Last year, just as the pandemic got started and we were all locked in, I did something I haven’t done since the early 80’s. I bought a record player. Somewhere around 1988 I stopped with records completely, as I got my first CD player in Dec 1987, and I was mostly into cassettes then due to my boom box and Walkman at the time. But actually buying a record player was something I haven’t done likely in 40 years.
In the spring of 2020, I was looking at the handful of vinyls I still had. Most of them were ones that I got from some friend at a record label. If you didn’t know, I run a Black Sabbath fan website here – and have done so since 1995. It’s been around awhile, and due to its longevity, I have made several friends who were the actual musicians, and the label people. Anyway, I had copies of a handful of albums, and one of them was Rapture of the Deep by Deep Purple, which had purple vinyl. I realized I had NEVER played that vinyl copy I had, and when I thought about the handful of others I still had hanging around, I thought – why don’t I have a record player anymore? There was no real reason, I guess. I’m mostly digital these days, I’m all about having my entire collection in the cloud for use from my iPhone via bluetooth. But I do remember the old days of spinning vinyl and admiring actual cover art.
So I spoke with a friend of mine who is huge into vinyl – this dude is the kind of dude that will only put discs on his turntable using a pair of white gloves. So I asked him – what’s a good model to get for someone looking to get back into this? I didn’t want to break the bank, but I didn’t want to buy some cheap piece of crap, either. So he sent me this model by Crosley. It is what I sought out for. Nice, entry level model. Not cheap, sounds decent, and out of the box came with everything you needed to listen to records. Didn’t have to buy the needle elsewhere, or speaker wire from there, etc. It arrived a few days later from Amazon (who still has it for sale), set it up, and was instantly transported back to my early 80’s days of playing vinyl. The first thing I played was Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon which reacquired at the same time as the record player – because what vinyl collection is complete without Dark Side?
As the months progressed, I was picking up some albums that either meant a lot to me, or I’d find a good deal on, things like that. Now in Feb 2021, almost a full year since I got the player, I’ve put together a nice little collection, I think. Not the biggest mind you, but everything in here means something to me, it’s not just “another album” type of thing. So that’s cool. But as I collected them, I noticed I had more color and “non black” discs than I thought I did. Of all the color discs I have, very few of them I sought out simply because they were colored. I can’t lie and say none of them I have because of that, but most of them are accidental – or they didn’t come any other way. I’ll get into that below. Two were total surprises when I opened them – I was like “Cool – it’s color!”. My wife said I should write a piece on the colored vinyl I have, so this is me doing that. I’m going to include a picture of the various albums I have color pressings for, and say a few words about them.
For Christmas 2020 I upgraded the speakers. I’m no longer using the speakers that came with the turntable. They were not bad by any stretch, but did lack some bass punch. I replaced them with this set. Now they’re not like $1,000 speakers that fill fill a hall with music, but they did sound significantly better than what I had before. That same friend who recommended the turntable, upon hearing that I upgraded speakers said “Uh-oh. Now you’ve done it. You’ve started down the path of upgrading everything. It never ends.” ;)
Before I get to the list, I did want to throw this out about colored vinyl. Back in the old days, colored vinyl was less common, but it did exist. When I first started in on this again in 2020, the old memory I had from the 80’s about color vinyl prevailed which was “color vinyl was inferior” – that it had lesser sound quality, and worse durability over time. Thing is, I know tech progressed in all that time, and vinyl never fully disappeared, it just went underground for a a good long time. So I sought out some info on the matter. It would appear that the old color vinyl is crap is mostly not an issue anymore. I’d be a fool to say it can never be a thing – if you get a crappy pressed vinyl, it can still happen – but on the whole it appears color vinyl is less of an issue than before. I found two good articles on the matter. One is a blog entry from discogs.com on sound quality on black vs color vinyl, and another is an article from “Inner Groove Distortion” about the sound quality of colored vinyl.
Now, to my list..
I’m going to do this in alphabetical order by band name, this isn’t any order of liking the albums, or the colors or whatnot.
