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Record Store Review: Jack’s Music Shoppe (Red Bank, NJ)

August 26, 2013

If you’ve ever visited the town of Red Bank, New Jersey (home of screenwriter Kevin Smith), you probably walked past (and possibly through) the iconic storefront of Jack’s Music Shoppe. Located on Broad Street – the town’s main commercial thoroughfare – just across the street from Smith-owned comic book store “Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash“, Jack’s is a Red Bank institution.
Rather than simply rely on its location and legacy, Jack’s has served it’s customers well over the years, keeping the store stocked with fresh music at reasonable prices while offering everything from CDs to DVDs to musical instruments to sheet music.  And of course, to keep in step with the times, more recently it has significantly expanded its vinyl section.

Jack's Endless CDs

Jack’s endless CD racks

Jack’s has a lot of everything, and so vinyl makes up only about a quarter of the store, at most. Nevertheless, both the new vinyl section in front and the used vinyl section way in the back are as robust as many NYC stores. On each of my visits I start in the used section, which unfortunately is not the most user-friendly for shoppers. At the very back is the normal stock of used records, nearly all rock/pop, arranged alphabetically. I’ve almost never found anything of note in this section and will often skip it altogether, unless I am looking for something specific but common. Closer to the cashier’s desk is a table of “new arrivals”, which is not sorted in any way but is always worthy of a quick flip-through. Again, the findings here are generally pretty common albums, all in the $2-7 range, though I’ve occasionally found a few worthwhile items (R.E.M.’s Dead Letter Office, X’s More Fun in the New World, The Best of Elvis Costello) very inexpensively. Finally, there are racks of additional new releases that should be considered the store’s premium albums. These are in plastic sleeves, with typewritten album artist/name on the front, and tend to be in the $10-20 range. Again the albums are unsorted and mostly rock/pop; on my last visit I found here a copy (original, not reissue) of Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction for $12, and previously I found a rare red vinyl version of the National’s 10″ EP, Cherry Tree.

New Arrivals

New Arrivals

Premium new arrivals in the crates

Premium new arrivals in the crates

While I normally prefer browsing through used vinyl, I’ve been far more impressed with Jack’s selection of new and reissued albums. The store’s focus, at least in this area, is on harder rock, leaning towards alternative and indie. My kind of music. When it comes to new vinyl, what can set a store apart is stocking a wide selection of lesser-known artists and titles. For example, on my last visit I picked up Pythons, the new album from Surfer Blood, which you certainly can find elsewhere but at many stores you won’t. Jack’s does an excellent job of maintaining its focus on this niche music genre and offering titles that I haven’t seen in other shops, with a heavy emphasis on famous indie labels Merge and Sub Pop. The store also keeps a steady stock of music from Jack White’s label Third Man Records, including from the exclusive “Third Man Vault“, making it the only place I’ve seen where one can purchase individual obscure titles from Third Man. (Again, a personal example: I purchased the Black Lips’ Live at Third Man album here.)

New albums and reissues

New albums and reissues

IMG_9252Finally, when visiting Jack’s it’s critical that you leave some time to peruse the non-vinyl and non-CD offerings, even if that’s not the reason for your visit. In this way, Jack’s reminds me a lot of Kim’s Video & Music in the East Village. One could spend an hour looking through the discount DVDs or interesting music tees. Or if playing music is your thing, Jack’s has a large loft section with a variety of instruments and related necessities (strings, notebooks, etc.) and a deep library of sheet music for sale. My favorite non-vinyl offering is Jack’s used book selection. There are at most 200-300 or so books for sale at any one time, yet I don’t think I’ve ever walked out without one. Not all of the books are music-related, but it’s as if all were selected to appeal to the kind of person who is otherwise shopping for music. Jack’s is where I bough my copy of Douglas Coupland’s “Generation X“,  and for just $4 I recently purchased Ben Sisario’s 33-1/3 Series entry on the Pixies’ Doolittle.

JacksMusic (2)

Bottom line: Jack’s is a must-visit for any music enthusiast visiting Red Bank or anywhere in the general area. It is without question the best music store on the Jersey shore. Be prepared to spend some time there and don’t go expecting to discover some great obscure punk album you haven’t seen anywhere else (that’s what Hold Fast is for). Keep your eyes open, browse for new vinyl and outside the vinyl area and just enjoy!

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Quick stats:

  • Sells used, new, or both: Both
  • Genres: Rock, Pop
  • Non-vinyl for sale: New & used CDs & DVDs, T-shirts, used books, musical instruments and related material, sheet music
  • Selection: 6 out of 10 (better for new vinyl)
  • Price: 8 out of 10
  • Atmosphere: 8 out of 10
  • Ease of browsing/shopping: 6 out of 10
  • Used vinyl condition: 6 out of 10
  • Yelp rating: 4 stars

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Where else would you find guitars autographed by Springsteen ...

Where else would you find guitars autographed by Springsteen …

And Bon Jovi!!

And Bon Jovi!!

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