The Vinyl Truth: Records make a comeback!
by Paul Challacombe
The final vinyl, the platter that matters, in the groove, the spinner that's a winner.
Over 2010 I have left the digital domain and returned to the turntable. This modulation in my modality is chain linked to the appearance of Rediscover Records on Spring Street.
Who would have thunk that what downtown Elgin needed was an old-fashioned record store?
When I was a teenager in love, there was a record store on Douglas Avenue and some more bins down in the basement of Polk Brothers later Osco, and now an empty edifice yearning to be something at 56 South Grove. Gadflies like me searched through those bins for the secrets to life or desperately went into Chicago for more esoteric and bootleg discs. I even subscribed to a record club, the first two postal deliveries were a Mingus and a Miles.
My most recent mission into the mystic ended with me clutching a jazz classic by the saxophonist Gato Barberi, a recording of Beethoven's Ninth featuring Sir George Solti's Chicago symphony, and a collection of the Temptation's greatest hits. All this was, by the way, more than reasonably cheap to acquire at the aforementioned Rediscover Records, located at 9 S. Spring Street.
The past is a blast and the future has a tonearm and a needle. I can say that because the kids are in there too at Rediscover Records. The truth today is that most of the new music out there is mundane and ignorant, and these kids know it. Fortuantely, all music is new the first the first time you hear it so a vintage vinyl is fresh as flowers to ears that are still pink with youth.
But let's break down those three discs I found last week, although I could do the same for many more. The lesson here is to go in there yourself, and dig into just what you dig, be it polka, hippie music or the classics. And if you don't have a turntable, they can take care of that too. Your music is yours, don't ever give that up or away.
The Gato Barberi platter is actually mostly drek. It is historically amusing, for right here is where that smooth jazz began. There are funky electric bass lines, silly synthesizers, and string overdubs enough to rot out your molars but there is also Gato, and Gato can growl through a saxophone with what only an Argentine could bring to jazz. Nobody else plays the horn like that before or since and this record was in the $1 dollar bin, so I am a happy ear hound.
On to the Temptations: Have you ever really listened to My Girl, Ain't Too Proud to Beg or I Wish it Would Rain. ? Have you ever really heard how much an otherwise sane man can be helplessly in love with the girl of his dreams and demolitions?
Then they go onto social commentary in songs like Cloud Nine, Papa Was a Rollin' Stone and Ball of Confusion. For all their synchronous moves, silk suits, and impeccable harmonies, the Temps had something to say. They beat the rappers there by forty years or so. So there you go, vinyl is truth.
And now, as for Beethoven, and this I have already writ: The Ninth is the Ninth and nothing compares. But the silly thing about this record was the fat bulbous yellow letters on the cover as if Solti and Beethoven could be somehow 70s psychedelic.
The irony that remains is how in those times, something sort of strange happened while nobody was really paying attention to what we call classical music. All of a sudden, and thanks in a great degree to Solti, the best orchestra in the world was suddenly in Chicago. And this is not without a connection, for shortly after that, another great symphonic configuration arose in Elgin under the direction of Robert Hanson. And we here in the Fox Valley have been perpetually blessed year after year consummating this fall with as sublime a performance of the Ninth as I have ever heard and I heard it live, because I live in Elgin.
That performance was recorded and can be obtained from the ESO. And that would be a CD that also includes the magnificent brass fanfare Tree of Life composed by Elgin's own Daniel Brewbaker.
Which brings me to my final point, what I have learned at Rediscover Records and the spectacular concerts in our hometown. Music is something each human has to discover for his or herself. So-called genres are irrelevant. The magic is whatever plugs into you. But you have to go find it on your own, be it a vinyl, a CD, or a download or better yet live.
But it's here, right here in River City.