Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Format That Refuses To Die; Vinyl Records Alive And Well

Written By Mike Duffy

Even with all the advances in audio technology and the digital craze, one format has withstood the test of time: vinyl records.

The evolution of personal audio playback is an interesting tale: from paper cylinders to records, records to 8-tracks, 8-tracks to cassettes, cassettes to CDs, and finally, CDs to digital MP3s, only one "primitive" format has managed to not fade away into history. Records were introduced way back in 1877 and are still being widely used across the world, and it's not just DJs who are using them.

Thanks in part to high school children who are just discovering vinyl records for the first time, and baby boomers who are looking for a taste of nostalgia, the vinyl record market has exploded in recent years, with sales increasing about 35 percent in 2007, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. People are once again snatching up vinyl records as quickly as they are produced, and record label executives are taking notice.

As a result, more and more labels are choosing to press their new releases on the format they once considered obsolete, even going into their catalog and re-pressing some of their older albums. Labels are still catering to digital savvy consumers though, as many new vinyl releases often come with download cards, which can be redeemed online to receive MP3's of the album. Online retailers have also taken note, and are now offering more vinyl records for sale. An influx of new websites specifically catering to vinyl enthusiasts have also been popping up, selling vinyl and record accessories.

There are several reasons why vinyl sales have taken off in recent years. Any purist (or audiophile) will tell you that vinyl sounds better than any other format available today. You will hear things playing a record that you won't be able to pick up on when playing that same album in CD or MP3 format. Vinyl also comes in different weights, which is measured in grams, and ranges from the standard 140 grams all the way up to 220 grams. The heavier a record is, the better sound quality you will get. Some people will only settle for the best, and some younger folks are tired of the high compression rates found in CDs and MP3s, which steals the quality of the music. And some have sought out alternative methods of listening to their favorite albums.

Most records released today come in elaborate packaging that features liner notes and larger artwork than their CD counterparts. Vinyl now comes in various colors, patterns, shapes and styles. There's the standard 12 inch LP, which supports full length albums; seven inch singles, which are often used for only one or two songs; and all sizes in between. Records have also strayed from the standard black vinyl circle into elaborate shapes and bright colors. Records are being pressed on every color found in the rainbow and then some, as well as almost every shape known to man. The variety and bigger size attracts many buyers.

One more reason why vinyl sales have taken off is their collectability. The market has never been better for someone who is in possession of an original Beatles or Led Zeppelin LP. These days vinyl is often pressed in one time limited runs, or presses, compared to an almost infinite amount when records were the dominant format. This makes some records highly sought after. Multiple colors are also pressed, leading to many variations of a single record, which also leads to collectability. Some records released for the first time in 10 years can fetch as much as $200 once they go out of print. For example, a record of only 1,000 total copies were pressed: out of that 1,000, only 100 were pressed on red vinyl, and 500 were pressed on blue. A red record would be worth more to collectors than the blue record, and could fetch a hefty sum on eBay and other online outlets.

For whatever reason - whether it be for their superior sound quality, the larger and more detailed artwork and packaging, or just for old time's sake - vinyl records are here to stay. And they won't be going anywhere anytime soon.


Vinyl helps record stores find a niche

Independent record stores spin success

On an unassuming stretch in Chicago's Beverly community, there is a music revolution sounding thanks to two independent record stores that keep spinning the vinyl even in tough economic times.

Beverly Records, 11612 S. Western Ave., and Mr. Peabody Records, 11832 S. Western Ave., are separated only by a few blocks, but they remain two of the few independent records stores in the Southland. Although the region once was filled with competitors such as Discount Records and Threshold Music in Tinley Park, the digital music revolution and rise of big-box chains such as Best Buy forced several independent record stores to shut down.

"You just can't compete with free, and that's pretty much what occurred," said Mark Ament, who owned Discount Records. Ament opened the first Discount Records in 1980 at the corner of 59th Street and Kedzie Avenue in Chicago. He eventually opened stores throughout the Southland - in Midlothian, Matteson, Homewood and Frankfort. The stores sold vinyl, 8-tracks, cassettes and CDs but, when customers started burning music and relying on MP3s, Ament said his business became no longer viable.

He began closing stores in 2006, starting with the Frankfort location, and one store closed every six months until the final store in Matteson closed in February.

"It's a reality that people don't spend money on music, especially in today's times when consumers are hit hard in the pocket from gas prices," he said.

Hanging on

Though it can be challenging, Beverly Records and Mr. Peabody Records have stayed afloat by supporting a niche market. Both stores focus on selling rare vinyl, which has seen a surprising surge in popularity this year.

