music makes the world go round [Virginian - Pilot]
(Virginian - Pilot Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) By Rashod Ollison
I don't want to believe it's a midlife crisis, but maybe that's exactly what it is.
The classic signs are there: A restlessness born out of the fear that your relevance, like your once plentiful physical energy, is diminishing. You find yourself filtering the past through a Technicolor screen, peppering conversations with phrases like, "Back when we were in school," or "These young folks know nothing about ... ."
You buy something on an impulse, an expensive thing that makes no sense to some of your friends. But this purchase seems to soothe, if only for a little while, the unsettling feeling of wheels spinning in the mud.
A few months back, I went out on a Saturday afternoon and drove around looking for a new component stereo system, one to which I could connect a turntable for vinyl records.
I could have waited and perused the Internet for deals or pored over articles about the best brands. But as with any crisis, I felt I had no time to waste. In about two hours or so, I lucked out on a very good system, one with multiple functions, and a quality turntable, both of which were on sale at businesses across the street from one another. I only had to drive a few miles away from home.
Once everything was connected properly, which took a few days because in my haste I hadn't bought the right wires for the optimum sound, I felt anchored again, relieved and refocused.
I don't remember my life without music. Other than my mother's voice, Aretha Franklin's gospel-fired wails are among the first sounds I remember hearing. Music filled the house day in and out.
My father abandoned the family when I was 6, and he left behind a stack of records. To combat frequent bouts of loneliness, and to connect with the man who all but became a ghost in my life, I spun the records often and was transported into a world of brokenhearted melodies, the oh-how-I-miss-my-baby blues, a funk-infused nirvana where carnality and spirituality wove themselves into each other. I didn't understand the lyrical tales then, but I definitely felt something.
When I was a teenager and working after school in the 1990s, the CD age was booming, and I started building my collection. I rarely left home without my CD Walkman and my small leather carrying case of discs stuffed in my backpack. In college, folks had to run up to me or throw something at me to get my attention, because I was never without my headphones.
When the iPod was introduced, I was working in New York City and left the front door every day with my wallet, keys and iPod for the long subway rides. I've bought three or four since then, and at home I'd plug it into my old stereo and let the songs shuffle. I still played CDs, but found myself skipping around tracks on those, too.
One day, I noticed that I wasn't actually listening to the music. I realized I probably hadn't really surrendered to an album, completely gotten lost in the sound for a long time.
Engaging in music has always been how I refueled myself - and how I made a living. Now with a turntable and stacks of records, it has become a physical act again. With an LP, the urge to shuffle songs disappears, because cuing a record, placing the needle just so on the right track, is tedious. You're forced to take the musical journey through the album.
But before I bought the turntable, no matter what I was listening to in a digital format, I started to feel a certain distance from the music. I could concentrate enough to review an album for work regardless of the format, which was often a stream emailed by the record label. But at home when I didn't have to form an opinion for an article, when I wanted to dive into an enchanted abyss of melody and rhythm, the act that often saved my sanity wasn't happening.
In my precious alone time, I desired the same thing I've received from my most satisfying relationships: a sense of real engagement.
I started haunting vinyl shops around the area, including one I found just a few miles away from my home. I spent hours digging in the bins. I bought old LPs and 45s that seemed to tell stories about their previous owners: the math equations written in ink on the back of a Dionne Warwick album; the tiny flecks of weed in the gatefold of an Ohio Players LP; the valentine scribbled on a Johnny Mathis album with the name "Paul" inside.
I had been craving a certain sonic imperfection, the anticipation that comes as the needle slides and hisses into the first groove. I wanted to feel the music in my hands again, to place it on the turntable and be kidnapped by it.
The music sounded gloriously different, especially classic albums I'd only known in a digital format. Had the bass lines on Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" always been that thick, resonant and fluid? Nat King Cole's smoked honey baritone felt warmer oozing through surface noise. The blues of Esther Phillips felt more human, achingly so, as the record crackled and popped while she crooned, "Junkie walking through the twilight/I'm on my way home."
The many stacks of albums I bought and keep buying are heavy and take up almost an entire wall in my living room. The hip thing to do as you "move forward" in life is to downsize, right? Everything has to be slim and sleek and barely there; less is more and on and on. My impulse buy didn't break the bank, but it wasn't necessarily an essential purchase.
Or maybe it was.
At a time when life seems to demand that we fragment everything, that we multitask even while we're relaxing, focusing on one thing and savoring it, especially in an antiquated format, may seem like a desperate idea. But in a small way, this sudden return to vinyl reignited my passion for something I've enjoyed for as long as I can remember. I needed the music to be real.
I needed to feel it again.
Rashod Ollison, (757) 446-2732, firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out Rashod's blog at www.hamptonroads.com/behindthegroove
veering toward vinyl
Interested in arranging your own rendezvous with vinyl records? There are a host of shops in South Hampton Roads to get you started. Here are some nice ones:
431 W. 22nd St., Norfolk
More info 622-2241, www.skinniesrecords.com
A specialty shop, Skinnies carries just about anything you're looking for in the world of metal, old and new. The store also sells a variety of merchandise to complete your metal listening experience, including incense, T-shirts and posters.
Good for The shop is the most specialized of the bunch, a haven for metal heads.
958 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach
More info 963-6363, www.vinyldazerecords.com
This shop near the Oceanfront is one of the newer vinyl stores in Hampton Roads - and one of the best. The space, vibrant with valentine-red and aqua- blue walls, is clean, inviting and well- organized, with multiple listening stations. Various genres - soul, jazz, punk and classic rock - fill the bins. The place also carries a variety of 45s as well as some audio equipment.
Good for The place attracts a diverse crowd, but because it's newer, colorful and carries a hip mix of new releases and good indie rock, it attracts lots of young folks.
AFK Books & Records
4801 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach
More info 962-1996, www.afkbooks.com
Tucked in a strip mall, AFK carries used and new vinyl near the front, an impressive collection that leans more toward rock and jazz. Brightly lit and well-organized, the other half of the store is dominated by used books.
Good for The store has a library feel because of the books and draws a mix of folks, a lot of moms and students.
951 Providence Road, Virginia Beach
More info 495-0961, www.birdlandmusic.com
One of the oldest record shops in Hampton Roads, the Kempsville shop is something of an institution, with bins, crates and boxes filled with vinyl treasures. The records are changed out every week, and they're fairly priced. The staff is also chatty, knowledgeable and helpful.
Good for Because it's been around for more than three decades, most baby boomers flock to Birdland, which specializes in hard-to- find jazz, classic pop and rock.
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