The corporate side of the music world biz ain't all bad. If you doubt it, check out Virgin Megastore, located in the Arizona Mills mall. With its sweeping space, angular racks, neon accents, in-store coffee house and multiple listening stations, you can spend hours browsing nearly anything ever heard or seen on any music chart anywhere in the world.

In addition to an encyclopedic stock of CDs, Virgin boasts a book section worthy of the music/pop culture collection of any chain. Another plus? The rows of boxed sets running the gamut from Sammy Davis Jr. to Ted Nugent, as well as hundreds of just-released current and vintage VHS and DVD movies and video games.

Admittedly, a trip to Virgin means schlepping through the mall, and it's hardly the cheapest disc depot in town, either. Still, where else can you find spankin' new titles like the Kinks import reissue of We Are the Village Green Preservation Society, the Mary Martin version of The Sound of Music or anything by Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys -- all under one roof?

Readers' Choice: Best Buy

What do country singer Lefty Frizzell, jazzman Bill Evans and octogenarian crooner Perry Como all have in common? They have obscenely oversize multi-CD boxed sets dedicated to their work! Furthermore, all of them -- along with those of hundreds of others -- can be found for a reasonable price at the Valley's best outlet for new and used discs, CDGB's.

The store's topnotch selection doesn't end with mammoth-size retrospectives, but extends equally to its single CD offerings as well. Having difficulty finding that out-of-print Tapper Zukie long-player, the Japanese version of your favorite Genesis opus or even a much-hyped "live import"? Look no further than this north Phoenix disc-o-theque. What about obscurities and curios from the likes of Sloan, the Real Kids or Porter Wagoner? Never heard of the Shoes? Well, you can get to know them intimately since CDGB's stocks seemingly every offering from this obscure Illinois power-pop quartet -- both new and used!

As an added bonus, the store boasts sections neatly divided into a number of well-defined categories and subcategories (Americana, Rockabilly, Punk, Surf, Guitar Greats, etc.) and a staff well-versed in the needs of those seeking the hard-to-find. If it's new, used, old, fresh, in- or out-of-print and digital, then C-D-G-B are the only letters you need to know.

Only once in rock history did a drummer have the gall to insist on having his riser 10 feet in front of the rest of the band, and that was Gary Lewis, a guy who didn't sneeze in a recording studio without a session drummer wiping his nose.

If ever a trapsman truly merited an unobstructed view from the stands, it's Pollen's Bob Hoag, who plays with more force and funny bone than Jerry Lewis and his progeny forced to share the same stool. Even before Pollen began opening up big-time rock shows, Hoag bashed his skins as if 60,000 were ogling him anyway, a happy affliction he still carries over to scaled-down local club appearances.

If his hilarious self-mocking song intros weren't enough to command attention, there's always Fmeat, Pollen's offensive primal punk side project, in which Hoag gets to step off the riser and exercise all his Lead Singer Disease symptoms in one glorious epileptic fit.

Tracks in Wax
Don't believe those who tell you that used record stores are a thing of the past because of online auctions. Your computer might offer the most convenient shopping hours (24/7), but nothing replicates the fun of searching through bins, trying out a rare album and buying it -- all on the same day! Without shipping charges or the need to give positive feedback to "ozarklou." New used titles regularly flow into Tracks in Wax from people who don't feel like packing off bits of their collections to someone in Taiwan. Far better to get some TIW store credit toward a minty fresh Julie London record or that creepy Anthony Perkins Sings album you're just dying to hear. Most titles remain in the reasonable $4.99 to $12.99 range, and you aren't likely to pay more than $4 for any of the 45s, which are listed in four three-ring binders at the counter. Tracks in Wax does have a registered domain now with a new Web site (www.primenet.com/~tracks/). Otherwise, it's still stuck in the past you love.

Readers' Choice for Best Place to Buy Used CDs: Zia Record Exchange

Readers' Choice for Best Vinyl Record Store: Zia Record Exchange

The masters are here -- Monk. Armstrong. Holiday. Young. Ellington. Davis. Mingus. Rollins. Basie. Fitzgerald.

So are all the "new" kids on the block -- Osby. Redman. Moran. Wilson. Hunter. Medeski. Lovano. Scofield. Marsalis. Watts.

You'll find a ton of stuff by these giants of jazz at this superstore, and at a competitive price. So what if they spell tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon's name three different ways (Gorden, Garden and Dextor)? They've got a bunch of his records on the racks, and that's what counts.

