*DRACO ROSA — MAD LOVE LUXE LP (Album Recap)

The partnership between Draco Rosa and Bob Ludwig continues with this double LP remastered edition of the highly successful 2004 album Mad Love. This is the second collaboration between Ludwig and Draco. Bob Ludwig also did the 2018 remastered version of Vagabundo.

Mad Love is an album that I continuously revisit multiple times a year. And truth be told, this is not merely an album that I like or enjoy; it is an album that I love — It defined an era of my personal life that I often look back with longing, nostalgia, and lots of fondness.

I bought Mad Love on CD back in 2004, the same week of its release at the now-defunct Borders Books & Music store in Baileys Crossroads, Virginia. It knocked my socks off almost immediately upon listening to it for the first time — it has been 16 years since that fateful evening in May of ’04 when browsing through the new release CD bins I happen to find Mad Love just sitting there waiting for me — I bought it, rushed home to play it, and fell in love with the entire album.

Even after all these years, this album still comes across as a passionate musical masterpiece. Draco was inspired by Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew (1970), an epic record that blended Rock and Jazz beautifully. Draco stated that he drove up and down the West Coast of the United States listening to Bitches Brew as he prepared to record Mad Love, and it is beyond noticeable the influence of Bitches Brew as you listen to Mad Love.

The critics gave it positive and glowing reviews when it came out. But it wasn’t the gringo crossover hit that it should’ve been. It was a massive hit in Latin America, and it was pretty successful in Europe as well. However, in the United States, it was categorized and considered as a Latin album, never mind that the album had only 3 songs in Spanish and 13 songs in English. Music media outlets boxed this album in as a non-English album; A complete travesty. Mad Love was the farthest thing from a conventional Latin album, especially when you look back to the kind of music coming out in those days in the Spanish language market. The music videos from Mad Love were excellent, but they got zero airplay on MTV or VHI. In those days, MTV and VHI were still playing music videos regularly and had not become what they are now. Music has changed a lot since then.

Maybe the record label (Sony) did not feel the need to promote this album as a mainstream release. I don’t know what really went down or how they viewed the marketability of this record. Still, the fact remains that this album was poorly promoted and poorly marketed when it was initially released back in 2004.

I’m assuming that everyone who would be reading this blog knows already that Draco Rosa wrote most of Ricky Martin hits like; Livin’ la Vida Loca, Maria, the cup of life, She Bangs, etc. So it is clear that Draco can write pop hits for himself if he wanted to but chooses not to pursue that route. Instead, he has focused on creating meaningful and profound music. There is a peculiar edginess to Dracos’ music that you can’t find anywhere else in Spanish language music. Whether that edge comes from deep personal emotions or willingness to be vulnerable, or perhaps Draco merely explores new avenues of musical expression. The fact remains that there are only a handful of Spanish language musicians out there who can match or come close to Draco Rosa.

The first concert I attended after my mother passed away was Draco’s concert at the State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia, about 6 months after my mother’s death. It was for “Lo Sagrado y Lo Maldito tour.” I enjoyed the show, but I was still in bad shape emotionally and overwhelmed by grief to fully appreciate the show. It took a lot of strength for me put myself together and make the concert. It was also the last concert I attended in the DC area before moving to New York City for good.

As a rabid record collector and the analog head that I consider myself to be, I was beyond static about the possibility of having a vinyl version of Mad Love finally available. This is a gorgeous-looking LP; it is pink (Rosa), and the artwork is exquisite. I don’t mind buying a non-analog LP — especially if I’m a fan of the artist or band. There is a novelty aspect to this new resurgence of Vinyl. Mostly with regards to albums that were initially recorded digitally, released on CD, and then remastered and transferred to Vinyl. These types of re-releases are a collector’s dream.

I’m not going to go on a track-by-track breakdown of this album because it is one of those conceptual records that you just have to immerse yourself fully. And you have to allow the music’s quality to take you on a poetic, sensual, and at times turbulent musical journey, which is what listening to Mad Love is all about.

