Ethical Vinyl 

Vinyl collection, memories restored for Roanoke native

After much agonizing, the man who bought the records at a yard sale sold them back.

Photos by KYLE GREEN | The Roanoke Times

Audiophile Jesse Phillips bought a bunch of vinyl records at a yard sale recently. The woman who was the previous owner of the records said they were sold in error and wanted them back. Phillips was hesitant to sell them back, especially since he took the records out of the crate they were sold in and added them to his collection, which is categorized by genre.


The background

A Roanoke native is about to be reunited with a vinyl record collection she feared she'd lost for good.

Erin Gengo's eclectic collection of at least 100 albums wound up in the hands of Jesse Phillips of Roanoke, who bought it in May for $50. The records were accidentally sold at her mother's yard sale.

On Friday, Phillips returned the records to Gengo's mother, Karen Thompson. And Thompson gave him $100, in 50 sequential $2 bills. Phillips had included $2 bills in sequential order in his payment, but those bills were gone by Friday, Phillips said.

Gengo let him keep two of the albums, including Ida's "Will You Find Me", which Phillips said he had never heard.

"I really like it," he said.

Phillips, an avid record collector, thought he was getting an amazing bargain on an interesting collection.

"She has good taste," he said of Gengo.

But it turned into an ethical dilemma. In a series of e-mails and phone calls with The Roanoke Times, he went back and forth over what he planned to do. At first, he planned to keep them. Then he decided to give back a few that didn't hold his interest.

Finally, Phillips decided it was a question of "pure ethics," he wrote in an e-mail Thursday.

"In the interest of setting a good example, after much prayer, self-exploration, discussion, joining an online ethics forum, and considering the case as objectively as someone can who is mired in it, I will return them for the original cost," Phillips wrote.

Gengo, who lives in Seattle, said she was thrilled at the news.

"I'm pleased that he came around and realized that this was the very definition of an ethical problem," she said.

Phillips bought the vinyl May 17. After reading a story about Gengo's lost records in the June 7 Roanoke Times, Phillips contacted the paper.

The resolution ends some family drama, too. Gengo had been mad at her mother for letting the records get away and with her brother for selling them. Thompson had originally offered $100 for the records' return. Her father, Bob Gengo, said he would pay Phillips' $300.

Phillips said he was not so interested in the family's money offers. But he was interested in Gengo's stories about the albums and what they meant to her.

Gengo, 26, started her collection 10 years ago after her father gave her a record player and some of his old albums. Later records came from friends and boyfriends, and her own trolling through "eBay, record stores, thrift shops and back alleys," she said.

The sale sprang from a series of misunderstandings and mistakes, Gengo's mother and brother said.

Karen Thompson said the records wound up in an area marked off for yard sale items, because a person hired to prepare the house for sale moved them there while trying to create space at her Southwest Roanoke house. Gengo's brother, Adam Thompson, 38, said he didn't know the records weren't for sale. Karen Thompson said she didn't know those were her daughter's records until it was too late.

The sale and resulting bitterness "created a monster in the family, and a lot of hard feelings," Karen Thompson said.

Phillips, 28, wrote that Adam Thompson knew the records belonged to Gengo.

"I asked whose records I was buying and he said they were his sister's," Phillips wrote in the e-mail. "I told him that she may be mad about him selling them, to which he replied that if she had wanted them, she wouldn't have left them in Roanoke."

Adam Thompson doesn't dispute making those remarks, but repeated that he was unaware that the records were not for sale.

One more twist: In an interview for the June 7 story, Gengo said the collection included Bob Dylan's "Blonde On Blonde," Johnny Cash's "At Folsom Prison," and Fugazi's "Steady Diet of Nothing." Phillips, though, said those records aren't among the ones he bought that day. Cash's "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash" is, though.

"Those must have gone the way of all the left socks in the world," Gengo wrote in an e-mail, "although they may still be in my mom's basement."

Golden age of vinyl  


A vinyl turntable worth solid gold!

