Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Classic Rock Videos

The Doors - Touch Me

The MAG Cover story: Spinning heads Vinyl is taking another turn on the table


I have no vinyl in my history to wax nostalgic over. My earliest memory is pushing the buttons on the family eight-track to get "Jumping Jack Flash" again. Jump the groove to the next music memory and I'm slotting Michael Jackson's "Thriller" into my gettoblaster.

But about a month ago, a friend asked if we could house her record collection during her indefinite stay in Mexico. Sure.

Two truck loads later, we had three turn tables, a stack of speakers and several hundred milk crated records in our living room. Obviously stuff had to be moved around to accommodate this collection, but man what a gift ... I mean loan. It's like inheriting all the books you want to read but probably wouldn't remember to search for in the library.

Listening to records is so different than hearing a mix of MP3 tracks off the computer. It's a fuller sound. A sound that crackles. Suddenly the room becomes warmer and you hear parts of Beatles songs you never had before. Flipping through the stacks, searching for records to play takes almost as much time, as actually listening to them. But that's OK because you want to listen -- not background music listen -- to the whole thing.

In this age of coveted iPods, free downloads and white ear buds, vinyl seems so anachronistic. Most predicted its death when the compact disc came on the scene in 1982.

But just like news of radio's demise when television came out, vinyl never really died. It has been kept alive during the lows of the 1980s by DJs, collectors, and hardcore punks.

And now it's making kind of a comeback. According to a New York Times article, the industry dipped down to a low 900,000 sales in 2006, but then sales then shot up about 37 per cent in 2007, to nearly 1.3 million. Three years ago, Warner Bros. Records opened an online vinyl store. At first, any release that sold 3,000 copies was considered a success, but then the 2007 Wilco album, "Sky Blue Sky," shot over 14,000 copies.

So who is buying these records?

Ghost World, a pop-culture movie that came out 2001, offers some clues. In it, teenager Thora Birch, wearing clunky glasses and 1940s dresses, connects with hard-core collector Steve Buscemi over vinyl. Birch's character, who abhors fakeness, is drawn to the realness of the music and the medium.

It's not the geeky old guy, but rather the retro girl fueling sales. And Sudbury is on the cutting edge of this trend. About six months ago, Cosmic Dave's Vinyl Emporium opened at 525 Kathleen St. It is one of the only stores in the country devoted solely to selling new vinyl records.

"I've sold over 500 records since June, which is good," said owner Mark Browning. "It's not like I'm getting rich doing it. It's a labour of love. At the same time, it's impressive ... That's people building collections."

The majority of his clients are in their teens to the early 30s. Some of the younger ones don't yet have a turntable, but they're buying anyway.

"I think most of them didn't grow up listening to records. It's funny, cause when I see someone older who's coming in I know they're coming in to get rid of their record collection."

High Fidelity is another record movie, in this case about a dusty, cluttered used vinyl store, where customers are mocked for their lack of knowledge. Cosmic Dave's is nothing like that. Each record is presented like a painting on the wall of its open concept space. Browning isn't interested in impressing collectors looking for vintage, but rather he's into turning people on to new music.

"The idea is reduce the choice, give more information about each choice and make each one special and come in and discover new music," he said. "There's so much good new music being made."

The concept for the store came to him when he was living in Vancouver, where he started building up a record collection from second-hand finds. Soon enough, however, listening only to music recorded before 1982 got stale.

"We had 25 years of CDs. Then we see general music industry business deteriorate," Browning said. "Suddenly records are coming back. And it's almost as if there is something magical about a record. It's not about whether records sound better than CDs or not, but there's something about buying a record."

The sound is different -- CDs are mastered to sound like the music is in front of you, while records have more of a surround feeling. Browning calls them more organic too. You know your record will die and you will kill it by playing it, he said.

"You don't feel cool walking down the street with a CD in your hand, but you do feel cool with a record. I think whatever it is that is missing (in CDs), is what killed the music industry ... There is something more personal about listening to a record."

The new vinyl releases come with codes, allowing the owner to download the album online, giving them the best of both worlds.

It costs more for bands to press vinyl records. Making a CD can start around $1,500, while a small run of records (about 1,000) begins at about $4,000, said Browning. The process of mastering it is different and more involved. Of course, with smaller runs they're also more expensive to buy -- most are in the $20 range.

Sudbury also has more local bands that have pressed their work to vinyl -- The Statues, Kate Maki, Nathan Lawr and the Minotaurs, and Browning's band, Ox, come to mind.

"Other cities of this size don't have this many bands that are touring and making records," Browning said.

Rob Seaton, frontman of The Statues, a Sudbury power-pop punk band, explained why its music is available on the big discs.

"Mostly, it was the labels we were working with. They're pretty much only vinyl labels," he said. "Any kind of underground music lends itself to the vinyl format. In the '90s everyone was pretty much doing CDs because it was cost effective. But there's been a huge shift and everyone's going back to vinyl."

At their shows, The Statues tend to sell more vinyl than CDs. Actually when the band was touring Europe, the ratio of records sold to CDs became even more skewed at about 5:1. The format fits the music, he said.

