Agony Shorthand

Friday, April 23, 2004
THE LOST RECORDS OF THE DIGITAL AGE…..While I’m often cheerleading hard for the gift of time and freedom of place that CDs, MP3s and the like give the modern music connoisseur, I’m not blind to the fact that some good things have been lost in the great migration from analog. Take, for instance, some LPs that are now nearly forgotten as stand-alone, perfect-as-they-were long-playing records, because they’ve been shoehorned along with a bunch of other tracks onto a all-encompassing retrospective or a 2-for-1 CD. We all know that LPs were often created and sequenced with the utmost in care, often with the best (perhaps 45-ready) tracks kicking off Side 1 and Side 2, and the lesser tracks hidden around Tracks 4 and 5 of each side. That sort of care and feeding is lost in the translation to CD (track 6 is now just track 6, not the formerly raging kick-off to Side 2 of the LP), as is the notion of a conceptual beginning & end to each side of the record.

But what really gets my proverbial goat is the fact that certain carefully-crafted LPs that should be worshipped on their own don’t even exist in the digital world anymore to be judged on their own merits. My prime example is BIG STAR’s “Radio City”, their second album. This classic is easily one of my twenty favorite records of all time, but it’s an afterthought in both the packaging and sequencing of the twofer CD that includes their vastly inferior debut, “#1 Record”. So “Radio City”’s locomotive kick-off track “O My Soul” is track #13 on the CD, which makes sense from a historical perspective, but not if you’re listening to a CD someone forced on you, and are in the midst of concluding that BIG STAR really aren’t all that. You may have given up around Track #11 and never even come around to “Radio City”; hell, you don’t even know that this is one of the peghooks upon which all indie guitar pop hangs! What about MISSION OF BURMA’s incredible “Vs.” LP? Sure, you can get it on CD with that title and original cover art, but this record was sequenced just so – “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate” was a perfect closer for the record; now, as Track #12, you barely have time to catch your breath before the chimes of “Forget” (Track 13) begin on the CD. It ain’t right, and I’m not sure who I need to complain to.