In digital age, vinyl lives on [Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.]
(Republican & Herald (Pottsville, PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 01--For more than a century, black discs, vinyl records in particular, have been a staple of the music industry.
While they haven't been mainstream since the early 1990s, collectors will still groove to them in 2013.
"If you have decent equipment and the record is in good shape, you'll have a better sound than a CD," Lawrence O. Koch, 73, owner of the Braun School of Music, Pottsville, said Thursday.
"Vinyl is coming back," Vince Albo, 73, of Seltzer, said Friday. He runs a record stand, "VJA Records" at Black Diamond Antiques at Schuylkill Mall, Frackville.
"I think CDs are on the way out," Randy T. Lengel, 53, of Schuylkill Haven, said Friday. He owns a vintage record store, What-A-Crock Records at 219 Route 61 South, Schuylkill Haven.
On Friday morning, Dan Long, 54, of Hatfield, Montgomery County, drove more than 60 miles to Schuylkill Haven to flip through the vintage albums for sale at What-A-Crock Records. And he bought a used copy of "Fire Down Under," a 1981 album by heavy metal band Riot for $5.
"The music today is way different from way back when. Whole different era. Whole different culture. It's an experience. Some people can't stand records, 'that crap, that cracking, all that noise you hear.' But it's the real thing. That's where it started, brother," Long said.
Records will live on thanks to numerous fans of the medium. They include:
- Famous musicians like Jimmy Page, the legendary Led Zepplin guitarist, who sells editions of some of his classic works on "heavyweight, 12-inch vinyl" via his website.
- Mainstream rockers like Lady Gaga, who sells copies of her 2011 album "Born This Way" on vinyl, according to Amazon.com.
- Independent artists like The Black Belles, who put their tunes out on 7-inch records via their website.
- Devout collectors, like Eddie Collins, 55, of Pottsville, who is vice president of the Keystone Record Collectors, Lancaster. "While they stopped pressing 78s in 1959, they never stopped pressing 33s and 45s and there's a reason for that. A lot of new groups out there are pressing in both formats. They're going back. They want that really hip sound. Plus there's a joy, a mystique, to dropping that needle on a record," Collins said Thursday.
- Teenagers like John Shoener, 17, of Pottsville. A Pottsville Area senior and trumpet player, he's a member of M&J Big Band, Pottsville, and he bought a turntable so he could track down gems from artists like Buddy Rich. "There's so much music out there that was released on record but never put out on CD, like different versions of songs that were never re-released, and some are very good," Shoener said Friday.
- Dealers like Lengel. "I'm not a collector. For me, it's a business," Lengel said.
- And events. Fans of vinyl will wax nostalgic at The Pennsylvania Music Expo, held every second Sunday at Continental Inn, Route 30, Lancaster. The next show is from 9 to 3 p.m. Jan. 13. "We usually have 50 to 70 vendors there and it's 75 percent vinyl," Collins said.
Better than CD
While the digital age has given music buffs the ability to store hundreds of tracks on mp3 players and other portable media, nothing can beat the sound of a record, according to Collins and Koch.
Is the sound on vinyl records better than CDs
HowStuffWorks.com, a website run by Discovery Communications, Atlanta, Ga., offered an explanation of how these systems work.
"The answer lies in the difference between analog and digital recordings. A vinyl record is an analog recording, and CDs and DVDs are digital recordings," according to the site.
"Original sound is analog by definition. A digital recording takes snapshots of the analog signal at a certain rate -- for CDs, it is 44,100 times per second -- and measures each snapshot with a certain accuracy -- for, CDs it is 16-bit, which means the value must be one of 65,536 possible values," according to the site.
"This means that, by definition, a digital recording is not capturing the complete sound wave. It is approximating it with a series of steps. Some sounds that have very quick transitions, such as a drum beat or a trumpet's tone, will be distorted because they change too quickly for the sample rate," according to the site.
"When they digitize something, they're sampling. And sampling is just what is says. Sampling is sampling. It's samples of the music as it goes by. You're getting a dry sound. You're not getting all the music; you're getting a sample as it goes by; 0 and 1, 0 and 1," Koch said.
Keith Semerod, 58, of Pottsville, has been collecting records for more than 45 years and has a collection of more than 20,000.
"To me, the sound of vinyl is far richer than CDs. While CDs have a bright sterile sound, records are much warmer and deeper in sound," Semerod said Friday.
Records that aren't cared for can develop flaws. When a needle rides a dusty groove a pop and hiss follow. And scratches in the records can make it skip.
However, Albo said, "if you get a good record player with stereo and you put a decent vinyl record on there, it's clear as a bell."
"But some people do miss the popping, you know, when there's a little piece of dirt on it," Lengel said.
