Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Vinyl Renaissance

That's the name of a record store in Kansas City, but what I'm referring to is my own personal vinyl renaissance. Lately I've been buying and listening to music on LP. I have always loved that hiss and pop of old vinyl. Maybe it's just nostalgia; records are certainly not the most hardy or convenient medium. But older music produced to sound good on vinyl sounds much better on vinyl than in digital form. Most of the time people say it sounds "warmer" and I agree, but I can't be sure why that word fits. With vinyl, I sense more of the "space" of the sound - what Jerry Garcia called the "sound of heavy air." It's a more active form of listening to music. The turntable requires my attention every now and then. When I listen to digital music, it's usually as background. When I listen to my turntable, it's because I'm listening.

My collection is not extensive. Most of what I've got I picked up at various sales at places like the much-lamented Recycled Sounds. Some of my stuff I actually found at thrift stores. I have everything from mainstream rock like Boston's first album - which I really don't listen to - to a weird-ass 1950s electronic interpretation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead (I don't really listen to that, either...).

But for years I didn't have a solid turntable. That changed last year when my son got me a refurbished TEAC. Recently, I got a new receiver and speakers and I'm definitely experiencing a renaissance.

New purchases: I was thrilled to find Doolittle by The Pixies - a classic if there ever was one, a record that changed my life in many ways, and one I'd previously experienced only on cassette back in the day....I also re-equipped myself with my two favorite T. Rex albums, Electric Warrior and The Slider (and man does Marc Bolan sound great on vinyl). My recent interest in Blue Oyster Cult has its place here too with my favorites from them: Cultosaurus Erectus and Fire of Unknown Origin.

Warren Zevon gets regular spins - I've got all his studio albums - and one I play all the time is The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Rick Wakeman. 

Is there a point here? Not really, other than this: records are cool. I like playing with them, listening to them, slipping them into and out of plastic sleeves. To me, putting a needle on some "wax" and getting a sound to come out is more magical, somehow, than my entire laptop.

The older I get, the more I want to reconnect with the kid I used to be. Vinyl is a great way to do it. It's not just the music. It's the act of lowering that needle, hearing the subtle hiss that means the music is about to start, sitting back and letting it fill the space between my ears. That's therapy.

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