Tag Archives: vinyl

Vinyl Valhalla #2 – Sold My Soul to the Digital Devil

15 Jun
Albums like this deserve vinyl

Masterpieces such as this deserve vinyl

After the delays of a new book being released, retiring from the Royal Canadian Air Force after nearly 31 years (has it really been 31 years?), and starting a new job, it’s time to pick up where I left off in this audio retrospective series. It appears that, once again, my WordPress email alerts were turned off, so if I haven’t been around to visit your posts as of late—workload and WordPress as my excuses, of course—, please accept my apology.

The previous instalment in the Vinyl Valhalla series is here, if you’re interested.

After the high school years and military basic training, my next foray into audio came during my first year at university. I had a Regular Officer Training Plan (ROTC in the U.S., I believe) education sponsorship, and so I had a modest salary, for a student. On a military trip to South Carolina aboard one of our old steam driven frigates during 1984 spring break, I spied some electronics and eventually succumbed to the desire to have a stereo again. I hadn’t been able to bring my old clunker with the 8-track with me.

 

The high school stereo.

The high school stereo

Knowing essentially nothing about audio, I went with the well known name of Sony for the electronics and Bose for the speakers. I bought a 55 watt Sony audio-video receiver and a separate Sony CD player, the first time I had ever owned digital music. The speakers were the entry-level Bose 301s, whose smaller stature fit my humble university residence rather nicely. CD’s were convenient, with my limited space, and in my ignorance I thought that I had assembled a respectable basic sound system.

 

So not hi fi

So not hi fi

They looked neat, but weren't high fidelity

They looked neat, but weren’t high fidelity

How little did I know.

Fast forward a decade-plus later, and I was a father of three young children, had my first mortgage, etc. I found I was missing the music, or perhaps something in the music was missing. Still knowing nothing about stereos, I went with a similar brand name / more power is better approach. That is, I was still ignorant. I picked up a used 100w Sony AV received from ebay (later 90’s) and a pair of Paradigm Monitor 9 floor stander speakers. More power had to be better, and bigger speakers had to be better, too.

They looked impressive

They looked impressive

It was better, but it was still lacking. What I didn’t realize was that mass market solid state electronics and digital music (CDs) were literally killing the life in the music, sucking the very soul right out of it.

I remained in my state of ignorance until around the year 2000. It was then that I stumbled across one simple and unassuming audio website, and it forever changed the music in my life, for the better.

Advertisements

Vinyl Valhalla #1 – The Formative Years

30 Apr
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, vinyl without end. Amen.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, vinyl without end. Amen.

 

My first post on stereos and music, “Sanctuary For The Restless Male Mind,” was a brief heads-up for a series of posts on a topic that will be of interest to many people: music, and especially the stereos that most of us reproduce that music with. With that in mind, here we go:

My first encounter with stereos was with Mom’s Philco console stereo, which looked something like this:

 

 

Mom had come from a humble French-Canadian background, and becoming an administration Flying Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) back in the 60’s saw her receive a meaningful pay check for the first time in her life. Quite reasonably, she treated herself to the Philco—turntable, AM/FM, amplifier, and speakers, all in one convenient and handsome cabinet.

Dad was (and remains) a Johnny Cash fan—how many of you have a parent who’s seen both Cash and Buddy Holly, live? Mom had Elvis and Edith Piaf albums. So I have fond recollections of hearing albums like these:

 

It takes so little spirits for Nav to "Walk The Line." This tends to lead to a "Burning Ring of Fire" the ensuing day.

It takes so little spirits for Nav to “Walk The Line.” This tends to lead to a “Burning Ring of Fire” the ensuing day.

 

When I was around 10, I received a plastic Sears turntable as a Christmas gift. I haven’t been able to find any photos of it, but this will give you an idea of the sort of thing that I had:

 

Close enough

Close enough

 

I remember listening to my Elton John’s Greatest Hits album on it. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” and “Benny & The Jets” were part of my cultural upbringing. I also had a fantastic used Guess Who album that an Uncle had given me. “No Sugar Tonight” and “American Woman” were also staples. Yes, there was a time before Lenny Kravitz, way, way back in the distant past.

 

10 year old Nav didn't know that "greatest hits" albums were gauche. He just loved the music.

10 year old Nav didn’t know that “greatest hits” albums were gauche. He just loved the music.

"No Sugar Tonight" Trumps "American Woman," IMO. Feel free to disagree.

“No Sugar Tonight” Trumps “American Woman,” IMO. Feel free to disagree.

