Take this, brother. May it serve you well.
-- John Lennon, Revolution 9
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There are people on Earth right now -- yes, even here in TheStreet offices in the heart of the world's greatest metropolis -- who have never actually held a vinyl LP disk in their hands, have never heard one or even seen one up close.
To those people, I would like to dedicate this list. Record Store Day is coming on April 19 -- the perfect opportunity for you to fill in this blank space in your cultural experience.
Vinyl long-playing records, or LPs, are still the best way to hear recorded music, and the larger packaging (a foot square) allows for a lot of additional artwork and information that make the recording more enjoyable and useful. If you're going to start a physical recorded music collection, it just has to be vinyl.
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As TheStreet's Jason Notte points out, a lot of people are recognizing this aspect, sending vinyl sales up 33% while album sales in general are declining.
New recordings on vinyl or re-releases of famous records may be CDs in disguise, digitally mastered for the newer medium and merely transferred to the old analog format. Recent remasterings of the Beatles albums and much other older music suffer from this fault. Analog mastering techniques can introduce unwanted distortion, so digital remastering isn't necessarily worse. But digital has an inherent flaw in that it relies on sampling, excluding some portion of the audio signal; analog, where the sound is literally etched onto the surface of a record, offers the best chance for the most complete sound recreation.
On the other hand, some new LPs -- not many, but a dreamy few -- are being made using analog techniques, including the Foo Fighters' Grammy winner Wasted Light.
Look for the letters AAA on the LP jacket -- that means recording, mastering and finished format are all analog. ADA means it passed through the digital sieve. Absent those letters, records made before the mid-1970s can be safely assumed to be entirely analog.
My criteria for the selections on this list are pretty simple: Analog LP recordings that are justly famous and culturally significant. That said, the list is admittedly arbitrary. I have squelched my own preference for field recordings and experimentalism, but still tried to present recordings that have authenticity and genuine musical interest. If something of the packaging is interesting too, so much the better.
Audiophiles and music lovers will quibble with my choices, and I applaud that. The more discussion the better, as it only means more good music will get recognized.
You can find many of these titles online far more easily, and generally far cheaper, than in record stores. But use your head: LPs wear out and scratch easily. Covers and sleeves are easily abused cardboard and paper. Hint: A first-issue Beatles album selling for $10 is probably ready for the trash.
As you buy, don't forget to invest in a decent turntable, amplifier and speakers. The best recordings will sound better and last longer on a better system.
Otherwise, take these suggestions with an open mind, create a core for your new record collection and don't be afraid to branch out from there, following your tastes.