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Back Into Vinyl-Land: Part Three

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If you’re interested in hearing more about tables, arms, and cartridges from me, you will have to wait another month. This month, it’s all about the music. There are two things I’m certain of after three months of listening to vinyl.

First, I prefer vinyl to digital by a larger margin than I have ever dreamed. Does this mean I will never listen to digital? Of course not; it just means that I listen now to a lot more vinyl than digital. Second, for me at least, half the fun of starting over in vinyl has been discovering what a large wealth of great music there is out there on vinyl. I know there are people who say good vinyl is drying up, but I have just found it not to be the case. So far I’ve purchased and kept about 300 LPs, which works out to about 100 per month that I have kept. Of those 300, only about 50 are new. Where do I find the used ones and how do they sound? Well, those are pretty easy questions. I have found them at friends, used record stores, second hand bookstores, and on-line.

And, how do they sound? Well, over half of them sound better than the brand new ones. About 25 percent sound pretty good, but have some clicks, pops, and noise. To my surprise, noise on LPs doesn’t bother me as much as I remember. Unless it’s really bad, it doesn’t seem to be part of the music. Then, about 15 percent are a little noisier, but still very enjoyable. About 10 percent of them must have been played to death with a stack of pennies on top of the headshell, but I still want them for the music until I can find a better copy.

When I made my first trip to Rasputin’s in Berkeley and Saturn’s Records in Oakland, I was worried about how the records I purchased would sound when I got home; but I was so surprised to find out how good two-dollar records could sound like. In fact, I paid just two dollars for an original pressing of Rickie Lee Jones that sounded better than the half-speed master one in my friend’s collection. Add to this, that it was as quiet as a CD, making it quite the bargain. So let me share with you a few of the LPs that have made it all worthwhile for me for the last few months.

First would be a little Bluegrass or DAWG music on an album on the Flying Fish labels.

Norman Blake/Tut Taylor/Sam Bush/Butch Robins/Vassar Clements/David Holland/Jethro Burns

It starts out with ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ and then moves on to ‘Sauerkraut and Solar Energy”. You will never hear a better stand-up bass. This is great music and great sound. It truly comes to life. I had to pay ten dollars for it, but worth every penny.

Joan Baez – From Every Stage

Maybe this is not her most famous album, but it’s an incredible acoustical event. Two discs full of great hits, performed live and beautifully. Cut after cut just drew me into the performance. I got it for two dollars and it’s as quiet as any record I own.

Opus 3 Test Record One TESTSKIVA 1

Truth is, any of the early Opus 3 records in their plain tan jackets are just incredible. The pan flutes on this record are just unbelievable. The small jazz band numbers are wonderful. The solo cello will really let you know how quick your bass is and just how much stored-up colored bass energy you speakers have. Don’t overlook these great records. You can find them for five dollars up to sixty.

Of the new record I have purchased, these two are by far on the top of my list of favorites. I had never heard Belafonte sing with a small jazz set before. I don’t know if you would really call it Blues, but it’s great Jazz.

I love Ray Brown’s music. I heard him live at Yoshi’s the last time he was there before we lost him. I don’t know how I had missed this recording. I also have several albums of Almeida’s guitar music. Almost all the cuts are just the two of them, and it is magic. The first song starts with over 30 seconds of ‘Moonlight Sonata’ being played beautifully on the guitar by Almeida; then Brown comes in with Monk’s ‘Round Midnight’. It may not sound like it would work, but oh how it works. It is simply compelling.

Well, here are a few of the reasons I got a turntable; there are literally thousand of others. Fellow Beatniks, get out there and find the good stuff and keep on bop’n.

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