Saturday, March 20, 2010

Vinyl records make a comeback in a big way

The Virginian-Pilot
© March 11, 2010
By Carrie White

In Neil Friedman's beautiful Norfolk home is a room that makes his wife, Abby, roll her eyes.

Two large speakers, a turntable and several other pieces of pricey electronic equipment are the focal points. Vinyl record albums - some 30 years old, some brand new - are stacked up against the wall and lie all over the floor. In the center of the controlled chaos is an easy chair, just begging for someone to sit in it.

In that room, after setting the stylus down on a favorite album - be it Meatloaf; Crosby, Stills, and Nash; Pink Floyd; or Fleetwood Mac - Friedman obliges the chair and wiles away an evening, the bass resonating so deeply that the carpet vibrates. Closing his eyes, he lets the music wash over him and envisions the musicians onstage.

A few years ago, Friedman, 65 and co-founder of Friedman Associates Insurance Planning, rediscovered vinyl records, and he experiences them in his "music room."

Vinyl is making a comeback. Nationwide, vinyl record sales in 2009 were 2.5 million, the highest sales level since Nielsen SoundScan started keeping track in 1991. That figure also is up 33 percent from 2008.

Barry Friedman (no relation to Neil), owner of Birdland Records, Tapes and Discs in Virginia Beach, has enjoyed the upturn.

"People first started buying vinyls again for collectibility," he said. "They would pull the album out and frame it and the cover. But there has been a big jump in the last two to three years. When the economy started going south, I noticed people were pulling out their turntables. They could buy used vinyl for $2 in places. You bring in a 20 dollar bill and walk out of here with ten albums."

Doug Crane, owner of American Oldies Records in Newport News, said: "This is really the second resurgence. The first one was 15 years ago with rap and hip-hop - scratching and sampling records. The vinyl scene exploded then."

American Oldies Records has always sold a lot of vinyl, he said, and even its sales have increased 10 percent from two years ago. "People are coming back in droves."

CDs and other forms of digitalized music offer clarity and convenience, said Barry Friedman, who has owned Birdland for 32 years and has been in the music business for 40. CDs and MP 3 players don't have pops or skips. They don't warp, scratch or wear out as easily as vinyl. They are portable and can be played almost anywhere, and they can play music almost endlessly - no need to flip them over for the B-side.

However, vinyl lovers such as Neil Friedman say records have a warmth and tonality lacking in CDs. "It fills up all the senses," Friedman said. "My best thoughts come when I'm listening to music (on vinyl) because everything else is blocked out."

J.R. Salomonsky, a 13 -year-old student at Great Bridge Middle School, agrees. "Vinyls have a better tone. With CDs, the instruments sound distant. On the turntable, the instruments sound like they are in the living room. I used to think I knew the music, but when I listened to something on vinyl, I heard so much more. For instance, in the Beatles' 'White Album,' in 'The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,' there is a Spanish guitar in the beginning, but I'd never heard it. On a CD, it just got lost when they remastered it."

Neil Friedman explained that with a vinyl record, using analog recording technology, the smooth arc of the original sound waves can be reproduced. However, digitalized music is chopped up. I t re-creates the original sound wave in tiny increments - like stair steps.

"Digitalized music is harsh," he said. "If you play it loudly, after listening to it for more than an hour, you'll get a headache. But it's not really a headache, but an earache. You don't get that with vinyl."

Vinyl listeners also talk about the "Zen" of listening to vinyl.

Barry Friedman said: "It's slowing life down. It's sitting down with the record, taking it out of its sleeve, using cleaner on it, putting it on the turntable and watching it spin around. It's kind of a neat thing to do."

J.R. said: "It's more comforting. You don't see a CD spinning when you play it. Looking at the turntable is relaxing."

Neil Friedman said the occasional pops and the white noise between cuts on vinyl are part of the experience. They are strangely evocative, making listening to vinyls a visceral experience.

Caring for vinyls also is part of the hobby. He recently lugged several boxes of vinyls from his attic. He is looking forward to organizing them and remembering the exact details of their purchase and his history with them. Some of the newly discovered albums are slightly warped, and he has found a recipe online for "baking" out the warps in the oven, with the vinyl pressed between two pieces of heavy glass.

Two basic types of listeners are responsible for the vinyl renaissance, Barry Friedman said: audiophiles, such as Neil Friedman, and teens and 20 -somethings into classic rock, such as J.R.

Audiophiles tend to be older listeners who finally have the income needed to pursue what can be an expensive passion.

"I've been working since I was 13 and never had the time or money when I was young for listening to music seriously," said Neil Friedman, who described himself as "an old rocker" with a taste for classic rock.