Zia Record Exchange
Thanks to the evils of the "smooth jazz" radio format that's caught on around here like a dreaded disease, too many folks equate the slicked-up stuff done by the likes of the Antichrist -- a.k.a. Kenny G -- as "jazz." All the while, wonderfully inventive and prolific musicians such as James Carter, Cyrus Chestnut, Patricia Barber and Joe Lovano are doing their best work, usually to sympathetic audiences in Europe and Japan instead of their native shores.

One consolation to the scant airtime these artists (and dozens of others) get in the Valley is the surprisingly cool selection that populates the "jazz" section at the Tempe store. Warning: The employees there are much more apt to be able to blab about the music of Biggie Smalls than Fats Waller, and about Will Smith rather than Willie "The Lion" Smith, so you'll pretty much be on your own.

Celebrity Theatre
Despite the outdated façade and the less than, um, stellar location -- right off a bleak stretch of Van Buren, abutting a women's correctional facility -- the Celebrity Theatre continues to be the best spot to view the entire musical spectrum up close and personal. After all, where else in town can you get an equally good view of Belinda Carlisle's prodigious ass and Burt Bacharach's prodigious teeth?

While the Celebrity's unique appeal has remained unchanged, the venue has expanded its stylistic reach, booking everyone from gospel performers to metal bands, country artists like Merle Haggard to rappers like the Wu-Tang Clan. In fact, if the Celebrity makes only one change to update its image, we suggest adding the face of Wu-Tang's Ol' Dirty Bastard onto the Mount Rushmore of celebrities depicted behind the concession stands, perhaps next to fellow ol' dirty bastard Barbra Streisand.

Readers' Choice: Celebrity Theatre

Best Record Store Staffed by Overeducated Underachievers

Eastside Records

Eastside Records
Remember High Fidelity, the Nick Hornby novel turned hit movie in which the plot revolves around the owner of an indie record store and his small staff of pop-culture professors? Well, if you didn't know better, you'd think the story was written about the malcontents working the counter at Tempe's Eastside Records. On any given day or night, Eastside's employee patter could encompass everything from the women-hating tendencies of multiplatinum gangstas like Chuck D. and their relation to Little Richard's debauched libido to which 1977 punk rock band was worse, the Drones or Slaughter and the Dogs. And much like Championship Vinyl, the fictional store in Hornby's story, Eastside Records harbors an exemplary selection of vinyl and CDs to back up its faculty's witty piss takes. God save Eastside Records!
A few months ago, KUPD inaugurated a new TV advertising campaign. In the ad, a crowd of rambunctious kids at a hard rock concert shouts out their devotion to KUPD, while the mother of morning DJ Dave Pratt holds a picket sign complaining that the station is too damn loud.

More than any station in town, KUPD knows its demo. It knows that station loyalists don't want their parents to like the music they listen to. So KUPD cranks it up to 11 with the kind of heavy-rock flamboyance that's been making parental ears bleed since Iron Butterfly got lost in a gadda da vida.

KUPD serves up a mix of the modern (Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age), the classic (Metallica) and the all-but-forgotten (Faith No More) in equal measure, but the common denominators are volume and attitude. It's unapologetically unhip fare that scores a direct hit with the suburban, teenage, air-guitar virtuoso in all of us.

Readers' Choice for Best Rock Station: KUPD-FM 97.9

In 1993, when KEDJ debuted on the local airwaves, starting an alternative-rock radio station was a safe bet. Nirvana and Pearl Jam had shattered the old programming order, and Lollapalooza Nation was congregating every summer to celebrate the shared triumph of a new music revolution.

In 2000, Nirvana and Lollapalooza are both history, and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder is about as relevant to today's youth as Eddie Cantor. Not surprisingly, the alt-rock format has taken a pounding in many markets. But KEDJ, also known as "The Edge," has survived it all: Kurt Cobain's suicide, the teen-pap meltdown of MTV and even a 1999 sale that saw New York-based conglomerate Big City Radio take over the station.

The Edge has survived by adapting to the changing definitions of "alternative," loading up on the rap-metal dementia of Limp Bizkit and Korn, while maintaining a soft spot for three-chord pop-punksters like Blink 182, the Offspring and Green Day. In a city that loves to moan about its lack of a college radio station, KEDJ remains the best bet for guitar-based music that fits in the wide demographic slot between prepubescent and postmenopausal.

Readers' Choice: KEDJ-FM 106.3/100.3

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of