Beverly Records opened as a penny candy store in 1967, selling candy, gift cards, novelties and the top records of the week, according to Jack Dreznes, current owner of the store. His mother, Christine, who ran the store back then, noticed that customers began asking for the old records after they were replaced. She started specializing in harder-to-find items and records. By the 1970s, nearly 75 percent of the items in the store were records.

Dreznes, who started working at the store in 1975 after serving in the Army, immediately fell in love with the unique clientele who would come in the store and ask for rare records.

"I remember somebody called and said, 'I want a record by Jelly Roll Morton.' I said, 'You're kidding me, right?' And he said, 'No I'm serious. He was a jazz artist in the '40s.' I said, 'Oh, I'll take a look,' and, sure enough, we had two or three records by him. I said, 'Oh, this is fun.' I just gave up looking for a job and stayed since then," Dreznes said.

The store established branches throughout the Chicago area in the '80s, but as demand for vinyl diminished and CDs become more popular, those at Beverly Records decided to focus on one store and closed down the last branch in the mid-1990s.

"Since then, we've been hanging on," Dreznes said. "We're not thriving, but we're surviving by specializing in harder-to-get things that the bigger stores don't bother with - the jazz, the karaoke, the more obscure artists from the '50s and '60s. Kind of what our clientele asks for -- the more they ask, the more we'll get in stock."

By specializing in hard-to-find records and karaoke equipment, customers looking for a specific record can walk in and request a record. Using the Internet, record collector sites and other stores Beverly Records networks with, Dreznes said it usually can track down most records if they are not in stock.

This specialization keeps Cedric McQuitter, a former disc jockey and avid record collector, coming to Beverly Records between 10 and 15 times a year. McQuitter's wife works at an FYE store, but when looking for a rare record, McQuitter chooses to shop at Beverly Records.

"There's no comparison in my book. No comparison," he said.

On a recent afternoon, McQuitter, who's 49 and lives in Chicago's West Pullman community, came to the store looking for an old disco record titled "Do You Wanna Funk?" by Sylvester.

In addition to walk-in customers, approximately 10 percent of the business comes from Internet sales overseas, mainly from England, Japan, Germany and France.

Rare recordings

Just two blocks south of Beverly Records, Mr. Peabody Records is another independent record store that has survived by focusing on a niche market. The store, which opened in February 2004, specializes in soul, jazz, rock, dance, disco and early rap music. The store stocks more than 80,000 vinyl records and a few thousand CDs.

Co-owners Marcus Pettigrew and Mike Cole Jr. decided to open a record store after meeting at Beverly Records and realizing they both were obsessive collectors.

"We were talking about records. From then, I gave him a ride home. We were playing tapes in the car, and he went into the house and got some tapes. He said, 'Man have you heard this? Do you know about this? Do you know this label?' " Pettigrew said. "We figure two can do more than one, so we might as well team up and see how much stuff we can find and discover."

About 90 percent of their business is on the Internet, mostly from overseas clients who are looking for rare records, Pettigrew said. Dealing with high-end collectors who are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for records helps focus their niche. Pettigrew and Cole also work with record labels - including the London-based BBE - with licensing and redistributing rare music.

"I think (in the beginning) everyone was probably like, 'Are you guys crazy? You're dealing with vinyl?' Now look at it. Best Buy is carrying vinyl. But it's an extreme niche," Pettigrew said. "We have to really watch how much we buy and what we buy. You've got to know what you're doing today to survive."


Music News & Notes

Barry Manilow Music Punishing

A US judge may have found the perfect punishment for people who are in his courtroom for being too noisy- an hour of listening to Barry Manilow or the theme to the children's television show "Barney and Friends."

Judge Paul Sacco said he decided to try this unique approach after determining that violators brought before his Colorado court for playing their steroes too loud or disturbing neighbors with band rehearsals, kept doing it again.

"This is a way, when I look back, of teaching manners to people," Sacco stated.

His method appears to be working, as the number of repeat offenders has been on the decrease.

What's next, punishment by making them listen to Yoko Ono singing?


Cliff Richard's Shadows to reunite for tour

LONDON (Reuters) – Cliff Richard and The Shadows will reunite next year for the last time with a stadium tour of Britain, tour organizers Live Nation said.

Veteran rocker Richard, most famous for chart-topping singles like "Living Doll," "The Young Ones" and "Summer Holiday," first recorded and performed with The Shadows in 1959. The reunion tour was announced on Thursday.

He and the band enjoyed a series of hits in the early 1960s before he began a successful solo career in 1968. The Shadows have toured regularly since then, but are performing with Richard for the first time in 20 years, Live Nation added.

Richard, Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch and Brian Bennett will take to the stage from September 2009, visiting cities across Britain including London, Cardiff, Liverpool and Glasgow. The 11-show tour is due to finish on October 17 in Manchester.