"I'd been wanting to do this for years, but with two kids in college, I couldn't. Now I can." Friedman called his own system "on the very low end of high end." He spoke of one of his audiophile friends whose sound system costs $180,000.

The resurgence among teens is a little different, Crane said. "Vinyl is hip and cool. The packaging is fun. A lot of young people are into it now. It's a collectible that you can play."

In terms of total music sales, vinyl is still a drop, Barry Friedman said. Vinyls, new and used, comprise about 5 percent of his total sales, "which is up from 0 percent two or three years ago! It's a big jump, but it won't supersede anything."

J.R. said few of his friends appreciate vinyl. "Friends who don't understand vinyl only know that rappers scratch it," he said. "They ask me, 'Dude, can I scratch your records?' "

His answer is a resounding "No!"

Neil Friedman agreed: "No one really understands this. There are only a few people who enjoy music the way I do."

He doesn't despair that he won't convert his friends, though. He plans to add a second chair in his music room.

Copyright 2010  Reprinted By Permission

“Money, It’s a Hit” - Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’

Released this month in 1973, ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ remains one of the most enduringly popular albums ever. Here’s our look at the legendary album:

Pink Floyd convened in Abbey Road studios in the summer of 1972 as a band reinvented. After replacing key member Syd Barrett with Dave Gilmour four years earlier, the band had re-grouped and moved away from the psychedelic leanings of the Barrett-led era and entered a period of their career which many would later look back on as one of the most creative and influential of all time.

Barrett-era Pink Floyd

During the Sixties, Pink Floyd had been at the forefront of the Psychedelic movement, and had released a clutch of classic singles including ‘See Emily Play‘ and ‘Arnold Layne‘. However, by the time the group’s second album ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets‘ had been released in June 1968, Barrett had left Pink Floyd, with the band citing his erratic behaviour and use of drugs as the reason for his departure.

As the band released ‘Atom Heart Mother‘ in 1970, their gradual change of direction was becoming apparent, but they struggled to gain any genuine critical acclaim during this period. It wasn’t until the release of ‘Meddle‘ in October 1971 that the band truly began to find their feet as they moved into what became known as Progressive Rock. With all the band contributing new ideas in the studio ‘Meddle‘ showed to the world that Pink Floyd had a future, and even though reviews remained mixed, the group was well on it’s way to the sound and mind-set which would see Pink Floyd become one of the biggest bands in the world. It was undoubtedly ‘Meddle‘ which pointed the way to ‘Dark Side Of The Moon‘.

The first seeds of ‘Dark Side Of The Moon‘ were sown when the group began tentative rehersals in a studio borrowed from the Rolling Stones in Bermondsey, London. As Roger Waters would later recall, the sessions were relaxed to say the least, but despite the laidback approach, the wheels for Pink Floyd’s next studio album had been set in motion. After the foundations had been laid, the band moved on for rehersals at the Rainbow Theatre, and they subsequently took their new work out on the road before taking it into the studio.

Abbey Road studios

As with the trend set on their previous LPs, when the group began work on their new material in Abbey Road it was very much a collaborative effort. All members contributed to the desire to explore new sounds and ways of recording. The pattern of experimentation mirrored the work done by The Beatles in the same studios during their ‘Sgt.Pepper‘ sessions five years previously. As with that record, there was a collective will to try new things, to push boundaries, and to make use of everything that became available to them in the studio. The band’s plan to have a central idea running through the record also echoed the efforts of The Beatles, or more accurately Paul McCartney, while recording ‘Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band‘. But unlike The Beatles, Pink Floyd saw the idea through, and the unified themes running throughout the album, an idea first mooted by Roger Waters in the earliest meetings regarding the new LP, make it recognised as one of the first fully realised concept records.

Recording began on the 1st of June with ‘Us and Them‘, and it soon became clear that the band were willing to try virtually anything to achieve the sound they wanted. So it was that Roger Waters used recordings of him throwing coins into a food mixing bowl on ‘Money‘, while the band and engineers spent hours getting clocks to chime in sequence while recording ‘Time‘. Use of synthesisers and other early electronic equipment also dominated the sessions, and became a prominent part of the resultant album.

After a break, they returned to the studio in January 1973 for more recording sessions. During this final period, the band enlisted the help of four female singers, Doris Troy, Lesley Duncan, Liza Strike and Barry St.John, who recorded backing vocals on ‘Brain Damage‘, ‘Eclipse‘ and ‘Time‘. Alongside Clare Torry’s improvised take on ‘The Great Gig In The Sky‘, the singers added further layers to the LP and, together with the famous harmonising and double-tracking of Richard Wright’s and Dave Glimour’s vocals, helped to give the album it’s distinctive rich quality.

