Saturday, April 23, 2011

Records . . . seriously

As an early birthday present (I'll be 28 a week from today and we're celebrating by watching The Room) Matthew sent me a cool suitcase record player so that I could listen to my ever-growing vinyl collection when I'm working in my office (the main turntable, which I took before my stepfather could come back to the house for his stuff, is downstairs in an enormous record cabinet that Ian bought me for Christmas).  The difficult part of both is keeping adorable kitten Bosco from trying to practice his DJ scratch techniques with my Boz Skaggs records.

Vinyl really does have a deeper, richer sound, and there's a wonderful feeling of finding something good mixed into a crate of Boston and Eagles records--my best finds so far has been Warren Zevon's Sentimental Hygine (which sounds massively overproduced on vinyl, a sound lost to tape and CD) Danny Elfman's So Lo in a $3 Bin at Last Vestige in Albany.  Matthew and I routinely send each other packages of dollar vinyl with small cards and post-it notes explaining why we picked each album.  Ian has been buying me Tom Waits and Smiths records every Christmas since we started dating almost seven years ago.

Vinyl has a wonderful intimacy to it, and simultaniously there's a group mentality about it.  When you put on a record, everyone hears it.  The speakers fill the house and strange things begin to happen.  Sometimes people start dancing.  Other times they get very quiet, as though they've never heard a song you know they've heard a million times.  People who are normally not dreamy get drifting looks on their faces and start pawing through your collection, making requests for what to play next.  They take out each record, pour over the liner notes and the album covers.  Discussions begin.  Stories are shared.  Albums are flipped and B-sides are played.  A CD can fade into the background, an iPOD can be shuffled around and ignored, but vinyl demands to be heard.  It demands more of the listener, which is probably why it's been mostly abandoned.  It's not just noise to block out the sounds of life--it is a life of it's own, a reminder of how beautiful and pure music can sound.

If you ever get a chance and you own a record player, find a copy of Warren Zevon's eponymous first album and play "Frank and Jesse James."  The opening pinao chords are perhaps the most beautiful sound you will ever hear, and no other version--mp3, tape, CD or 8-track, does it justice.

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