Photo by Jim Hannon
Chris James puts a vinyl recording onto a USB turntable that is connected to his computer.
I would like to thank the TimesDaily newspaper (Florence, Ala. http://www.timesdaily.com/) and the author Russ Corey for the exclusive rights to republish this interesting article:
The return of vinyl
Vinyl records see re-emergence in Shoals
By Russ Corey
Chris James may have grown up during a time when the vinyl record was being replaced by the CD, but like a lot of young people, he's rediscovering why vinyl records were so popular in the first place.
There are numerous articles on the Internet trumpeting the return of the vinyl record and how it continues to increase in popularity even as overall album sales, mainly CDs, continue to slip.
James was first introduced to vinyl records by his parents, who had a collection that included The Doors and Three Dog Night.
"That's really how I started liking music in general," said James, bass player for the local alt-rock band Lauderdale.
Vinyl records have a more natural sound and more room to provide listeners with liner notes and album artwork. While they might not be as prevalent in record stores as they once were, you can find vinyl records in used record stores, flea markets, junk stores, online and at live shows.
"You can get into different kinds of music that way, too," James said.
Shoals-based recording artist Jason Isbell said he insists a new album includes a run of vinyl records when he's negotiating a record contract.
"Listening to vinyl as a kid was such a ritual," Isbell said. "You had to actually physically maintain your record player; you had to flip (the record) over from side A to side B."
Even though there's only one side to a CD, Isbell said he arranges the tracks on his albums with an ending to what would be side A and the beginning of side B.
Many say the sound of a vinyl album has a warm sound as opposed to the sometimes "brittle" sound of a CD.
Patterson Hood, a former Shoals resident and founder of the rock band Drive-By Truckers, also is a fan of vinyl because it provides the best sounding and best looking way to own music, he said.
"It sounds better than CDs or MP3s," Hood said. "While it doesn't have the convenience of the MP3, some people still like to listen at home and have a physical format."
Most of the Truckers' catalog is available on vinyl, and the vinyl version of their upcoming release, "The Big To Do," will include an extra track that will not be included on the compact disc version.
"It's a good one, too," Hood said. "I included three extra tracks on the vinyl version of my last solo album this past year."
And like many artists, the new album will include a CD version of the album so it can be downloaded to an MP3 player or listened to in a car CD player. Vinyl albums also provide a larger medium for artwork than a CD.
"There's just the aesthetic aspect to it," Isbell said. "You can hang a record on your wall; you can put them on display in your house. I believe in quality artwork on record covers."
Jamie Barrier, songwriter and guitarist for the Pine Hill Haints, Rise Up Howling Werewolf and The Wednesdays, has released his bands' music on vinyl for years, on both 12-inch LPs and 7-inch discs.
Barrier's Arkam Records has 40 releases, 80 percent of which were 7-inch and 12-inch vinyl records. "I sell more of it every year," Barrier said. "There's a certain type of market of people that never quit listening to it."
Even when vinyl lost its mass appeal, fans of punk and alternative music expected vinyl releases.
Barrier agrees that in many cases, people want something tangible to complement their digital downloads.
Logan Rogers, president of Lightning Rod Records in Nashville, said care has to go into estimating how many vinyl records an artist might sell. "It's a more expensive process, so we definitely have to be fairly realistic about what you can sell," Rogers said. "You don't want to manufacture too many."
Lightning Rod released "Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit" on CD and vinyl. Rogers said the vinyl version is a double-LP that includes a copy of the CD.
"If you pick up the LP at the store or at the concert, you can immediately stick the CD in your car and listen to it," he said.
Eli Flippen, owner of Pegasus Records, Tapes and CDs in Florence, has been selling new and used vinyl records for years. Flippen said he stocks as many LP versions of new releases as he can.
Used record sales have been strong, especially classic rock from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles are some of the most popular, he said. High school and college students hearing vinyl for the first time are detecting differences between the LP and MP3 versions of the songs.
"People kind of realize that the old analog warmth is more pleasing," he said.