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December 23, 2010

2010: The Year I Fell in Love with Vinyl

It all started with some found records in my basement, a wanted ad on craigslist, and a birthday present.

I was helping my mom move from our hometown of Huntington, on Long Island, to Houston Texas. While going through the many things in our dungeon of a basement I found a bunch of really great records. I asked if they were hers and she said no, so I assumed them to be the last owners of our small three bedroom rental house. I decided to call my dad in Seattle about the find and told him all the great albums that were left behind. “What makes you think they aren’t mine?” he asked.

After finding out they were my dads I felt a little better about taking them along with me up to school. I'd always been interested in vinyl and had wanted to give it a try, but I needed a push in the right direction. These found records were the catalyst to my love affair of searching, finding, buying, and listening to vinyl records.

I had put out a wanted ad on craigslist that I was seeking a record player. I got a few responses, but they were all asking too much for too little. Then this guy emails me about this all in one record player that he’s looking to get rid of. It had built-in speakers as well as an 8-Track player which I thought was hilarious. The price was right and it seemed like the perfect record player to get my foot in the door. It ended up being a great player, aside from the fact that the needle was pretty worn and a lot of the records would skip in certain spots. It had no counterweight or a way to adjust the tracking, but it was good for what it was.

I was given an early birthday present by my father, possibly the greatest present I have ever gotten, in the form of the Music Hall USB-1 turntable. It’s a beautiful turntable with a built-in pre-amp and a great cartridge. You can rip your albums onto the computer with it, but I’m not too interested in that right now. I bought an inexpensive amp and some great but cheap speakers and my vinyl setup was complete.

It’s hard to describe to someone not into music as much as me why I love vinyl and what attracts me to it. Just being able to have the music on a tangible object that you can watch spin as it spits out music is something that only true music lovers can appreciate. I wouldn’t say the sound quality is necessarily better, especially on more worn records, but that is not what I am really concerned about.

To me vinyl is music. From the larger-than-life album artwork, to the grooves in the record showing you where the music is, vinyl is something to behold. Buying a vinyl album makes me feel like I actually have the album, maybe due to its size or the weight of it. If you have an album on vinyl, you can truly say that you own that album. Not just the music, but the album. And there’s no way to get that feeling across to someone who doesn’t own a turntable. It’s truly a beautiful thing.

Over the past few months I have spent a lot of money on LPs. My favorite place to look for records is at thrift stores or Salvation Armys. I've found some amazingly great records there, including Bob Marley - Live, Pink Floyd - The Wall, Michael Jackson - Thriller, Crosby, Stills, & Nash - Self Titled -- just to name a few. And the most I paid for any one of these albums was $2. There’s nothing greater than finding a gem in a thrift store. The next best place to look for records is an obvious one: on the Internet. I've gotten albums online that I didn’t even know existed in vinyl format.

It’s truly amazing how many artists are putting their stuff out in vinyl these days, and the number is only growing. Today, any self respecting musician, band, rapper, DJ, etc. puts out their albums on vinyl as well as the other methods. It is making a strong comeback and I am glad that it is. It’s funny how many of our parents and their parents probably saw vinyl as a quickly dying music form, and rightly so given the advancements in technology since then, especially CDs and MP3s.

Yet, it hasn’t died and shows no signs of doing so. Vinyl is by no means the easiest or simplest way to listen to music. In some aspects it may not even be the most enjoyable given the fact that you have to turn a record over to continue it and therefore can‘t listen to the album without interruption. Over the course of writing this I’ve had to turn over and change records a few times and each time I use the dust brush on each side in order to keep the record dust free. But you know what? I don’t mind. It’s an unconditional love that I have with my records, and like I’ve said, it’s almost impossible to describe. Like any relationship you take the good with the bad, and when the good outweighs the bad by a lot, you know you have a long lasting and fulfilling relationship ahead of you.

I hope that more people start getting into vinyl as it gains popularity with the younger generations. If anyone else out there is into vinyl like me, I’m always eager to talk about it so shoot me an email anytime. Also, keep an eye out for vinyl album reviews. I’ll be reviewing both older and newer albums since I have a plethora of albums from a lot of time frames and musical genres.

For all the music lovers out there, I've compiled a list of my favorite vinyl albums. These are not in any particular order, just the order that they happened to be in my box of records. I welcome any comments from vinyl and non-vinyl listeners alike.

Here are some of my favorites:


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