Celebrate Vinyl Record Day

Celebrate Vinyl Record Day
By Robert Benson

When Thomas Edison invented the phonograph on August 12, 1877, little did he know just how much influence his “Talking Machine” would have, not only in the music industry, but in pop culture as well. Records are a part of the music of the ages and it is up to us as individuals and retailers, not only to enjoy our favorite recordings, but to preserve them as well; thus Vinyl Record Day was born.

Vinyl Record Day (www.VinylRecordDay.org) is celebrated on August 12th (or the first Saturday following the 12th) and was conceived and brought to the forefront by vinyl enthusiast and vinyl record historian Gary Freiberg. I spoke with Gary about the meaning of Vinyl Record Day and how we can help as individuals and what retailers can do to help preserve this timeless medium and international treasure.

“Vinyl Record Day is about celebrating vinyl records and the public should take notice of this special day. Invite friends and family over for a barbeque, maybe form a block party and play records, think records and talk about records and what they mean to each of us individually and culturally,” explained Gary.
Gary went into further detail, "Whatever the feel good aspects of Vinyl Record Day are, a retailer will ask how will this help my bottom line? Vinyl Record Day can get free publicity, it puts a good face on a business within their community and is a reason to have something special at the location: a parking lot sale, entertainment, store specials are great examples. I would hope the industry would become more involved with Vinyl Record Day so that, not only are the goals of Vinyl Record Day spread, but that people trying to make all or part of their living with vinyl could be part of an industry and not scattered individuals. We need to have a cohesive national impact as the milk industry did with their "Got Milk" campaign. I truly believe that Internet and traditional brick store owners could benefit financially, and in the case of brick store owners, in their communities by being part of Vinyl Record Day. Another important goal of Vinyl Record Day is to preserve the cultural influences, the recordings and the cover art. We also hope to increase awareness that economics prevents companies from transferring everything on to compact discs.”

A very dynamic and immensely important point Gary talked about is that only 5% of our musical history has been transferred to cd, so it is our responsibility to preserve this medium. Maybe your grandfather, sibling or cousin released a record and, although it may have not made the “top ten,” it is our music and some of these wonderful recordings cannot be found anywhere else. For instance, I own a vinyl copy of a Spiro Agnew speech and one of our most revered presidents John F. Kennedy has released several recordings, as have other influential and historical figures.

Additionally, Vinyl Record Day is a nonprofit organization that aims to educate the public and encourage all of us to preserve these international audio treasures. It is also a marketing opportunity for any vinyl record retailer.

“Vinyl Record Day is focused on educating the public that this timeless medium is in our hands, don’t leave the preservation of vinyl to fate. Vinyl records represent historical audio documents and just as we preserve historical literature, we are the custodians of this audio history. Vinyl Record Day is more than one day a year set aside for celebration, it is also for the industry itself,” acknowledged Gary. "

We also discussed past celebrations, from the inaugural Vinyl Record Day in San Luis County, California and the international support and attention that Vinyl Record Day receives as well.

“Vinyl Record Day hopes to continue to educate the public on why and how to care for a record collection because these collections are not only a part of who we are individually, but to assure that future generations will not lose a vital link in recorded history,” related Gary.

As an avid vinyl record collector, I truly enjoyed my conversation with Gary, who is very passionate about the cause. Vinyl Record Day is a nonprofit organization that needs the help of all of us, consumers, collectors, musicians, retailers as well as the record companies. So, as you celebrate Vinyl Record Day this August, think about the history, preservation of the format and enjoyment you receive when listening to your favorite records. For more information and how you can help as an individual, please visit the website, www.VinylRecordDay.org and let Gary know that you endorse all of his efforts.

(You may even donate your record collection to Vinyl Record Day and you can receive full value as a tax write-off. Vinyl Record Day needs money to promote, not only Vinyl Record Day, but can help retailers in their own business endeavors)

Author Robert Benson writes about rock/pop music, vinyl record collecting and operates www.collectingvinylrecords.com, where you can secure your copy of his ebook called "The Fascinating Hobby Of Vinyl Record Collecting." Copyright 2007-Robert Benson
Robert can be contacted at robert@collectingvinylrecords.com.

Hothouse Flowers – Into your heart

In 2004, the hothouse flowers released ‘Into your heart’. It followed 6 years after the Born album which was itself a comeback album. Born was also a try out of a rockier more mainstream sound. While Born was an enjoyable listen it lacked the intensity and passion which the Flowers had shown on their previous release, ‘Songs from the rain’. ‘Into your heart’ restores that passion and possibly even raises the level somewhat.

