In a sea of streaming, there has been a return to analog music. And that makes me happy. The renaissance of vinyl records and turntables has brought back a tangible and human quality to music that has been lost in these digital decades. “In the age of digital, when you can manipulate anything, how do we retain a human element? How do we keep music to sound like …people? The feeling that I had when I was young?,” Dave Grohl was asking in his documentary, Sound City, his tribute to the San Fernando Valley studio that turned recording music into craftsmanship, music that had the human touch at its core, something that can not be recreated digitally.
When I was watching the documentary, one of the feelings I had was that I was watching people at work, people doing real work, people doing what they love, what they are passionate about, whether musicians, sound engineers, music producers or studio managers, people who love music, not the business of music, and who inspire other people to love and/or do music. That’s true about a vinyl, too. When you play it, there is something visceral about it, you can hear all the work that’s been put on it. What’s on it is real and there’s a palpable connection you form with the musician. But it’s not just about bringing back the sound of the youth of some of us, it’s also about discovering or rediscovering music ourselves or with our children.
It’s the ritual of it. Pull the album out of your library, examine and read the art notes and stories written on the beautiful cover. Carefully slide the record out of its sleeve, put on the album, hook up the needle and listen to the entire record. You first hear the crackle sound, which makes you even more aware of the fragility of this format, which only makes the vinyl that much more valuable, and the experience that much more special. In a world and society that have taught us that we can toss anything more and more quickly because there’s more to buy more and more often, a vinyl makes you value the things you already have and that are truly important, and that’s a lesson to teach your children, too, so that they know that hardly anything, and certainly anything with true meaning, is at the tips of their fingers.
Listening to an album on vinyl is a much more immersive, intentional, therapeutic experience than streaming it online. It is beyond comparison. It’s not just about how we listen to music, it’s also about the way we discover it. And seeing your child so carefully observing the whole operation of putting the disc on and then holding the sleeve of the record that’s playing in his hands while he’s listening to the music, that’s an incredible feeling. It makes you present. And it makes so much more sense right now to put on a record that easily sets up a mood and place and lets you just ride on the sound. Music helps us hold it together. Sound helps us find quietude in the chaos.
Bob Dylan’s Desire* is one of the few albums I can listen to endlessly, and always from start to finish. Each song takes you on a journey and yet the album as a whole seems to inhabit its own world and that’s why I love it so much. You get lost in there. Only recently have I read about the politically and personally charged stories behind some of the songs, but what grabs your attention, and I am not talking about Bob Dylan’s lyrical strengths, is the sound. Because music is not just about the lyrics or about what sounds right, but about what hits the ear. Dylan’s strong and powerful voice in One More Cup of Coffee; the guitar that starts Mozambique and Dylan singing together with Emmylou Harris; Scarlet Rivera’s beautiful violin; the way Dylan can build a story through his voice; and Sara, probably the most personal Dylan has gotten with his songs. But whatever it is, the music on this album is beyond words. And the way it makes you feel? Like a hurricane and at peace at the same time.
Wherever we travel we’re never apart.
Sara, oh Sara,
Beautiful lady, so dear to my heart.
How did I meet you? I don’t know.
A messenger sent me in a tropical storm.
You were there in the winter, moonlight on the snow
And on Lily Pond Lane when the weather was warm.
Sara, oh Sara,
Scorpio Sphinx in a calico dress,
You must forgive me my unworthiness.
Now the beach is deserted except for some kelp
And a piece of an old ship that lies on the shore.
You always responded when I needed your help,
You gimme a map and a key to your door.”
Bob Dylan’s new album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, his first album in 8 years
of original material, is out now. Six decades into his career, Bob Dylan
delivers a gorgeous and meticulous record”, Pitchfork magazine says.
* You can listen to the album above now, but do yourself a favour and buy it on vinyl to hold and to cherish and to experience and live it as you should. In these trying times, our intention is to support artists and small businesses of any kind, especially bookshops and record stores, therefore I will not link to global online retailers or corporations, leaving you to make the choice of helping your favourite independent record store and buying from or placing your order with them.
More stories: Sound to Screen / It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll But I Like It / Sound City