This is an “album,” or a “long playing record,” kids.

23 07 2012

My personal feeling about vinyl records is that they are cumbersome, not particularly portable, sound awful when scratched, and generally inferior to compact discs. I know many audiophiles will disagree, but that’s where I stand. Still, there’s nothing like an LP for functional, 3 dimensional musical art. I’m glad vinyl is making a big comeback, for that reason alone. I found this Smokey Robinson & The Miracles album at a pawn shop in Hastings, Michigan, and just had to have it. One, the vinyl is pristine. Two, it’s a nice – though slightly campy – piece of Motown art. Three, you just can’t get albums like this on CD. It seems like all that can be found out there are bad “best ofs” and lousy compilations that have the same 5, 8 songs that always get radio play. I hope to soon give this a spin. I betcha it’s a solid album.


Vinyl records sales still on the rise

12 08 2011

This is hardly shocking news to anyone who follows music closely.  But it is still interesting to hear repeated that vinyl records sales continue to climb.  In an age where the album as a unit is virtually dead and more and more people — including the 30 and over crowd — jokingly ask, “CD? What’s a CD?” it’s kind of cool to see an old format revived.

I’m not sold that vinyl sounds better than CD’s.  I suppose that depends on the system, the turntable, the condition of the album, the speakers and the production quality of the record itself.  But I do understand why people find records to sound more genuine.

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Shuffling and short attention spans: the death of the album

5 12 2010

During recent conversations I’ve been in online regarding pirating copyrighted music — mostly through free file-sharing software — I’ve learned that younger music fans do not see unauthorized free downloading of songs as stealing. They justify it several ways:  1) some artists put out their albums free online and then use they tours to make money (which is dumb since you can make royalties long after you are nursing home and wheelchair bound);  2) the music industry is behind the times and we’re just “forcing them to change their antiquated business model”; 3) you older folks used to make mixed tapes of song.  We’re just doing the same thing digitally.  Of course, that ignores that the guy that made the mixed tape bought both the blank tapes and the cd’s from which songs were borrowed and copied to tape.  One tape was made especially for a girlfriend.  We didn’t have 4000 guys come over and burn the CD or songs from it.

Perhaps I’m straying far afield.  The idea is that the mindset of the younger — teen, early 20-something — fan has changed dramatically.  They readily, almostly gladly, declare that “the album is dead.”  Downloading is great because people don’t listen to albums anymore.  We just go out and find the songs we like and mash them all together in whatever for or fashion is suitable at the moment.

“Nobody listens to albums anymore.  We just listen to individual songs.”  That statement, made by one of the piracy defenders, really jumped out at me.  I grew up in the day of the album.  After the Beatles, pop artists and rockers were expected to put out an album full of good material, with 2 or 3 strong singles to boot.  A great album, even if it wasn’t a concept album, was tied together nicely with some kind of common movement or even a loose theme.  With some notable recent exceptions — Gorillaz Plastic Beach — albums only exist to contain a lot of songs.  Their utility seems less obvious, particularly since only the hits tend to have any value.

I’ve been asking, “How did we get to this point?”  The Beatles made the album a work of art and thereafter the album was the standard.  It was like that until the late 90’s, at least. If a band didn’t have a decent album to put out, its career would die in the water.  Lack of album material lead to an endless stream of one-hit-wonders. “How did we stray back to the pre-Beatles days when only the song — or 2 or 3 — mattered? To answer that, I came up with a crazy theory that is a bit chicken-and-egg.

Shuffling — The earliest CD players had shuffle functions so that you no longer had to listen to an album in sequential order.  You could mix up the songs with the press of a button, a feat not easily completed with a phonograph or cassette player.  Single disc CD players soon became 100 disc carousel players.  You could store over a thousand songs in your multi-disc player and put them on shuffle.  That was the precursor to the digital music player with shuffle functions.

Short attention spans — Kids won’t admit it, but their constantly moving minds won’t permit them 47:30 necessary to listen, start-to-finish, to some great old classic rock album.  Oh, some of the young whippersnappers today like classic rock…but only in one song bites.  Everything’s been given to them in sound bites.  Why shouldn’t music only be in short bursts?  One Beatles or Stones song is enough for now.  It’s time to move on to Kings of Leon or Jay-Z.

If you have a short attention span, why would you try to fall in love with an album cover to cover?  Just get your hands on the song that your friend played for you, download it, and move onto the next fresh track.

Because kids these days don’t listen to albums, I theorize that “artists” no longer try to make them.  It’s as if we’ve come full circle.  In the early rock early, especially just before the Beatles broke in England and the States, pop artists made records full of filler, 10 crappy songs to justify selling a 12 inch platter for 2 songs.  Singles, of course, were what most kids bought, but record companies push long players to squeeze more money out of the kids.

Albums still exist today, but they’re full of filler.  They’re made for old farts (like me) that still see that albums are the measure of a band’s talent.  To me, if you can’t put together 12 solid songs, I’m probably not interested in the 1 or 2 groovy tunes you’ve managed to get on the radio.  People like me buy CD’s, but we are select in what we get. They’re also made to sell to the little kids that don’t know better and who haven’t figured out that only 2 songs are worth listening to.  Those little kids don’t use their own money for music; it comes from the old farts still buying albums.


Puttin’ it on wax in Motown

3 05 2009

Until today, I had no idea that vinyl records are made in my hometown, the Motor City.  The May 2, 2009, Detroit News ran a feature article on Archer Records Pressing company which manufactures vinyl records.  Apparently the company is one of maybe a dozen companies in the entire world:

It is unclear how many record-making companies still exist. Web sites count between eight and 10 worldwide, and three to five in the United States.

Check out Archer Records Pressing’s website

Apparently the techno music scene in and around Detroit has help keep the company going.  There is no mention of it in the article, but I wonder if small companies like this are hired to press vinyl for major label releases.  Vinyl is making something of a comeback and lots of artists these days seem to want their music on vinyl.

This is just one more example of why Detroit is and has been a major player on the world stage of music.

Chopping up the White Album

7 01 2009

white-albumMojo The Magazine (one of my favorites) website has an interactive feature, “Towards A One-Disc White Album.”  Here’s the link.

The premise is based on George Martin having said (see the Anthology video series) that the White Album should have, in his opinion, been made into a really good single album instead of the double album that was issued.  The Mojo feature asks you, the fan, to craft the White Album as a single disc.  Sounds like fun.  It also sounds like a daunting task.  I figured I would take a stab at it here at The Sound of the Pounding.

My White Album will be issued on vinyl, like in the good old days, and will have two sides.  If I had to shrink this great record to one platter, I would give it 9 songs per side and it would probably look like this:

Side 1

  1. Back in the U.S.S.R.
  2. Dear Prudence
  3. Glass Onion
  4. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  5. Happiness is a Warm Gun
  6. Why Don’t We Do It In the Road
  7. Blackbird
  8. I Will
  9. Julia

Side 2

  1. Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey
  2. Revolution #1
  3. Yer Blues
  4. Obla-Di-Obla-Da
  5. Sexy Sadie
  6. Martha My Dear
  7. Long Long Long
  8. Cry Baby Cry
  9. Helter Skelter

I played a bit more with the song order on side 2 than on side 1.  I like the idea of bookending the album with two of McCartney’s heavier numbers.  The album should start and end on high notes with bluesier songs (like Yer Blues or Revolution # 1) and ballads (Julia, I Will, Martha My Dear) sandwiched in between.

The only right way of doing this is to not do it at all.  The White Album is one of the greatest collections of songs in rock history.  The fans got a real bargain to get all that variety in one set.