DRACO ROSA: MAD LOVE LUXE (2020)

*GREEN DAY — FATHER OF ALL MOTHERFUCKERS (Album Recap)

After a 4-year recording absence, GREEN DAY is back with FATHER OF ALL MOTHERFUCKERS….This is their 13th album, and it is somewhat a weird album to describe; It is full of GREEN DAY energy; it feels more like a party rock album with some garage rock vibes; there are hints of glam, soul, and of course, punk. But at the same time, it feels like a retro type of album, with sprinkles of 50s swing to it.

I guess you can say that it is an alternative punk-pop album.

It is not an overly political album like their previous work — at first, I did not get any political vibes from it. However, after a few listening sessions, I noticed that some subtle political messages are masquerading throughout this album.

I think, FATHER OF ALL is the most upbeat album GREEN DAY has ever released; the record is 26 minutes long, the shortest album ever made by Green Day — which is great, ’cause I’m a fan of fast, under 30-minute album formats.

Billy Joel Armstrong’s voice is so unique and iconic, and it comes across sounding pretty great here. His falsettos were good — and a bold thing to attempt at this stage of his recording career. The bass and drums are always excellent on every GREEN DAY album, and they are excellent here also.

I have some theories about why this album feels a bit experimental. This was supposed to be their last album under Warner Bros, and I think they waited 4 years to release a final album to fulfilled their contract and get it over with. If that was the case, I dig it, and I applaud them. This not a bad album, but it is definitely not their best. Keeping an open mind is crucial to enjoying this album thoroughly.

FATHER OF ALL MOTHERFUCKERS is worth checking out; stream it if you can, and if you are a hardcore GREEN DAY fan, definitely get the LP.

TRACKLIST:

TRACK 1-FATHER OF ALL: First single, kick-ass track, the bass and drums are awesome

TRACK 2-FIRE, READY, AIM: Lots of piano.

TRACK 3-OH YEAH!: Is a straight-up pop-rock song

TRACK 4-MEET ME ON THE ROOF: It has a 50s swing vibe. It starts as an alt-rock song and morphed into a swing track.

TRACK 5-I WAS A TEENAGE TEENAGER: it is a catchy ballad

TRACK 6-STAB YOU IN THE HEART: It has some punk and 50s influences and some swing vibes.

TRACK 7-SUGAR YOUTH: It is the most punk song in the album…sounds like old GREEN DAY

TRACK 8-JUNKIES ON A HIGH: This is my favorite track, and it is the second-longest song in the album, could’ve been a single

TRACK 9-TAKE THE MONEY AND CRAWL: Edgy lyrics with weird sound effects

TRACK 10- GRAFFITIA: I really liked this track, and it felt like an appropriate song to bring this fun party rock album to a close.

GREEN DAY: FATHER OF ALL MOTHERFUCKERS (2020)

*SANTANA — ABRAXAS (50th Anniversary)

It blows my mind to think that this year (2020) is the 50th anniversary of Abraxas by Santana. Man, 50 years is half a century, and that is a long-ass time. 

I remember when I was a kid that my father had a Santana LP in his Vinyl collection, which from what I recall, was a pretty extensive record collection. I’m not sure which Santana album he had, or if he had more than one LP — all I remember is that the artwork was pretty awesome. I would say that I was somewhat familiar with Santana and a few of his songs here and there, but I never really paid attention to him until my late teens.

It was the summer of 1999, and Carlos Santana had his big comeback album Supernatural — An album featuring guest artists and a few instrumental tracks; It was a massive worldwide hit — It dominated radio airplay. It swept most of the music awards that year, including the Grammys. The entire album is pure summer magic for me; the music still feels very much relevant today, and it brings me back to a time in my life that I often look back with fondness. Supernatural ended up opening my eyes and my curiosity towards Santana’s discography.