Simmons Confirms New Kiss Album

Gene Simmons has confirmed to Canada's Sun Media that Kiss is writing new music and will record an album in 2009 with production by Paul Stanley. They will follow it with a short tour.

"We'll do a handful of shows just to keep in the game (next) summer, maybe 10, some Canadian shows."


Kinks to Release First Career Retrospective Box Set

The Kinks will release their first ever box set on December 8 when "Picture Book" becomes available from Sanctuary/Universal.

The 6-CD set contains 130 tracks ranging from their biggest hits to rarities, demos and live tracks. Included are a few tracks from the pre-Kinks band, the Ravens.

Accompanying the discs is a 60-page book with a biography, timeline and numerous previouly unpublished photos. Some of the tracks include:

"You Really Got Me, Stop Your Sobbing, All Day and All of the Night, Tired of Waiting for You, Set Me Free, A Well Respected Man, Dedicated Follower of Fashion (alternate stereo take), Sunny Afternoon, Got to Be Free, Lola (mono single version), Celluloid Heroes, A Rock 'N Roll Fantasy, Low Budget (live) and many more classics."

Album Cover Art

Let's continue our look at's list of the top 50 dirtiest and sexiest album cover art, this time #24 (Gigwise comments in quotes):

24. Casanova: ‘All Beauty Must Die’ - "A naked woman on a bed of roses, a sexual fantasy of many a man and even better when the lady is question is as hot as the model on the cover of ‘All Beauty Must Die’. A pretty apt piece of cover art for a band called Casanova, then."

Michael Voss - Vocals, Guitars
Stephan Neumeier - Guitars
Jurgen Attig - Bass
Michael Eurich - Drums


1. On My Love 3:52
2. Happy 4:12
3. Not Over You 3:59
4. Would I 3:29
5. Lying 4:50
6. Dreamer 3:48
7. Last Of The Runaways 3:23
8. Under My Skin 3:35
9. Psycho Lisa 5:17
10. After The Love Goes 3:57
11. The Guitar Man 3:38

Excellent comeback album! German melodic hard rock band Casanova was founded by two Michaels at the beginning of the 90s Michael Voss, former vocalist and guitarist of Mad Max and Bonfire and Michael Eurich, the original drummer of Warlock.

Classic Rock Videos

1970 Jimi Hendrix - Foxy Lady

The Beatles' White Album 40th Anniversary Tribute

Critical reception and legacy

The Beatles were at the peak of their global influence and visibility in late 1968. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, released the previous year, had enjoyed a combination of commercial success, critical acclaim, and immense cultural influence that had previously seemed inconceivable for a pop release. Time magazine, for instance, had written in 1967 that Pepper constituted a "historic departure in the progress of music—any music," while Timothy Leary, in a widely quoted assessment of the same period, declared that the band were prototypes of "evolutionary agents sent by God, endowed with mysterious powers to create a new human species." After creating an album that had delivered such critical, commercial, and generational shockwaves, The Beatles faced the inevitable question of what they could possibly do to top it. The next full-length album, whatever it was, was destined to draw considerable scrutiny. The intervening release of Magical Mystery Tour notwithstanding (released as a double-EP package in the UK), The Beatles represented the group's first major musical statement since Pepper, and thus was a highly anticipated event for both the mainstream press and the youth-oriented counterculture movement with which the band had by this time become strongly associated. Expectations, to say the least, were high. The reviews were mixed.

Tony Palmer, in The Observer, wrote shortly after the album's release: "If there is still any doubt that Lennon and McCartney are the greatest songwriters since Schubert, then . . . [the album The Beatles] . . . should surely see the last vestiges of cultural snobbery and bourgeois prejudice swept away in a deluge of joyful music making. . . ."

Richard Goldstein, writing in The New York Times on December 8, 1968, described the album as a "major success."

Another review in The New York Times, this one by Nik Cohn, considered the album "boring beyond belief" and described "more than half the songs" as "profound mediocrities."

Alan Smith, in an NME review entitled "The Brilliant, the Bad, and the Ugly," derided "Revolution #9" as a "pretentious" example of "idiot immaturity" and, in the following sentence, assigned the benediction "God Bless You, Beatles!" to "most of the rest" of the album.

Smith's review established a pattern that has endured for much of the critical assessment that followed. Many of the reviews since 1968—and The Beatles surely ranks among the most-reviewed releases in rock history—have tempered rapturous enthusiasm with a consistent note of criticism about the album's seemingly undisciplined structure and perceived excesses. Unlike such albums as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Revolver, The Beatles is a release that, four decades on, tends to provoke heated discussions of such topics as continuity, style, and integrity.

