Tag Archives: record

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The -vinyl- music challenge

I was recently challenged to come up with a list of my 10 favorite records. No easy task, especially as one’s musical taste tends (and ought) to change along with -and because of- one’s life experiences and influences. In fact, any such list is essentially a moment frozen in time: no doubt my choices will be different if I try this exercise again in a month, year or decade from now.

Having said that, I tried to think how I could make my -inevitably arbitrary and ephemeral- selection a bit more meaningful. I wanted to make a point and so I decided to consider only records from my vinyl collection. Vinyl still persists amidst today’s technological frenzy, and for a good reason: apart from its full, warm sound it brings with it a whole culture, from the process surrounding its purchase to the actual listening experience and the sheer pleasure of enjoying its artwork.

So here’s some of the most memorable vinyl records I have acquired over the last few years (arranged à la Nick Hornby in chronological order of acquisition):

1) Sviatoslav Richter – J.S. Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier

The world’s greatest pianist meets the world’s greatest composer. Amen.

2) Neville Marriner – Amadeus [Original Soundtrack Recording]

As if Mozart’s sublime music wasn’t rewarding enough, listening to this record reminds me of Milos Forman’s epic masterpiece, one of my favorite movies ever.

3) The Beatles – Rubber Soul

Someone once said there are three great Bs in music: Bach, Beethoven and… The Beatles. He was right.

4) Jacque Loussier Trio – Play Bach No. 1

I’ve hinted at the artistry of French pianist Jacque Loussier in an earlier post about Vivaldi, but it was with his inspired take on Bach that he made his breakthrough.

5) Baden Powell – Poema on Guitar

I love everything about this record: its title, its beautiful cover, and above all Baden Powell’s tuneful guitar sound and dreamy compositions.

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6) Simon & Garfunkel – The Concert in Central Park

I still get goose bumps every single time I listen to this. Timeless.

7) Led Zeppelin – IV

I bought this in a vinyl shop in Istanbul. Like the Quran in mosques or the Bible in churches, I think it should be freely available at all conservatories and music schools.

8) Arvo Pärt – Tabula Rasa

A deeply evocative work by a remarkable and highly idiosyncratic composer whose music truly makes time stand still.

9) Thanasis Papakonstantinou – Ο Ελάχιστος Εαυτός (The Minimal Self)

The finest and most original composer that has emerged in the last 20 years in Greece. His records are like rays of light amidst a vast darkness…

10) Paco de Lucía – Almoraima

A true miracle of technique, composition, and expression – the more I listen to it, the more I admire Paco’s astonishing skill as both guitarist and musical innovator.

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The timeless charm of record stores

Although I grew up in a house with a fair number of vinyl records lying around, I belong to the compact disc generation. The first music album I ever bought was in CD format, and so were the countless others that followed over the years. That is, until fairly recently, when I finally got around to buying my own record player.

I only started getting seriously involved with vinyl around 2008, after already having moved to rainy Amsterdam from my sunny hometown, Athens. It was not the change of climate, however, that did the trick. It was the city’s amazing vinyl market and the enchanting, vintage black discs with the cool artwork that kept catching my eye even though going back to vinyl in our digital age seemed to be a clearly retrogressive move, like reverting to agriculture from industrialization (which actually doesn’t sound that bad I have to confess).

Getting to know Amsterdam’s record stores has been an ongoing adventure, and a most pleasurable one. I’m mostly talking about independent record stores, with their special charm and character, like the fictional Championship Vinyl in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.

Inside ‘Concerto’, one of Amsterdam’s oldest record stores

Fortunately, such stores are still amongst us, and record hunting around there as well as the city’s flea markets has been a favorite pastime ever since I got my record player (if you want to know more about the unique world of Amsterdam’s record stores, check out my survey about the top vinyl spots in town).

The unique culture of indie record stores is celebrated through Record Store Day. Originally conceived in 2007, it is now celebrated the third Saturday every April (it was officially kicked off by Metallica at Rasputin Music in San Francisco on April 19, 2008).

On Record Store Day (April 20 this year) the participating independently-owned record stores organize various events and festivities, while special vinyl/CD releases and live performances from hundreds of artists also take place (you can check here to see if there is a participating store near you).

In the words of Sir Paul McCartney: “There’s nothing as glamorous to me as a record store. When I recently played Amoeba in LA, I realized what fantastic memories such a collection of music brings back when you see it all in one place. I hope that these kinds of stores will be there for us all for many years to come.”