As I researched their discography, I went all the way back to the genesis of the band and their first self-titled album released in 1969 to get a better sense of Santana’s music; however, it wasn’t until I discovered their second album; Abraxas, that my admiration for Santana was firmly cemented.

In one of my many visits to the DC area, I was at Smash records in Adams Morgan when flipping through the classic rock section; I came across a pristine first US pressing of Abraxas, which included an original Santana Poster. It was a no brainer for me, and I went ahead and bought it. It wasn’t too expensive, but it wasn’t cheap also, and I was ecstatic to finally own Abraxas on vinyl to pair it with my LP copy of Santana III.

Recorded between April and May of 1970 and Released on September 23, 1970, Abraxas was Santana’s second studio album, but their first album to reach #1 in the US. The album’s title is inspired by a passage from Hermann Hesse’s book Demian and the album cover art is from a painting by Mati Klarwein.

The album was a game-changer in the world of music, and it became a highly influential album to generations of musicians thereafter. There is a unique rawness to this album, mostly because there was nobody else from that era that sounded like Santana. Abraxas is the ultimate communion between Afro-Latino music, Blues, Jazz, and Rock. It has been 50 years since this album came out, and it still holds strong as one of the best and most impactful albums of all time.

Tracks:

1.Singing Winds, Crying Beasts (instrumental): Drums, keyboards, electric guitar; I love this intro track, it sets the mood for the whole album, and it gets me going every time I play it.

2.Black Magic Woman: The opening drums setting up the guitar is perfect. It is sensual and hypnotic; this track is simply out of this world. 

3.Oye Como Va: This song created an entirely new genre of music in the Spanish speaking Mundo. Oye Como Va was an original 1963 Mambo composition by Tito Puente; It is important to note that traditional Latin bands of that era were initially outraged by the idea of their music being covered by Rock bands. And initially, Tito Puente was not very supportive of the idea but came around to Santana’s version of Oye Como Va after the song and album became a hit. If this track doesn’t compel you to move and dance, then you probably have no soul. 

4.Incident at Neshabur (Instrumental): This track is a rollercoaster of sounds and a clear example of the high level of skillfulness from the band.

5.Se a Cabo: Written by percussionist Jose “Chepito” Areas. This track has a Salsa vibe mixed with some intense electric guitar. 

6.Mothers daughters: This is probably the least Afro-Latino influenced track of this album. It is more of a traditional Rock piece that shows the versatility of the band. 

7.Samba Pa Ti (Instrumental): The story behind the inspiration of this song is legendary. This is the sexiest track of this album; it is smooth, elegant, and beautiful. 

8.Hope You’re feeling Better: The solo riffs are powerful, and Greg Rollie’s singing is outstanding. This track is pure late 60s early 70s Rock and Roll. 

9.El Nicoya: Another contribution by “Chepito.” The track is short but sweet; it is a groovy way to brings this spellbinding album to a close.

*RIP PAU DONES: JARABE DE PALO — Tragas O Escupes (Album Recap)

I was bummed beyond belief to hear about the recent passing of Pau Dones, the leader and frontman of Jarabe de Palo.

I first discovered Jarabe de Palo in the summer of 1999; I was dating a girl who at the time was much more knowledgable about emerging Rock en Español bands than me. She gave me a list of bands to look out for, and Jarabe de Palo was on the list. Our relationship didn’t last long, but I think the incredible music she exposed me to was the highlight of our relationship.

In those days, right after receiving my weekly paycheck from my minimum wage job, I would go on an obsessive-compulsive music buying spree. Every single week, I would make pit stops at multiple music stores throughout my city and end up spending a big chunk of my paycheck on music….. I can still clearly remember like it was yesterday when I purchased my first Jarabe de Palo CD, way back in the summer of 1999 — it was the album “DEPENDE” (1998), and it feels somewhat ironic that this past summer of 2019 marked 20 years since I bought their first album.

