Saturday, September 19, 2009

Vinyl — it's the new crack

While IMing a co-worker yesterday, I typed the following question: "Do you think I should pick up the 'picture' vinyl version of 'Thriller'?" His response: "You're out of control."

"Here's some advice: create a record budget, and only spend that," my helpful co-worker told me. "We may need to detox you."

Yes, people are trying to intervene. Ever since I bought my turntable, I can't stop buying records.

The context of the above convo is that a few of us had just gone for an innocent lunch at a Greek place around the corner from the office. Afterward, one of my co-workers suggested a stop at Newbury Comics. (For those not of New England: that's a music/comic book store — these days, mainly music.)

Things started out pretty harmlessly. I picked out and paid for a relatively cheap ($13) 45 of two "Billie Jean" remixes (the Dirty Funker remixes). But while my friends were browsing in books, I drifted back to those tempting vinyl bins.

If only I hadn't come to the "W"s. There I succumbed to the siren call of two irresistable discs: Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black," and the White Stripes' "Elephant," one of my all-time favorites. At $18 and $40, these buys kicked the cost of the afternoon up a significant notch.

Later on, someone pointed out that I already had "Back to Black" and "Elephant" on my iPod.

"Yes," I said, "but I only have them as MP3s." After receiving a blank stare, I explained, "MP3s are OK, but CDs sound better, and at the top is vinyl." Another blank stare and my friend dryly asked, "Where do tapes fit in?" Ah, I know such wits!

So how are my Newbury purchases? Pretty good. The "Billie Jean" remixes are awesome, and both Amy and the White Stripes sound fantastic in vinyl form.

My one slight complaint: "Back to Black" and "Elephant" are probably the first albums I've ever bought that were not recorded with vinyl in mind. As such, the song arrangements don't fit quite as nicely onto sides A and B (and, in the case of "Elephant," C and D) as well as compositions that were conceived of with vinyl in mind. Particularly with "Elephant," I think the album probably plays better start to finish with no breaks. Still, the vinyl sound quality is unmatchable.

The album art is also beautiful, especially on "Elephant." Some of the same art also appears in the CD liner notes, but the colors and effects are different there. For example, the cover of the record is a much darker red than you see on the CD liner notes.

Just to explain, the reason I have the "Elephant" liner notes but not the CD is because, at my last job, the disc disappeared one night from the CD player in my cube — whether by a case of theft or irresponsible borrowing, I never found out.

Anyway, I also love the picture of Jack and Meg dancing. In the CD notes, this is a black-and-white shot.

Exciting as these purchases were, I've decide to lay off for a while. Luckily, I still have one more hit coming before I go cold turkey; about a week ago, I ordered some remixes of the MJ tunes "Bad" and "Blood on the Dance Floor" from a British web site that specializes in "classic, rare, and deleted dance music."

I love the "deleted" specialty. How could I possibly resist great dance music that's sitting in someone's Recycle Bin, about to disappear forever!?

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Copyright 2009-2010 by Sasha Sark. Please don't reuse without permission.
"West African Dark Blue Cloth" image is displayed courtesy of the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery at St. Lawrence University.