I’ve noticed an uptick lately in the number and quality of what I’d call LP blogs — sites primarily dedicated to posting audio and cover images from long out-of-print vinyl records.
This is an invaluable service, spreading around good, great and sometimes intentionally awful music that would otherwise be lost to the ages. And even the most jaded RIAA-lovin’ copyright fanatic can’t reasonably object to the dissemination of these mostly obscure out-of-circulation albums without a discernible commercial market…
Eh, come to think of it, they probably could, would, will and do find a way to carp. But they’d be better off watching to see what’s popular on these blogs as a bellwether for the reissue and compilation market.
Here are some of the LP blogs that make my daily feeds and cause my hard drive to overflow:
This one’s Americana-focused and tends towards high-quality live bootlegs and homespun compilations, but does enough OOP albums to fit the category. It was my gateway drug into this neighborhood of the blogosphere.
Pros: Impeccable taste and some amazing rarities from current and recent artists. Audio quality is always great.
Cons: Spotty posting and sometimes struggles with the panopoly of upload services.
Current rotation: Repost of last year’s excellent Christmas compilation; rare/live Buffalo Springfield; Neil Young’s 1984 Austin City Limits performance; early live Uncle Tupelo and Wilco.
A recent discovery that is currently focusing very heavily on Christmas tunes. Tends more towards direct download of individual tracks as opposed to sending you away for full albums. Collections of songs tend to be thematic, spurred by current events or whatever the proprietor seems to want to talk about.
Pros: Well-written and generally features great retro art. (So many of these sites don’t give much thought to aesthetics.) Direct downloads are simple.
Cons: Not (m)any full albums and compilations are one big file as opposed to individual tracks.
Current rotation: Christmas tunes from the likes of Jim Lauderdale, The Black Lips, Mae West, The Minus Five, The Chills and lots of others of varying degrees of obscurity delivering nontraditional carols like “Santa’s Too Drunk to Drive Again” and “It’s Christmas Every Day in Alaska.”
This Danish German blog is what it calls itself. Tends to focus on an artist at a time, whether with an OOP record or a selection of singles. Sometimes reviews in-print cds, but then provides purchase link instead of downloads.
Pros: Deeper on old-timey music.
Cons: Hard for this English-speaker to follow some of the navigation elements.
Current rotation: Obscure Dallas rockabilly star Dennis Herrold; a Johnny Cash Christmas album; a sampler of Carter Family standards.
A more eclectic blog featuring, blues, jazz, rock, pop and a special focus on Bob Dylan. Almost exclusively delivers individual mp3s– a few from each album.
Pros: Lots of well-researched history and backstory.
Cons: Neither full albums nor purchase links.
Current rotation: 1920’s gospel; Springsteen pal Southside Johnny; Japanese rock sampler and 1980’s Bob Dylan with punk band The Plugz.
A relative newcomer, clearly inspired by Uncle Gil (see below), this Canadian is already one of the best LP bloggers. It’s heavy on fiddlers and classic Grand Ol’ Opry types, and chock full of albums that are nearly impossible to find.
Pros: Great albums; great sound; good info.
Cons: Suffers from the common problems of any site depending on the myriad free archive services. Posted furiously through November, but nothing in the last week or so.
Current rotation: Texas Ruby Owens; Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters; Nashville Steel Guitar compilation.
I just discovered Red this week and am already a huge fan. Although there’s a bit of a Christmas slant right now, he seems to lean towards late 60’s / early 70’s country, celebrity singers (like Lorne Greene) and countrypolitan. Also does a “this day in country history” series.
Pros: Stuff I don’t see elsewhere.
Cons: Some of it may be kitschy, but not what I’d want in regular rotation.
Current rotation: Lloyd Green, Loretta Lynn and Boxcar Willie Christmas albums, Bill Anderson, Mary Kay Place.
This one’s all over the map, as you would expect from a blog subtitled “Where having bad taste is a good thing.” International garage rock, surf, Texas swing, metal, novelty: It’s all fair game. I probably download fewer items from here than any other blog, but the ones I do download are instant faves.
Pros: Great logo. Eclecticism. Enthusiastic host. And when it hits, it hits big.
Cons: Written in all caps with lots of exclamation points.
Current rotation: Songs from German thriller movies; Huevos Rancheros; Link Wray; Four Horsemen; Sea Hags (great find — first post GN’R album by the producer of Appetite for Destruction).
This one’s really eclectic, with jazz, rock, surf, soul and lots of great compilations. It’s also well-written and helps you figure out which unknown gems will turn you on and which won’t. Stronger on the 80’s and 90’s, while still digging deep into the vault.
Pros: I love the compilations in particular.
Cons: You have to figure out to go into the comments section to find the download links.
Current rotation: Indo-jazz; Nawlins blues; The Untold Fables; Dick Dale; 60’s Soul deep cuts.
The king of LP blogs (at least in my reader). Multiple posters spanning several continents post more quality LPs than any music lover could possibly download. Mostly country, blues and bluegrass, with a smidge of jazz. Great foreign compilations, particularly of American blues artists.
Pros: Simply amazing. Mind-boggling number of posts. All quality.
Cons: Not a lot of commentary, so sometimes hard to separate the wheat from the really great wheat.
Current rotation: French collection of East Coast blues; Larry Sparks does Hank; Leadbelly; Gene Parsons; Jerry Lee Lewis and EIGHT volumes from Johnny Cash’s ABC TV show.
Some additional words to the wise: These are my current faves, but I’m just scratching the surface here. You can get lost in the blogrolls on any one of these sites, finding hundreds of LP blogs serving almost any taste. Just while writing this, I added Pathway to Unknown Worlds (jazz) and power pop criminals to my feeds. I advise checking out as many as possible, but being selective with your regulars, as time and drive space are real limiters.
Most of these blogs are set up on Google’s Blogspot service, presumably for ease of setup and anonymity in the face of harassment from record companies, etc. However, almost all host the files on a variety of freemium file archive services like RapidShare, Badongo, MegaUpload, Sharebee and the like. ALL of these services suck. Badly. Most are slow, have severe limits on how much you can download in a day and generally make you wait a couple minutes before downloading unless you get a paid membership. I’d advise against buying the faster access, because there’s such a wide variety of services used, even within a single blog, that it’s only likely to help you on one out of five downloads.
A very few (like A Truer Sound) are branching into bittorrent, which is my preferred method of download. But, since it requires software and isn’t really mainstream yet, I wouldn’t count on that as a standard for a while. Besides, with small audiences and site owners who may not be online 24-7, it’s probably not the best tool for the job.
And a tip for those who want to start such a blog with dusty vinyl in the attic: Even though the albums may have no commercial value, or prospect of being re-released, there are copyright groups cracking down on LP blogs. The best advice I’ve seen to prevent your magnanimous hobby from turning into a hassle: Set your blogging software settings to block the search engines. While that may mean traffic only from die-hard fans, it means a lower profile with those who’d shut you down. If your intent is non-commercial, that shouldn’t be much of a downer.
Do you know of some great LP blogs? Share links in the comments below.
(Audio: “Vinyl Records” from Todd Snider’s New Connection.)
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