Accept – Too Mean To Die
Released in 2021, the latest album from the German metal band Accept might be the most visually striking one I have. When the album was coming out, I waffled over whether getting the colored or black vinyl. I opted for the colored one, but I never saw a picture of it before it arrived. When I opened it I was instantly taken by the striking look of the vinyl.
What makes this one extra interesting is that the pattern has a really weird effect when you’re actually playing it. I tweeted a short video of that, it’s underneath the picture here.
The disc is really hypnotic when you actually play it.@NuclearBlast @AcceptTheBand #TooMeanToDie pic.twitter.com/ryv7YWk4g4— ????? ??????? ?????? (@sabbathfans) January 30, 2021
AC/DC – Power Up
AC/DC’s new album that came out during the pandemic was a breath of fresh air. AC/DC’s my first ever hard rock band. After their most recent tour prior to this I really thought they were done. Then came word that they had a full new album with the classic lineup (as much as it could be after the death of Malcolm Young). This announcement came post record player, so I jumped on the vinyl release for this.
This one is solid red, which works well with the red cover and the “horns” that Angus has used over the years – and also shows here on the label.
Black Sabbath – The 10 Year War
This is a box set that came out in 2017 that contained all eight of the 1970’s Ozzy Osbourne era Black Sabbath albums. I got this sent to me from the label to promote on my Sabbath site. Each of the eight albums have a custom piece of vinyl design. Some are clear vinyl with a design, some are swirl patterns, but they definitely look cool. Particularly the Sabotage album, with the clear vinyl and the blood splatter.
I also did an unboxing video of the set back when I got it a few years back. If you’d like to check that out, you can do so here.
Boston – Boston
One of the criteria I had for requiring albums on vinyl that I already had on other formats (CD, digital) was that it was some sort of classic album. The first Boston album was truly classic. Of that there’s no doubt. Despite what one thinks about how classic radio overplays this stuff, the songs on this album are a landmark, so I wanted it on vinyl.
However, when I went to buy it, the only “new/in print” version was a picture disc. The album wasn’t pressed on black vinyl in 2020. Oh sure, I could get a used copy somewhere, but I wasn’t as into used copies – was someone else’s, and I’d rather have my own copy. So picture disc it was.
Picture discs aren’t really something I wanted, because unlike color vinyl, picture discs do have issues with reduced audio quality due to their construction. The second of the two articles I link to above speak to that somewhat.
Anyway, here’s a picture. It does look cool – but I honestly wish I had a new black vinyl of this one. The front and back sides of this have different art, so I’ve included both.
Ray Conniff – Merry Christmas
This one is one I picked up for my wife. When she was young, she had memories of her parents playing specific albums during Christmas time. One was a Bonanza Christmas album, and the other was this one. We actually still had the same original 1963 print of the Bonanza album that her parents owned, but this one we didn’t. I spotted it for sale new in the summer of 2020, and jumped on it. I put it aside until we got to Christmas time when I opened it. I got a big surprise when the vinyl was pure white. It looks super distinctive, and for a Christmas album, I really liked that it was white. I had no idea it was a colored vinyl when I bought it.
Bonus that my wife said it sounded better than the CD version we’ve had – had it on when we were doing things during the season, and it “felt” like Christmas. I get why this is a strong memory for her, and I was glad as her husband to be able to bring back a part of that part of her childhood. I also enjoyed watching her enjoy it, plus I got into it myself.
The official name of this is “Ray Coniff and The Ray Conniff Singers – We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, but that was too long for the title above. ;)
Deep Purple – Burn
If there ever was a band whose vinyl would be colored, it would be Deep Purple. But this was one of the other surprise albums. I bought Burn when I saw it on a deep dive sale for new vinyl. When it arrived, it was clear purple vinyl. I thought I as buying black vinyl.
It’s a great album, – looks good, too.
Deep Purple – Rapture of the Deep
This is the album that started me down the path of thinking about an article on my colored vinyl. I’ve had this longer than I think anything else in my collection right now. Meaning I had it myself (unlike my wife’s Bonanza relic). I never got rid of it despite not having a record player for 15 years owning it – because I thought it just looked cool. It’s purple like Burn, but a different shade, and not transparent – it’s opaque.
