Planets in a row…

I haven’t been so excited about the postman knocking on the door for a long, long time. He’s a friendly enough chap, although I think he may be some sort of prototype post-droid as he always has white wires coming out of his ears and only seems to have a vocabulary of about five words.

Anyway, this morning, I am not bothered about post-droid, just what he’s handing over to me… it won’t fit through the letter box you see… because what I have in my hands is a smart, minimalist brown card package containing the new Olly Knights (he of the splendid Turin Brakes) solo record “If Not Now When” and when I say record, I mean it.

I run my stiff digital fingers over the smooth matt sleeve. A very analogue experience. I can feel that the vinyl within is reassuringly heavy, and on inspection find that not only do I now own a proper, new ‘record’ (I can’t remember the last time I bought vinyl) complete with full-colour lyric/info sheet, but also a CD version of the album (with a serious bonus of a  beautifully filmed documentary about the making of the album), plus the digital download (which I’ll probably just delete now to be honest, but thank you anyway…).

I bought all of this for £14.99 which in my book is very good value. The product I have bought is gorgeously packaged, has great photos and attractive artwork, a strikingly honest recording by a down-to-earth bloke working in the hours between doing the school run… I am hooked to a whole experience.

This is mindbodysoul stuff. Tactile, absorbing. Music as an experience, a treat… not just aural wallpaper. I already had doubts about downloading albums (legally of course) on quality grounds… now I have no doubts, I’m just not going to do it any more. The download version of this lovely album sounds like mush compared to the CD. The vinyl (once I’ve got my electrical genius friend Mick to get my record deck up and running again) will be a new reference point… more input for the Recording Booth ears.

I have a foggy memory that this is how I used to feel as a teenager, buying vinyl (and well-packaged CDs) of Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Alice In Chains… every one something I coveted and saved up for, then got on a train from Whaley Bridge to Stockport to the nearest record shop (another subject entirely…) where I would finally fill my cup and rush back to the train station to sit down and inspect the sleeve notes, who did what and where, the photos…

This isn’t me doing ‘vinyl is the answer to all woes’, because I don’t believe that. I use digital technology pretty much every day to produce and listen to music and don’t see that changing any time soon. It just happens that this particular vinyl experience and perhaps the timing of it’s arrival in my life has got my endorphins going more than I expected.

I think one final but very important point I should raise is that coincidentally (or possibly not), I am about two-thirds of the way through reading the excellent book “Perfecting Sound Forever: The Story Of Recorded Music” by Greg Milner. On the cover is a quote from Jarvis Cocker: “Very, very, very few books will change the way you listen to music. This is one such book. Read it.” I totally agree with you, Jarvis.

Some planets have lined up for me right now. I am convinced there is much to learn from them. For a start, when I come to record my next bunch of songs, I’m not going to put them out unless I can make the whole experience, and product, this satisflying. This quality (subjectively and objectively). In my day job as a producer of music, I like to think I haven’t become too focussed on the technology, but whatever the case this is a welcome reminder of what and how music can be.

So, thank you Olly Knights, Greg Milner and my good pal Chris Robinson who recommended Greg’s book. Onwards…

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