My birthday isn't until Wednesday but I opened one of my presents last night. I knew what it was, in fact I found it online and sent the link to Rob so that he could purchase it with absolute certainty. It's a portable record player. Rob insisted I open it early so that I could enjoy it for a few days before I set off on my 'big 40th birthday trip' next week.
I've missed playing records. When I moved into the dormitory my freshman year of college, I lugged a record player and two wooden wine crates full of LPs into my little room. Although most students (wisely) took the less space-consuming CD route, I actually didn't have many CDs back then. By graduation, my entire vinyl collection ended up in boxes, stored in my mother's garage.
Record playing requires a certain level of ceremony. The removal of the vinyl disc from the paper sleeve without smudging the grooves with fingerprints calls for a deft hand. The commitment of the diamond needle to record begins the crackly preamble to the first song. The album is characterized by a distinct ebb and flow.
The opening song must be the best that the record offers. Or almost the best. The end of the first side, like the ending of the first act of a play, must reach a high point, making the audience hungry for more. The second side must begin with a song that preserves the mood established on the first, but with the addition of something new. A new thought or feeling. The album must end as strongly as it begins.
CDs and (more so) MP3s encourage me to skip to the songs I remember liking best. Over time the list dwindles to nearly zero. Not because of the quality of the songs but because of the laziness of my memory.
I broke in the new record player last night with Samba With Some Barbeque, the first song from Paul Desmond's album Summertime.