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Hidden gems of CKDU

Just a teensy fraction od CKDU's immense collection (photo by Adel van Wyk)

Just a teensy fraction of CKDU’s immense collection. (Photo by Adele van Wyk)

Maybe it’s the 30,000 records. At 140 grams per unit, that’s more than four tons of vinyl.

Nothing in the station looks like it belongs in this millennium, but Dalhousie’s campus radio station-cum-community beacon can contend for bragging rights among the crate-diggers about town.

At CKDU, there’s a 10-by-14 foot room reserved for shelves upon shelves of jazz, pop and classic rock records.

In the main broadcasting studio are the Canadian records, and there are a lot of them. CBC tried to throw out thousands of records two years ago, only to find CKDU happy to give them a new home.

There are piles of records in Darryl the music director’s office, more under the shelving unit in the lobby, and a whole whack of them in a dusty old closet upstairs, waiting to be sorted, labeled and shelved. (You read that right—the SUB has a secret fifth floor.)

Doug Taylor goes by the pseudonym Nick Barrington on his show Elegant Voltage. Since 1974, before coming to CKDU, he’s worked in commercial radio, hence the need for secrecy and two names.

The show’s been on the air for over 26 years, so his curated taste in music is on point.

According to him, there are some serious gems here.

“There’s an Inez and Charlie Foxx. That was never on the radio or anything, but it’s really good. It could’ve been a hit. I think it was the same crew that played on the Motown records.”

“There’s still some good soul records,” he says. “Some Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, the early days… I have some of that stuff myself.”

With a half-smile that gives away his disappointment, he adds, “Nobody else would play it.”

According to Taylor, poaching is a big problem for the campus station. He recalls the Rahsaan Roland-Kirk albums CKDU used to have.

The American multi-instrumentalist, who was blind, is considered to have been decades ahead of his time, so impressive to his audiences that all his records have vanished from CKDU.

Good luck finding a Bob Marley. Same goes for Sly and the Family Stone, or James Brown. There are still a couple of Parliament/Funkadelic LPs, though Taylor says there used to be a lot more.

While their losses are mourned, there’s still plenty of vinyl to go around.

American songwriter David Ackles’ American Gothic is a hidden treasure.

Another one is Out of the Blue, whose debut album has never been re-released since 1985 (look out for Guelph, Ont., native Ralph Bowen who crushes it on the tenor sax).

Want something more modern? There’s a 10-inch of Thievery Corporation’s Eighteenth Street Lounge Music, or go for Montreal’s M.F.C. Bruire, whose album Le Barman a tort de sourire is a masterpiece at the crossroads of punk, noise, circuit-bending and gibberish.

Go on, get your fingers dusty.

Nicolas Haddad is one of two student reps to the CKDU board. He hosts Comme Des Fous on Tuesday nights, a French-language show about beats and raps.

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