Record Store Geek

Seven Reasons Vinyl Really Is Better Than CDs

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Only the Very Best Make the Vinyl Cut

CDs are the most important part of the strategy, but they don't constitute the highest level of the collection. The highest level is vinyl.

You see, if an album is really, really important to me (Abbey Road, Kind of Blue, Derek and the Dominoes, etc.), then I buy the record, too.

That's right -- if you check out my collection, you can spot my all-time favorite music because I've got the CD, the files, and the LP.

I listen to digital music a majority of the time, but the time I spend with my vinyl is special to me. Because there's just some things about vinyl that can't be beat.

Seven things, to be exact.

1. Time Constraints. We used to have a rule at the store: Don't play more than eight songs by any given artist. Why? Because that's just about the perfect amount in one sitting . . . for any artist. Once you get into that range, you're nearly always ready to move on to something else.

Albums allow for roughly four or five songs on each side, which fits perfectly into this theory.

The increased capacity of the CD seemed like a good thing at first -- and by all means, it can be great -- but more often than not, it's led to the inclusion of inferior songs from the recording session and diluted the overall quality of an artist's release as a result.

In other words, seven great songs out of 10 is a damn good album. Seven out of 18 . . . not so much. The time constraints of the album forced artists, labels, and producers to filter out the shit, and we all benefited.

2. Sides I miss sides. Sides offered another level of creative depth to the artist, and often times defined albums for me. As the album grew into an art form, the very best artists seemed to learn how to group songs with sides in mind, like two little sets.

Sides were oftentimes distinct entities, and often a long way from each other in quality, and those differences contributed a great deal to my perception of each album as a fan.

So long as one side was good, you didn't feel like you'd been ripped off. I don't know how many times my friends and I had this conversation -- this side is great, that side sucks.

If at least one side wasn't worn out, you could still listen. I still think about a number of albums (Led Zeppelin IV, Toys in the Attic, Boston) where side one was loaded with hits (of which I tired quickly) and side two literally saved the album for me.

3. Artwork This is a real no-brainer. The LP brought us one of the great bonus benefits of rock 'n' roll: album art.

I spent a lot of my youth staring at all the intricate details of my albums, and I'm still doing it today. Visual and audio art come together to give you a total package. Not just the covers . . . the packaging, the liner notes, the whole works.

But, boy, do I love those covers. A quick walk around my home "art gallery" reveals framed covers by Dave Brubeck, Getz and Gilberto, Dylan Thomas, and Primal Scream (not to mention about 15 rock posters; my wife is very cool to indulge me.)

CDs just don't compare -- because hey, when it comes to visuals, bigger is usually better.

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Steve Wiley
Contact: Steve Wiley