Friday, July 27, 2007

David Vandervelde - Nothin' No

T-Rex - Cadillac
Chris Bell - I Am the Cosmos
Mezzanine Owls - Lightbulb
Adrian Borland - Sea of Noise
The Chameleons UK - Intrigue in Tangiers (Peel Session)

From the District Vaults: Elton John/Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Each week we'll open the Vinyl Vault to revisit a classic LP, and what better way to kick off this section than with Elton John's 1973 release "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road."

Janis Schacht wrote in Circus in January of '74, "After many fumbles and a great many more near-misses, Elton John is back and stronger than he's been on record in many a blue moon. This lush two record set moves from mood to mood with no apparent effort and a great sense of timing, class and style.

I've never been one of the people who found "Rocket Man" (a "Space Oddity" rip-off no matter what anybody says) or "Daniel" as fulfilling as "Your Song," "I Need You To Turn To" or "Border Song." So, as the years passed and the man became more and more flamboyant, I kept thinking his music was really suffering from all this adulation. But Elton finally has met his original potential and whether he's singing the delicate and beautiful "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" or rocking out to "Your Sister Can't Twist (But She can Rock n' Roll)" he always hits the mark rather than scoring a near miss. Bernie Taupin is pursuing the many facets of a dying Hollywood, much in the style Ray Davies did on the Kink's Everybody's In Showbiz epic, and in many songs, especially "Roy Rogers," he's sentimental and sensitive without ever slipping into that dangerous songwriter's trap of banality. "You draw to the curtains/And one thing's for certain/You're cozy in your little room/The carpet's all paid for/God bless the T.V./Let's go shoot a hole in the moon," Elton sings. When you are not forced to look at Mr. John's ridiculous get-ups it's easy to believe in him once more.

"Harmony" is a change of pace number. Haunting and subtle it has great mid-sixties three-part harmony (natch) with backup vocals compliments of Davey Johnstone and Nigel Olsson. The song sounds as if it might have been recorded for the first or second Bee Gee's LP, way back when they were a great band. "Harmony" may never be a single but it's a star track and a perfect end for a near perfect album."
Bennie and the Jets
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Dirty Little Girl

Back in the groove: young music fans ditch downloads and spark vinyl revival

· Sales of 7in singles rise by 13% in first half of year
· New bands and collectors turning to old format

The format was supposed to have been badly wounded by the introduction of CDs and killed off completely by the ipod-generation that bought music online. But in a rare case of cheerful news for the record labels, the latest phenomenon in a notoriously fickle industry is one nobody dared predict: a vinyl revival. Latest figures show a big jump in vinyl sales in the first half of this year, confirming the anecdotal evidence from specialist shops throughout the UK.

It comes as sales of CD singles continue to slide - and it is not being driven by technophobic middle-aged consumers. Teenagers and students are developing a taste for records and are turning away from the clinical method of downloading music on to an MP3 player. The data, released by the UK's industry group BPI, shows that 7in vinyl sales were up 13% in the first half, with the White Stripes' Icky Thump the best seller.

Two-thirds of all singles in the UK now come out on in the 7in format, with sales topping 1m. Though still a far cry from vinyl's heyday in 1979, when Art Garfunkel's Bright Eyes alone sold that number and the total vinyl singles market was 89m, the latest sales are still up more than fivefold in five years.

For record stores, the resurgence has meant a move from racks of vintage Rolling Stones and Beatles releases to brand new singles and younger buyers. "The student population seem to be loving the 7in," says Stuart Smith, who runs Seismic Records in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. He sells 300-600 records a week and is preparing to launch an online store.

"I'm still not sure about the MP3 generation. You can have a full hard drive and nothing to show for it. Record collections are very personal. You can view into a person's soul really," he says.

The customers rummaging through racks at his store, a small room above a skate shop, are students and DJs.

When Mr Smith opened the vinyl shop in early 2005, digital download sales were rocketing and, amid rampant piracy, global music revenues were several years into their current downward spiral.

A shop selling LPs and 7in singles didn't sound like the most promising business plan. But when his employers at the local outlet of music chain Fopp - now closed down - decided to stop selling vinyl it was something he couldn't resist.

"I just couldn't understand why they decided to turn their backs on it. I saw an opportunity to do something I love doing. I've been a collector myself for years," says the 31-year-old. "It's just one of things. It just felt right."

Two years on, the White Stripes' Icky Thump has just notched up the highest weekly sales for a 7in single for more than 20 years. Retailers and record labels put the rising vinyl sales down to bands rediscovering the format and to music fans' enduring desire to collect. It's not unusual for fans to buy a 7in but have nothing to play it on, says Paul Williams at industry magazine Music Week. "It's about the kind of acts that have very loyal fan bases that want everything to do with that act," he says. "They maybe will buy the download to listen to, but they get the vinyl to own. It's looked at like artwork."

HMV agrees that vinyl is back from the brink, and the chain has been rapidly expanding its record racks to meet rising demand. The group's Gennaro Castaldo cites the huge popularity of "indie" bands, such as Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys, which enjoy loyal followings among teenagers and students, especially during the summer festival season.

"Labels have realised that it's cool for bands to release their music on vinyl, especially in limited edition form, which makes it highly collectible," he says.

London company Art Vinyl has built a whole business out of the format's visual and tactile appeal by selling easy-to-open frames to display records and their sleeves.

For fans, buying and owning a record can provide a welcome change from the anonymity of online downloads, says Art Vinyl's founder Andrew Heeps. "If you go into a record shop to buy something, you feel part of something," he says. "The fact that last year we sold over 9,000 frames to people says an awful lot about where the market is going."

Cara Henn, a DJ and regular Seismic Records customer says going to the store puts her in touch with her peers and has hammered home the vinyl trend. "I've really been getting back into my vinyl. I love it," she says. "I like to hear crackling, as if it's actually real. Especially with drum'n'bass, DJs are really encouraging fans to buy vinyl."

(Monday July 16, 2007, The Guardian)