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Groove Grotto: All I want for Christmas is turntables and tuuuunes! – El Paso Inc.

Los Lobos’ “Llego Navidad” is a fun listen for all!

Los Lobos’ “Llego Navidad” is a fun listen for all!
I’ve been hearing Mariah Carey a lot during recent shopping trips.
Yup, Christmas is definitely upon us. If you have a record-collecting friend or someone in your family who’s looking to get into vinyl, here are some shopping tips and recommendations to get them spinning.
There are three basic components to a standard vinyl setup: turntable, amplifier and speakers. And yes, there are inexpensive all-in-one units (Crosley and Victrola are two common ones). Long-time collectors, myself included, will dismiss these all-in-ones as subpar ways to spin a record. They don’t sound that great and can be rough on records, but an all-in-one can foster a love of vinyl that leads to better equipment and a true hobby in the future. You’ll find these for less than $75.
Now if the budget is available, a very solid turntable is the Audio-Technica AT-LP120. At around $300, it’s very reminiscent of the legendary Technics SL-1200, a staple of DJs for many decades. The AT-LP120 is a solid performer. I’ve had an AT-LP120 in my office for about eight years now, and it’s never let me down. Just keep in mind that you’ll also need an amplifier and speakers. You might already have those available and connected to your TV.
Records to play
For someone who’s fairly new to collecting, buying used records is often a great way to start. You’ll save a significant amount of money, making it easier to help boost up a collection with more variety. Whether new or used, try to support local retailers when shopping for vinyl.
The most notable El Paso record shops for new and used are All That Music and Video, Atomic Wax, Sound Decay Records and Montecillo Records. In Las Cruces, drop by Eyeconik Records. When you buy at these shops, you’re not only supporting local businesses, you’ll get a chance to interact with people who are truly passionate about music and can give recommendations for fantastic records. Some of these shops also have stocking stuffers that collectors will find handy, including vinyl cleaning devices, sleeves to protect covers, turntable mats and more.
Local record recommendations
How about taking local music to the next level? Many bands have roots in El Paso and some still call El Paso home. Check out vinyl releases by At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta, Cigarettes After Sex, Holy Wave, Jim Ward, EEP, Dirty River Boys and the Bobby Fuller Four. There’s also a stunningly great 12-LP vinyl series called “El Paso Rock” on the Norton Records label for fans of El Paso-Las Cruces area rock ‘n’ roll from the late 1950s through the mid-1960s.
Christmas music itself!
Most people fall into two Christmas music categories: love it or hate it. There’s not much in between. I love it.
Last month, I wrote about how much Christmas music has been pressed onto vinyl. Just visit a thrift or antique shop and within minutes, you’ll likely find yourself in a blizzard of holiday vinyl.
Promotional Christmas albums released — strangely — by tire manufacturers Firestone and Goodyear have been played on hundreds of thousands of turntables through the years. These LPs are quite good at setting an atmosphere of Christmas past and used copies can usually be found for a dollar or two. Also look for records by Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Barbra Streisand, Mitch Miller, and yes, ol’ Blue Eyes — Bing Crosby. Again, these are very easy to find in thrift shops (check out the Whoopee Bowl Antique Mall) and are classic sounds still commonly played decades later.
Last but not least: Three of my all-time favorite Christmas albums
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” – The Vince Guaraldi Trio
Absolutely iconic and reissued dozens of times, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” should be in every record collection. The Vince Guaraldi Trio perfectly captures the joy and melancholy that often mingle during the holiday season.
“Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas”- Ella Fitzgerald
The First Lady of Song makes spirits bright on this upbeat holiday LP, including one of the best takes on “Jingle Bells” you’ll ever hear. Both sides of this record are classics.
“Llego Navidad” – Los Lobos
Los Lobos is one of the most important and musically diverse groups there is, and 2023 will mark the band’s 15th year together. A couple of years ago, they released “Llego Navidad,” a collection of traditional and original songs that will make a great soundtrack to making tamales with the whole family. Everyone from abuelitas to the niños will love “Llego Navidad.” Fun fact: El Paso gets namechecked on “It’s Christmas Time in Texas.”
May your holiday shopping and listening have lots of vinyl in it!
Chuck Fensch is a creative director at The University of Texas at El Paso and began the El Paso/Las Cruces Vinyl Collectors Facebook page in 2015.

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