I think it should be a prerequisite for anyone in Texas who claims to be a music lover to make a pilgrimage to at least one of the big four: Cactus Music in Houston, Good Records in Dallas, Ralph's Records in Lubbock, and Waterloo Records in Austin. I've been to all with the exception of Good in Dallas. I'm not so exclusionary that I avoid chain stores. On the contrary, I'm much more likely to be found digging through the stacks at Half-Price Books or Hasting's than one of the big four. But when there's something I need, or want to hear the new and noteworthy I go to Cactus or Ralph's or Waterloo. Here's how they fare.
Ralph's: Small. Dusty, dim, unparalleled used selection. Very rarely did I buy new there. But when I did they had things I couldn't find elsewhere. The one near Tech is best. Indie child. Key Purchase: LA Symphony - Composition No. 1.
Cactus: Houston. Nice layout. Mid-size. Half music, half video. Lost of good rock. Good local area. Historic. Key Purchase: Tom Waits - Real Gone.
Waterloo: Austin. Nicely laid out. Controlled chaos. People cooler than you milling about. Nice layout. Lots of new. Music store mecca. Largest of the 3. Papa. Key Purchase: Explosions in the Sky - The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place.
Good: Dallas. Famous. Co-owned by Tim Delaughter. Haven't been. Plan to go this summer. Best website. Key Purchase: Probably something by Tripping Daisy or Polyphonic Spree. Just because.
The verdict: Any day of the week I would take Ralph's above any of the rest. It's home.
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