Dark Side Of The Moon’s iconic status was further enhanced by the choice of sleeve, which is now one of the most recognisable covers in history. Under strict instructions from the band to produce something ’smarter’ than their previous efforts, the group’s long-term art design team Hipgnosis were again picked to work on the packaging. One of the group’s members, Storm Thorgerson, is credited with the famous Prism design, after being inspired by a photograph that he had been shown during discussions regarding the artwork. In the end, Pink Floyd were presented with seven ideas for the album’s cover, and all were immediately unanimous in picking the Prism. With the songs, production and now brilliant sleeve design all finished, ‘Dark Side Of The Moon‘ was ready to hit the shelves.

The 'classic' Pink Floyd line-up: (l-r) Nick Mason, Dave Gilmour, Roger Waters, Richard Wright

With much stronger support from their record label, ‘Dark Side Of The Moon‘ was released initially in the US and later in the UK to a much more positive response from critics and became an immediate smash hit. It went Gold in the UK shortly after it’s release, and hit the top spot in the US just over a month later. As Capitol Records continued to push the album in the US, backed by radio-edits of ‘Us and Them‘ and ‘Time‘ as well as the single ‘Money‘, which perfectly displayed the quirkiness of the album, the units continued to pile up. Famously, the album went on to spend an incredible 741 weeks on the Billboard Top 200, and is now one of the best selling of all time, with total world-wide sales estimated at over 45 million.

As the accolades continued, the four members of Pink Floyd began to feel uneasy with the runaway sales of ‘Dark Side Of The Moon‘, a mood which would be addressed on the 1975 follow-up ‘Wish You Were Here‘, and they struggled to come to terms with their sudden world-wide fame and commercial status. Later, Richard Wright would recall his thoughts on the record’s achievements:

“…the only criterion we have about releasing music is whether we like it or not. It was not a deliberate attempt to make a commercial album. It just happened that way. We knew it had a lot more melody than previous Floyd albums, and there was a concept that ran all through it. The music was easier to absorb and having girls singing away added a commercial touch that none of our records had.”

Released at the height of Glam Rock, ‘Dark Side Of The Moon‘ brought so-called Prog Rock into the mainstream and ushered in an era of huge experimentation, and ultimately over-indulgence, from a succession of bands throughout the Seventies. When the Prog Rock era is looked back on today, it’s clear one of the triumphs of ‘Dark Side Of The Moon‘ is that it stays on the right side of the line, and is able to experiment and use heavy themes without slipping into the over-blown, self-gratifying state which would later dominate Prog, and keeps in touch with the basic requirements of quality and melody. These are ideals which were quickly lost on their peers, and which would lead to the explosion of Punk Rock just four years after ‘Dark Side Of The Moon‘, when young bands rebelling against the bloated state of Prog replaced 30 minute keyboard solos with 30 minute LPs.

With ‘Dark Side Of The Moon‘, Pink Floyd achieved that very rare feat - marrying innovation and creativity in the studio with phenomenol commercial success. It’s a combination which makes this album one of the great success stories in rock history.

(Dave Smith)

Copyright 2010  Reprinted By Permission

Music News & Notes

At The Gates Announce Limited Edition Live Album on CD and Vinyl

Swedish death metal pioneers At The Gates recently released "The Flames of the End", a three-disc DVD set including the band's 2008 Wacken performance, through Earache Records. Now, Earache is due to release "Purgatory Unleashed - Live at Wacken", a standalone CD and vinyl LP release of the same iconic Wacken show, on Monday, March 22nd.

The set features 18 live tracks of classic At The Gates songs from the band's legendary performance at the Wacken festival in Germany in 2008. Mixed by TUE MADSEN (VADER, WINDS OF PLAGUE), "Purgatory Unleashed" sees AT THE GATES in possibly their best form yet and bowing out at the top of their game.

The limited edition first pressing of the "Purgatory Unleashed - Live at Wacken" CD includes a free AT THE GATES woven patch, plus a free band member signature guitar plectrum, and comes housed in a special slipcase.

The album is also available on limited edition double vinyl LP, which comes housed in a gatefold sleeve and includes a free AT THE GATES poster. The vinyl version is available in the following, strictly limited colours:

Black and Green mix vinyl - 100 copies
Yellow vinyl - 200 copies
Light Blue vinyl - 300 copies
Black vinyl - 1400 copies


U2 To Release New Remixes Album

Irish supergroup U2 have unveiled plans for a new album of remixes called ‘Artifical Horizon‘, it is due to be released on May 14th. The limited edition triple-vinyl album features 13 songs remixed by some of today's top DJs and producers, including Influx, Justice and Hot Chip. Even Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor makes an appearance with a new version of 'Vertigo.' The collector's set is similar to 1995's 'Melon: Remixes for Propaganda,' which was a fan club exclusive.The record will feature mixes of three unreleased tracks, which are ‘I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (Live U2360 Remix)’, ‘City Of Blinding Lights (Hot Chip 2006 Remix)‘ and ‘Get On Your Boots (Fish Out Of Water Mix)‘.

