Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sharing in the Vinyl Groove

It's easy to get swept back into the world of analog by adding turntables and a slew of cheap records to your audio rig.

by Arlen Schweiger   

This website ( is usually for discussing new technology. Recently, though, I rediscovered an old technology that still qualifies as new for many readers, and one that I can’t recommend enough as an addition to your audio system, especially if you consider it mid-to-high end: vinyl.

A Sony turntable I bought 10 years ago served me well at the time but had long been removed from my theater system when I got lazy about replacing its bum needle. Plus I’d become enamored with surround sound. But thanks to some electronics and speaker upgrades, and reading constant vinyl evangelism from Stereophile’s thirtysomething (my age) blogger Stephen Mejias and his “Elements of Our Enthusiasm,” the analog bug began biting again.

(Click here to see a slideshow of some analog goodness:
But aren’t turntables, cartridges and needles the kind of pricey gear that only so-called “audiophiles” invest in, you’re thinking? Yes, there are many types of ’tables, and cost can quickly escalate well into the thousands.

This time around, I figured I’d start at the very entry level. After a $50 Technics turntable find on Craigslist and $100 Cambridge Audio phono preamplifier purchase (you’ll need one if your processor or receiver lacks a phono stage), I wasn’t into the vinyl experiment for much money.

Plus, there are several respectable turntables in the sub-$400 range should I decide to upgrade. In fact, Mejias moderates the Stereophile forums, including an “Entry Level” thread with a sticky post called “Since this comes up a lot. Turntables under or $1,000” with all kinds of great turntable suggestions.

As much as I enjoyed spinning records 10 years ago, the analog epiphany really cold-cocked me this time. Perhaps my job as a custom electronics writer/editor has given me a greater appreciation of sound quality (especially when it comes to hearing demos at tradeshows), but listening to old LPs through this new setup was nothing short of nirvana. It didn’t matter that some albums crackled more than Rice Krispies—the instruments also snapped and popped a whole lot better, too.

Even while lacking the “golden ears” of some reviewers, it was easy for me—and my wife—to hear the differences between CD and vinyl versions of songs. The vinyl soundstage was wider, instrumentation was more defined, bass was tighter, hi-hat drum cymbals were thicker and livelier, and dynamic range was fuller. “I wonder if more people would the like music they say they hate if they listened to it this way,” my wife said after I forced Yes’ prog classic Roundabout on her.

And record hunting is almost as fun as record playing. I’ve bought LPs purely for the artwork; some include fancy lyrics booklets; Bookends came with a giant Simon and Garfunkel poster! You can discover gems at flea markets, tag sales, the Salvation Army and, if you’re fortunate, a local record shop. At Divinyl Revolution in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., this weekend I picked up 14 albums for $24.99, the majority of which cost $1—or the equivalent of a single, compressed song download from iTunes.

Not to mention that when I went to the Craigslist seller’s home to pick up the turntable, he gave me a small stack of records, including perhaps the most listened-to LP of all-time, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, with a sweet Dark Side pyramids poster up its sleeve. How’s that for good karma?

We know records have been making a comeback in recent years, to the point where Best Buy has added shelf space for vinyl and artists are appealing to younger-generation listeners by releasing vinyl albums that include free digital downloads of the same in MP3 format.

Of course, it’s places like Divinyl Revolution that predominantly keep the format alive and well. Even in summer tourist destinations like Saratoga, record shopping is a year-round excursion. “This is the only place like it, for about 40 miles in each direction,” explained super-cute shop proprietor Brittany Nasser, who’s kind of the anti-Jack Black in High Fidelity. “We have a bunch of loyal customers who can’t wait to hear what just came into the store.”

I’ll look forward to visiting again next summer.


Special thanks to author Arlen Schweiger for the exclusive rights to reprint this article.

About the Author:
Arlen Schweiger - Managing editor of Electronic House Magazine
Arlen contributes product news items to along with his role on the print publication. Got a tip? Send it

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: By my count, Chubby Checker made at least five hit songs with a twist theme: “The Twist”; “Let's Twist Again”; “Twistin' USA”; “Twist It Up”; and “Slow Twistin'” (with Dee Dee Sharp).

This got me wondering if anyone ever had more different hit records using the same specific topic.

A certain dance would be okay, but not dancing in general. Also excluded should be limitless generic themes, such as love; kiss; blues; summer; Christmas; etc.
—Elise Marsh, Patterson, N.J.

