I am in a pickle. Part of my life policy these days when it comes to my music collection is that when something new comes into the collection, SOMETHING has to go to maintain equilibrium. I have limited space, so unless I want to endure the rath of friends who half - seriously threaten to call TV's Hoarder's show on me, I need to keep things under control. Here's how I've dealt with some recent acquisitions.
On the last Record Store Day (RSD), I picked up one of the Mono editions of Van Dyke Parks' classic 1968 release Song Cycle, with the intention of comparing it in a review to my original Stereo pressing. The problem is, upon listening two the two side by side, I can't really discern any great difference on a basic enjoyment level. Both are really great. As it should be, the music is the focus, not the mix. Sure, the Stereo pressing has some cool panning effects and such which add a bit to the psychedelic flashback flavor of the album. But the Mono works pretty much just as well as a listening experience. Curiuosly, both pressings old and new are dead quiet vinyl. The Mono edition is a low numbered edition, for what that is worth (#181) so that is kinda cool to have.
Some other releases have posed a similar conundrum.
The new 180-gram reissue of REM's late '80s classic Green sounds great, pressed on perfectly centered, dead quiet black vinyl and reproducing the album art in quality that is actually BETTER than the original pressings! However, I have an early promo copy of that album (with the tracklisting sticker on the back cover) and, frankly, the sound on that LP - even tho' it is thinner standard vinyl - sounds about the same as the new pressing. Do I keep both?
How about the SACD release of Billy Joel's 52nd Street which I was given recently. It certainly sounds bright and shiney, perhaps a bit too much -- it was an early SACD offering so perhaps newer editions sound better. When compared to the white label promo copy I picked up at a used shop recently for $5 which sounds fantastic, the choice to make was pretty clear.
The LP version of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Raising Sand, which I picked up on discount last RSD is a clear choice over the CD version. So, that decision was easy.
I recently purchased the Sundazed reissue of The Lovin' Spoonful's classic hit album Daydream which comes on spiffy clear gold vinyl. I have a near mint original Mono pressing of the same album on Kama Sutra, but the Sundazed issue is in Stereo and has unreleased bonus tracks. But, as if the godz of record collecting Karma were watching, out of the blue a friend -- knowing I am a big John Sebastian fan -- mails me a rare 1960s Asian pressing of the SAME album on orange-amber colored vinyl! Crazy coincidence! He had no idea I was getting the Sundazed pressing. So what am I to do? The Mono pressing is different from the Stereo pressing and has different back cover art.The Asian pressing is just an oddity that is cool to have; face it, I'll never see a copy like this again. It also comes in a very thin plastic bag and paper sleeve so it doesn't take up much space.
To justify keeping this this, I am getting rid of a couple of John Sebastian albums I had in duplicate including a less than perfect condition UK pressing of his first solo album and a bootleg which I'd found at a flea market years ago (and now realize is a pirate of the MGM-issued live album from 1971).
Lets do the math to check on my collection equilibrium.
I've decided to add the:
Mono Van Dyke Park LP +1
Page/Krause LP + 1
Billy Joel's 52nd Street (promo) LP +1
Lovin Spoonful Sundazed Stereo colored vinyl LP +1
Lovin Spoonful Asian-pressed colored vinyl LP +1
REM Green Reissue +1
Yet I am getting rid of the:
Plant/Krause CD -1
Billy Joel's 52nd Street (Stock LP) -1
Billy Joel's 52nd Street (SACD) -1
John Sebastian bootleg LP -1
John Sebastian solo LP -1
To make up for the overage I am also purging a duplicate copy of Nick Lowe's Labor of Lust which I had in the collection for some odd reason.
There. That wasn't so difficult, was it?
Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer who's songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he's written. www.smotroff.com