Full tracklisting:

‘Elevation (Influx Mix)’
‘Fast Cars (Jacknife Lee Mix)’
‘Get On Your Boots (Fish Out Of Water Mix)’
‘Vertigo (Trent Reznor Remix)’
‘Magnificent (Falke Radio Mix)’
‘I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (Live U2360 Remix)’
‘Beautiful Day (David Holmes Remix)’
‘Staring At The Sun (Monster Truck Remix)’
‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun (Danny Saber Mix)’
‘Get On Your Boots (Justice Remix)’
‘City Of Blinding Lights (Hot Chip 2006 Remix)’
‘If God Will Send His Angels (Grand Jury Mix)’
‘Staring At The Sun (Brothers in Rhythm Ambient Mix)’


Ryan Adams To Release Heavy Metal Album

Alt-country singer Ryan Adams has announced plans to release a heavy metal album and end his year-long hiatus in order to issue the record this month. Adams also uploaded "Electrosnake," a taste of the forthcoming full-length LP and asked fans to vote on whether they would consider buying the LP.

He wrote: "We're going to begin pressing Orion - my most legit Metal record - on vinyl next week. Have a listen to the song below and let us know if you'd be interested in purchasing one."

Following over 70,000 votes last weekend from fans affirming that they would buy the album, Adams posted an update on his Facebook page.

He said: "Unreal, 69,567 people want a copy. That's too many, but still... It's so cool getting to figure out what the manufacture numbers are before you go to press. The future, y'all!"

Adams has released two books of poetry and short fiction during his extended break from music.


fun. Free Download and New Single

New York based three-piece fun. are set to release their double A-side debut single ‘Walking The Dog’ / ‘Be Calm’ as a limited edition 7” vinyl, on March 29th through Friends Vs Records. These two tracks are taken from their forthcoming album 'Aim & Ignite.' 'Aim & Ignite' will be released on Hassle Records with exclusive bonus content on May 31st. Download a preview track from the album at - ‘At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)’.


GORGOROTH's 'Quantos Possunt Ad Satanitatem Trahunt' Finally Released On Vinyl

GORGOROTH's latest album, "Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt", is now finally available on vinyl, in two different versions! The regular vinyl edition, which includes a poster, is released by Regain Records, whereas the picture disc version is released by Forces of Satan Records. Both versions are strictly limited pressings.

The regular vinyl edition should be available from all major retailers. As for the picture disc, information on how to get hold of this will be posted in due time at this location.


Early Neil Young albums re-released on vinyl

Neil Young's first four albums, "Neil Young" (1969), "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" (1969), "After the Gold Rush" (1970) and "Harvest" (1970), have been re-released in a limited pressing.

Warner Bros. is selling them as a limited-edition box set for $150. Only 3,000 will be sold worldwide, according to a Warner Bros. Records Web site (, and they are pressed on 180 gram vinyl at Pallas FG/Germany, described by Warner Bros. as the world's premier record pressing plant. Each album and box are individually numbered in gold foil stamp.

Also available for the less costly $85: a gold limited-edition numbered CD box set of the four albums. Only 3,500 of those will be sold, Warner Bros. says.

This Date In Music History-March 20


Jimmie Vaughan - Fabulous Thunderbirds (1949)

Carl Palmer - Emerson Lake and Palmer/Asia (1951)

Poison Ivy, (Kristy Wallace) - The Cramps (1953)

Blues singer Marcia Ball (1954)

Jimmy Seales - Shenandoah (1954)

Slim Jim Phantom - Stray Cats (1961)

Tracy Chapman (1964)

Adrian Oxxal - James (1965)

Shelly Poole - Alisha's Attic (1972)

Alex Kapranos - Franz Ferdinand (1972)

Chester Bennington - Linkin Park (1976)

They Are Missed:

Born on this day in 1937, Jerry Reed, country guitarist, (1971 US #8 single "Amos Moses"). Worked with Chet Atkins, Bobby Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley. He died on Sept 1, 2008.


"Your Hit Parade" made its debut on radio in 1935.

Bobby Rydell made his first TV appearance, on "American Bandstand" in 1959.

