Music director Alan Bunin and studio assistant Maggie Ryan
rummage through the records donated for KHPR's sale.

Photos by Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin

Oldies but Goodies

Public radio's 'Almost New Record Sale'
has them, from Hawaiian music to rap

By Burl Burlingame

THE ironic thing, says KHPR music director Alan Bunin, is that music fans who don't necessarily listen to the public radio station wind up supporting the station anyway - when they shop at the "Almost New Record Sale."

"And we'll take the help any way they can give it," laughs Bunin.

The event, now in its seventh year, is the aural equivalent of the Friends of Library book sale: Donations of used records, CDs, cassettes, sheet music and other music memorabilia find a new home among music lovers. And we're not talking about the elegant classical music, ethnic field recordings and intellectual bebop that usually wafts out of public radio, this is anything and everything - Hawaiian, rap, old soul, new age, soft, hard and acid rock. Your big chance to pick up eight-track tapes.

That is, if you can elbow your way past the audiophiles.

"The hard-core ones line up for hours before the doors open," said Bunin. "They're looking for specific types of music or recordings, and they want it on vinyl. The other irony is that you can't get records at Tower Records - we've got the largest selection of LPs in Honolulu during this event."

Lester Kurima, a sales representative for a cruise line and an audio aficionado, said that collectors are after one of two goals, and often the two don't mix - musical value and sound quality.

KHPR fan Barry Pickering shows albums he's willing to part with for the annual fund-raiser.

"The golden age of stereo recording was about 1958 to the early '60s," said Kurima. "They used a simple, three-microphone setup, as natural as you could have it, no filtering. Certain record companies were known for their excellent recordings, like RCA, Mercury and Decca."

Kurima admits that audiophiles are "a definite minority," but that many can tell by listening that compact discs, which translate musical sounds into electronic data, don't capture the full-bodied richness of music.

"Listen to an electronic drum next to a real drum. Sure, the electronic one sounds like a drum, but it doesn't feel like a drum," said Kurima.

Another audiophile you're likely to see at the event is Stuart Ono of Audio Directions, who said that "most serious consumers of audio quality prefer listening to records rather than CDs. CDs sound synthesized, which they are.

"The only thing wrong with records is that they can get damaged and click and pop, but they're purer; they have more body. There's been a real resurgeance of interest in vinyl lately, and record companies are reissuing older records on vinyl."

Yet another irony, Ono says, is that record turntables are currently at the zenith of their development. "The engineering has never been better. An example: they're using lasers to shape the diamond stylus. The old way, just grinding the stylus, you could never be sure of the resolution."

Can you handle another irony? The record companies themselves helped wound their own product.

"During the gas shortage in the 1970s, the record companies starting recycling vinyl, which was of inferior quality," said Ono. "It spelled the doom of vinyl. In the late 1970s, foreign record producers went back to using virgin vinyl, which made them collectible. But the American companies never went back, and the poor-quality pressings primed customers for something like CDs."

And you thought a record was a record was a record.

"Oh no - records are like baseball cards and comic books," said Ono. "Quality and content count."

The facts

What: "Seventh Annual Almost New Record Sale and Silent Auction," a benefit for Hawaii Public Radio
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sunday
Where: Ward Warehouse, Kakaako and Kewalo conference rooms
Cost: $5, which includes coupon for one free record. Musical donations, which are tax-deductible, can be dropped off at Hawaii Public Radio, 738 Keheka St. Most cassettes are $1; records, $2; CDs, $10; reduced 50 percent on Sunday
Call: 955-8821

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