"It's a little more DYI to have your record pressed to ship it off to the CD manufacturer," Seaton said.

Browning's theory is the punk and metal lovers tend to appreciate the tactile, so have always been fond of the clunky discs. Records are also about friction which fits the sound.

"I prefer the sound of vinyl. It sounds better," said Seaton. "Audiophiles will debate that until they are blue in the face, of which I'm not one. I love the fact that they are huge and cumbersome and that they require work."

He's more inclined to put a record on and listen to the whole thing, while with a CD, there's the temptation to skip tracks.

"It's totally making a comeback," Seaton said.

SOURCE: http://www.thesudburystar.com

Salem record store goes back to its roots

I always love stories about independent record stores and have found another great story (originally published at http://willamettelive.com)

Salem record store goes back to its roots

By Jason Gooder

from Salem Monthly, Section Music / Nightlife

Since opening Ranch Records in 1982, Kit Close has been providing the kind of rare, offbeat music and collectibles that you won’t see in the Wal-Mart music section. A self-described “record nerd," who has always had a huge record collection, Close has followed his dreams to a profitable business, opening two other Ranch Records stores in McMinnville and Bend. Close’s wife Lori runs the McMinnville store and his partner John co-owns the Bend store. Even though this might seem like a modest chain, Close says, “Surprisingly, we find ourselves as the largest independent chain of music stores in Oregon. Who saw that coming?”

Ranch Records recently opened in its new Salem location on High Street, the sixth space it’s inhabited, from its most recent spot on Liberty Street. Close says he moved because the old space was larger than he needed and the heating bills were enormous.

“[The] place was a little run-down," Close said. "There was an oil burner in the basement from the '50s. Heating oil got so expensive last year it was costing me $1500 a month to heat it.”

Kit estimates that about 90 percent of his stock is rock and roll, with a little bit of jazz, blues and hip-hop making up the other ten percent.

Music released on vinyl records has had a recent resurgence, Close says. With the move, Ranch Records has cut back on CDs to focus more on records.

"It’s what all music stores are doing these days. If you want digital music, you just download it off the Internet really cheap. We still sell a lot of used CDs, but new CDs are almost going away. I don’t want to pay $16 for a CD. We’re bringing in a lot more records than we used to. Plus, I’ve been stockpiling records for the past 20 years and we’re starting to break into those.”

The appeal of vinyl records, Close thinks, is that it’s like a piece of art.

"It’s like books or anything else. It’s something you can hold. When you play records you’re more connected to the music because you have to get up every 20 minutes and turn the record over! You put CDs on, sometimes they just become background. I have a six-changer CD player and I won’t change the CDs for a week.”

According to Close, records aren’t cheap, and even more expensive than CDs. But he doesn’t think people mind paying the extra money because of the artwork that you get to see on a record.

Some records are being released on extra-thick, 180 gram vinyl that can run from $30-$40, but Close is convinced that the sound quality is “absolutely” better than a standard vinyl record. In the '90s, vinyl was dying out. CDs were hyped as what would make vinyl obsolete. New records were still being made, but the punk and underground music scenes were what kept the medium of vinyl records, especially singles, alive. One of the claims about CDs (espoused by the makers of CDs) was that they were a lot more durable than records. Close agrees.

“When they came out, they said that CDs were indestructible. But that’s absolutely not true.”

Ranch Records doesn’t try and compete with mainstream music stores.

On the future of recorded music, Close says, “the days of selling 20 million records are over. Bands are going to have to rely on touring, T-shirts, and merchandise and stuff to make a living. There’s a lot of other ways for bands to make money these days. Commercials have become huge. Bands come out and do commercials before they’re even known. People come here all the time, ‘what’s that song on that so-and-so commercial?’ There was a day when we looked down on bands for doing that though. We were idealistic; it was the '60s.”

Album Cover Art

Let's continue our look at Gigwise.com's list of the top 50 dirtiest and sexiest album cover art, this time #21 (Gigwise comments in quotes):

21. Sebastien Tellier: ‘Sexuality’ – "Released just this year, Tellier’s ‘Sexuality’ dissects the subject of sex with almost unparalleled aplomb. It was only natural then that the record’s cover should be a sexed up beast. Tellier’s very own “sexual fantasy”, it features the singer aboard a horse straddling a massive naked female form – complete with pert nipples and pubic hair. Lovely."

This album is absolutely fantastic. I've admittedly been a fan of Monsieur Tellier ever since "La Ritournelle" first graced my ears a few years ago, but now he's delivered his masterpiece with this albums worth of fantastic songs! It's been produced by Daft Punk's own Guy-Manuel De Homem Christo so it's got that way sexy French electro touch to it whilst retaining Tellier's touch of fragility. With this album Tellier's gone from making super cinematic, lush orchestral pop music to achingly romantic, retro-futuristic electronic pop complete with ooahs and aahs dripping in synths and body heat. The best sonic aphrodisiac you'll find all year! (Amazon.com review)