The New Rolling Stone Album Guide praises the album but maintains that it has "loads of self-indulgent filler," identifying "Revolution #9" in particular as "justly maligned," and suggests that listeners in the CD era, who can program digital players to skip over unwanted tracks, may have an advantage over the album's original audience.

Some contemporary critics say the album's inclusion of supposedly extraneous material is a part of its appeal. The review contends that:

"Each song on the sprawling double album The Beatles is an entity to itself, as the band touches on anything and everything they can. This makes for a frustratingly scattershot record or a singularly gripping musical experience, depending on your view, but what makes the White Album interesting is its mess."

One important current trend in critical assessments of the album is to draw parallels between the band's disintegrating ensemble and the chaotic events of the tumultuous year in which The Beatles was created, 1968. Along these lines, Slant Magazine observed that:

"(The album) reveals the popping seams of a band that had the pressure of an entire fissuring generational/political gap on its back. Maybe it's because it shows The Beatles at the point where even their music couldn't hide the underlying tensions between John, Paul, George, and Ringo, or maybe because it was (coincidentally?) released at the tail end of a year anyone could agree was the embittered honeymoon's end for the Love Generation, the year when, to borrow from a famous Yeats poem, the center decidedly could not hold ... for whatever reason, The Beatles is still one of the few albums by the Fab Four that resists reflexive canonization, which, along with society's continued fragmentation, keeps the album fresh and surprising."

SOURCE: wikipedia

Beatles Music

White Album


This Date In Music History-November 29


Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals turns 64.

Chuck Mangione is 58.

Billboard chart guru Joel Whitburn was born in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin in 1939.

Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau (1951)

John Mayall (Bluesbreakers) (1933)

They Are Missed:

Beatles' guitarist George Harrison passed away in 2001 at the age of 58, while resting at a friend's home in Los Angeles. The news came as a shock to the world, despite Harrison's much-chronicled cancer treatments. Speaking outside his home in St John's Wood, north west London, Paul McCartney said: 'I am devastated and very very sad'. Ringo Starr, speaking from Vancouver, Canada said: 'We will miss George for his sense of love, his sense of music and his sense of laughter.'

The late Denny Doherty of the Mamas & the Papas ("I Saw Her Again") was born in 1941.


At the 1959 Grammy Awards, held just six months after a similar award show, Bobby Darin won Record of the Year for "Mack the Knife" as well as the Best New Artist of the Year. Song of the Year was awarded to Jimmy Driftwood, writer of Johnny Horton's hit, "The Battle Of New Orleans.” The winner of Album of the Year was Frank Sinatra's "Come Dance With Me."

The Beatles' fifth British single "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was released in 1963. Advance orders exceeded 700,000 and within three days the record sold one million copies, making it their second million seller. It was released in the US on December 26th and spent seven weeks at #1.

The Beatles score a two-sided #1 hit in 1969 with John Lennon’s “Come Together” and George Harrison’s “Something.” Both songs are on “Abbey Road.”

Donovan hits #1 in 1966 with "Sunshine Superman."

Yes released their self-titled debut album in 1969.

Today in 1975, the song "Fly, Robin, Fly" by the Silver Convention topped the charts and stayed there for 3 weeks.

In England, in 1968, it was announced that the Beatles double album (aka The White Album) had sold 2 million copies in its first week on sale, a new record.

The Who released their first concert record in 1968, "The Who Sell Out."

In 1979, the original four members of KISS performed their last show together-until 1996, when they reunited for a makeup tour.

Metallica played their first headlining show in 1982. They played the song "Whiplash" for the first time.

Kansas goes platinum with “Point Of No Return” in 1977. The album contains one of their best songs “Carry On Wayward Son.”

Neil Young’s Comes A Time” goes gold in 1978.

Elvis Presley's LP "From Memphis to Vegas / From Vegas to Memphis" reached the Billboard album chart in 1969, where it will stay for the next 24 weeks, climbing as high as #12.

In 1997, Whitney Houston backed out of a slated one million dollar performance at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC after finding out the event was a mass wedding for over 1,000 Moonie couples. Ohmmmmmmm

Bon Jovi hit #1 in 1986 with "You Give Love a Bad Name.”

In 2006, a two-day auction begins on items that belonged to the late founding Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett. Among the articles on the block at the fine-art sale in Cambridge is Barrett's own never-before-seen artwork, some signed by the musician, two hand-painted bicycles, homemade speakers and a classical guitar. Ten paintings sell for more than $100,000 while the auction raises $200,000. A portion funds "educational development" in the art world. Barrett, who left Floyd in ‘68, passed away July 7th. 2006