DEAR ELISE: Even though you shortchanged Chubby a bit, missing “Teach Me to Twist” (with Bobby Rydell) and “The Twist (Yo, Twist)” (with the Fat Boys), his seven twist hits are but a proverbial drop in the bucket compared to Cal Stewart's dominance in this interesting challenge.

For more than a quarter-century (1898 - 1924), this famed singer-storyteller entertained the nation with his homespun humor.

Most of Stewart's tunes and tales involved the endless adventures of Uncle Josh (Weathersby), a made-up character from the imaginary New England town of Punkin Centre.

By the time Cal told his last “Uncle Josh” story, his body of work included over 150 different 78 rpm records, 30 of which appeared in the Top 10. That fact alone is astounding. In the past 60 years, only three artists made more appearances in the Top 10: Elvis (38); Madonna (37); and the Beatles (34).

Since Uncle Josh is the recurring topic, and his name is always included in the titles, he is the specific theme that makes Cal Stewart the answer to your question.

We can't list them all, but here are a few examples selected from Cal's amazing body of work:

“Uncle Josh and the Fire Department”; “Uncle Josh and the Lightning Rod Agent”; “Uncle Josh's Arrival in New York”; “Uncle Josh at a Baptizing”; “Uncle Josh at a Baseball Game”; “Uncle Josh at a Camp Meeting”; “Uncle Josh at Delmonico's”; “Uncle Josh at the Circus”; “Uncle Josh at the Dentist”; “Uncle Josh at the Opera”; “Uncle Josh at the White House”; “Uncle Josh Buys a Victrola”; “Uncle Josh Buys an Automobile”; “Uncle Josh Has His Photo Taken”; “Uncle Josh's Huskin' Bee Dance”; “Uncle Josh in a Cafeteria”; “Uncle Josh in a Chinese Laundry”; “Uncle Josh in a Department Store”; “Uncle Josh in an Auction Room”; “Uncle Josh in Police Court”; “Uncle Josh in Society”; “Uncle Josh on a Bicycle”; “Uncle Josh on a Fifth Avenue Bus”; “Uncle Josh on a Street Car”; “Uncle Josh on a Trip to Boston”; “Uncle Josh on a Trip to Coney Island”; “Uncle Josh on a Visit to New York”; “Uncle Josh on the Radio”; “Uncle Josh on Wall Street”; “Uncle Josh Patents a Rat Trap”; “Uncle Josh Playing Golf”; and “Uncle Josh Takes the Census.”

DEAR JERRY: I just watched a wonderful show called “Sisters of Swing,” about the Andrews Sisters: Patty, Maxene and LaVern.

I know LaVern died first, but when did the other two pass away?
—Connie Davidson, York, Pa.

DEAR CONNIE: Not being familiar with “Sisters of Swing,” I have no idea whether or not they gave the impression all three sisters are deceased. If so, they are mistaken.

LaVerne Sophia Andrews, a contralto, was the first-born of the girls. Born July 6, 1911, she succumbed to cancer May 8, 1967.

Soprano Maxene Angelyn Andrews, born January 3, 1916, died October 21, 1995 after a massive heart attack.

The sole surviving sister is 92-year-old Patricia Marie Andrews.

Patty, a mezzo-soprano and lead singer of the trio, was born February 16, 1918.

IZ ZAT SO? Though they have no hit records to their credit since the summer of 1951, the Andrews Sisters continue to rank as the all-time top-selling female pop vocal group.

The exact numbers vary depending on the source, but estimates of about 600 recordings made, resulting in approximately 100 million records sold, are probably not far off.

Just in the U.S., this trio of Greek-Norwegian ancestry hit one chart or another with around 125 hits, more than anyone in the modern era except Elvis Presley, with at least 165.

Along the way, Patty, Maxine, and LaVern found time to appear in 17 feature films, a silver screen output that tops any other singing group, female or otherwise.

Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column. 
Write Jerry at: Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368
Visit his Web site: 
All values quoted in this column are for near-mint condition.

Copyright 2010 Osborne Enterprises- Reprinted By Permission

Music News & Notes

Incubus' Brandon Boyd Releases Solo Album, The Wild Trapeze

Incubus Heads Back Into The Studio

NEW YORK, July 6 /PRNewswire/ -- With a career that's spanned almost two decades, six albums, a handful of EP's and DVD's and a Greatest Hits album which has chronicled it all under his belt as lead singer of the multi-platinum selling band Incubus, Brandon Boyd and Epic Records are pleased to announce the July 6th release of Brandon's first solo album entitled, The Wild Trapeze. Fans can purchase a limited edition CD that ships with a personal letter and T-shirt featuring hand drawn artwork by Brandon at The album is also exclusively available digitally on the iTunes Store.