It also has a cool pattern on the printed label. What you can’t see to well in this photo is that the purple vinyl is marbled. That shows up better in person when you’re looking at it, but it didn’t come over well in the photos I tried taking for this.
I just wish the “tour edition” of this album was on vinyl, as that version has some extra tracks not on this standard edition of the album. One of THOSE extra tracks is my single favorite Deep Purple song of all time – “The Well Dressed Guitar”.
Iron Maiden – Nights of the Dead
This is a 2020 live Iron Maiden album recorded in Mexico on the most recent tour. I mention Mexico, as it’s important to this article. It’s a nice set, has great interior artwork, even the paper sleeves that hold the vinyl have a better heft than most paper inserts do. Maiden definitely spent some coin on this set, as it looks nice, it feels nice, and of course it’s live Iron Maiden.
However, the reason it is here, is that Iron Maiden sold a limited edition through Walmart. That special edition had colored vinyl – the standard one is three black discs. On the special edition, each of the three discs are colored differently. One is white, one is red, and one is green – for the colors in the Mexican flag where the show was recorded. I thought that was a super slick thing. Something I actually didn’t pick up on at first, I had to be told about it. :)
Here’s a few pics of this, including one press photo of the overall set. I will say this. The press photo makes the discs look like they’re clear colored vinyl. They’re not – they’re opaque.
Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones:
Love You to Life
I love this band. Saw them in Dec 2018 opening for the Brian Setzer Orchestra on his Christmas tour. I had never even HEARD of the Ark-Tones before, and I’m generally one to not enjoy bands live I don’t know. My usual thought process for them was “Uh, are you done yet? Can we get to whom I came for?” Not this band, though – they smoked it from the start, and were awesome. Met the band that night, got a picture, and bought their album (this one – on CD). Since then I’ve bought all their albums, plus all Lara’s albums with the handful of other bands she’s been in in the past. Major draw here.
This Love You to Life album I’ve bought twice on CD, I have two vinyl copies – one black, and one red, and my wife and I have given it as gifts to a few people. Really enjoy it. They have a fun video for the big single from this album – check it out.
Anyway, here’s as pic of the red vinyl version of this album that I have.
Todd LaTorre – Rejoice in the Suffering
This is a new 2021 album – the first solo album by Todd LaTorre – the incumbent singer in Queensryche. I wanted this one on vinyl as it was a NEW new album. That turned out to be prophetic, because I received the vinyl delivered two days before its release date, so I didn’t have it available on Apple music. So for this album, I got the first taste of it on an actual piece of physical vinyl. Something that I don’t think has happened since the early 80’s. I never thought I would do that again.
The vinyl is white, and looks distinctive with the art that is on the printed label. It doesn’t have the same feel as the white vinyl I have as a Christmas album, but it looks great when you play it. The white almost disappears and you don’ see it spin when you play it. Kind of a hard thing to quantify in text here.
Metallica – Several…
In 2021, Metallica re-released six of their albums in new vinyl remasters and re-pressings. It was the first five Metallica albums plus their most recent album. I got a deal on this, and used Christmas money to pay for it (ha). But anyway, it’s six albums with different colors. What’s cool here is that each of the six albums have a color name given to them which have something to do with the album it came from. For example, the Master of Puppets album which opens with a song called “Battery” has its vinyl colored officially as “Battery Brick Vinyl”. It doesn’t work as well for their Black Album, as the vinyl there is marbled black – but it isn’t as pronounced, where it looks like a mostly black vinyl release. But overall, I really loved this set. The albums sounded great, the vinyls (outside of Black album) look nice cosmetically. Here’s a pic of the six albums before I opened them, and each individually being played.
Quiet Riot – Hollywood Cowboys
When I like a band, I like a band, and I stick with them through all the changes. Changes describes Quiet Riot rather a lot. They’ve been through a lot over the years, many member deaths, changes, etc… But they persist, and I like that. When they put out their most recent album (2019’s Hollywood Cowboys), it was the second with the then incumbent singer James Durbin. I jumped all over this release, because I wanted to support the band still making music. Frankie Banali didn’t have to do that, he could just play the hits, but he still put out new music. In this day and age, not all bands do that. They’re content to play just the hits.
