I would say that most of you have heard my rants about CDs already. Basically, there are pros and cons to the digital format. The major con for me is that you’re actually getting less music than you get with analog recordings. On a record, you’re hearing the full sound wave. On a CD, you’re hearing a sampling of points along that wave. Some people claim that the difference is indistinguishable to the human ear, but I don’t buy it. Ezra and I tested out this theory when my parents came to visit one time. He has a jazz album on vinyl and CD. So, we listened to the same track on both the vinyl and the CD. The vinyl sounded much richer, and we could actually hear things that we didn’t notice on the CD. If you take care of your vinyl and have decent equipment (especially a decent needle), vinyl just sounds better than CDs, period.

I also like the substantial physical qualities of records. I love album covers and “secret” messages written in the vinyl. The presence of records is really appealing (in many senses of the word “presence,” I guess).

I guess that I want to revere the physical casings of my music. I don’t want to just toss my music around carelessly. That devalues it (no wonder I feel like I should be paying about $4 for a CD, not $18).

Well, I could probably go on, but you get the idea. I need one of those Save the LP buttons.

compact discs stink

Terri and I both have different gripes with CDs. I’ll let Terri explicate her own reasons, which she tends to do with little provocation and with great gusto.

But my main two are these.

  1. Bonus tracks on Jazz CD re-issues. My new copy of Sketches of Spain has two alternate versions of one track, making a total of 3 for the album, and an additional track which didn’t make the original album. The version of Mingus Ah Um is by far the worst culprit in my collection. It has bonus tracks of several songs that were never on the album, but inexplicably, Fables of Faubus has had the lyrics removed, and the original album version is nowhere to be found. Three other tracks have been “un-edited”, that is, they were edited down on the original to fit the format, and now they’ve been restored to their unedited version.

    Look, I appreciate that these things are just sitting in a vault somewhere, and they should definitely be released, and even done at no extra cost to the buyer. But a CD is about $.05 worth of plastic, and a hinged 2 CD case takes up no more space than a single CD case. Why not put the original album, as released, as has been heard for the last 40 years, on one CD, and put the bonus tracks and outtakes on a separate CD? That way, I can listen to the original version for everyday use, and check out the alternate tracks on my own time.

  2. The death of the album side. 20-25 minutes is a reasonable amount of time to listen to music without fatigue setting in. 74 minutes is way too long. Even 45 minutes is way too long. You need a break halfway through where you clear your mind for the second half. Until I figured this out, I never paid the proper attention to the second halves of CDs. Now, when I buy a CD, I listen to the album all the way through for the first week or so. Then, starting the second week, I start the CD at the halfway point and listen from there. At that point, the soungs sound vaguely familiar, but it’s really like hearing them for the first time.

Of course, CDs are better for classical, and albums really were always a sort of awkward format for classical.