"This group of songs was born of a very different process than the many my band and I have been employing for our almost two decades at work now. The Wild Trapeze began as pot induced meanderings on my dusty acoustic guitar while Incubus was off of the road, and has slowly been morphing into things that I originally could never have imagined," says Brandon Boyd. "So much of my identity, both personally and creatively has been attached to and related to Incubus. For better or worse! And I do believe that every person in every corner of the world asks themselves at some point on their ride, 'Who am I ... today?' The Wild Trapeze is an exercise in self reliance."

In keeping with Brandon's vision to make this album his very own and what Brandon calls "Music for Music's Sake", he controlled the making of The Wild Trapeze. Brandon penned every track off the album and performed practically every instrument heard. He designed the album's artwork and co-directed the video for track, "Runaway Train" (available at today) with esteemed photographer Brantley Gutierrez. When it came to producing the album, Brandon could think of no one better suited for the task than renowned producer, Dave Fridmann (MGMT, The Flaming Lips) and set forth to record the album in Upstate NY over the past few months.

Up next for Brandon Boyd, another Incubus studio album. The quintet that is Incubus (vocalist Brandon Boyd, guitarist Mike Einziger, bassist Ben Kenney, DJ Chris Kilmore and drummer Jose Pasillas) will head back into the studio later this summer to begin writing and recording a new studio album, tentatively scheduled for a 2011 release.

SOURCE Epic Records


Avenged Sevenfold Releasing 'Nightmare' Vinyl on Old Label

Who says rock stars forget where they came from? Orange County modern metal marvels Avenged Sevenfold have chosen their old label Hopeless Records to release exclusive vinyl editions of the band's new record, 'Nightmare,' which comes out July 27. Back in 2002, Hopeless issued Avenged Sevenfold's debut album, 'Sounding the Seventh Trumpet.'

The vinyl edition of 'Nightmare' is available in six formats, ranging from a standard black double LP set for $18 to a deluxe blood-red colored LP and a T-shirt emblazoned with the band's 'deathbat' logo for $42. The deluxe editions feature blood red 180 gram vinyl in a double gatefold and are limited to 2,500 copies, each individually numbered.


Stone Sour reveals new album cover art

US hard rockers Stone Sour have unveiled the cover art for their new album, 'Audio Secrecy'. The new studio release, and follow-up to 2006’s ‘Come What(Ever) May’ is due to hit stores on September 7 through Roadrunner Records.

Stone Sour premiered a new song entitled ‘Mission Statement’ last month, which can still be heard on the group’s MySpace page.


Billboard Chart Topping Artist Blake Lewis Releases Vinyl Format Of Recent Album, Heartbreak On Vinyl

A Limited Edition Set of Personalized Vinyl to Be Made Available with Exclusive Content

American Idol alum and beat-boxing sensation Blake Lewis will release his newest album, appropriately named Heartbreak on Vinyl, on the highly popular vinyl format with a wealthy of new, never before released content, it was announced this week. Lewis, who recently topped Billboard’s Hot Dance Airplay Chart and the Dance Club Play Chart at #1 with the title track “Heartbreak on Vinyl,” will sign, hand-number and personalize each of the only 500 available Limited Edition Double LP copies sold. The album, pressed in a unique red vinyl, is currently available for pre-order at  and will be delivered to customers beginning August 3rd.

In addition to the personalization of each LP, Lewis is offering a slate of new content with each purchase including free instant access to the digital album, 13 remixes of the chart-topping single “Heartbreak on Vinyl,” and free membership to his VIP Opendisc site. The VIP Opendisc site offers exclusive content from Lewis including video messages, promo videos and “making of” clips, interactive Q&A sessions, remixes, bonus audio and track by track commentaries and much more. To top it all off, by the time each LP is delivered, those who purchased it will also receive a free MP3 of an unreleased track “’Till We See The Sun.”


Hendrix Digital Bootlegs

Rare Jimi Hendrix bootleg catalog has gone digital. Here is the announcement: Experience Hendrix LLC today announced that releases on its official 'bootleg' Dagger label are now available for digital download for the first time in the company's history.

