Finding myself undecided about what I should do with my day, I looked up record stores in Hong Kong, I thought I’d stumble on a shop where I could stay for an hour or so and listen to some vinyls. This lead me to The Record Museum – Sam the Record Man HK, on the 12th floor of a building close to the city’s famous Times Square, where you are greeted by James Tang aka Sam the Record Man. As you walk in, the single room offers hundreds and hundreds of vinyls, LPs, cassettes and recording machinery only seen in top quality music studios. A sofa awaits you with a cup of tea, before Mr Tang starts his introduction on why we are here today and what this whole thing is about:
“Vinyl records and tapes have foremost always been merchandise for the entertainment business, but music is a form of art as well. Due to commercial reason, it’s difficult for music enthusiasts to approach the ‘true face’ of the vinyl, tape or the master tape. A master tape is created for making vinyl records and tapes but it’s also the most authentic piece of audio art ever created. It is an artefact as important as an original Picasso or Van Gogh painting, the difference is only its medium, in this case – sound.”
This is us listening to the master tape of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In the Wall”, which was followed after by the master tape of the Beatle’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” and many more. Mr Tang would play the master tape, then proceed to play the cassette, CD, vinyl and other formats, showing us the difference of sound between all of them. You may think there isn’t much to differ them but there is, the warmth of the sound being a major factor alongside instruments being fiddled with since the master tape, voices lowered or guitars softened; nothing can be like the original recording.
According to his ‘Analogue Family Tree’ theory, the master tape is the great ‘grandmother’ of vinyl records, the original and first recording, but they’re not accessible to the public so very few music lovers have the chance to go inside and experience the ‘true face’ of music. As the recording is pressed onto CDs, cassettes, LPs and other formats, the more chances it has of losing its original sound/recording. Mr Tang described it as adding water to tea, first cup is full of flavors, taste and warmth, but as you add more water, you start to feel the tea less and less; the same goes for pressing music. This is all research that he’s done over the years, ones that have been critically acclaimed by universities and organizations alike:
Listening to master tapes of the Beatles and Nat King Cole, questions you might have can directly be asked, Mr Tang has the answers. What you find yourself surrounded by is his collection of music vinyls from Japan, tapes from America, CDs from UK and artifacts which include Marilyn Monroe’s hair, John Lennon’s autograph; all which have taken years to collect. This wasn’t gathered by chance, Mr Tang has worked hard to find the people to access such things, getting master tapes from Nat King Cole’s wife or the Beatles producers isn’t easy but his passion and love for music makes him the ideal man to hold the keys to this world. He treats everything with the utmost respect, wanting to do good to the world and spread the music so people realize the it’s true nature. In conclusion, from analog to stereo, Mr Tang can explain it all to you, his warm reception is contagious, with the end of the tour wrapping up, we pay 10$ which goes directly to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), one of the many causes he is involved with. It’s rare to find someone like Sam the Record man, a music enthusiast and a collector of “authentic sound”, with a lifetime ambition to inspire music lovers around the world – today he’s inspired me.
Find his website: http://recordmuseum.hk/
Find his FB: https://www.facebook.com/recordmuseum.hk/