It quickly became one of my favorite albums of that year, and still today, it is one of my favorite Rock en Español albums ever. The whole album is pure magic, and it even includes a duet with Celia Cruz on the final track. Pau’s music was a fusion of rock, pop, flamenco-rock, and all the great Latin sounds that make Rock en Español such a fantastic genre. DEPENDE has aged nicely over the years, and it still sounds relevant today as much as it did 20 years ago — I would put DEPENDE in my top 20 Rock en Español albums of all time for sure.

Tragas o Escupes was released at the end of May on all streaming platforms, which caught me by complete surprise because I heard that the album was supposed to drop in September of this year. But it came out nearly 4 months ahead of schedule, and along with the album, Pau attached a press release thanking all of his fans and people who have supported him throughout his career. Sadly, Pau Dones passed away 12 days after the release of Tragas o Escupes; his final studio album.

Now, it makes complete sense to me why the album was released a few months earlier and why Pau’s letter was also attached to the album’s release. The whole thing reminds me of David Bowie’s Darkstar album being released a few days before his passing.

When news of Pau’s cancer diagnosis became public, there was an overwhelming outpouring of love that humbled Pau. As I read the letter he wrote to his fans, it becomes clear to me that perhaps he wanted to take this final opportunity to acknowledge and thank all those strangers who, in a way, were never really strangers to him…. Jarabe de Palo’s music brought us close to Pau and will continue to bring us closer….. Even long after he is gone from our physical realm.

The promotional first single, “Eso Que Tu Me Das,” sounds like a direct farewell to all his fans and loved ones — A farewell in the typical Jarabe de Palo manner.

With this album, Pau manages to turn the sad energy of his passing into a positive one — as you listen to the whole album, you cannot help but realize how at peace with his life he truly was. His musical approach was always about positivity and joy. The type of music that found the light within all the darkness.

I am glad that I had the chance to watch him perform live at the Howard Theatre in Washington DC, back in 2015. It was an excellent experience that I will cherish forever.

Jarabe De Palo – Live at the Howard Theatre (Washington DC, 2015)

As I listened to this TRAGAS O ESCUPES album in its entirety, it becomes such a unique and surreal listening experience to me; all the lyrics have profound meaning. It is like you are listening to a manifesto of a life that was lived fully, and now it seemed ready to come to an end — especially as I listen to the whole album within the context of his passing embedded in my consciousness.

Buen Viaje Pau….Thanks for the music.

*DIEGO VASALLO-LAS RUTAS DESIERTAS (Album Recap)

Rock en Español is not just “rock in Spanish,” it is a hell of a lot more. Out of the many categories and subcategories for Spanish language music, rock en Español is, without a doubt, the richest and most diverse of all Spanish music genres. The name itself should be synonymous with sui generis. While at the same time, it is essential to point out that this genre is not only infused with traditional Latin sounds but also infused with jazz, blues, country, folk, soul, reggae, funk, and even metal. And musicians like Diego Vasallo are a clear example of why this genre is particularly exceptional when compared to other genres of Spanish language music. 

Diego Vasallo-LAS RUTAS DESIERTAS (Galerna, 2020)

Las Rutas Desiertas is Diego Vasallo’s follow up album to the excellent “Baladas para un Autoretrato“(Subterfuge Records,2016). Both records were co-produced by Fernando Macaya, who also plays guitar on this new album, and often plays on some touring gigs with Mikel Erentxun. Although Las Rutas Desiertas has somewhat of a dark sound and feel to it—it is not as bleak as it seems, or as the album title suggests (Deserted Routes). The lyrics are full of positive outtakes, and a hopeful outlook into the future. There is a lot more light and positive vibes on this record, which is a departure in tone from Vasallo’s previous album.