Philip Wong  |  Jun 11, 2008

My first recollection of these audiophile turntables was during my early hi-fi days. And boy, was the soothing sounds a mesmerizing experience when paired with high-end tube pre-power amplifiers and loudspeakers. The UK's Avid Acutus falls right at the top of the hierarchy with a radical design and matching premium aesthetics. Available in polished chrome or gold-plated finish, it features an elaborate vibration-damping system and a beefy construction.

The US$24,000 kit is also bundled with a smart-looking external power supply. This has universal power compatibility, though we doubt anyone would be crazy enough to jet-set around the world lugging this 19kg mammoth. That said, we've one last burning question. Does the tonearm–that top-right pole thingee–come in optional gold finish, too?

One Little Indian vinyl re-releases

One Little Indian Throws Dirt On CDs' Grave, Reissues Top-Shelf Vinyl

By Scott Thill EmailJune 10, 2008 | 2:53:54 PMCategories: Music News  


Founded in 1985, London's independent lifer One Little Indian has made its name by housing artists from across music's eclectic spectrum. Since then, it has helped break groups as sonically diverse as Bjork and The Sugarcubes, Rocket From the Crypt, Sigur Ros and more. Having survived the ascension of CDs, One Little Indian is now lording over their downfall by releasing nearly 40 titles from its back catalog onto vinyl, using what it claims is a top-of-the-line transfer sure to entice any audiophile looking to burn some cash:

We have employed the newest technology in vinyl manufacturing – Half Speed Direct Metal Mastering. Essentially, the grooves in the record are cut directly into copper metal, greatly improving transient response. Stampers are plated directly from the original master tapes eliminating two of the three plating steps required for lacquers (in short, DMM yields better detail resolution and a lower noise ratio). All the albums are remastered directly from the original master tapes and pressed on heavy weight 200g audiophile discs.

Releases scheduled for direct metal mastering include most of Bjork's solo efforts and all of The Sugarcubes' releases, Rocket From the Crypt's Scream, Dracula Scream, several titles from Shamen and Sneaker Pimps, Cody Chestnutt's Headphone Masterpiece and much more.

Look for this trend to continue as CD sales tank and vinyl sales boom, as Listening Post's Eliot Van Buskirk explained earlier this year. With more and more kids wanting to be DJs, and less and less consumers wanting to get stuck with lame discs, it looks like it's time for vinyl to officially call it a comeback.

Dennis Wilson on deluxe vinyl


DENNIS WILSON/PACIFIC OCEAN BLUE 3LP (BLUE VINYL) function ShowlargeImage(whatimage) { popupWin =, ”, ‘scrollbars,resizable,width=500,height=450’); }//–>


July 2008

Eternal Beach Boy Dennis Wilson's much sought-after 1977 solo album, which Mojo Magazine has heralded as a "buried treasure", returns to circulation on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, and the 25th anniversary of Wilson's untimely death in 1983 at the age of 39.

In 1977, Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue became the first solo LP to be released by a member of the legendary Beach Boys. Dennis, the band’s surfer, drummer and free spirit, emerged from the shadow of his older brother, pop genius Brian Wilson, and shocked the industry with a sound and style unlike any other. Over thirty years later Pacific Ocean Blue remains arguably the greatest solo work by a Wilson.

“In all those years since Pacific Ocean Blue became a rare gem, I have been eager to make it more widely available,” says James William Guercio, producer and owner of Caribou Records, who served then and now as executive producer. “The music that caught the ear of critics and fans in 1977 has fallen from popular consciousness in the last two decades, and it has long been due this incredible treatment. The devotion that the Legacy Recordings crew has shown to both the official album and the huge number of unreleased tracks is a testament to the strength of Dennis’ musical genius.”

This Deluxe Triple LP contains the newly mastered version of the original album plus two additional LPs containing Dennis Wilson’s finest unreleased solo work, including songs intended for his follow-up LP Bambu.

Dozens of musicians and singers collaborated on the Pacific Ocean Blue and Bambu sessions, which took place at numerous studios around Los Angeles, Seattle, and Miami. Original all-star collaborators include Beach Boys Carl Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Billy Hinsche and Ricky Fataar; background vocalists include Karen Lamm-Wilson, Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell of America, Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean, and more!

Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters adds a newly-recorded vocal to the previously unreleased "Holy Man".

"Everything that I am or will ever be is in the music. If you want to know me, just listen." – Dennis Wilson

• Deluxe 3LP
• Blue Vinyl
• Triple-gatefold sleeve
• Newly mastered version of the original album
• Two additional LPs containing Dennis Wilson’s finest unreleased solo work


1. River Song
2. What's Wrong
3. Moonshine
4. Friday Night
5. Dreamer
6. Thoughts of You
7. Time
8. You and I
9. Pacific Ocean Blues
10. Farewell My Friend
11. Rainbows
12. End of The Show
13. Tug Of Love
14. Only With You
15. Holy Man [instrumental]
16. Mexico
Bambu (The Caribou Sessions)
1. Under The Moonlight
2. It's Not Too Late
3. School Girl
4. Love Remember Me
5. Love Surrounds Me
6. Wild Situation
7. Common
8. Are You Real
9. He's A Bum
10. Cocktails
11. I Love You
12. Constant Companion
13. Time For Bed
14. Album Tag Song
15. All Alone
16. Piano Variation on Thoughts Of You
17. Holy Man (Taylor Hawkins Version)

BoxStar Records (New audiophile label)

David Fonn and Larry Marks' new company BoxStar Records! You all know David very well as the man behind Cisco Music for 28 years. Larry was a founder of Acoustic Control Corp. Boxstar may be a new name to LP enthusiasts, but the people behind it have a long musical history. Their first titles include the Vivaldi Lute Concertos from Hungaroton and the first ever 45/2-LP edition of Julie London's famous debut album, "Julie Is Her Name".

Vivaldi / Lute Concertos & Trios

Box Star / Hungaroton 180g LP $29.99
This 1978 Hungaroton record of Baroque music, featuring Daniel Benko and the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, is the kind of recording that is worthy of notice. Listed in Issue #114 of The Absolute Sound by Jonathan Valin on Harry Pearson's Super Disk list receiving "Special Merit: Classical".
Mastered from the original master tape! A thrilling event for lovers of all music!
BoxStar has taken an already exceptional recording to a higher level of excellence. Utilizing the mastering talent of the legendary Bernie Grundman and his all-tube mastering system, this new 180-gram LP, mastered directly from the original Hungarian BASF master tape, sparkles with greater detail, sharper imaging and a better sense of live music making. Pressed on silent HQ vinyl, the music on this record transcends the stigma of early music!
Julie London / Julie Is Her Name, Vol. 1
Box Star / Liberty 180g 45rpm 2LP $49.99

Box Star Records has taken an already exceptional recording to a higher level. Utilizing the mastering talent of the Bernie Grundman and his all-tube mastering system!

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Vinyl Returns in the Age of MP3


Vinyl Returns in the Age of MP3

LP and turntable sales grow as fans find warmer sound in classic format

DAVID BROWNEPosted Jun 12, 2008 2:00 PM

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For his 19th birthday, Simon Hamburg wanted only one present: a turntable for his dorm room at the University of Southern Mississippi. His father bought him a portable $69 model, and Hamburg's older brother chipped in LPs by Simon and Garfunkel and the Who. "Listening to 'Baba O'Riley' on vinyl is always better than listening to 'Baba O'Riley' on anything else," Hamburg says. "You can hear every instrument. It sounds stupid, but it's like you're feeling the music. You're part of it."

As CD sales continue to decline and MP3s are traded without thought, the left-for-dead LP is staging a comeback. In 2007, according to Nielsen SoundScan, nearly 1 million LPs were bought, up from 858,000 in 2006. Based on to-date sales for 2008, that figure could jump to 1.6 million by year's end. (According to the Recording Industry Association of America, CD shipments dropped 17.5 percent during the same 2006-07 period.) Sales of turntables — which tumbled from 1.8 million in 1989 to a paltry 275,000 in 2006, according to the Consumer Electronics Association — rebounded sharply last year, when nearly half a million were sold.

