try my best to cover the remaining easy to get to ones.
While I gave it a very good go I failed due to inadequate directions (my own doing) to visit one on the list Vox Pop (1) in Edinburgh – all the shops in this part are in Scotland’s beautiful capital city. So early in August, on a very warm sunny day (2) I set off from Stirling – by train – to visit three shops missing from the last article: McAlister Matheson Music, Vox Pop and Elvis Shakespeare – in that order due to their geography to each other.
Arriving slightly later in Edinburgh than on previous occasions (3) I set off to find McAlister Matheson Music first as it is closer to Waverly railway station.
McAlister Matheson Music
Situated at number one Grindlay Street just behind the Usher Concert Hall first impressions – from outside – were very good with nice clean frontage and informative point of sale displays in the windows. On entering the shop I was immediately impressed by the clean well ordered lay out of the shop and having the new release racks just inside the front door – in fact the first thing you see on entering – is in my opinion a great idea.
The stock is mostly classical music with a little jazz and folk music and the majority of the stock was on CD, SACD with music books and Blue Ray/DVDs are also stocked. There was no vinyl on display, but I guess if anyone presses classical music on vinyl these days and they can get it I guess – and it is a guess, as I did not ask them – they will order it for you.
I met Anne McAlister one of the shops founders (along with Sandy Matheson), Wayne Weaver and a new member of staff, all were very friendly and helpful. I had an interesting conversation – all-be-it a brief one – with Wayne re the success of lack there-off of SACD in the shop. He said that the success of a release was more in the recording/performance than the format. For those like myself who actively look for SACDs there were plenty to be found in the display racks of this shop – in fact I bought a number of LSO live recordings: including music by Elgar and Sibelius.
The shop is a long one, with various displays set out for an A – Z of general composers and more specialist sub genres within classical music. I also noticed a listening station as well.
The shop is open and airy, well lit with very nice decor and there was a nice vibe within it – which I noted as I wandered round it browsing and taking photos.
If you are a serious classical music enthusiast, or just have a passing interest then this shop must be on your to visit list if you are in Edinburgh. I note from the shops website that they stay open late till 7.15 on the evenings of Usher Hall concerts – who host a lot of classical concerts from what I can gather, as well as more contemporary music.
This is by far the best, well layout classical musical specialist shop I have ever been in and far outstrips the best such departments within the majors (HMV,Virgin, Our Price, Tower Records etc – now mostly gone ever had to offer) that I have visited in the past or more recently.
Well done Sandy, Anne and staff for a lovely shop.
McAlister Matheson Music
1 Grindlay Street, Edinburgh EH3 9AT
Tel: +44 (0)131 228 3827
Fax: +44 (0)131 228 4780
During the Edinburgh International Festival, the opening hours are:
Monday – Friday: 9.30am – 7.45pm
Saturday: 9am – 7.45pm
Sunday: 1.30pm – 7.45pm
Normal opening hours:
Monday – Thursday: 9.30am – 6pm
Friday: 9.30am – 6.30pm (7.15pm on Usher Hall concert nights)
Saturday: 9am – 5.30pm
The Usher Hall
As I had to pass this concert hall on my way to McAlister Matheson Music I thought I would post some photos of this beautiful venue.
An interesting addition to the building at the side of it – in Grindlay Street was made up of a curved glass wall. Sadly my photos don’t really do justice to this feature.
Having abandoned my visit to Vox Pop as I could not find the shop (see 1) I began the long walk up Princess Street and then down Leith Walk to find this shop – that a fair number of people had messaged me about that I should after I had not included it in the last two articles.
As the name suggests this shop stocks both books – some comics/magazines as well – plus music. On initially entering the shop I could not see much in the way of music on vinyl but I later discovered after seeing a customer looking – that the majority of the vinyl – some CDs are as well, though the majority are on display in the open – are stored in pull out drawers under the book display cases; a very neat display solution but one I didn’t spot right away.
All the stock was well displayed – though I question putting books in the place of the authors location rather than by genre. I work in a bookshop and I know full well that A many readers don’t know the country authors come from and B that many won’t bother to ask if they can’t quickly find what they want. Above where the vinyl is stored there are guides to the grading system used in the shop. I thought that the pricing was reasonable for the stock that I looked at.
I met David Griffin the shops owner and he struck me as knowledgeable and friendly. My one regret was that despite a really good look I could find nothing to buy.
Elvis Shakespeare is a brightly lit shop, with a diverse stock and the stock is well set out and displayed. The walk from Princess Street is a long one but it is in my opinion very much worthwhile.
Elvis Shakespeare http://www.elvisshakespeare.com/index.php
347 Leith Walk
+44 (0)131 561 1363
Sun: Closed for the winter (open again in May)
While I was away – a week in duration – I visited many of the shops I have in the past and I was pleased to see all of them still trading. However one trend I did not welcome was the creeping prices being charged for some second hand vinyl – especially when condition did not in my view warrant it.
I have one particular shop in mind – not featured in this article – when saying this and I won’t name and shame them rather hoping instead that they might know who they are and think more carefully about pricing in reference to condition – at the end of the day condition is King re second hand vinyl.
(1) Once again I let Vox Pop down and no doubt myself in failing to visit them. I thought I had taken care of the directions to this shop but on the day I failed to find them and I feel this is down to poor directions. I spent a good 50 minutes trying and I had to give up in the end or not be able to walk to Elvis Shakespeare and back in time to catch the 4.36 train; back to Stirling.
To Vox Pop please email me good photos of your shop plus info on stock etc and I will include you as an addition to this article.
(2) The week I picked in August to go to Scotland despite being forecast to rain most of the time in reality turned out to be a really good week re the weather with warm sunny days. I guess this week will probably turn out to be it – the great British summer – at least the weather was also good for the Olympics – held the same week I was away.
(3) The timetable had changed from the last time I was in Scotland – September 2011 – and thus in order to get the discounted off peak fare I had to leave Stirling later than the previous year – trust me taking a car into Edinburgh during the installation of the city’s new tram system would have been a nightmare even more than it was in the past before the work began. Glasgow is a car friendly city – bar expensive car parking charges – but Edinburgh has never been car friendly during my times of visiting – going back over quite a few years.
However with such reasonable return fairs – £9 special deal return fair from Stirling – via Scot Rail – plus regular on time trains taking the car may be not a particular clever idea anyway.
Every time I visit Scotland I really enjoy using the train much more than my own rail service – Northern Ireland Railways – where the trains run late quite often and the cost of fairs – even discounted off-peak ones – are vastly more expensive than say in Scotland for a similar distance. A return trip of just under 20 miles in Northern Ireland will cost you well over £6, whereas in Scotland a few quid more will take you well over 3 and a half times the distance return. It makes local travel in my home country by rail a real rip off – in my opinion and I am not alone in this opinion especially among visitors from other countries – in comparison to say Scotland.
© Text and Photos Copyright 2012 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio.
NB No part or portion of this article may be reproduced or quoted without written permission.