Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Musical Renaissance

Every now and then I find some very interesting and compelling opinions and stories about vinyl records. I want to thank Joesph M. Jamison for allowing me to reprint this splendid article from the web site

A Musical Renaissance

By Joseph M. Jamison

Do The Evolution

There are two things I know: diamonds are forever and music is timeless.

Since man began walking upright, music has been a mainstay of life. Whether it was a stick being banged on a rock with precise repetition or Neanderthals grunting together in perfect harmony, there has always been music. Kurt Vonnegut said that the only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.

The problem was, in earlier times, the only way to hear your favorite artist was to attend a live performance. These performances, of course, were reserved for the wealthy and most fortunate.

A technological revolution came in 1877, when Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. Unfortunately for audiophiles, the light bulb in Edison's brain was conjuring up other ideas; while the phonograph allowed users to record and playback sound, the full potential of music was never tapped. It wasn’t until 1888, when Emile Berliner invented the gramophone and used discs to record sound. The modern recording process was born.

Since the days of the gramophone record, the list of audio formats is, in a word, lengthy. Some formats revolutionized the consumer market, some were used for production only, and some were just tossed aside. First to evolve was the 78-rpm record, followed by the LP and 45-rpm record. The 4-track and 8-track cassettes never had a chance and cassette tapes (elcasets) came and went. Compact discs changed the market when they were introduced in the early 1980’s, making every other media format obsolete. Experts predict, however, that the compact disc will soon be an afterthought with the surge of digital downloads.

Spin The Black Circle

Even though CD sales have been plummeting and digital downloading is on the rise, music purists and collectors alike still buy vinyl records. In fact, the numbers indicate that vinyl is making a comeback. They’re big, clunky, and difficult to store, but people love them, myself included. We have our reasons:

1. Quintessential - Vinyl records are the original format in which music was produced. There is a certain romanticism to listening to a vinyl record that other formats just can’t provide.

2. Conceptual - Artists often would have different themes for each side, which just can’t be done with a CD.

3. Distinctive - The sound quality is different. I didn’t say better, I said different. The grooves in the record produce a sound that has yet to be matched by any other format. The frequency is lower, and the cracks, hisses, and pops are just, well, awesome. Listen to the Cold War Kids' Robbers and Cowards in both vinyl and CD. It’s an excellent example of why the vinyl record is perfect for rock music.

4. Artistic - The packaging is bigger, allowing for much broader canvas for album artwork.

5. Accessible - The production of USB turntables allows users to transfer audio from vinyl records to a computer and turn them into mp3s. Part of the reason for the rise of cassette tapes and compact discs was the portability of them, allowing users to take them anywhere. With the USB turntable, transferring that unique vinyl record sound into your pocket is now feasible.

6. Sleek - No more crap. Compact discs allowed artists to cram as much music as possible into one disc, and sometimes led to songs that were just album fillers. On an LP, however, you can only have 45 minutes of audio. It better be good. Ben Harper’s Lifeline was recorded specifically with the vinyl record in mind. The result is 40 minutes and 54 seconds worth of acoustic soul genius.

I Am Mine

I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t buy compact discs or download mp3s. I prefer vinyl and if the album I want isn’t available, I’ll go for the compact disc. I like the portability, availability, and practicality of mp3s, but only download when it's necessary. If there is a song I like by an artist that I am not a huge fan of, I’ll download it. If I want to check out an artist, I may burn a compact disc of a friend or file share. However, there have been countless times when I burned an album, listened to it, then went and bought it.

I don’t listen to music just to listen to music. I listen to music to hear music, and the mp3 has made listening to music all too casual. There’s just nothing tangible to an mp3, nothing that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Don’t get me wrong, mp3s are valuable and have their place in the music world, but I hope that they don’t go to the forefront. In my perfect world, everyone would own a USB turntable, compact discs would cease to exist, and record labels would only produce vinyl. Music lovers would go to their favorite record store for albums, transfer their vinyl to a computer for accessibility, and everyone would feel fuzzy and warm inside. Especially me.

This Day In Music History-December 26

“Let It Bleed” by the Rolling Stones entered the charts in 1969.

“John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band,” Lennon’s debut album as a solo artist, enters the album charts in 1970. This stark, confessional recording is regarded by many as his greatest achievement.

Duke Fakir of the Four Tops sturns 72.

Curtis Mayfield ("Superfly") died from complications of diabetes in 1999.

Led Zeppelin arrives for their first U.S. tour in 1968. They opened for Vanilla Fudge.

In 1963, Capitol Records releases the Beatles' "I Want To Hold Your Hand" in the U.S. The song went to #1 in five weeks.

Lars Ulrich (from Metallica) was born in 1963.

On this day in 1964, the song "I Feel Fine" by the Beatles topped the charts and stayed there for 3 weeks.

Today the song "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison topped the charts in 1970 and stayed there for 4 weeks. Five years later, a New York state judge would find Harrison guilty of copyright infringement for plagiarizing the Chiffon's 1963 hit, "He's So Fine".

In 2005, Vietnamese police drop child rape charges against Gary Glitter after the disgraced glam rock star pays the families of his accusers $2000. The police said they were unable to gather enough evidence.

In 1976, Blues guitarist Freddie King dies in Dallas. He was 42.

The Beatles alienate a large portion of their fan base in 1967 with the premiere of their psychedelic movie Magical Mystery Tour on British TV. Paul McCartney remembered, "Everybody was looking for a plot, but it purposely wasn't there." The Queen remarked, "The Beatles are turning awfully funny, aren't they?"

On this day in 1964, the # 1 single was the Beatles’ song "I Feel Fine." At #4 is the Beatles' "She's a Woman." The band have had a staggering 30 chart hits this year.

In 1957, Elvis Presley donates thousands of teddy bears to the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.

AC/DC’s album “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)” is #1 in the U.S. in 1981.

White Zombie guitarist Jay Noel Yuenger (also known simply as "J.") was born in Chicago in 1967.

In 1964, after a year of being criticized for their long hair, the Rolling Stones take out an ad in the New Musical Express wishing “starving hairdressers and their families a Happy Christmas."