Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy Record Store Day

Back in January, my son Jonny celebrated his birthday with a party for friends at our house. It was a gleeful sort of chaos to have nine boys running around, playing games, and generally being loud and obnoxious. One room is totally devoted to music. I call it the conservatory, which is a little uppity, but that's what it is. We've got the upright piano, my guitars and ukelele, an amplifier, a tom tom and snare drum (albeit lacking stands), and, organized in alphabetical and chronological order, my record collection.

Without a doubt, the most mysterious item to these kids, other than the bar soap in the bathroom, were these records. They were even more mystified by the cassette tapes and a few didn't even know what a CD was for. This is truly the digital age of music storage, where entire collections are kept on portable hard drives and MP3 players. This is a sad state of affairs.

These kids will never know the concept of a concept album, a collection of songs that must be listened to together to be appreciated as a thematic whole. They will never sit on the floor and read liner notes or be mesmerized by trippy album art as they listen to their tunes. Songs and artists are throwaway commodities today. The ease and access of information is unprecedented, yet the quality and depth of the music has suffered. Quick, quick, quick. On to the next thing.

And because of data compression, the aural quality of music has suffered. MP3s sound tinny and flat to even an untrained ear like mine. I've compared a vinyl recording to the CD on the same sound system and there is a noticable difference in sound quality. To use beer as a metaphor, an MP3 is a macro brew American Adjunct Lager. A vinyl LP is a craft brew Belgian Ale. Both are beers. But, man, what a world of difference.

After I post this blog, I'm heading up to Rockford to go to Toad Hall to celebrate Record Store Day. There will be live music, sales on used vinyl and new releases by modern artists that are released just for this day. For those who still cling to the ease and portability of MP3 technology, almost all new vinyl releases have a card with a web site and access code so you can download the album you just bought in that format as well. This allows you to compare for yourself and discover the superiority of vinyl.

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