From Bruce Springsteen's Magic and the Raconteurs' Consolers of the Lonely to Cat Power's Jukebox and Portishead's Third, it's now possible to buy vinyl versions of many major new releases at retailers like Best Buy, Amazon and indie record stores. And artists are making their preferences for vinyl known. Before releasing Consolers, the Raconteurs announced that they "recommend hearing it on vinyl." In April, Elvis Costello and the Imposters' Momofuku arrived first on LP, though it included a coupon for a free digital download (the CD version arrived weeks later). "Is it a revolution?" says Luke Lewis, president of Costello's label, Lost Highway. "Fuck, no. But our beliefs have been validated a little bit — not to mention we're making a couple more bucks. It's hard to do that now in the record business, you know."

"Everybody feels last year was a watershed year," says Cris Ashworth, owner of United Record Pressing, the Nashville plant that's one of the country's largest and few remaining. (Around a dozen exist now, down from more than twice that in the Eighties.) When he took over the business in 1989, Ashworth made only a little over $1 million in profit and barely had 10 employees. Today, he employs over 50 and profits have more than quadrupled, thanks to a surge in jobs that included Costello's LP along with pressings of Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero, Ryan Adams' Easy Tiger and independent-label products. "My son was very worried for 10 years," Ashworth says. "He kind of looked at me and shook his head and said, 'Dad, you just ain't livin'.' Now he says, 'Well, maybe Dad's a little bit smarter than I thought he was.'"

Despite the uptick, vinyl remains a niche market. Most new releases, indie or major, sell between 2,000 and 10,000 copies; recent bestsellers include Radiohead's In Rainbows (13,000) and Bob Dylan's 2004 Blonde on Blonde reissue (25,000). The possibilities of future growth are limited: As Matador general manager Patrick Amory says, "There's definitely a ceiling." And thanks to higher fuel prices (oil is used to manufacture plastic vinyl, and LPs are shipped by truck) and the scarcity of pressing plants, an LP can cost as much as $4.50 per unit to manufacture, compared to roughly a dollar for a CD. "There are still reasons not to do vinyl," says Mac McCaughan of Merge Records, which has seen an increase in sales of vinyl releases by Arcade Fire and Spoon. "It's more expensive, it's more complicated, it takes longer. We try not to lose money, but we probably are."

Although technological advances (like the CD) seriously wounded the LP, new technology is now playing a part in its resurgence. Old LPs can be converted to MP3s thanks to a new breed of turntables equipped with a USB port. Numark, one of the leading manufacturers of these models, produced them for club DJs and was surprised when the model took off; the company recently shipped its millionth unit.

Also abetting vinyl's homecoming is a growing disillusionment with CD and MP3 sound. The CD has long been known for its clean but overly bright (sometimes grating) audio. "With vinyl, the range is from accurate to warmer" when it comes to reproducing the original source material, says renowned mastering engineer Bob Ludwig, who has worked with everyone from Springsteen to Nirvana. "With digital, it's totally the opposite: accurate to brighter. The brightness in the digital domain is a sound our ears don't seem to like that much, whereas people don't seem to be bothered by the slight loss of top-end you might get with vinyl." (Ludwig, like others, does separate mastering sessions for CDs and LPs.) The compressed audio heard in MP3s has only exacerbated the trend in audio degradation. "It's taking 90 percent of the music and basically throwing it out," says Ludwig. "It takes the bad part of digital and makes it even worse."

Assuming a record is pressed under optimum conditions and played on a high-end system, vinyl can restore some of those missing sonic properties. When the Doors' Ray Manzarek listened to recent high-grade reissues of the band's original studio albums, he was stunned. "On 'Light My Fire,' the guitar and organ solos are like, 'Yeah, that's it — that's the way they're supposed to sound,'" Manzarek says. "Vinyl has a warmth and crispness without the edginess of CD."

There's also something less technical lurking behind vinyl's mini-renaissance. Whether it's inspecting a needle for dust or flipping the record over at the end of a side, LPs demand attention. And for a small but growing group, those demands aren't a nuisance. "There's nothing like putting the needle into the groove of a record," says country singer Shelby Lynne. "It's about as real as you can get. You got your vinyl, your weed, your friends, and while you're rollin', they're pickin' out another record. We're all taking music for granted because it's so easy to push a button. I mean, come on — music should be fun."

