The rise in sale of new vinyl over the past decade [with 2014 being the biggest since 1991] seems to represent a new twist on an old format for an industry that’s taken a beating via technology and it’s own confused direction. Sure vinyl still represents less than 6% of album ‘sales’ last year, but for myself and collectors – it is a plus factor; not so much as a return to the old days of collecting – but the opportunity again to purchase something real, as opposed to a computer file or a compact disc. My new enjoyment of vinyl came a few years ago; I had put away my turntable for some years, switched over to CDs – as we were lead to do, and had figured CDs were it. But they weren’t! They became too easy to make, burn your own, plus companies flooding the market with endless re-issues and compilations – essentially they became cheap and disposable. And how the hell does one appreciate a “highly collectable” CD?? CDs also gave way to the record company mentality that ‘more is better’ – so cramming 15 songs on an ‘album’ (with no rhyme or reason to the running order) was somehow better than 2 sides of 4-5 songs that one didn’t have to skip through the crap and filler to enjoy. Long Play records used to have reason to them — a cool cover with inner sleeves, maybe a bonus poster or flyer – unless the record company was cheap [see Warners editions of Uriah Heep LPs 1976-77!]
However CDs were and are (still) good for use in the car.
From the time I was about 11 I was buying vinyl LPs, and over the next 25 years amassed a decent sized collection, until technology and life took away sparadic shopping sprees to Toronto [from where I would come home with a bag of 10+ LPs to the shock and grumblings of my parents]. Between marriage and moving a few times – my collecting slowed right down, and between moves I would decide abruptly to ditch a pile of albums at a used store, because I was sick of moving them! When the compact disc came along we were told LPs would be extinct and CDs were here to stay for the future. Ha. I fought the change, but eventually got a CD player around 1991 and slowly started a new collection, and over time the LPs became less and less played.
I had always bought a few new LPs over the years after the switch, mainly for collectable reasons, but CDs never had the art and packaging that could go with an LP, and often something was amiss in the sound. A new turntable, new [used] speakers, an equalizer, and my old receiver (with various lights no longer working) confirmed all this for me. And did i mention the artwork? Being a Uriah Heep fan, it was Heep’s association with Greek born [American living] artist Ioannis that really peeked my interest — record covers, if the band or record company cared – were pieces of art in themselves. Although Uriah Heep’s “Wake The Sleeper” album in 2008 may not have been my favorite Heep album — I wanted that ‘art’ — not a friggin little square copy of it. And since then I’ve been buying a few new LPs by bands I really enjoy, for the music and the thrill of having that full package with the art. And yes, I have a number of Ioannis’ signed prints in my living room! My new found enjoyment of vinyl and the packaging has lead me to pick up a few other collections [or try!] – most notably British rockers Magnum – a band that’s been going since the late ’70s over there, but never come to North America, thus remain a mystery to many and treasure to the fans here that know of them. It helps that not only has Magnum consistantly put out great albums since their comeback in the early 2000s – never straying far from the formula, and keeping the fans happy, But their album covers almost always feature the art of the legendary Rodney Matthews. The fantasy themed covers, colorful, amazing pieces – and one can simply get them by buying the LP! (or you can purchase a print for much more at his site!). Matthews follows the fantasy themed album cover ideas that Roger Dean would make famous [see Yes, Uriah Heep, Asia…]. It also helps that – nowadays record companies & management see the importance of vinyl issues for the old fans & collectors, thus with many releases there’s the limited edition, numbered, gatefold and colored vinyl edition! I’m actually slightly bummed on occasion when one of my favorite bands or a great new release doesn’t get issued on vinyl – be it due to lack of dollars or support or belief from the label or artist. It may be an investment (and someone can correct me if I’m wrong) that is appreciated more than one initially thinks (ie: I would’ve loved to have vinyl editions of last year’s release from the band Wonderworld – who’s CD cover featured Canadian artist George Grie — though I am told this in the works still; as well as Coney Hatch’s ‘Four’ – to have the full set …but oh well). Hopefully, in time prices / costs will come down enough in favor of bands and collectors.