Dagger Records was founded in 1998 by Experience Hendrix to provide fans of the legendary guitarist with exciting, never before released studio recordings, home demos, rare interviews and unforgettable live performances. Each album in the acclaimed series provides new insights into Jimi's remarkable creativity.

Experience Hendrix LLC CEO Janie Hendrix encapsulated the label's history, "With my late father's blessing, Dagger Records was devised as an avenue to fulfill the requests of the 'deep' Jimi collectors and worshipers for recordings beyond the 'core releases' such as Electric Ladyland, Are You Experienced and the recent Valleys of Neptune. Dagger material is certainly of great historical significance but might not have been recorded most optimally, a situation that mandated the establishment of a specialty imprint to ensure that consumers are treated as fairly and as honestly as possible."

Prior to Dagger's founding, an underground market existed for Jimi Hendrix recordings that was rife with expensive, poorly annotated bootlegs, often of questionable quality. Dagger releases offer inspired live performances and revealing home and studio recordings that are highly valued by Hendrix cognoscenti. As has been the case with physical releases since its inception in 1998, Dagger's digital assets will be available exclusively at Dagger's digital catalog of 11 albums is offered in high resolution (320kpbs) MP3 format that are DRM free.

Janie Hendrix recalled, "Before we were able to get back the rights to Jimi's music, I used to see a lot of bootleg albums and I, too, was one of the victims of high prices and shabby product. It really made no sense [considering] that we have a whole vault full of Jimi Hendrix material to not make much of it available to enthusiasts on our own terms in a transparent way. Obviously, not all of the material is of the commercial and sonic quality of the core titles so Dagger was devised as a means to market these recordings honestly to offer new insights into Jimi's creative process for those who are most interested. Our alliance with Sony Legacy launched very successfully with the release of Valleys of Neptune and the re-issue of classic Jimi Hendrix Experience titles earlier this year so it seemed like the appropriate time to take the Dagger catalog into the digital domain."

Dagger Records Catalog releases to date:

Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At The Oakland Coliseum
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At Clark University
Morning Symphony Ideas
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Ottawa
Jimi Hendrix: Baggy's Rehearsal Sessions
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Paris 67 / San Francisco 68
Hear My Music
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At The Isle Of Fehmarn
Burning Desire
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Paris/Ottawa 1968
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At Woburn


'Whole Lotta Love' Cover Artwork Unveiled

SplitScreen Entertainment has revealed the cover art of its upcoming tribute album "Whole Lotta Love: An All-Star Salute To Fat Chicks". Inspired by the art of 19th century painter William Rimmer, the cover is based on Rimmer's most famous work, "Evening (The Fall of Day)". In place of the winged male in the original is a classically Rubenesque female figure, gracefully floating over a tranquil seascape.

The new rendition was created by eminent pop artist Les Toil, known for his bold and beautiful "big-girl" pin-up art (as well as concert posters for the likes of Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette, and cover art for albums featuring NOFX, GREEN DAY and BLINK-182). In addition to serving as the cover of the tribute, the new artwork is also being offered on posters and T-shirts available from SplitScreen Entertainment.

"Whole Lotta Love: An All-Star Salute To Fat Chicks" is scheduled for an August 31, 2010 release and is now available for pre-order directly from SplitScreen Entertainment. The first 500 pre-orders will receive a free instant digital download of "Fat Bottomed Girls", as well as a bonus mini-print of the cover art upon delivery of the album.


ALL ENDS: New Album Artwork, Release Date Revealed

Swedish hard rock band ALL ENDS will release its sophomore album, "A Road To Depression", on October 15 via Nuclear Blast Records. The CD marks the recording debut of the group's new singer, Jonna Sailon, who replaced Emma Gelotte (sister of IN FLAMES guitarist Björn Gelotte) in March 2009.


Ringo Starr Calls For 'Peace And Love' On 70th Birthday
He wants fans to make V-sign...

Former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr has told fans around the world to make the peace sign to mark his birthday today (July 7). Starr, who has turned 70, wants people no matter where they are to make the V-sign at 12pm.

“If you are on a bus or on a boat, at noon just put your fingers in the air and say ‘peace and love’ just for me, that is your birthday gift to me, and this is my gift to you, peace and love,” he said.

At 70, Starr is the oldest surviving Beatle. Singer Sir Paul McCartney recently celebrated his 68th birthday.

Starr is due to perform a special concert at the Radio City Music Hall in New York tonight.