[From Issue 1054 — June 12, 2008]



George Benson buys own record shock!

Vinyl is back, at least when it comes to phonograph records

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Written by Cassandra Lizaire   
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
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Record shops are dying out and CD purchases are dwindling, but the love for old-fashioned records is still alive – and the market is thriving.

The business of buying and selling vinyl, even making new records, appeals to a select but growing group of audiophiles.

About five years ago, the singer and jazz guitarist George Benson strolled into Record-Rama Sound Archives in Pittsburgh, Pa., with his confident swagger, in a big fur coat.

A Pittsburgh native, Benson was in town, among other reasons, to buy copies of his own records.

He’d been producing music since the late 1950s and many of his records were out of print and hard to find.

Before Benson left, he turned to ask something of Record-Rama owner Paul Mawhinney but hesitated.

“Nah, you won’t have it,” Benson said.

“I know what you’re going to ask,” Mawhinney replied, as he went in the back room and found a record in the archived catalog.

Sure enough, Mawhinney brought out the 45 of “Lover’s Prayer,” a doo-wop record from 1959.

“George just burst out in tears,” said Mawhinney.

It was the first song Benson had ever recorded and he wanted a copy for his mother.

Most people don’t know that back then, Benson sang as part of Pittsburgh high school sensation, The Altairs.

Mawhinney, 68, a record enthusiast and collector for more than 40 years, is not like most people.

His veritable music museum includes three million vinyl records and CDs—among them gems such as ZZ Top’s first recording and a never-released album of Rolling Stones singles—-as well as a million-song archive that Mahwhinney has been cataloging since 1968.

He’s now trying to sell Record Rama itself – on eBay.

It has attracted several bids in the $3 million range.

“As I could see the business disappearing in the last 10 years, I had to figure out how to pass the collection on to the next generation,” said Mahwhinney.

Yet even as stores like Record-Rama and Strangeland Records in Annandale, Va., and community shops like the Harlem Record Shack in New York City are being driven out of business by high overhead costs and discounters, vinyl records are gaining in popularity.

Last year, the sale of vinyl grew by 13 percent to 990,000 even as CD sales have continued to fall, according to Nielsen SoundScan figures.

And even though digital music accounted for 23 percent of music purchases in 2007, according to Nielsen SoundScan, a format that dates to the early 1800s continues to be a viable source of music entertainment.

Vinyl appeals to the die hard classic record enthusiasts as well as to a younger generation of music lovers who are unearthing the “plastic gold” from their parents’ collections.

“Records are my most prized possessions," says Sarah Chrosniak, 23, of Nashville Tenn.

A college student, Chrosniak began collecting vinyls six years ago, jump-starting her career as the hip-hop turntabale artist DJ Eticut.

Chrosniak enjoys vinyls for their gritty sound and cover artwork.

When it comes to eclectic vinyls, "the art of digging is really important," she said.

"I also find really abstract music I don't feel I'd ever find looking at CDs."

“Vinyl is still the king of the music formats,” says Wes Bender, a photographer from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Bender, 43, also works in high end audio.

He said the combination of a powerful system and quality vinyl make for a sensual and moving experience.

“CD is a very sterile kind of format,” said Bender.

“It’s like listening in a vacuum.

Vinyl is more intimate; the diamond stylus is cutting through the vinyl and you hear everything.”

While the reign of iPods has undercut the CD market, it has seemed to have the opposite impact on vinyl.

The wider market for vinyl also includes people who use a special turntable to convert vinyl into CDs, DJ’s who buy 12 inch singles to scratch at clubs, and collectible stores.

“Decrease is a misnomer,” said Scott Neuman, founder of, an online record store specializing in collectible vinyl and music.

“Vinyl still sells.”

Of late, Neuman said, punk rock records from the ’70s and ’80s have increased in popularity.

And Northern Soul, a category of lesser-known soul music from the ’60s and ’70s once popular in New England, is also seeing more sales.

Northern Soul Albums by artists like The Impressions of Motown Records can be worth $1,000.