Diego Vasallo is a master lyricist, and this album is a confirmation of his mastery. At times, he sounds similar to Andres Calamaro, which is not a bad thing. Still, If you are sick and tire of Calamaro’s nonsensical lyrics as of late, then Vasallo is the perfect antidote. Diego Vasallo has delivered another fantastic album—full of soul, rock, folk, and a touch of blues. An album worth multiple listening sessions, and I feel that it will age exceptionably well with time. 

Here is a quick breakdown of Las Rutas Desiertas.

Track List:

  1. Mi Historia: Cabaret vibes are the best way to describe this track. Diego has a deep affinity for Bob Fosse’s film Cabaret (1972), which has always inspired and influenced some of his solo work.
  2. Cargamento: It is all about the good times ahead and the promise of a better tomorrow. This is a beautiful song. 
  3. Mecha en la Tormenta: This is such an alluring song. The lyrics are just magical and full of hope. The harmonica makes a cameo and adds a touch of blues towards the end.
  4. Esta Noche No Se Parece a Ninguna: One of my favorite tracks on this album. Everything about this song works. Vasallo is at his songwriting best here. 
  5. Entre el Olvido y el Perdón: This song is pure poetry wrapped in melody.
  6. Erase Una Vez: This track has a cinematic feel to it. I picture the opening of a film, set somewhere in the desert.
  7. Alli Te Esperare: My favorite track in this album. A beautiful love ballad. The lyrics, the vocals, the guitar play—they are all flawless. 
  8. El Rio Baja Crecido: The electric guitar shows up here, and it is impeccable. 
  9. Intemperie: Folksy and mellow. Reminds me of early Duncan Dhu
  10. No Me Niegues Nada: There is this air of blues and folk here. Reminds me of early Eric Clapton and Leonard Cohen
  11. Las Rutas Desiertas: Melancholic notes bring this masterpiece to a close. This final track sounds like a declaration of hope and the possibilities lying ahead in an uncertain future. 

LAS RUTAS DESIERTAS (Galerna, 2020)

*ALBUM RECAP — DRACO ROSA: Vagabundo22 (LP, Reissue)

In 1996, Draco Rosa released the album Vagabundo which I still consider to be the most essential record made in the entire decade of the 1990s within the Rock en Español music scene. Indeed, other musicians/bands made important contributions to Spanish Rock, like Andres Calamaro (Alta Suciedad, 1997 & Honestidad Brutal, 1999), Caifanes (El Diablito, 1990, El Silencio, 1992 & El Nervio del Volcan, 1994), Los Fabulosos Cadillacs (Rey Azúcar, 1995 & Fabulosos Calavera, 1997), Enanitos Verdes (Big Bang, 1994 & Nectar, 1999), Jaguares (El Equilibrio de Los Jaguares, 1996 & Bajo El Azul de Tu Misterio, 1999), La Ley (Invisible, 1995). All of those albums are essential and iconic records, But Draco Rosa’s Vagabundo was in a league of its own.

Vagabundo was utterly different from everything else coming out into the Spanish Rock market during the ’90s, and nothing else sounded quite like it. The album was a rollercoaster ride of psychedelic rock, wrapped in raw melodies of love, solitude, desolation, and melancholy. The album was recorded in England and produced by Phil Manzanera, who by that time had already collaborated with other Rock en Español artists like Fito Paez (Circo beat, 1994), Heroes del Silencio (Senderos de Traicion, 1990 & El Espirito del Vino, 1993) as well as Aterciopelados (La Pipa de la Paz, 1996) and with the late Antonio Vega (Océano de Sol, 1994).  Phil Manzanera understands the soul of rock en Español music, and it clearly shows in the records that he has produced.

After 22 years since the release of Vagabundo, we finally have a remastered version and a limited release vinyl LP. It was remastered by the legendary Bob Ludwig (U2, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Nirvana, Paul McCarney). This is truly a unique and special release — additionally, this newly remastered edition takes it to another level.

Here is a quick rundown of all the tracks on the album:

 

Hablando del Amor: Not really a song, just an intro track. You get the sense of where the record is taking you; you can hear sounds of a forest in the background followed by some poetic lines.