Nearly 20 years after they first started out, Liam sings in such a world weary voice that you wonder if he is a broken man. He, andthe band, really have seen it all. Great success, which then disappeared. Adulation, groupies, wives, children etc. This is a completely different band to the one who released the fine album, ‘People’ in 1988. Not to mention their international debut of teh song, ‘Don’t go’ on the Eurovision song contest. That was part of a run of Irish domination of the competition, where oftenm it was teh entertainment that domninated the competion, rather than the actual entrants. The other great success, was of course, Riverdance.

There is a sticker on the front of this album which helpfully, using quotes fom reviews, more or less distills what this album is all about. ‘Raw, stirring…undeniably upbeat & positive’ according to the Sunday times. ‘Raw vocals, meaty vocals….soulful’ according to Q. The Sunday Independent, a local paper, says ‘it abounds with passion and raw unpolished soul’.

I wonder at the sunday times review. For me, this album is sung in a cracked, undeniably souldful voice, by a man who has seen it all and has been at the very end. Only now, he looks ahead to the future and a new idea. This is not candy pop. Possibly Lucinda Williams would be a familiar reference.

I think there is a strain of celtic music which exhibits this raw emotion. Yet it is never depressing but is stirring and invites one to share in the intense emotion. U2 simply have been the most successful and mainstream of artists to exploit these feelings.

‘Your love goes on’ does start the album off in a lively, upbeat mood. After so many years since the previous album, it is a joy to hear Liam’s voice, the full soulful backing, the gospel sounds etc. ‘This is a great love’ but what it really does is takes the writer from his own natural introverted melancholy self and brings them to the height of their living and emotions. Trumpet and horns and the Dublin Gospel choir bring this song to its joyful climax.

That mood doesn’t last long for the next song tells us that this is the ‘End of the road’. Everything has been tried. They’ve been here before and have tried to work things out, but they’re still here. Things haven’t gotten better. Goodbye. liam’s voice really does sound here, as if there have been many sleepless nights and many tears.

The next song starts off slowly and quietly before building to a crescendo of ‘Hallelujahs’. But rather than soleyly being effusive praise of God, somehow it sounds chemically induced, ritualistic. Does the singer believe what he is singing. It does include a ‘wild electric guitar solo’ for your pleasure.

‘Tell me’ is probably the bluesiest song on the album. It sounds robotic though. Its a harsh sound and almost difficult to listen to. Its the plea of a man to his lover, show me you love me. Or else I’m gone.

Liam sings ‘Better man’ in a falsetto, sounding like an old soul great. Again this tells of the effect the lover has on this man. ‘Make me love in a better way. Keep me smiling every day. Listen up to what I have to say. Baby you just make me feel like a better man’.

Again beautifully sung in a cracked hushed falsetto, ‘Peace tonight’ is a slow waltz. The intimacy of a close relationship. The complete immersion in the love of another.

‘Santa Monica’ is the song I heard before I purchased the album. The actual line is ‘Santa Monica’s big blue bus’ but really it sounds like teh blues in Santa Monica. It is a simply gorgeous track. Its the type of song you expect to see being played by a lonesome busker. Fabulous music on this and to me, it expresses that beautiful melancholy of travelling on your own. Observing all around you. I love teh line, ‘Oh, will I ever get over you. If only you could show me how’. We’ve all been there. If you haven’t, you will be. A great harmonica solo.

Is a theme emerging here? The next song tells its listener that ‘you’re the one that makes me ‘feel like living”. This is one of the most heart rending songs I have heard in quite a while. A simple lone piano starts off, violin starts a haunting support. Liam sings, utterly lost, utterly at the end. But yet, there is redemption there. In the love of another. This is stunning. Beatifully simple, startk and so so touching. Close to perfection. ANd each word is given its own moment, its own space to be felt.

The listener, nearyly at their own end now, needs something to pull themselves out of this mood. ‘Baby I got you’ therefore tries its best. Its a celebration of finding that special one in your life. Another soulful reading from Liam. He sounds like Prince at times.

‘Alright’ is practically on fire in comparison to the after midnight tracks we’ve been listening to. Sounding like the Byrds, all harmonies and chiming guitars, its delightful. Apparently, the ‘inspiration seemed to take us all away on a journey’. And thankfully, we’re all ‘going to make it through the night’.

‘Magic bracelets’ sounds like a gospel hymn with history. SOme flugelhorn lends it a mysterious air. It is in fact a tribute to reggae legend, Joe Higgs. This one is uplifting and needs to be sung in church.