Koch said back in the 1950s he used to save his lunch money to buy records at Malarkey's, a store on South Centre Street in Pottsville. One was a record by The Four Freshmen, "Four Freshmen and Five Trombones," released in 1956.
Koch and his wife, Marilou A., have owned the Braun School, 607 Mahantongo St., since 1969. Some of the music rooms include racks of vintage vinyl, including the 1964 gem "Meet The Beatles!"
"I think today I have about 4,000 records," Koch said.
On Dec. 5, the music industry lost one of its legends, jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck. He was 91.
In memory of Brubeck, Koch dug out some of the artist's albums. On Thursday, Koch spun "A Place In Time." As "Audrey," the first track on "Side 1" emitted from the speakers, Koch sat down at his piano and played along.
Lengel also has some Brubeck albums in his collection. One he looked at Thursday was "Time Out," an album by The Dave Brubeck Quartet, released in 1959.
"This gentleman here, he just died. With a CD you don't get a picture like the one on an album cover. You don't get all the information that's on the back. Today, you can buy this one for five dollars," Lengel said.
"The covers are part of the value. It's also a nostalgia thing," Koch said Thursday.
Records will always appeal to people who love nostalgia.
Louise H. Miller, manager of the Pine Grove Theatre, 213 S. Tulpehocken St., has a vintage turntable at the theatre's lower level concession area.
One of the records she plays on occasion is a mid-20th century 78 from Japan, "Teichiku Dance Music," "Malihini Merry" by Betty Inada with Buckie Shirakata & His Aloha Hawaiians.
Collins is a life-long record collector with more than 30,000 45s, 5,000 33-1/3 albums and 500 78s. He is a music journalist and he's known locally as the lead singer and bass player with the band The Rocket 88s from 1991 until that group disbanded in 2005.
His collection includes records from Schuylkill County musicians. One of the jewels is the 45 for "So Rare" by Jimmy Dorsey released on the "Fraternity" label in 1957.
"With an iPod you can jump to a song here and there, but when you put on some vinyl, you usually listen to the entire record and get to appreciate the music more," Shoener said.
Albo said when he was a boy, he bought records from Malarkey's in Pottsville, too.
"In my collection, I have a couple thousand. And I said when I retire I'm going to go into the used records business and I did. I've been up at the Black Diamond at least 10 years," Albo said.
As Lengel put on an album pressed in the early 1970s, "K-Tel 20 Explosive Hits," he told the story of how he got into the business of selling albums.
"About six or seven years ago, I used to sell pottery. That's where the name 'What A Crock' comes from. All the places I dealt with went out of business and that forced me to find another medium," Lengel said.
Lengel said Albo got him into records five years ago. Lengel said since then he's acquired "more than 400,000 records."
"I have a sign out on Route 61 telling people we buy records and that's where 80 percent of them come from," Lengel said.
He opened his Schuylkill Haven location in 2008. His hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
He has nine other record stands: two in Lewisburg, Union County; Annville, Lebanon County; Hershey, Dauphin County; Morgantown, Berks County; Millerstown, Perry County; Dillsburg and Dover in York County; and Columbia, Lancaster County.
"I don't have employees. I just jockey from place to place. Some are at antique co-ops and some are places where I rent space," Lengel said.
On Friday, Albo was at Lengel's Schuylkill Haven shop and he bought a few albums for his stock at the Schuylkill Mall. They included two copies of Bruce Springsteen's 1984 classic "Born In The U.S.A."
While older music seems to be selling better than newer tunes, it's doubtful vinyl will regain its mainstream status.
In July, old albums outsold new ones for the first time since Nielsen Soundscan started tracking U.S. album sales back in 1991. The first half of 2012 brought sales of 76.6 million catalog albums -- albums released more than 18 months ago -- as opposed to 73.9 million current albums.
Nielsen analyst David Bakula said the primary catalyst for the trend is cost: Catalog albums are usually priced between $5.99 and $10.99, while new albums are often $13 to $18, according to an online community for alternative music, stereogum.com.
According to an October poll of 31 music fans at quadraphonicquad.com, 22 said vinyl sales won't surpass CD sales but nine said eventually, vinyl sales would.
"It's mostly the younger folks. They collect mostly the hard rock, from The Grateful Dead to The Doors to Pink Floyd, and The Beatles are a good seller for me. And I do decent business up there at Black Diamond. And I buy and sell," Albo said.
"I noticed in the past couple years it seems like there's been a big resurgence with vinyl records. When I go up to Schuylkill Mall and go to Black Diamond, I'll see people roaming through the old vinyl section and a lot of them are younger kids, like my age or a little older. I think for some people, they're rediscovering what it's like to really listen to the music," Shoener said.
(c)2013 the Republican & Herald (Pottsville, Pa.)
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