Madre Tierra: This is an excellent rock song, guitars, drums, and Draco’s powerful voice turn this song into a beautiful, fast tempo rock anthem.

Llanto Subterráneo: This track is a beautiful poem wrapped in melody. Slower tempo than the previous track, but the song still maintains a powerful rock vibe with some dark undertones and very intense lyrics.

Vagabundo: This is a more acoustic sounding track, where all you get is guitar, Draco’s voice, and some background vocals. The lyrics are powerful, intense, and there is a touch of occult undertones in the meaning of the lyrics here.

Penelope: This song reminds me of Joan Manuel Serrat’s “Penelope,” but told from a different point of view; while Serrat’s Penelope was told from the point of view of a narrator, this song is told from the point of view of the traveler longing for the love he left behind. This is a beautiful song, one of my favorites.

Delirios: Here, we go back to a faster-paced tempo, more massive sound. Draco displays his great rocker frontman talent while at the same time keeping up with some powerful guitar and drums.

Para No Olvidar: Death, life, and desolation are the themes of this track. It starts slow, setting up the psychedelic mood with a sweet melody; we go from slow to fast and heavy multiple times. This is an intense song.

Blanca Mujer: The closest thing to a rock ballad in this entire album. Piano and guitar in the background create a compelling and persuasive companion to Draco’s voice. I consider this song a classic in Draco Rosa’s catalog.

Vertigo: Another dark and psychedelic sounding track shows a feeling of rawness and heaviness in Draco’s voice that works beautifully on this song.

Vivir: Probably the most personal track on this albumIt starts with a piano intro that feels straight out of a carnival stage show or circus, then the song takes on the first-person narrative, stating Draco’s journey from Popstar to freeing himself from the shackles of stardom and into becoming the artist he longs to be.

Brujería: A mix of psychedelic and gothic vibe give this track a unique sound and energy. Draco’s furious intensity makes this track one of the very best on this album. The guitars are also superb.

La Flor del Frio: This is a raw sounding track that works beautifully as a change of pace from the rest of the album. A piano accompanies Draco. There is a crowd of people talking and clapping in the background, which gives this track a unique feel and vibe. The raw and melancholic melody is the star of this song.

Amantes Hasta el Fin: This song sums up the theme of this album perfectly. It has it all; a beautiful melody, lyrics of love, desolation, death, and despair. Draco’s singing takes you on a ride from a mellow vibe to furious rage. The entire surrealism of the album is best displayed here.

Vertigo22: This track is a gem straight from Vagabundo’s recording studio archives. It is raw, powerful, and heavier than the album version. The song sounds completely different.

Madre Tierra22: This version of Madre Tierra sounds more like a demo, and at the same time, it has a raw and organic feel to it than the album version. Another gem from the PHVX Vault.

*Carlos Ann-Mapa Mental (Album Recap)

El mas reciente disco de Carlos Ann (Mapa Mental, 2018), es fácilmente uno de mis discos favoritos de lo que va de este año. Carlos es uno de esos músicos que se podria incluir en la lista de los artistas que son parte del movimiento Rock Indie en Español. Carlos es un músico con un estilo muy peculiar y en este disco podemos disfrutar de ese estilo surrealista rockero que muy pocos pueden lograr de una manera orgánica y  honesta. Este es un disco super corto con solo 8 canciones pero con mucho sentimiento y poderío musical, con un toque experimental muy interesante, tiene una duración de 34 minutos. Lo recomiendo muchísimo.

Track List:

1.París Aísa, Barcelona, Calella: Un tema con una instrumentacion interesante, es una excelente introducción al resto del disco. “De norte a sur repasando mi historia no es original, pero es la mia y la vivo como algo perverso soy un marqués desheredado.”

2. Las Hormigas Enloquecen: Probablemente mi canción favorita del disco. “El sol en la terraza, mi madre cantando Mientras hacia la… comida / Quizás escribo para no leer Camino sin rumbo para no… regresar / Siento que mi alma está cansada De comprenderme-la entiendo.”

