In rotation: 1/6/21

Manchester, UK | How vinyl records got back on track with the best sales for three decades: ‘The vinyl package, from the artwork to putting the needle on the record, isn’t something that can be replicated digitally and I think people still love the process of actually playing a record.’ Sales of vinyl LPs boomed in 2020 as music lovers sought solace in records on lockdown. Here, Manchester Evening News chief reporter Neal Keeling pens a personal take on the phenomenon. Walking onto the second floor of HMV in Manchester’s Arndale rekindled memories of finding solace when I was a teenager – and broke. I could have been back in the 1970s in my Midlands hometown, at school, or in Leeds at the Polytechnic, in 1979-81, as an impoverished undergraduate. During both eras, when I had no money, I could spend half an hour for free flicking through row after row of meticulously arranged albums. In those days HMV was notoriously expensive – or maybe I was forever devoid of dosh. But gazing at the cover of the first Roxy Music LP – a glossy concoction of saxophone, guitars, and the vibrato voice of Brian Ferry, wrapped up in a sleeve graced by the blue-eye-shadowed model Kari-Ann Muller, was very cheap escapism.

Kingston, UK | Banquet Records resume sales to Europe following Brexit “clarity.” The Kingston-based record store paused all orders to Europe last month due to the uncertainty over Brexit. Banquet Records have announced that they have resumed sales to Ireland and mainland Europe after receiving “clarity” in regards to Brexit trading arrangements. The Kingston-based record store previously paused all orders to Europe on December 16 due to the uncertainty over Brexit, saying in a tweet: “Thanks in advance for your patience while we work to find a solution to the difficult, avoidable position we’re in.” The worrying prospect of a No Deal Brexit was avoided on December 30 after MPs voted in favour of Boris Johnson‘s trade deal with the EU, and that development has now led to Banquet receiving the “clarity” they needed in order to confidently resume shipping to EU countries. …“We’re not very global if our artists and musicians can’t tour easily across our closest and most culturally aligned, neighbouring countries. It is time for the architects of Brexit to put their money where their mouths are and prove that Brexit can be a success and not a catastrophe for our industry.”

Tokyo, JP | Vinyl Music Records Regaining Popularity in Japan: Vinyl music records are regaining popularity in Japan despite the Asian country and the rest of the world being in the digital age. Production of analog records in the country, which peaked at around 200 million units a year in the second half of the 1970s, followed a downtrend later and hit bottom in 2009, at about 100,000 units, due to the spread of CDs, according to the Recording Industry Association of Japan. But the annual production started to rebound since then, reaching some 1.22 million units in 2019, up roughly 12-fold from the level 10 years before, with some artists launching new songs and albums on vinyl records. The record industry has been making efforts to win more fans, including among young people. On the analog record floor of Tower Records Japan’s Shinjuku outlet in Tokyo in mid-December 2020, fans were seen digging through their favorite records. “It takes time, such as for changing records and putting a stylus on a record on the player, but I like analog records because they make me feel like ‘I’m listening to the music,'” said a 50-year-old corporate worker who came to the store to buy hit songs of the Showa era (1926-1989).

We listened to old vinyl in Jimi Hendrix’s bedroom to prove retro turntables still rock: Don’t write off your old turntable. We often like to talk about how far turntables have come in the last decade, with audio innovations making it possible to listen to your vinyl via Bluetooth speakers, upload your old records to your computer with built-in USB ports, and set up these complex machines in minutes. That makes it easy to dismiss the turntables of old – but there’s something undeniably charming about listening to old records on the machines that existed when those albums were actually released. Where better to do this than in Jimi Hendrix’s London flat? That’s where the guitar hero’s actual audio setup has been lovingly recreated. Hendrix moved into the upstairs apartment at 23 Brook Street in 1968, and upon learning that composer George Frederic Handel lived next door nearly 250 years prior, he set about amassing a comprehensive vinyl collection that included Handel’s Messiah, among more contemporary artists like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Bee Gees, and Ravi Shankar. Now a museum dedicated to the two music icons, the bedroom in the upstairs flat has been restored to Hendrix’s exact tastes, with bohemian rugs, intricate wall hangings, and retro knick-knacks – and it includes that all-important vinyl collection.

Explore James Baldwin’s record collection in this 31-hour playlist: With tunes from Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Bill Withers, Patti LaBelle, Donna Summers and more. A new playlist featuring music from James Baldwin’s record collection called Chez Baldwin has been created by Curator Ikechúkwú Onyewuenyi. Encompassing 467 tracks, Chez Baldwin features music by artists including Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Bill Withers, Patti LaBelle, Donna Summers, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Dinah Washington. The playlist features the records Baldwin had in his home in St. Paul De-Vence, France. Two albums – Lou Rawls’ When the Night Comes and Ray Charles’ Sweet & Sour Tears – are currently unavailable on the streaming platform. Onyewuenyi created the playlist whilst researching Baldwin’s final play, The Welcome Table.

How Mondo took record players out of the world with massive ‘Mandalorian’ vinyl box set: With a premier record label like Mondo, you really have to be on top of it. Among other items like posters, Tiki mugs, and collectible toys, the Austin-based enterprise releases high-quality vinyl soundtracks of movies, television series, and video games. These premium products often sell out faster than lightspeed — and for a good reason, too. Mondo’s records contain more than your favorite entertainment’s soundtracks and musical scores. They are true works of art that amass exceptional packaging, original illustrations, and cleverly worded text splashed across the gatefold and liner notes. One such piece of shelf jewelry is Mondo’s immaculate vinyl box set for Ludwig Göransson’s Season One score of The Mandalorian. This limited edition 8xLP is pressed on 180-gram vinyl. Each chapter of the eight-episode soundtrack is housed in a two-inch-thick heavyweight sleeve, made to appear like the intergalactic bounty hunter’s Beskar armor. It comes complete with a rough-edged print (as if Pedro Pascal’s character had seen some combat) and a raised, monochrome Mudhorn signet at its center. (Rub your fingers over it to feel the unique texture.) Mo Shafeek, Mondo Creative Director of Music, said in a recent interview with the Denton Record-Chronicle that the process of creating this particular set was a “surreal experience.”

What’s Your Dumbest Vinyl Record Mistake? This Christmas, I made a school-boy level error when listening to some records with the family… Being the holiday season, we were enjoying a few drinks while sorting out the living room decorations. I have two turntable setups in my home (one in my office for uninterrupted listening, and another one in the living room to enjoy with the family). The latter is a much more relaxed setup that, due to space restrictions, doesn’t exactly adhere to all the usual Hi-Fi best-practice you’d expect for the best results. One less than ideal element is the shelf directly above the deck, which on this occasion, proved to be fatal for the unlucky record spinning below… There was a Christmas candle placed on the shelf, and you can probably see where this is going. Yep. Smash. It fell off the shelf, hit the turntable below and rudely interrupted the festivities. Doh! Incredibly, the candle appeared to narrowly miss the cartridge, and I was lucky enough to get away without any costly stylus damage. I was angry, to say the least, and I felt pretty stupid at the same time. Why didn’t I check the shelf before I started spinning!? We all make mistakes, of course, and it could’ve been worse. The record could’ve been rare, and my stylus could be completely destroyed.

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