You can write off this medium of music storage as an anachronism at your peril, Cats. I noted various recent stories in the meeja stating that sales of vinyl LPs are at their highest since the medium was declared (finally) dead upon the advent of the compact disc format in the eighties. Thirty-three and third, indeed.
I’m not so much interested in the physical storage medium as the “concept” of an album. Sure, vinyl LPs were a more physical phenomenon given their size and the sheer laboriousness involved in playing the bloody things, not to mention their susceptibility to damage and the maintenance of extremely specialised equipment such as the stylus. My friends who still maintain (or are expanding) their vinyl collections seem to revel in these inconveniences rather than bemoan them. Another one of life’s great mysteries, it seems.
Vinyl LPs also resulted in an emphasis on the artwork, which served multiple purposes. A signal to prospective buyers as well as a keepsake reminder if the musical contents proved more than adequate. Many rock music aficionados denounced the transition to CDs solely because of the reduction in size of the artwork.
When I first started splashing out my own money on albums they were not only expensive but a potential source of much regret if most of the contents were, shall we say, less than musically satisfying.
Which brings us to the most important aspect of this post. Albums that contain no filler, the bane of many a vinyl enthusiast until CDs allowed both random access and the programming of the listener’s favourite tracks.
Lou Reed was the first “artist” (I’m aware of) to refer to an album as being ideally listened to in one sitting, as if it were a book or a movie – New York, 1989, an album played extensively on my Walkman (Cats, does anyone seriously miss cassettes?) when in Manhattan in 1993.
Off the top of my head, two of my favourite albums of all time include “Sparkle in the Rain” (1984) by Simple Minds (the second side is truly spellbinding) and Ed Kuepper’s monumental “Honey Steel’s Gold” (1991).
Anyway, here are the two featured albums for this post, both of which have a visual component and both of which feature no filler.
Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
Barely scratching the surface (although thankfully, not of a bloody vinyl LP). Looking forward to seeing the nominations of various Cats – so go for it, you know you want to!