A couple of articles in the Guardian about the supposed demise of vinyl as a transportable medium for recorded music got me musing. What follows is an expanded version of what I commented on one of those articles.
Vinyl collections are heavy, take up valuable storage space and are definitely not suitable for regular moves, whether across town, country or continent. So I’ve ‘lost’ two collections entrusted to others I’ve now lost touch with.
I never had a CD collection ‘back home’ because that was a new format when I set off on my worldly travels back in ’85. However, I had bought one CD as a leaving present for one of those now lost friends: the Dukes of Stratosphear’s 25 O’Clock
When I arrived in Jakarta I’d brought with me a few cassettes of favourite albums and radio shows which I felt would ‘do’ for the short time I expected to stay here. Once settled in Jakartass Towers 1 however, I started to replace much of my lost but not forgotten music with cassettes and CDs, while exploring the immense variety of Indonesian music on offer.
More recently, and particularly because a couple of years ago in Jakartass Towers 2 I got broadband installed, I have managed to replaced much more of the ‘lost’ but remembered music with CDs and downloads.
However, I do miss long-player albums for one thing alone: not the scratches and warped vinyl, but the sleeves.
The size of LPs gave opportunities to artists, some of whom were a reason for buying albums in the first place: Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis (Pink Floyd), Roger Dean (Yes +), and Peter Cross, the designer of Anthony Phillips albums.
(Actually, I have only ever bought the first two Yes albums which didn’t have sleeves by Roger Dean, but I’m sure you get the picture.)
Sleeves with widgets such as the Stones’ Sticky Fingers (one of many designed by Andy Warhol) and the first Soft Machine album, and gatefolds, particularly the first Hatfield and the North album, added to the pride of ownership.
So did inserts, such as a Pete Frame family tree.
For a very large size, right click here, copy link and open in a new tab.
Certain record labels consistently capitalise on the power of a good sleeve: ECM springs readily to mind. Then there were the added pleasures: reading the sleeve notes and then later, when browsing record stores, spotting the names of producers and engineers on the reverse side and perhaps discovering another artist worth following.
The advent of CDs in the mid-eighties put a stop to much of that, and also another recreational pursuit which generally enhanced the listening experience … rolling Rizlas with substances from war zones. (Never mind though; by then, we all had frisbees.)
One particular theme comes across among the comments on the Guardian article I mention above: that playlists have become predominant. Apparently it’s all to do with iPods, Spotify and other paysites determining what you ought to be listening to based on what you have listened to.
Man cannot live on snacks alone; such a diet is not healthy.
Albums, whether recorded in a studio or on a concert stage, have generally been cooked up beforehand and thus through their forethought have a cohesion, a flow which creates an ambiance to fit a mood or an occasion.
When I’m working, such as I am now seeking a conclusion to this blog post, I need to dampen, if not nullify, the sporadic intrusions of life outside my private space. Hence my title.
As I post this online, I’m listening to a Terje Rypdal gig* from his Skyward Tour, recorded at the Kreativhaus in Münster, Germany, on March 10th 1999.
I downloaded it from one of these blogs which offer unreleased concert recordings and. discontinued, otherwise unobtainable, albums:
– Live Jazz Lounge
– Musica degradata
– Jazz Boot Experiment
– Jazz Pianists Expedition
*As a taster, a mere morsel, listen to this track from another gig in the Skyward Tour.