 

My broader exposure to music, though, really began as a kid of just 13. Remember this made-for-TV movie?:

 

So unbelievably cool to a 13 year old boy living in at C.F.B. Nowhere.

So unbelievably cool to a 13 year old boy living in at C.F.B. Nowhere.

 

Yes, Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park was an incredible experience for a young 13 year old lad in the not-cosmopolitan locale of Canadian Forces Base Summerside, Prince Edward Island, back in ’78. And, sure enough, didn’t one awesome S. Claus leave this album for me under the tree that Christmas morning?:

 

Japanese audiophile re-issue. WARNING: Do not play under the influence of alcohol. May result in Nav spandex-clad karaoke episodes. Listen to with caution.

Japanese audiophile re-issue. WARNING: Do not play under the influence of alcohol. May result in Nav spandex-clad karaoke episodes. Listen to with caution.

 

I was into skateboarding, back in the late 70’s. After Summerside, Dad was posted for a year to the even more not-cosmopolitan U.S. Navy Facility in Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada. It was actually a great place for a kid my age, and with my subscription to Skateboarder Magazine, I was introduced to aspects of skateboarder culture, which included picking up Blondie and Nazareth albums after reading reviews of them.

 

Ah, the joys of exploring music.

Ah, the joys of exploring music.

 

1980 saw us move to the outskirts of broader metropolitan Halifax, Nova Scotia, at Canadian Forces Base Shearwater. By working a few part-time jobs, I saved enough to buy a Lloyd’s all-in-one stereo, just like this:

 

Just like this one, but with a dust cover.

Better than a plastic kids’ stereo, but still a long way away from true hi-fi

 

Not only did it have an automatic turntable (which would shut itself off after playing an album) and AM/FM receiver, it also had an 8-track player. You haven’t heard music until it’s been interrupted by the massive KA-CHUNK of a mid-song track change. As I began working at a variety of jobs in my spare time, I could afford to explore music a little more. I was also going to concerts with high school friends, when major acts would condescend to play Halifax: Ted Nugent, Van Halen, etc. I’d normally go to bed after throwing a final album on, and fall asleep listening to Led Zeppelin or Queen.

Any of these seem familiar?

 

British rock import albums!

British rock import albums!

Biting social commentary.

Biting social commentary.

LOVE early Purple.

LOVE early Purple.

"Dark Side" and "Wish You Were Here" are better, but this is the definitive end of the journey. Monumental.

Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here were great. The Wall was monumental.

Everything up to "The Game" was genius. Freddie and Brian May...

Everything up to The Game was genius. Freddie and Brian May…

Violin bows and double-neck electric guitars. The impact of Zep is difficult to comprehend, even today.

Violin bow and double-neck electric guitar, courtesy of the amazing Jimmy Page.

 

Little did I know that these formative music-stereo years were to stay with me for the rest of my life, as my tastes and experience and knowledge grew. It wasn’t until around 2000, however, with the discovery of one unselfish and dedicated audiophile’s website that I learned what true high-fidelity audio was really about. Forget all about the fancy magazine adds and the “amazing” 1,000 watt amplifiers at your local electronics shop. You’d be amazed at just how much musical information and emotion are actually hidden in those mysterious vinyl grooves. You just have to know how to coax those delicate little musical bits out.

 

Stradivarius performs Hendrix

Stay tuned for the true story behind what are probably the greatest turntables to have ever existed.

 

Musical genius. Words escape me.

Musical genius. Words escape me.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

P.S. I listened to an audiophile re-issue of The Wall last night, for the first time since high school. Wow. It was spiritual in a cerebral sort of way. For those of you who’ve had an advance read of my book The Mirror, I think you’ll see some of the lyrics from The Wall in a whole new light, especially the parts dealing with “mother.” I’ll have to write a post about this, someday. Fascinating.

P.P.S. Look what I’ve just found on 180g vinyl and ordered! Eva Cassidy on vinyl! Her singing is so beautiful, it can bring tears to my eyes, may God rest her gentle soul.

The voice of an angel

The voice of an angel

Sanctuary for the Restless Male Mind

7 Apr
Sublimely beautiful

Sublimely beautiful

Made by the modern day Stradivarius

Made by the modern day Stradivarius

This is a short post to introduce a new series of posts on music and its reproduction: audio.

Genius

Genius

Which one is navigator1965? The chap in the middle?

Which one is navigator1965? The chap in the middle?

Stradivarius performs Hendrix

Stradivarius performs Hendrix