3. La Prision No Nos salvo: Aparte de la letra, la bateria es la protagonista de esta canción. “El tiempo ya no es sincero, No deja las cosas en su sitio, Es un viejo desordenado.”

4. Arthur Cravan feat. Abraham Boba: Esta canción poco a poco se esta convirtiendo en una de mis favoritas de este disco. Tiene un aire a Pink Floyd y Bowie “No me acuerdo de los nombres de las personas Los sonidos y olores son mi referencia Deslizándome por la vida, ya soy un hombre maduro.”

5. Berlin Feat. Shuarma: Sintetizadores, guitarra eléctrica, batería; esta es quizás la canción mas experimental del disco. “Empezábamos temprano como si algo se fuera a acabar,Gente extraña que entraba y salía sin preguntar, Decenas de copias de las llaves trafican por la ciudad.”

6. Nuestro Amor Fue Un Fracaso: Excelente tema, Me recuerda un poco a varias canciones de Calamaro (Honestidad Brutal).Paso la noche sin ti Nuestro amor fue un fracaso Y prefiero recordarlo Y no tengo nada mejor que hacer Que dar vueltas, por mi cabeza Y llegar hasta ti.”

7. Cientos: Esta canción tiene un feeling super trippy al estilo Pink Floyd. “Tus senos fueron mi refugio Dejé todo, fui a vivir a las montañas Como un exiliado que regresa a su tierra No tengo casa y no tengo nombre.”

8. Todo Es Para Bien feat. Alejandro Jodorowski: Este track es basicamente un poema envuelto en melodía, una manera super interesante de concluir un album tan original. “Poeta perseguido por cuarenta egos Creyendo ver la luz pero ciego En el peso de la carne En la logica del tonto.

*MY PASSION AND OBSESSION WITH VINYL RECORDS

I went from collecting CDs to collecting Vinyl records, which is somewhat ironic because listening to music on vinyl is how I was introduced to music growing up. When I was a kid, compact discs (CDs) did not yet exist, or at least around my immediate surroundings. And by the time I was old enough to purchase music on my own, with my own money, vinyl records were no longer easy to find, especially in music stores.

I guess you can say that I grew up around a time where the intersection of analog and digital was beginning to take place.

It was the 90s, and now CDs ruled the music world. CD players had entirely replaced turntables in just about every music store around the United States.

The Discman had replaced the Walkman as the primary listening device, and playing music on cassettes was somewhat considered uncool, or at least it was considered uncool by all my knucklehead middle and high school friends.

Music was now digital, which made CDs seem a lot more practical — mainly ’cause they now took up much less space in your home. Records, on the other hand, tend to take up more space, and they are pretty hard to take on the road with you — Now it was possible and easy to take your CD collection with you anywhere rather quickly. And you could even play your CDs in your car. It was a pretty fucking revolutionary idea — for the first time in modern history, people were able to carry their music with them anywhere they wanted. And we were only a few years away from CD burners, which provided us with the ability to create personalized CD playlists, which would eventually become a modern version of the cassette mixtape.

The other day I was going through my CD collection and noticed that in the last eight years, I bought less than 10 CDs, but on the other hand, in the same period of time, I purchased over 30 albums on iTunes. Albums that in the past, I would have totally purchased at a music shop.

When I was a teenager, I bought CDs just about every single week with my minimum wage weekly paycheck. I went on this weird, ritualistic “music store tour” every single week right after payday — making pit stops in-between three or four stores that carried a diverse selection of music. There was Sam Goody in Pentagon City mall, (It is now the clothing store Express). They had an excellent selection of cheap single promotional CDs, new arrivals, and a robust Rock En Español selection…. I bought some of my favorite Rock En Español albums there.