When I ordered this, I did it from a place of joy. Loved Quiet Riot, so I wanted their new stuff. Also ordered this way before I had a record player again, so I bought it in true support. Given I am a subscriber to Apple Music, I know the band doesn’t get hardly anything legally from that, so I opted to buy the album too. I still do that for bands I really like.
To my surprise the vinyl was yellow. I can’t remember if I knew that when I ordered it, but I certainly was surprised when I opened it and saw the yellow vinyl. It’s quite distinctive.
I also wrote a bit about the release of Hollywood Cowboys elsewhere on my blog. You can read that if you’d like.
Rolling Stones – Steel Wheels Live
The Stones are a band I’ve never seen live, although I tried in 2020. Bought a ticket, and the show was postponed due to the pandemic. I’m still sitting on an open ticket, which I hope I get to use sometime. I’ve heard a lot of live Stones over the years, and when they were coming out with this in 2020, I lucked out when I got a friend of mine at the record label to send me a copy. It’s a quad vinyl set. Two discs are orange, and two are blue. I included a copy of both below. I’m not entirely sure I would have bought this if I had to pay for it, but given I do have it, I can say it’s a great live album. The Steel Wheels album is one of my favorite Stones album, and I should have seen the tour – but I didn’t. I’ve always liked the tongue logo for the Stones – it looks great spinning in a circle on the turntable. :)
Soul – Original Score
I’m a huge Pixar fan. Love their films. Have all of them on 4k Blu-Ray, so when Soul came out, it was an automatic that I’d see it. However, I couldn’t see in the theatres due to covid. Nor could anyone else, as they ended up releasing it on Disney+. My wife and daughter and I watched it the first day it was available, so I could keep my streak of seeing all the Pixar films on opening day intact.
However, the music in the movie is amazing as hell. Soul has actually two soundtrack albums. The one shown here, and another one which is mostly all Jazz written by Jon Batiste. This one is the movie’s score, which has music by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross. It’s the only true “clear” vinyl I own, and it looks really distinctive. Whether you’d like the music is down to whether you liked the movie or not, I guess.
Also, I have a short 15 second video I posted on Twitter showing this album being played. The patterns in the vinyl make for a really odd visual effect. Check that out below.
I got the vinyl for the @PixarSoul soundtrack by @Trent_Reznor & Atticus Ross today. The clear vinyl looks REALLY clear, and when you play it, it has an odd visual effect - I recorded a few seconds of it. pic.twitter.com/Hl9YDl9G8L— ????? ??????? ?????? (@sabbathfans) January 16, 2021
Stray Cats – Rocked This Town 40th
I’ve very much enjoyed the Brian Setzer Orchestra shows I’ve seen, and I remembered the Stray Cats from the old days. I got this double vinyl (both blue) in a deal, so I jumped on it. Rockabilly isn’t for everyone, but if you’re into it, this is a good live album by the Stray Cats, one of the pioneers and still best in this arena.
This is by far not all the vinyl I own, but it is all the color vinyl I own. There is one other one I haven’t received yet, it’s an album from Paul Stanley of Kiss from his side project “Soul Station”. It’s a purple-ish color vinyl, which looks kind of cool, I thought. There’s a picture below. Of all the ones above, I think the Accept one is the most visually interesting. The Maiden one is the one that is put together the best. The vinyl is HEAVY stuff, the set looks like, and it wasn’t obscenely expensive, either. The Ray Coniff one felt great, as it brought out some enjoyable moments between my wife and I.
Thing is, I found out about a year ago that my mom still has about 100 vinyls in her basement. Several of them are my old vinyls from the early 80’s. Thing is due to her age and the age of my grandma who lives with her, nobody is going over out of fear of covid. When covid is over, I’m having my brother ship me all the vinyl. I don’t expect there to be color in there, but the prospect of discovering what vinyl is still in there that I used to own 40 years ago is cool. Can’t wait to see what treasures are in there.
Till then, it’s time to play some more vinyl. I’ve really fallen in love with vinyl again this past year. :)