“People like the packaging” of vinyl, said Neuman, who has seen traffic to his Web site peak in the last two years.

“We’d take the record out of the sleeve and smell it.

People would listen with friends, share the listening experience and read the lyric notes that came with most albums.”

Current artists are paying homage.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s 2007 album “Magic” came out on vinyl, as did this year’s re-release of Michael Jackson’s 1983 classic “Thriller.” Newer groups like Radiohead have also released several vinyl LPs.

“Kids are listening to iPods hanging on their heads, but if you put a vinyl record on and played it next to one of those crazy things, it would be a whole different sound,” said Mawhinney.

“The quality of a vinyl record is superior to the mp3 sound from compact files because when they record on mp3s, the base and high sound is eliminated, and low sounds are compressed.”

There is one thing that the vinyl industry can’t change: size matters.

“The biggest problem is that people don’t have time to listen to music anymore,” Neuman said.

“iPods you can take with you anywhere but you can’t do that with records.” 

Batman on vinyl

The Dark Knight Score Coming July 15

Source: Warner Bros. Records
May 29, 2008

"The Dark Knight Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" — the haunting score to the hotly anticipated feature film The Dark Knight — will be released by Warner Bros. Records on July 15, 2008, three days before the movie opens nationwide on July 18th.

Composers Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, who collaborated on the score for the 2005 blockbuster Batman Begins, were asked by director Christopher Nolan to work together again, scoring its follow-up, The Dark Knight. The duo recorded the orchestral soundtrack for the film in London this April.

Warner Bros. Records will release four different configurations of "The Dark Knight soundtrack: a standard jewel case CD, a 2 LP set of heavy-weight 180 gram vinyl version, a special edition digipack, and a collector's edition with special artwork to come after release.

Oxfam benefits from rare Beatles album

Hello, Good Buy

Rare Beatles Album Turns Up In Stirling Controversial Record Could Raise Thousands For Charity

THE sale of a rare Beatles album will save the lives of some of the world's poorest children.

It's the latest boost to the Record's appeal asking readers to hand in unwanted compact discs and vinyl records to their local Oxfam shops.

The valuable 1966 album, which has previously fetched up to £19,250 at auction, was hidden in three boxes packed full of musical treasures that were discovered by Carol Gray, the store manager of Stirling's Oxfam branch.

Carol, 51, said: "I'm a life-long Beatles fan so I spotted straight away that it could be valuable.

"Paul McCartney is my hero. I loved the Beatles, it was the music I grew up with. They were so much better than the Rolling Stones.

"The album is unusual, it has a paste-over cover because The Beatles first released it with a cover which wasn't socially acceptable."

The album, Yesterday and Today, which is set to be auctioned at London's Bonhams Auctioneers this summer has a fascinating history.

Only issued in the US and Canada, the album's original cover, showing the fab four dressed in white coats, clutching decapitated dolls and slabs of raw meat, sparked a huge row.

The album cover, which John Lennon in particular had pushed for, was only on sale for one day before Capital Records ordered its recall.

Lennon defended it fiercely, claiming it was "as relevant as Vietnam". Paul McCartney said their critics were "soft".

But George Harrison disagreed and said: "I thought it was gross and stupid. Sometimes we all did stupid things, thinking it was cool and hip, when it was naive and dumb. That was one of them."

Panicking music bosses pasted over the album cover with a new, more conventional one showing Paul McCartney inside a suitcase.

It soared to No.1 in the US chart and went gold soon after. It's also a hot collectors' item as it includes mixes of Revolver era tracks which are unavailable anywhere else.

Carol added: "It's called the pasteover butcher trunk cover. Trunk is the American word for suitcase.

"It's difficult to know whether the original shocking butchers' picture is underneath the paste-over without destroying the cover.

"I was reluctant to try peeling it off. If you damage it the album can lose it's valued. That's why we've trusted it to Bonhams.

"It was part of an exceptional donation of music from a couple. It was a sheer delight to go through it as it was so well looked after.

"Most of them were American releases as I think they'd lived there. They've certainly helped Oxfam a great deal." The Beatles were enthusiastic supporters of Oxfam, even posing with collecting tins in an exclusive 1963 photoshoot.

