Rhino and beyond, vinyl makes comeback

The next time you pop into your local record store, you may wonder if you’ve somehow gone back in time. What you’ll see, nearly everywhere you look, is records. Records and record players.

We’re talking good old-fashioned, feel-the-groove vinyl. It’s being embraced in a big way by consumer America, not just by hipsters looking for whatever is hot off the press from their favorite indie label.

You can, for instance, head to Rhino Records (235 Yale Ave. in Claremont) and get Adele’s new album, 25, in record form. Or, if you want to be ordinary about it, you can buy the CD.

The COURIER recently caught up with Rhino’s general manager, Dennis Callaci, to talk about the return of “black licorice.”

“It’s been a steady build over the last five years, with the last two years being pretty wild,” he said. “As far as who is buying records, it’s all over the map.”

Many young people today are looking to go deeper than digital music culture, according to Mr. Callaci.

“There was a deficit of young people buying music a decade ago; they were getting it all for free online,” he said. “It seems like there’s been a call from the generation to follow the last one to a certain degree. They believe having music and connecting with the artist is an important thing. It seems like the pendulum swings one way and then another.”

Some of the appeal lies in listening to an entire album, all at once, rather than shuffling through a vast compendium of favorite tunes on your phone.

“When you’re hearing things in a random sequence, a piece here and piece there, what gets lost is the intention of the artist, who spent all that time recording and writing it,” Mr. Callaci said. “When you listen to an album in its entirety, part of the flow—the silence between these two tracks, when to make your way from side one to side two of a record, it starts to get embedded in your DNA.”

Of course, Rhino never stopped carrying new records, items that had become the domain of independent record labels and the waning mom and pop record store.

Mr. Callaci is a vinyl guy from way back. Every other night, he’ll listen to some records, sitting between two speakers to allow for a better batch of stereophonic sound. “My poor wife. My poor children,” he jokes.

As for whether a record sounds better than a CD, Mr. Callaci is ambivalent. “There are plenty of LPs as good as their CD counterparts. It depends on the mastering and the pressing plant.”

He is unequivocal about his preference for both CDs and records over digital recordings.

“I’ve been to thousands of concerts, so my hearing isn’t what it was,” Mr. Callaci said. “But mp3s to me always sounded thin, they’ve never got the full spectrum of sound. Whereas CDs, to me, sound great. They have a deep low end.”

He most recently purchased Yo La Tengo’s 14th album, “Stuff Like That There,” which he characterizes as “quite a stately record.”

Some of the records released today have some new bells and whistles, Mr. Callaci notes. Many records come with download codes so you can get the tracks on your phone, too.

“And the quality is often so much better than the quality we grew up on,” he said. “You’ve got 180-gram records, which are twice the weight. The presentation has been built up. Some records have gatefold sleeves and when you open up the records, the inserts are c ardboard, not just pressed paper.”

Rhino has many new records in the neighborhood of $25; the shop also has a collection of used records starting at about $3. Some records are more costly, however, and it’s not the result of choices made by the store’s management.

“We have a new Lana del Ray double album with a $49.98 list price,” he said. “That’s something that will be purchased by younger folks in their 20s. It’s a worrisome thing, major labels bumping up the price of vinyl. It’s a shame to see them price-gouging. We’re always fighting to get things to our customers and get them at a fair price. We’ve got to compete with the big boxes, and with everyone online.”

As is so often the case, hot trends in the music industry tend to leave indie acts and companies out in the cold.

“What underground artists are starting to see is that they’re being kicked down the food chain, because Adele records need to be pressed and Bob Marley needs to be pressed,” he said.

Music industry politics aside, records remain a growing trend.

Record players at Rhino Records start at $69.99 and go up to $349. They’ve also got old-school vinyl swag like crates to store your albums and frames to display them. And as for the record selection, it’s everything from reprints of classics by outfits like Led Zeppelin and The Who to brand-new fare.

A record player and a great album are sure to be popular presents for your favorite music-lovers, leaving the whole family rockin’ around the Christmas tree.


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