Benham column: CDs no match for grooves of vinyl albums


Benham column: CDs no match for grooves of vinyl albums

| Monday, Mar 12 2007 5:45 PM

Last Updated: Monday, Mar 12 2007 5:58 PM

Recently, I bought a record player. Not a DVD player, a tape player, a CD player, or an MP3 player, but a record player.

One of those things that has a platter the size of a dinner plate, a little round nub in the center that secures each record and an electronic arm with a needle at the end.

Like many people over 50, I have a collection of records that has fallen into disuse as each technological innovation has buried the one before it.

I know smart people, musically adept people and relatively affluent people who have replaced their albums with CDs and dumped the records.

I'm being dumb, really. The sound is better with CDs. They are easier to store. However, replacing records with CDs seems disloyal. It's one thing to buy a CD you've never owned before, but the memories tied up in records do not transfer easily.

In other words, it wasn't just the music. It was the act of playing the music. Selecting the album, sliding the record out of its cover, placing it on the player, lifting up the needle and setting it gently on the line of the song you wanted to play.

There was something hypnotic about playing a record. Mesmerizing about watching it spin round and round. When the needle went down, the good times began.

"Let me play this song for you. I think you'll really like it."

The album covers were part of the mystique. They were large, dramatic and sometimes absolutely incomprehensible. Incomprehensible gave you something to do while you were listening to the album.

Shopping for music was more fun back then. When you picked up an album, you really had something. It's similar to the way an old- fashioned phone feels in your hand as opposed to a cell phone, which is always in danger of disappearing.

"Dad, did you know that you can scratch with this record player?" said my musical older son.

Why would I want to scratch? Scratching is bad. We were programmed not to scratch. Think about all the records you ruined or you thought you ruined by having the needle skip across the record.

"That's what the DJs do now," he said. "They scratch and they mix."

No, I didn't buy this thing so I could scratch or mix. I bought it for my wife, because there are a few memories in those albums for the both of us.

I got it so I could play DJ at home for the youngest child. Before long, he will be on his way. It's important that he be steeped in music. Music is protection. It can remind you of where you came from and why it's good to return.

The first album I played was The Stylistics' "Betcha By Golly, Wow." You talk about wanting to go home. Is there anything more inviting than the soaring falsetto of lead singer Russell Thompkins Jr.?

Next up, the late Hoyt Axton singing with a very young Tanya Tucker. Duets don't get any better than that.

Looking ahead, we have Jackson Browne, early Joan Baez and The Seldom Scene.

I know they sound better on CD, but they don't sound the same.

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