In 1960, Elvis Presley started his first recordings since being discharged from the US Army. A 12 hour session in a Nashville recording studio produced his next #1 single, "Stuck On You." Scotty Moore and Bill Black, who had quit Presley's touring band in 1957, were in the studio with him for the last time.

Elvis Presley started a two week run at #1 on the US singles chart with "Surrender," his fifth #1 of the 60's. It also went to #1 in the UK. The song was based on the 1911 Italian song, "Return To Sorrento."

Ricky Nelson recorded "Hello Mary Lou" in 1961 (his father, Ozzie plays tenor guitar on the record while celebrating his 55th birthday).

In 1964, the Beatles appeared live on the UK television program Ready Steady Go! miming to "It Won't Be Long," "You Can't Do That" and "Can't Buy Me Love." They were also presented with a special award from US magazine Billboard, in recognition of The Beatles having the top three singles on the chart simultaneously.

A parade was held in London in 1965 before Martha Reeves headlined the first Motown tour of England (also featuring Stevie Wonder, the Supremes and the Temptations).

In 1968, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Richie Furay and Jim Mesina, were arrested in Los Angeles for 'being at a place where it was suspected marijuana was being used.' Clapton was later found innocent, the others payed small fines.

In 1969, John Lennon married Yoko Ono at the British Consulate Office in Gibraltar. They spent their honeymoon in Amsterdam campaigning for an international "Bed-In" for peace. They planned another "Bed-in" in the United States, but were denied entry. The couple then went to Montréal, and during a "Bed-in" at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel recorded "Give Peace a Chance." Lennon also detailed this period in The Beatles' "The Ballad of John and Yoko," recorded by Lennon and McCartney on April 14, 1969.

In 1971, at their own expense The Rolling Stones placed full page advertisements in all the UK's music papers disclaiming any connection with the release of the Decca album 'Stone Age' saying 'in our opinion the content is below the standard we try to keep.'

Also in 1971 - The Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” slipped off the Billboard album chart after a 138 week run.

Janis Joplin started a two week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1971 with the Kris Kristofferson's "Me And Bobby McGee." Joplin died the year before on 4th October (age 27).

Ringo Starr released "Back Off, Boogaloo" in 1972.

Lou Reed was banned from appearing The London Palladium in England in 1977 because of his punk image.

T Rex played their final ever gig when they appeared at The Locarno in Portsmouth, England in 1977.

In 1980, 28 year-old Joseph Riviera held up the Asylum Records office in New York and demanded to see either Jackson Browne or The Eagles. Riviera wanted to talk to them to see if they would finance his trucking operation. He gave him-self up when told that neither act was in the office at the time.

Joan Jett And The Blackhearts started a seven week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1982 with "I Love Rock 'n' Roll." The song had been a B-side from 60's bands The Arrows.

Gloria Estefans tour bus was rammed by a tractor-trailer on the way to a concert in 1990. Emilio Estefan and their son Nayib were injured; Gloria suffered a serious back injury, which required an operation two days later.

In 1991, Eric Clapton's four year old son, Conor, fell to his death from the 53rd story of a New York City apartment after a housekeeper who was cleaning the room left a window open. The boy was in the custody of his mother, Italian actress, Lori Del Santo and the pair were visiting a friend's apartment. Clapton was staying in a nearby hotel after taking his son to the circus the previous evening. The tragedy inspired his song "Tears in Heaven."

Michael Jackson signed a $1 billion contract with Sony in 1991, the richest deal in recording history.

While on tour in Peru in 2006, Carlos Santana slams the United States' decision to wage war in Iraq. "I try to present a dimension that brings harmony and healing. My concept is the opposite of George W. Bush," says Santana. "There is more value in placing a flower in a rifle barrel than making war." That would make them hard to shoot....

In 2007, founding Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship singer-guitarist Paul Kantner was sued for trademark infringement by former band mate Grace Slick and ex-manager Bill Thompson. Kantner, who often performed with fellow Airplane/Starship member Mary Balin, used the Jefferson Starship moniker in apparent violation of a '85 settlement. Slick and Thompson let it slide until Kantner’s band crossed the line, at least according to the plaintiffs, by signing a lucrative sponsorship deal involving Microsoft.

In 2009, Smashing Pumpkins announce that drummer Jimmy Chamberlin has left the group. The departure leaves frontman Billy Corgan as the only remaining original member. "I can no longer commit all of my energy into something that I don't fully possess," Chamberlin writes online. "I won't pretend I'm into something I'm not. I won't do it to myself, you the fan or my former partner [frontman Billy Corgan]." A Pumpkins' statement says, "Corgan will continue to write and record as Smashing Pumpkins."