Note: This post is a little later than I planned. After a small hiatus from writing, because reasons, we’re back to talk about spending entirely too much money on records. Because that’s what we do here. Welcome back.
The calendar says it’s a new year. So that’s cool right? Uh, sure. Why not?
When 2021 began, I had been gifted this Victrola Cambridge record player (or phonograph if you’re feeling fancy). I hadn’t started buying records yet, but while unboxing it, I remembered that I did have a couple records in the basement that at some point I had pilfered from my parents collection. Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey, Jerry Vale, and the Sounds of Paris. Uh ok. I’m not sure why those three, but I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. I clearly didn’t know much about vinyl, which I’m sure is fairly common amongst new collectors. However, I was confident that my love for music and tendency towards (undiagnosed) OCD research and collecting of very specific things was going to put vinyl collecting squarely in my wheelhouse.
The Victrola Cambridge, while a quaint and nicely designed four in one unit, comes equipped with pretty underwhelming speakers. If low-fi background music is your jam, it’s a pretty perfect system. I knew right away that I would going to have to figure out a way to improve the sound quality. Fortunately, the Cambridge also comes equipped with RCA outputs to solve this very issue. While we don’t have a fancy sound system in the house (I know, I’m surprised too) what we do have is a Bose Mini Sound Dock. I discovered that pairing the two together produced a reasonably rich well balanced sound that works well for jazz, classical and rock. Is it perfect? No, but it looks nice and sounds great.
Then I started buying. I quickly discovered that buying bulk lots of random records from internet sellers, just to have a collection, wasn’t going to work. I didn’t want just any record. My goal was to build a collection full of music that meant something. I started with some safe choices. Kind of Blue, Portraits in Jazz, Jimi Hendrix Blues, Dark Side of the Moon, to name a few. Albums I knew I loved and would enjoy in this new(old) media. I’m not sure I recall which was the first one. The records that started coming in a flurry, quickly escalated to a full scale blizzard. I found some sellers that would discount four or more records and after a little gorilla math, I became quite adept at justifying just about any purchase. The collection that started with three old, random records in January 2021, had grown to over 100 by December. What can I say, it’s a gift.
Let’s talk about the last three finds that ended the year on a pretty epic note. First in the door, was a local find. As the collection grew, the blizzard slowed back to a more target specific flurry. As such, I’ve started to set certain goals. One of them is to acquire every live Bill Evans recording. Behind the Dikes is a 3 LP set of Mr. Evans playing live in the Netherlands in 1969 with Eddie Gomez on bass and Marty Morrell on drums. Online, Behind the Dikes can be had for between $120 to $150, but on this day I happened upon this copy locally for $76. Did I plan on spending that much on a record that day? No. But was I really going to pass this up? Also no. It’s all in the math.
Next, Rival Sons – Pressure and Time on pink vinyl (um, apparently). One of my favorite records by one of my favorite bands. We were supposed to see Rival Sons when they were in town this past year touring on the ten year anniversary of this record, but the woes of sporadic child care forced us to miss it. The same day that I found the Bill Evans set, I found Pressure and Time just down the aisle. The only one left, it was practically calling out to be taken home. It would have been cruel to leave it behind. All alone. Cruel, I tell you. By all metrics of vinyl buying this was a solid find, but buying vinyl is really about what happened next. Once I got home, I carefully opened the shrink wrap, slipped the record out of the jacket to find it pressed on pink vinyl. While the jacket does in fact advertise the colored vinyl, a keen observer of fine print I am not, so I completely missed it. My mind was blown finding another piece to add to the colored vinyl collection. Speaking of colored vinyl….
Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf on dark red cloud vinyl. We get it it Matt, you love QOTSA. Yeah, I do. Not sorry. As I’ve been slowly adding them to the collection I had been looking for a reason to buy this one. When I found it on colored vinyl, I pounced. Yeah, I said pounced. Songs for the Deaf, widely considered Queens’ breakout album, features Nick Oliveri on bass and vocals, Mark Lanegan on vocals and Dave Grohl on drums. My initial reaction to listening all the way through was that the three singer format was a bit, confusing. That said, I got used to it and found the songs featuring Lanegan’s lead vocals and Homme singing harmonies to be some of my favorites. One of the things I love about this band is that each of the three records I own, indeed their entire catalog, all sound very different. Sure there are similarities in tones or vocals, but each record has its own very distinct personality. I’m sure part of this is due to personnel changes, but I think it’s a credit to the song writing and arranging that shapes each record into its own unique experience.
And so ended vinyl collecting in 2021. Not a bad way to close out the year. If 2022 is anything close, I’m probably going to have to move.