Out of nowhere really is the final song on the album. Its a marvellous end to a marvellous album. Its a remarkably heartfelt and soaringly uplifting end. It, more than anything else here, expresses the sheer joy and excitement of being in love. Little wonder then, thatit is written by Liam, a different writer to the other songs, usually Peter O’Toole or Fiachna O’Braonain. Its dedicated to his wife and she should be very happy with this one. Airborne electric guitar helps this one to reach for the skies. The perfect end!

Except its not. Strangely they add on another song. ‘Si do Mhamo i’ is a traditional song sung live in Minneapois. God only knows how many of teh crowd understood it as it is sung in the band’s first language, Irish, or Gaelic. Its a great song in its own right but somehow sounds out of place here. But in a way its is fitting. It eases us back into our own lives after the intense emotional experience of this wonderful album.

Sound uality is good throughout. Packaging is in a jewel case withing a cardboard slip case. Liner notes include full lyrics and a background to each song. And some photos.

Broken Records


Broken Records
Where giant music retailers die, independents thrive

BANDING TOGETHER: Nichole Newman, clerk at Last Chance Records at 2072 Walker Ave., says she enjoys working at an independent record store because it supports local bands. — PHOTO BY ZACHARY ZOELLER

Shoppers shuffled through the decimated music selection at Tower Records' Memphis location near the end of the chain's 46-year run last month.

Shelves that used to be brimming with Elvis, The Beatles, Cat Power and Sonic Youth were reduced to a grab-bag of no-name bands and overstocked "best-of" compilations.

Posters, magazine racks and lighting fixtures bore signs that read "SOLD" as the Peabody Place Entertainment and Retail Center anchor took a last gasp and died.

Liquidation company Great American Group of Los Angeles paid $134.3 million for the ailing stores in October. Tower's parent company, MTS Inc., filed for bankruptcy in February 2004.

The once-prolific chain's demise resonated throughout the music industry, signaling the decline of music-only stores and the growing popularity of retailers such as Wal-Mart and Apple iTunes.

While companies like Tower rely on massive CD and DVD sales, small, locally owned record stores often sing a different tune.

Sad, sad song

With the loss of Tower, the number of Memphis stores that rely mostly on music sales is dwindling.

Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Borders Books Music Movies & Café and others sell a variety of products, while music accounts for a piece of their incomes.

However, independent record stores thrive on the areas that the larger stores might lack – emphasis on local music, specialized genres and employee expertise. Local stores, such as Midtown's Goner Records, Last Chance Records and Shangri La Records, pick up where the chains leave off.

Zac Ives, co-owner of local independent record label and music store Goner Records says many of the woes of the music industry don't affect the fledgling three-year-old imprint.

"We specialize in weird, garage punk kind of stuff," Ives said. "We're kind of insulated a little bit from all this other stuff that's going around."

Remaining to the left of mainstream has been the calling card of the label since it morphed from an online bulletin board into a record label in the 1990s.

"(Co-owner Eric Friedl) created a bulletin board and kind of created this community of people who wanted to talk about whatever – whether it was Memphis, whether it was music or being an idiot," Ives said. "We kind of had that set online presence already, and we were able to tap into that with an online store."

'A leg up'

In January 2006, Best Buy announced a promotion that was criticized by many within the world of independent music.

The big box retailer offered CDs of artists from independent record labels, such as Cat Power and Broken Social Scene, for $7.99, lower than the price that many stores could buy them from distributors.

Goner Records largely was immune to the effects of the promotion, since it sells music from its artists without buying from a distributor.

Its label boasts artists such as local bands the Oblivians, Jay Reatard and Harlan T. Bobo, as well as others like Chicago's Cocoma and England's the Hipshakes.

"As both a record label that is putting out our own stuff and being able to sell it through our own storefront and online, we've kind of got a leg up with other small labels," Ives said.

The store's online presence and used-music sales have been two of Goner's saving graces.

Currently, it sells half of its merchandise in the store and half on its Web site, www.goner-records.com.

Last Chance Records at 2072 Walker Ave. finds its niche in hip-hop LPs and showcasing local bands, such as punk upstarts Evil Army.

"When you're here, you know where your money's going," said Nichole Newman, who has worked at Last Chance for three years.

V for Victrola

In an age when Apple iTunes has sold more than a billion digital MP3 files, Goner's shelves might require a double-take for the casual music buyer.

Stocked with vinyl records, most of the store's business comes from those who still love the crackle of a needle across an LP.

"We knew that there was this oncoming thing of CDs becoming obsolete," Ives said. "We do two-thirds (of sales) on vinyl and one-third on CDs."

Pressing 500 to 1,000 of each of its releases, the label realizes the limitations of its audience.

"There's that kind of goodwill of going into your neighborhood record store," he said. "People are recognizing that vinyl has some staying power now that companies are putting stuff on vinyl."