And the money The Beatles album alone raises could pay for safe water for more than 1000 children in developing countries. From filters to taps, tanks to wells, Oxfam works closely with communities to deliver clean, save water that will keep people healthy and happy.

From emergency situations like the aftermath of an earthquake or cyclone to everyday use, a water tank costing just £150 helps Oxfam to be the leading supplier of clean, water in those parts of the world others can't reach. And safe water means reducing preventable killer diseases like cholera.

Oxfam makes more than £5million from the sale of film and music each year. But with your help it could be even more.

By donating your old CDs, including embarrassing purchases and guilty pleasures, you'll not only tidy up your home but also help those in need.


IN today's digital world, rare vinyl is like gold dust. Here's the top 10 of the world's most memorable musical gems:

1. Killer Mark Chapman's signed copy of John Lennon's album Double Fantasy, right (£262,500).

2. The Quarrymen's That'll Be The Day. Only one record was ever made (£90,000).

3. The Beatles' Yesterday and Today. Butcher-sleeve LP is incredibly rare (£19,250).

4. Bob Dylan's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, with extra four tracks, far right (£17,500).

5. Long Cleve Reed & Little Harvey Hull, their Original Stack O'Lee Blues (£15,000).

5. Frank Wilson's Do I Love You? plain sleeve (£15,000).

7. The Velvet Underground and Nico. The plain-sleeve 1966 version with alternate tracks sold on eBay (£12,600).

8. Elvis Presley – Stay Away, Joe. Rare one-side promotional album (£12,500).

8. The Five Sharps' release of Stormy Weather (£12,500).

8. The Hornets, I Can't Believe (£12,500). 

Vinyl goes from throwback to comeback

Vinyl goes from throwback to comeback

Young fans say analog records sound warmer and fuller than digital music

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Jonathan Perry Globe Correspondent / June 2, 2008

Monica Morgan, an 18-year-old high school student from Jacksonville, Fla., is taking a breather from scouting prospective colleges in and around Boston. She is standing inside Newbury Comics in Cambridge, scouring the bins of new LP releases by artists such as Gnarls Barkley and Bjork. Rows of colorful album covers catch her eye.

"My dad just gave me a record player, so I mostly like to buy vinyl," says Morgan. A stash of records originally owned by her mother, and now bequeathed to her, led Morgan to her latest love. "I have some old Beatles records with my mom's maiden name on them," she says. "I just like the way they sound."

Almost any other decade, this scenario would have been ordinary. But the scene – a teenager perusing stacks of cumbersome vinyl in a sleek digital age that is gradually rendering the compact disc obsolete – was unfolding on a Friday afternoon in 2008. And it is one that is being replicated in small but growing numbers across the country. Although she may be an anomaly among her peers, Morgan and other young music fans are embracing the virtues of vinyl.

Mike Dreese, cofounder and chief executive of the New England music store chain Newbury Comics, says his company's vinyl sales, which had been increasing at an annual rate of about 20 percent over the past five years, are 80 percent higher than they were at this time last year.

"Right now, we're selling about $100,000 a month worth of vinyl," Dreese says.

But why vinyl and why now, especially when even CD sales have plummeted 40 percent since 2005? Dreese blames the sterility of technology. "I think there are a lot of people who are looking for some kind of a throwback to something that's tangible," he says. "The CD was a tremendous sonic package, but from a graphic standpoint, it was a disaster. People still want a connection to an artist, and vinyl connects them in a way that an erasable file doesn't."

Vinyl lovers insist that analog records sound warmer and fuller, as opposed to the brighter yet brittle digital experience of CDs. The compressed sound of MP3s, meanwhile, sacrifices both the highest and lowest ends of the sonic spectrum.

"It's unbelievable how much vinyl's coming out," says Josh Bizar, sales director for musicdirect, a company that specializes in analog products ranging from new and reissued vinyl to turntables. "We're seeing this explosion of young people under 25 who never even saw an LP as a child running toward a format that was pronounced dead before they were even born. But if a title has any kind of mass appeal, it's coming out on vinyl today."

