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Happy Vinyl Record Day! Try these 9 hidden gems in Concordia’s collection

Did you know the Webster and Vanier libraries boast more than 5,000 fun, fascinating and free LPs?
August 10, 2016
By J. Latimer


This Friday is Vinyl Record Day! Yes, that’s a thing.

A group of LP enthusiasts in San Luis Obispo County, California, started Vinyl Record Day in 2002. They chose the date because popular history attributes Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph to August 12, 1877.

Now, cool kids and nostalgic boomers aren’t the only ones savouring their long-playing platters. Sales jumped by 38 per cent this year, with a little help from Taylor Swift’s vinyl version of 1989.

“The renaissance of vinyl has to do with authenticity,” says Craig Morrison, part-time faculty member in Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

“One of the characteristics of post-modernism is the dematerialization of culture — smaller, thinner, minimalism chic, digital files not photos or CDs/records. One false keystroke and you can erase an entire digital library. So there is a hunger for things that have physical presence. They can be held, smelled, manipulated, displayed, filed and owned.”

Joshua Rager, an assistant professor in the Department of Music, also points to the superior sound quality of recordings on vinyl. “This generation has only ever listened to compressed formats, so when they hear an LP and develop ‘good ears,’ they’re impressed by the difference.”

Plus, it’s a more experiential way of listening to music. “You have to sit in a room with the turntable and actually get out of your chair to flip it over, so you tend to listen to the songs in order, all the way through,” Rager says “I think people want that more initimate experience. Vinyl changes the way you listen to music.”

Keen to get in on the Vinyl Record Day action? There are more than 5,000 fun, fascinating and free recordings at Concordia’s Webster and Vanier Libraries.

Here are nine expert recommendations from Jared Wiercinski, Concordia’s interim associate university librarian for Research and Graduate Studies., and senior librarian Vince Graziano, who specializes in English, theatre and sexuality studies.

9 hidden gems of Concordia’s vinyl record collection

1. Irving Layton Reads His Own

Tucked inside the Irving Layton Collection is this gem of a sound recording of the writer reading his poetry from the late 1960s to the early 1970s.

It was recorded by Caedmon Records Canada — the Canadian arm of the pioneering audiobook label — in 1972.

2. Sports Cars in Stereo

Start your engines! In 1958, someone from the jazz-centric label Riverside Records stopped by the annual 12 Hour Sebring Grand Prix of Endurance in Sebring, Florida.

They brought their microphones, too, and the result is exhilarating: engines revving, cars taking slow corners, technical chatter…

3. No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre

“Hell is other people” — well said, Mr. Sartre. Hear it live, in this two-LP box set recording of No Exit.

The play is a depiction of the afterlife in which three deceased characters are punished by being locked into a room together for eternity. This recording was made by the Theatre Recording Society in 1968.

Related must-read: a meaty essay by famed existentialism philosopher William Barrett in the liner notes.

4. Innervisions by Stevie Wonder

Drugs, politics, the dangers of urban life, eastern religion and spirituality — it’s all there in Innervisions.

This funky 1973 LP from Stevie Wonder followed his smash hit Superstition and silenced the naysayers who thought he couldn’t possibly come up with another significant album.

The jacket includes lyrics to the songs and biographies of the performers, plus a rundown of the instruments (e.g. a Fender Rhodes piano).

5. King Richard II

Listen to none other than Sir John Gielgud play King Richard II in this jewel from the Shakespeare Recording Society (1961).

The three-LP set captures Gielgud’s famously rich baritone. Don’t miss him intoning the play’s most famous lines, including “Not all the water in the rough rude sea can wash the balm off from an anointed king” (Act 3, Scene 2).

Note: Concordia has 17 of the Shakespeare plays from a highly respected Caedmon Productions series (for more about Caedmon, see Irving Layton’s record, above).

6. Al Green's Greatest Hits

That iconic album cover — featuring a shirtless Green with a giant gold watch — graced many a coffee tables in the 1970s. If your parents’ LP was somehow (!) sold in the last family garage sale, take this out and listen to “Let’s Stay Together” and “Tired of Being Alone.”

(Yes, “Let’s Stay Together” does predate the Pulp Fiction soundtrack…)

7. The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Thelonious Monk

One box, four LPs and a 10-page essay by jazz record producer and writer Michael Cuscuna.

This magnificent limited-edition treasure from 1983 includes all of Thelonious Monk’s Blue Note recordings: six sessions as a leader from 1947 to 1952 complete with alternate takes plus two titles cut with tenor-saxophonist Sonny Rollins in 1957. 

8. Bill Evans: The Village Vanguard Sessions

Serious jazzbos know pianist Bill Evans as a sensitive, quiet genius.

This double record from 1973 combined two earlier LPs, Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby, with the previously unheard song Porgy and 13 selections recorded during the final appearance by pianist Bill Evans’ Trio with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian.

9. The Smithsonian Folkways Records Collection

What’s the sleeper hit of Concordia’s vinyl collection?

The libraries own the lion’s share of the Smithsonian Folkways Records of traditional and contemporary music from around the world, spoken word in many languages, and documentary recordings of individuals, communities, and current events like Pennsylvania Dutch folk songs, for example. Each LP comes with detailed liner notes about culture and geography.

One particular favourite? Folkway Records: Sound Effects Vol. 1 City Sounds: recorded by sound archivist Tony Schwartz, this is a strange and wonderful collection of metropolitain sounds — outdoors and indoors, from cocktail parties to lunch counters to intermission at the theatre. It’s a unique slice of 1960.

Enjoy the library’s 5,000-strong collection of LPs at home or onsite — Concordia’s
Webster and Vanier libraries both have turntables.



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