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Musical Space

Into It: Vinyl Records


Mark Foley explores the joys of vinyl.

For the past decade, vinyl records have been making a comeback. Today, LPs are the fastest-growing medium for recorded music. One estimate of sales for last year is four million—impressive in an industry that has been shrinking since the early 1980s.

Some of vinyl’s popularity is helped along by events such as Record Store Day, when old albums and singles are reissued in limited supply to independent sellers. Other artists choose to issue new material in limited editions on that day, giving the vinyl-minded a jump on hearing new or exclusive material.

Maybe it’s that exclusivity that accounts for some of those sales. And, of course, if you prefer the digital domain and its advantages, most LPs come with a free download card so that you can back up your recording.

Vinyl demands compactness, however, only so much information can fit on a side without compromising sound quality. So, there’s less room for the kind of filler that seemed to dominate CDs in vinyl’s absence.

And, there is a tactile involvement that one wouldn’t get from a digital file––having to carefully handle a record, taking the time to pull it from its sleeve, walking to the turntable, and using one’s concentration to cue the needle. This is a little ritual, a brief meditation, that puts the listener in a listening frame of mind.

Music: Johnny Winter “Still Alive and Well” from Still Alive and Well