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May 2008 editorial

Vinyl galore on national FM...again!

Writer: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy

[Good old vinyl!]
Ten Tons of TNT...!!!

Less than two years ago I published an editorial on vinyl's comeback and on how even mass-media were starting too get involved in analogue playback. At that time, a leading Italian national FM radio station (RAI RADIO 2) contacted me for a "on-air" interview on vinyl. Less than two years later, it has happened again. Same station, different radio programme, same topic. Motivated by the unstoppable growth of interest towards vinyl playback, Luca Sofri and Matteo Bordone asked me how much of this was just hype and how much a real need for Music lovers.

[Condor RAI radio program - Sofri & Bordone]

Indeed, when I see so many people - who initially destroyed and trashed LPs in favour of CDs, talking about vinyl and on how coool is it I start to get suspicious. Perhaps this growing interest has little to do with sound quality (as we intend it) and has much more to do with pure marketing strategy. CD is no longer "cool" and attractive, so marketing men need something else to get customers excited and ready to open their wallets. Nowadays vinyl seems to be all the rage, even among youngsters. The amount of letters we receive (especially on the Italian section of this mag) about vinyl playback is growning day by day. Furthermore, and this is quite surprising, the largest part of these queries comes from teenagers, people who weren't even born when vinyl was around.

Even artists have started to feel there's a new deal in Music media, something that might boost their Music sales again. Many of them are releasing their new albums on vinyl only and are offering digital download as a free bonus. One of these is Elvis Costello, who has just released his new album (titled "Momofuku") on LP only while a digital download code will be included in the package! A CD version will be released at a later date. This is exactly what I call another sign of the times.
The album can be purchased (at 17.98 USD) directly from the Elvis Costello/Musictoday website. The "digital" coupon will allow digital download from every Country in the World (not only from the US). It is not clear whether the digital file will be compressed or "raw". Anyway, what's most interesting is the motivation. Please read the following, taken directly from official Costello's website:

By now, some of you may have heard rumour of an album called "Momofuku" and wonder what this record is...
Well, the real version is pressed on two pieces of black plastic with a hole in the middle. You may prefer other, more portable, less scratchable, editions that will soon become available for your convenience but this is how it sounds the best: with a needle in a groove, the way the Supreme Being intended it to be...


The music has been pressed on four sides of vinyl for volume and clarity although the album was originally sequenced with six tracks a-side.

[Elvis Costello's Momofuku]

Meaningful, isn't it? Meaningful and surprising, considering what Costello did almost 30 years ago, releasing one of his best albums, Get Happy!. This single LP contains 20 songs (ten per side) and 50 minutes of total playing time, a guinness record for a single LP! As you may know, the longer the playing time, the closer (one to the other) become the grooves. This causes, among other problems, a lower sound quality, especially when the needle approaches the final tracks. Elvis and hiis producer Nick Lowe were well aware of this problem, so much that they printed the following "warning" on the back cover of that LP:

You'll have noticed that there are ten (?) tracks on each side of this, Elvis' new LP making it a real "long player"! Elvis and I talked long and hard about the wisdom of taking this unusual step and are proud that we can now reassure hi-fi enthusiasts and/or people who never bought a record made before 1967 that with the inclusion of this extra music time they will find no loss of sound quality, due to the "groove cramming" as the record nears the end of each face (i.e. the hole in the middle). Nick Lowe (Producer)
Momofuku, instead, has been stretched on two LPs. 30 years later, artists re-discover vinyl and, what's most surprising, seem to be concerned about sound quality (hear hear!).
Time has taught everyone a lesson we can't forget.

If you want to know more, please read Geoff Husband's review of Momofuku, here on TNT-Audio.

© Copyright 2008 Lucio Cadeddu - www.tnt-audio.com

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