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Buying a new record? Pay now, play later By J. P. Rool AH right. It's time somebody said it. Record sellers are making a lot of money off of you and giving very little in return. In most of the "established" stores (which is a euphemism for "establishment stores") you are asked to pay from six bucks up a slice for untried merchandise. You can't browse around, ask to hear something, like it and buy it. In most record stores you pay now, play later. With record prices as high as they are -- and with so much fine music going unplayed on the radio -- it is a high price to be asked to pay to buy a record unheard. I checked with some record shops in both Charleston and Huntington to see how many would let a would-be purchaser check out an album before he bought it. Know what I found out? Budget Tapes and Records in Kanawha City and Opus One in Huntington. That's about it. At Budget Tapes, I was told that most new records are displayed on a wall rack. Each of them is opened and one of them usually is being played on the store's sound system. If a customer sees something of interest on the wall rack, he can hear it. Any album in the regular stacks that is already opened, I was told, also can be played. In addition, most of the store's employes are familiar enough with the music being stocked to tell you what the album is like, as in "They pjay like Bachman-Turner" or "It's like The Beatles White Album material." That's a help. The people in Huntington's Opus One are similar. But in other stores, you often don't find that. At Davidson's in Huntington -- a store which I like -- there's no playing of albums. The store used to have two small sound rooms in which one could listen to an album, but no more. Â· A spokesperson at Turner's here in Charleston told me flatly, "No. We don't play albums." When asked why he began to explain about the factory sealing and how nobody wants to buy an opened album -- "used merchandise," he called it. I think he's wrong. For one thing, the seal -- "Factory Sealed for Your Protection" it proclaims -- is a shrink-wrap for shipping. It should be removed anyway. Especially after an album has been opened, the wrap can become hot and draw up, tightening the cardboard album cover and warping the record inside it. If the album is unopened, this is not supposed to happen, but sometimes it does anyway. The "used merchandise" excuse -- which I got at more than one location -- also is no good in my book. All these stores will tell you plainly that an album cannot be exchanged for a different title. If you buy "Captain Fantastic," you're stuck with Captain Fantastic." If there's something wrong with that album when you get it home, i. e., it's warped or there's a scratch on one band, you can take it back to the store and exchange it for another copy of "Captain Fantastic." Not for anything else, however. So what if the record has been played a couple of times in the store? If it isn't damaged, I doubt that anyone would care to buy it. If it is damaged, the store shouldn't sell it anyway. If a store is going to take as much money from you as it will for an album these days, it shouldn't ask you to buy it unheard. Discount and department stores like Heck's, Sears, Kmart, Wards, etc., also sell records, but they, too, ask you to buy on looks or reputation alone. There's no tasting before they put the bite on you. Several of the stores pointed out to me that singles will be played. That doesn't always help, however, as in the cases of groups without single releases from the album. The Elton John "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy" album is a good example. When the album first became available, there was no single. A few radio stations played the title cut and MCA bought some scatttered promo spots to push the far-out cover and talk about the new music, but there was no single you could hear from it. And on top of that, Elton John's last two singles, "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and "Pinbali Wizard" are neither on the album nor anything like what IS on the album. The new material is different from John's past work. The Bernie Taupin lyrics are pretty much autobiographic, Elton John's singing is personal, and the musical arrangements are simpler, pared down, and produced and capable of being reproduced by John's traveling band without additional orchestration. The album is not like most of Elton John's latest work, and you might not like it. You have to hear it to know, and in order to hear it, most record stores will make you buy it. That's a pretty high price to pay for something you're unsure of it. And it takes a lot of nerve, I thiink, to ask you to do it. utdoor Cooking I Is Fun * With The New Palmer Sandwich Toaster StAlB-KFUVOI MAKfSTNfMBBENCt I New square aluminu sandwich toaster seals' loll the ingredients int 1 two slices of bread. 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