Some of us long term, old school vinyl collectors are often aware of a phenomenon that happens in the marketplace for hard to find out-of-print titles. Seemingly — and this may just be a coincidence even though it seems to happen regularly for me — once a rare record is re-issued in the new format, many times those hard to find originals will suddenly begin to appear out in the wilds of record collecting. And by “wilds” I mean record stores, thrift shops, garage sales and if you live in a big city sometimes people just put a box on the street of stuff they want to get rid of…
I understand this. Some people don’t want to — or can no longer — hold onto some things they’ve been carrying around for ages… records from their parents’ collections which they don’t particularly like. Or perhaps they are simply older music fans who are scaling back their lives.
That said, lets consider the scenario if you are a person who likes a particular album and you see that it’s been reissued by a company such as Omnivore Recordings or perhaps Craft Recordings. Should you get rid of your original?
Just last year Omnivore put out a curious batch of CDs titles on the obscure late 1950s / early ‘60s label Coed Records. I’ll be honest, I did not review the CDs because most of the music didn’t appeal to me and I generally will only review recordings that I like – – I have a little time and patience for negativity these days and if I personally don’t like something I’d rather not give it any coverage then post something awkwardly negative.
However, there was one album that I enjoyed which I held onto for a possible review moment like this: a hits collection by a group called The Crests featuring a fellow named Johnny Mastro (aka Johnny Maestro). Some of you might know he was the voice of ‘60s hit makers The Brooklyn Bridge (with their big smash hit recording of Jimmy Webb’s “The Worst That Could Happen” among many others).
Last week while I was scouring around in the bargain bin at Amoeba Records Music, I found an original pressing of this album on vinyl — The Best of The Crests — something I’ve never actually seen before anywhere out of the wilds of record collecting. It is still a pretty rare record with only nine copies listed on Discogs with prices ranging up to over $200.
Now, don’t get all excited about those prices because as any serious collector will tell you the “asking” price is only as good as the digital space it’s printed on. You still have to find a customer first to pay that much and that may take a long time, if it happens at all.
So there-in lies the rub of record collecting. If you want an original edition, you might have to pay some coin unless you are like me and willing to wait and scour around through endless stacks of records until you find a bargain like I did, or you just buy a brand new shiny all digital CD selling for $15-$30.
So, what do you do if you are the owner of said rare album and would like to get the spiffy new edition? Do you just purge your scratchy old version and toss all those memories attached to it? Or do you keep it and get the new one too?
Personally, if I like an album a lot I will hold onto my original pressings for posterity and for the ability to hear that original sound as it exists on vinyl. But I will also likely buy it on CD so that I could hear the latest mastering or even remixing. Having a CD version of a favorite album is handy for mobile use if you still have a car CD player or for ripping to your computer for use on your mobile devices. Some of these titles can be fairly obscure so you may not necessarily find them all out there on the streaming services or at least the specific versions you want to hear.
I also still like making my own compilations and playlists at times so having them on disc is convenient for being able to rip tracks I want to put in my “mixtape,” If you will
So you’re probably wondering now how this new Omnivore CD of The Best Of The Crests album sounds in comparison to original LP? Well, I expected it to sound somewhat different as I was not sure of the tape source used for the new reissue. My original LP was probably a compilation reel made from first generation sources back in 1959 or so before the magnetic tape had deteriorated much.
The new CD which was mastered by Grammy award-winning audio engineer Michael Graves and happily the CD sounds quite good in comparison to the old LP. I was actually anticipating that the LP would sound significantly better but both recordings are quite bright to begin with so there is definitely some common DNA happening here. Of course, the CD is crisp and clean without surface noise and the inevitable tell-tale reminders of a well loved album from the past — ticks and pops and surface noise from being played over and over on inexpensive teenage record players of the day.
So in this case, the CD is a fairly good representation of the old LP version.
This isn’t always the case. I can’t tell you how many times a friend has approached me, upset, saying: “I got this new box set by so-and-so and it doesn’t sound like my original record!”
I asked a mastering engineer friend about this phenomenon once when I was playing some old Buddy Holly singles on my then new mono cartridge. What I was hearing was phenomenal, a presence that was not on any later LPs or CD versions I had heard of those classic tracks. He replied, non at all surprised, explaining that those unique mixes reside and are preserved exclusively in those 45s because of the way those recordings were prepared and mastered. The 45 RPM single was king back then as far as sales of pop and rock recordings went, so much love and care went into making them sound as good as possible, so the music would jump out of a three inch car radio speaker or portable radio. They sound quite stunning.
So what do you do? Do you purge your original records or get the new one or keep both? Most times, when I have a recording that I love deeply, I will in fact hold onto my originals even when getting a new copy. I’m OK with having multiple views – – if you will – – of a favorite recording. In fact I like it.
This underscores part of the appeal of getting some of those fancy box sets that you see me reviewing such as the recent John Lennon Plastic Ono Band 50th anniversary set which not only adds a new stereo remix but also surround sound and even stripped back raw takes of the songs. Regardless, I will be holding onto my original pressing even though I really like the new remix because I want to be able to hear that original version from time to time. There is still still a certain vibe in those original grooves!
If your old record is really scratched up or dirty, don’t fret — you can usually clean those things up. I have my own process for washing records but if you don’t want to hassle with that there are many record stores these days which have ultrasonic cleaners to clean your records for a small fee. I know of at least two stores right here in San Francisco that provide this service: The Originals Vinyl Records Store and Tunnel Records.
So you should by this new Crest CD if you like the group even if if you really love your original album.
Yes. But hold on to your original if you have a history with it.
One of Paul Simon’s most poignant songs, “Old Friends,” ends with a take-away thought which has stuck with me most of my life: “preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.”
And I’ll bet you have a lot of memories stored up in those album covers if you stop and look at them periodically. Your record collection in that way is indeed a part of your life journey… Think about it next time you consider getting rid of your old albums or CDs… you might just want to keep them around a bit longer….