Record Town in Ballston Mall was another great music store — It was located on the top floor where the Arcade and the Regal movie theater are currently located; I remember Record Town employee Oscar, who also worked nights as a club DJ. He was very friendly and approachable… Eventually, Record Town became FYE, and they relocated to the second floor to a more prominent spot. Last time I was in town visiting, I saw Oscar still working there, as I walked by the store. I was happy to see him still working there after all these years — however I wasn’t in the mood to go in and say hello.

Best Buy in Pentagon City was also a great spot, especially if you were short on funds — their CDs were always cheaper than most music stores, and their music department was huge (now it is almost non-existent). There was also Tower Records, right off Seminary Road in Alexandria, VA. It was located in the same strip mall where Bally’s Total Fitness used to be, (it became LA Fitness).

For me, every single week visiting all those music shops was like a type of ritualistic affair. Sometimes I would hear a song on the radio, and I would feel compelled to listen to the whole album. My constant craving for good music kept me consistently buying albums from unknown musicians/bands. I would buy singles, radio edits, remixes. Buying albums and singles became such a vital part of my life — I would hurry back home and fully immerse myself in my ritualistic listening sessions. Those were some pretty intense sessions of musical discovery.

When my mother passed away, I was overcome by a powerful force to recapture certain things from my past, things that in a weird way reminded me of my time around her. Even though she was not a music collector like me, she never discouraged my obsessive-compulsive music-buying ways. She enjoyed having me at home engulfed in my semi-ritualistic listening sessions in my room rather than having me out in the streets getting into trouble, which I had a bit of a talent for (but that is a different story, for a different time).

So after a few months of deep grieving, I felt compelled to give myself something to obsess over again, like I did when I was younger with my music. Something that would help ease the pain, and occupy my mind, so I decided to use some of the money that she left behind for me to purchase a turntable and to go back to those analog days. To start collecting music again, to start collecting LPs, especially old LPs of classic rock , vintage editions of classic records. The older, the better. Used albums, first pressings, and some reprints here and there.

Vinyl records have recently become more popular, and that is a good thing. In the four years since I started collecting Vinyl — I have found gem after gem, mostly by visiting used record shops, and taking my sweet time flipping through crates of records. Not to mention my recent realization that I have an antiquated personal taste for music, films, and books. I love the whole “discovery” aspect of things — new things in plain sight like new movies that are actually old movies but they are new to me. New music that is actually old music but it’s new to me. Same thing goes for literature — I prefer to read early to mid 19th century authors. I always tell people that one of the best ways to get to know me more profoundly is to look at my music, book, and film collection.

I have found original pressings in excellent condition, with some minimal wear, and excellent sound quality. I found records that I never had the chance to give a proper listen to in their original analog format. I noticed that I had developed a deep appreciation for The Doors. I have become a massive fan of their music after listening to their first album over and over again on vinyl. Now I have all their albums on vinyl, except for Strange Days (I refuse to buy a reissued copy). Also those Rod Stewart’s first few albums with The Faces are now at the very top of my favorite classic rock albums of all time.

When you value your music listening experience as much as I do, you end up putting more value on the proper care of your Vinyl collection. Unlike CDs, you have to take better care of your vinyl records; you cannot just loan them to someone else. The idea of my records not being in my possession for an extended period of time terrifies me. I can easily imagine my records returning damaged…. and that is indeed a terrifying thought. On the other hand, the idea of lending out my CDs does not evoke the same emotion in any way, or even downloading an album on iTunes is not the same thing as holding an LP in your hands, admiring the artwork, and so on.

So, I am looking forward to the future. To a future where my vinyl collection surpasses my CD collection (which is massive) to a time where I can have my entire vinyl collection proudly displayed in shelving cabinets against the wall of my home. Where I can play an original pressing of The Beatles White Album, or Bowie’s Hunky Dory, or take a trip with Pink Floyd to The Dark Side of the Moon….

I guess what I am trying to say here is that there is no such thing as having too many LP records.