The new push for records is also coming from musicians. Elvis Costello issued his new album, "Momofuku," on vinyl two weeks before the CD and digital versions were released. And the Raconteurs, led by White Stripes frontman Jack White, recommended that listeners hear their new album, "Consolers of the Lonely," on vinyl (it is also available on CD and as a download).

"I prefer vinyl," says White, 32. "We talk about this backstage; as musicians it comes up a lot. It's a shame the new generation is missing out on albums – not just the sound quality, but the artwork, the experience of holding something tangible in your hands."

Scores of listeners have begun to follow White's example.

Bizar's firm, musicdirect, services 250 to 300 independent record and electronics stores worldwide and stocks CDs and MP3 players. But it is the company's analog-related inventory that is causing a stir: Sales of albums and accessories like needle cartridges and record cleaners have jumped 300 percent in each of the past four years, according to Bizar.

Sales of turntables, which can run anywhere from $150 to $24,000 (including models that can now transfer the sound on vinyl to a listener's portable player or computer) have spiked 500 percent annually during the same time span. Indeed, huge retail outlets such as Best Buy now stock an array of turntable brands and styles that reflect the surge in both technology and demand.

"They cannot make them fast enough," says Bizar. "Owning a record album is certainly a lot cooler than owning a digital subset of zeroes and ones on a computer. And the simple act of playing an LP takes a certain single-mindedness that seems to go beyond today's culture of multitasking. It's not as easy as just pushing a button."

Merge Records founder Mac McCaughan estimates that for every 10 albums his label puts out as a digital download or CD, eight get a vinyl release. "It's not going to come back and replace CDs or MP3s," he says. "But if you do it right and make the vinyl heavy and make the packaging nice, it's everything that people liked about music in the first place."

Then there's what Bizar calls "the collectibility issue." A limited-edition LP box set of Radiohead's 2007 album, "In Rainbows," which retailed for about $80, sold out briskly. A recent search on eBay found the now out-of-print package selling for $300.

Music fan Nick Pioggia, 25, buys even more vinyl now than he did as a teenager. "I got into it because the [punk] music I was trying to find was only available in that format," says Pioggia, who also runs a small label called Painkiller Records in Boston. "No one cares about CDs anymore, but someone will still buy an album because it's got the huge artwork and is a limited pressing. That's the biggest draw."


New releases are typically being pressed on vinyl in quantities of about 10,000 per title. But when it comes to the demand for lavish reissues, that number can double or even triple. Bizar says his company saw 35,000 advance orders for the four-LP edition of Led Zeppelin's "Mothership," a career-spanning collection released this spring. While that is certainly a far cry from vinyl's heyday of the 1970s, Bizar calls the demand for a bulky box set that retails for roughly $60 a pop "astonishing."

As an enticement for consumers to buy a record rather than a 99-cent download of a single, artists and record labels now usually include a CD version of the album with the LP package gratis, or enclose a secret code that allows listeners to download for free the album they just bought on vinyl.

The idea represents a compromise for convenience-minded consumers and artists who want their creative work to be something more substantive than a digital file. "If you're an artist," says Dreese, "you're like, 'What do I have to show my grandkids?' "

No one artist has released more records since the early 1990s than Robert Pollard, both solo and with his band, Guided By Voices.

"I have to have vinyl," says Pollard, who's issued dozens of records on labels large and small, including his own in-house imprint. "To me it's psychological. If it's not on an LP, it's not real. Anybody can make a CD, but as we used to say, 'Vinyl's final.' "

Evan Shore, singer-guitarist for the Boston band Muck & the Mires, recently announced that his band's next Extended Play would be a "vinyl-only release." With a European tour this summer, the reasoning was simple: "Vinyl is huge in Europe."

Geoff Chase, a 40-year-old "classic rock" fan from Watertown, says he stopped buying records because many older titles weren't available on LP to replace his worn copies. Until now.

"What got me back into it big time," says Chase, "was that one day I found an old [stereo] receiver on the sidewalk."

He took it home, hooked the receiver up to his turntable, and put on his copy of AC/DC's "Back in Black."

"I could not believe how good it sounded," Chase says. "I was blown away."