From Vinyl to MP3 to Vinyl

As some of you may know, or may have read back in 2021, I have been sorting things out five items at a time for a while now. That has not stopped.

While perhaps a great purge may have been better at some point as this has been going on since well before that original article was posted, I have been able to notice the difference. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of things I was avoiding.

Various forms of media, for example, have been hit or miss in my getting-rid-of-all-the-things. I did redistribute all of the data on the various thumb drives I had collected over the years, followed by a reformatting and a sorting of keep or remove.

I still haven’t touched my CD collection or my DVD collection, but I have recently halved my collection of vinyl records, and this is wonderful. I’m getting rid of 180 of them and keeping 177. Yes, I had that much vinyl; no, I didn’t collect it all by myself.

Honestly, I bought a record player to preserve The Beatles and Rolling Stones albums that my parents were going to part with, along with a few other family important albums. So that’s a few. Then I bought myself a few albums here or there; I jumped in on the Guardians of the Galaxy double album soundtrack, I picked up my favorite They Might Be Giants album John Henry in the format, and so on from there.

Then I was given a collection of about 200 albums from a family estate that my family had been cleaning out, because – well, I really don’t know why. And so the collection ballooned. Lastly, when my partner Stefanie moved in, her collection moved in with her.

But this isn’t about my victory in halving this collection of vinyl: this is about the music I discovered while going through it.

There are two bands that stand out from the collection that were “new to me” bands, as this collection wasn’t new and mostly wasn’t mine. These two bands are bands that are now in heavy rotation for now and will probably just get filtered back into the algorithm of my brain for choosing music to listen to.

The first band is Good Rats, and the two albums that I own and that I enjoyed enough to start listening to more from my personal back catalog were “From Rats to Riches’” and “…Live at Last.” Good Rats is just your classic ‘70s Blues Rock, so on that description, you may have an idea of what it sounds like, but this isn’t as polished as say Boston. They sound more like they belong with Kiss and Alice Cooper. Genuinely, it is a surprise to me that I had to discover this band through a collection that was given to me.

There was a third album in the collection as well, “Birth Comes To Us All,” that I didn’t really enjoy, so it can grow on me from a digital streaming service, but not from my record player.

Remember, kids, the all-knowing algorithm won’t deliver new-to-you music nearly as well as going through a gifted record collection.

That goes for the second band I discovered, Dr. Hook. Dr. Hook is a Frank Zappa-esque band that recorded as Dr. Hook but the band was Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show. Their music is rock, blues, country, and even novelty.

Four Dr. Hook albums were a part of the collection and three remain. Just like Good Rats, there was one album that I just didn’t want to keep. Belly Up!, Sloppy Seconds, and Bankrupt remain with me, but the softer A Little Bit More isn’t something I’m interested in listening to, but it may grow on me digitally should I choose to revisit it.

The albums kept in the collection that will remain are ones that fit at least one of the following criteria;

Criteria: I will listen to the vinyl on my record player.

This is the most important criteria. To that end, I need to want to listen to the whole album. There were quite a few albums I have removed from my collection because there’s only one or two tracks on the disc that I want to listen to. As a rule in this era of digital streaming, I can’t see the value of keeping an album for one single song. This is also part of the “Is it available on a streaming service?” conversation. Some albums just don’t require a record player anymore, and if they don’t, I don’t need to keep it.

Criteria: The album cover is a work of art.

Now of course, this seems counterintuitive to the first criteria, but it is important. For example, as much as I enjoy Flirtin’ With Disaster as a song, I’ll probably not put any Molly Hatchett albums on the record player. I did, however, keep both the album Flirtin’ With Disaster and their self-titled album because they feature cover art by the legendary Frank Frazetta, and I am a big fan of theirs. The same could be said of Big Brother and The Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills, which fits the criteria of I will listen to it on the record player AND that it features cover art by the legendary underground comic artist R. Crumb.

Criteria: Availability of once important albums.

When I talk about once important albums, I mean as I’m speaking about them in 2023. But I have held on to Woody Allen’s double album “Stand Up” as well as Bill Cosby’s “i started out as a child,” “to russell, my brother, whom I slept with,” and “Why is there air?” Personally, I have the ability to separate the art from the artists. I know others that can’t, but these albums represent some seminal moments in recorded comedy. As their availability is sparse at best, I’d rather have a copy than not.

On the music front “Otis Redding / The Jimi Hendrix Experience Recorded Live at The Monterey International Pop Festival” is an epic performance album. While it is currently available on streaming services, I don’t want to take any chances that one day it won’t and I’ll miss out.

Another availability album is Supertramp “The Early Years” which is rough in all the right places compared to the classic “Breakfast in America,” which is another album I have and will keep because of the next and last criteria.

There are also a few Dr. Demento albums that are hard to come by on streaming services that made the cut as well.

Criteria: This album is a personal classic.

This is purely for those albums that mean something to me, among them Supertramp’s Breakfast in America; Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells a Story; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 4 Way Street; Dire Straits’ Making Movies; Harry Chapin’s Greatest Stories Live; Simon and Garfunkel’s The Concert in Central Park; and the two movie soundtracks that are some of the best mixes I personally enjoy – The Big Chill Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and The Big Chill: More Songs from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.

At the end of the day, this process has been enjoyable, and perhaps even more so because I didn’t do it alone. Despite most of the records being mine or inherited by me I went through the entire collection the first time with Stef. We listened to things on streaming services where they were available to see if we liked it enough to keep the vinyl. We looked things up to see what they were about, and we just sat around listening to records for a few days. We always have other pressing things to do, so spending that time together was pretty great.

Honestly, even if you don’t halve your collection for any reason at all, sitting around listening to records is a great way to spend an evening with yourself or others.

And of course, this isn’t done. In six months to a year’s time I expect to go back through and see what records haven’t been touched and why. Yes, there is a spreadsheet, but no I won’t be tracking plays and the like. It’s just that after at least six months I’ll know that this record or that record isn’t one I’m listening to and perhaps I can halve my collection again.