My Top Albums On Vinyl, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Those who have lived through the eras of music on vinyl, reel to reel tape, 8-track and cassette tapes, CDs and digital formats may tell you that the best of all was the vinyl era.  Yes, audiophiles will tell you that the best sound actually comes off of records, not the other formats.  As records and recording equipment, speakers and headphones evolved over many decades, the sound steadily improved.  Before the giant rush to tape formats, recordings on actual vinyl records became quite advanced.  When mono became stereo, and stereo advanced to multi channel sounds, people were piling columns of speakers around their rooms in order to make it feel like the music was being played right there in the room with you.

record player

There were people who could tell you which albums had the best “channel separation” and would place speakers where certain instruments would appear in one place, while others could be heard from elsewhere in the room.  As recording techniques became sophisticated, so did the listeners’ equipment.  If you had a great turntable, receiver, speakers and headphones, you probably needed an equalizer so you could balance your sound perfectly.  I had a friend who loved classical music.  His many speakers were placed strategically so as to have the symphony orchestra placed perfectly.  With a little mixing magic on the equalizer, you might feel you were hearing the music live.

Those days are gone and no matter how much you insist the sound is better today, no one with a “sophisticated stereo system” in the 1970s will agree with you.  Why that diamond needle riding along groves in vinyl produced such a great sound is definitely a wonder I do not understand, but it did.  Every now and then I heard a CD in my last car that impressed me with some channel separation that produced different instruments from different speakers, but that was rare.  It did not compare with recordings of older times.  Now I must plug my phone into a USB port to get music, or revert to FM radio, which sounds like the old AM radio stations to me., but I digress.

Albums continue to be released on vinyl but they do not match the numbers from the eras before cassette tape.  I must remind you here that 8 tracks were a “flash in the pan” and I am pleased to say I never owned one.  In 2016 more albums were sold on vinyl than any year since 1991, still, the numbers are paltry compared to the decades before that.

You may be surprised to learn the biggest selling vinyl album of 2016, according to the VinylFactor.com hit 68,000 copies.  It was Twenty One Pilots’ Blurryface . If you said “Who?” you are probably not a Millenial.  With their other album in the top 10, Vessel, they sold over 100,000 albums.  Apparently, 10,000 copies is considered a hit today.  Boomers may be pleased to find The Beatles on the top of the 2017 vinyl sales with Sgt. Pepper.  Nevertheless, the vinyl era is gone.

So, with that in mind I offer my eclectic selection of 5 vinyl albums I have for decades and still think worthy of playing often.  The first is from my dear departed mother’s multitude of records.  Her collection featured show tunes, which I guess is appropriate for me, as well as Caruso and Mario Lanza.  I can not tell you how many Saturday afternoons were filled with Mario Lanza.  Perhaps that was to drive us out of the house to play outside, I am not sure.  I still have an album called Andy Williams Million Seller Songs.  They were not all his million sellers, but a few were hits for him.  I like the whole thing.  It was released in the fall of 1962 and hit Billboard’s Top LPs in January 1963 and stayed there for 43 weeks.

If I loved a group, I inevitably wanted their Greatest Hits album.  A lot of my early favorites were by The Hollies.  The group was formed in 1962 and have continued on with various members. They had so many early hits they actually put out a greatest hits album in 1967.  Some of the songs were co-authored by one of the founding members, Graham Nash.  He left the group in 1968 to form another group on my list.

One group I have mentioned before in The Time It Is Today.  The Association were known for songs with a message.  I just about wore out their Greatest Hits album as it is filled with my favorites from the late 1960s.

I actually had the next album on cassette first.  Later, someone gave me Willie Nelson’s Stardust on vinyl.  This 1978 album was a revelation to me as I heard Willie sing standards from other eras.  Willie picked his favorites and did them proud with his unique interpretations.  This is a treasured piece of my surviving vinyl collection.

In my humble opinion, one of the greatest vinyl albums of all time is actually a double album by a group formed of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young.  The 1970 album 4 Way Street was recorded live at the Fillmore East in New York, The Chicago Auditorium, and The Forum in Los Angeles.  All four individually wrote the songs on the album.  The harmonies were classic and enduring.  The messages were timeless.

Sources include: “US vinyl sales hit record 13.1 million in 2016,” thevinylfactory.com
“2017 was the highest year for vinyl sales since 1991,” thefader.com

Categories: Entertainment, Music

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23 replies

  1. Turn tables seem to have made a come back here. Our older son has two of them. I’m only sorry we got rid of our golden oldies.

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  2. Rich, love this post! I was at Walmart on Friday to pick up at prescription. Afterwards, I wandered over to the movie and music departments to see what they had. Nothing for me in the DVDS. No surprise.

    Music Department: I had nothing definite in mind. I was just “surfing” for oldies like Andy Williams, Sinatra, etc. Not much of anything in that category. Again, no surprise.

    I have a bunch of “Greatest Hits” CD’s. I know they don’t qualify for the high fidelity vinyl quality you mentioned. The Andy Williams “Greatest Hits” is one of my favorites. It has all my favorites including “The Village of St. Bernadette” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”. Obviously, “Moon River” is my favorite along with “Days of Wine and Roses” which has a different meaning for me now than it did when originally released. At Walmart, I saw a Ricky Nelson “Greatest Hits” CD. I was tempted because it includes “Lonesome Town”, one of my very favorite ballads along with “Garden Party”. Didn’t buy the CD because it was too costly.

    I’m an unabashed lover of the old crooners and singers like Williams, Como, Day, Cole, Sinatra, Bennett, etc. I’m also a folkies/country fan. Baez, Collins. Ronstadt, Emmy Lou, Willie Nelson. We have the “Trio” albums with Ronstadt, Harris and Parton. Frequently played. “Pancho and Lefty” is well worn from the frequent plays. Marilyn usually gives it 3 or 4 replays in the car itil I signal I am satisfied. I still don’t understand all the lyrics of “Pancho” but love it and see myself in the movie — riding over the hill with the music up full. Willie Nelson’s “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” is another favorite. I sang it at my one and ONLY kareoke performance.

    There’s an LP album — “La Mer” which is another favorite. Turntables no longer exist here. Sad.

    It’s ironic I understand your take on vinyl hi-fi quality with my hearing problems. I do. I grew up in that era of hi-fi purity so I could appreciate it even with my hearing impairment.

    You have evoked many memories with this post. I’m gonna repost on my Facebook page.

    Thanks, Rich.

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    • I am glad you enjoyed it. It seems we have been in the music memories department recently. I have an odd collection of albums I bought and albums left from my mother.
      Mom often played Johnny Mathis. I was fortunate enough to see him in concert decades ago. He still comes around each year.
      We have some 45s of Tony Bennett. He plays Ravinia Festival here each summer. A few years ago I went to see him. Many of the iconic performers are gone or the groups broke up. From the list I still hope to catch Willie and even The Association, who come arund in oldies shows periodically.

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      • Rich. Tony Bennett did a nice ballad, “Country Girl”. I love it. Unfortunately, it was the other side of “San Francisco” and has been relegated to obscurity and trivia.

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  3. I found just the other night, a Sony Walkman. It fell out of a bottom drawer in my night table. I looked at it, realized it was in pristine condition and vaguely wondered if, by any chance, a museum might want to buy it. Then, we tossed it. I suspect the museum is NOT sort of Sony Walkmans. I had just read this piece, so it was rather magical, in an electronic way.

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