So I am two-thirds of the way through this endeavor, Mark’s 365 Day’s of Vinyl.
I’ve been reflecting about what I’ve learned over the past 8 months. When I started this on January 1st I was searching for something, I knew, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
I felt like my appreciation for music had been pushed into the background. Streaming services, mp3s, lo-fi (or no-fi) stereo equipment, earbuds, popular music of the day… All these things had conspired to somehow temper what was once a great love of my life.
Live music was still a thrill, but the recorded music I had around me all seemed to be somehow compressed or in some other way deteriorated.
The first hint of reclamation came from an unlikely place, the garage. I had posted previously about our garage, locally known as a shop, an outbuilding where I installed my old PA equipment for listening loud and dance parties.
The next thing that happened was more obvious. we had an unfinished basement when we moved into our house. Once we started getting that together I carved out a space for my old stereo and turntable.
Dusting off my old vinyl records and trying to fill the gaps in the collection got me where I am today.
So, I guess the main lesson that I’ve learned is in order to connect with a piece of music, you actually have to listen to it. I know this sounds really obvious but for me I had gotten away from really listening to what an artist was trying to convey to me.
If you go to Museum, the walls are completely lined with beautiful pieces of art. Some pieces you like more than others. But for those pieces that really strike you, maybe even take your breath away, the rooms in the gallery often have benches where you can sit and reflect and appreciate those pieces of art.
The way I had come to treat music was like walking through an art gallery, but instead of a leisurely stroll, using all my senses and appreciating what was all around me, I was on a moving walkway that just made me go through the gallery as fast as possible. More often than not it was like walking past an art gallery rather than walking through one.
The vinyl, the stereo, the setting, they all serve to do one thing… get you to settle down and listen.
To try and convey this to friends and family I have come up with a list of 5 go to pieces of music that I will play for the uninitiated. Here they are in no particular order:
Steely Dan – Babylon Sisters, from the album Gaucho.
This amazingly clear jazzy, yet familiar piece of music is a real eye opener. Especially the part after the Babylon Sisters chorus where they dynamics peak with the backup singers “shake it!” and the bass part kicks in.
The Alan Parsons Project – Sirius / Eye In The Sky.
When the all-time best opening sequences of any record I own. This one sounds particularly awesome on my home stereo.
Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto – The Girl From Ipanema from the Getz / Gilberto album.
In this recording on the Verve label you feel as if you are inside the stand up bass even with no subwoofer present in the room. The real payoff comes a few minutes into the song when the Stan Getz saxophone part starts. You can hear his breath through the valves and it is truly striking.
The title track from the Sonny Rollins album – The Bridge.
Even on my scruffy copy of this record, this song’s “falling down the stairs” interplay between guitar saxophone and the rest of the band never fails to get a smile from the small audience in my basement.
The Beatles – Here Comes The Sun, from my MoFi copy of Abbey Road.
The opening track from side B of my very first high resolution vinyl record. It still sounds fantastic and the sparkling guitars and familiar tune are always a crowd pleaser.