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Indie Showcase: Rants and Raves!

A reviewer laments the loss of respect for the physical album and disregards the cheers about ongoing inroads made by downloads and streams.

By Lee Zimmerman

 Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images

Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images

Let’s face it... life’s not easy these days. Between the international turmoil, domestic discord and the fluctuating state of the economy, current problems are causing many people to simply shake their heads in frustration and despair. We could go on and on about that for hours, but it wouldn’t likely yield any revelation or remedy. It’s best left to the pundits and politicians to voice their opinions on those topics and offer up futile solutions.

Still, being that my first Indie Showcase column is called Rants and Raves, it does leave room to voice a personal perspective on any number of topics. And while I’m not one to hide my head in the sand when it comes to bigger issues, I thought it best to initiate this column by speaking out on a subject that focuses on music in particular...that is, my loathing of downloads and streams.

Granted, some would consider me old school, and chalk up my disinterest to the fact that I’m of an older generation. Yes, I see no dishonor in owing up to that. You see, back in day, the arrival of a new album by a favorite artist was considered something of an event. There was anticipation surrounding an upcoming album from The Beatles or the Stones, or for that matter, any artist that we especially admired. The physicality of it had a great deal to do with it. After all, the arrival of a new LP became a draw, something that lured the loyal legions to the local record store where they would pick it up, fondle it, scan it for credits, lyrics and other trivia that would prompt a prolonged gaze while the record spun on the turntable.

As a result, I lament the loss of respect for the physical album and I disregard the cheers about ongoing inroads made by downloads and streams. Albums — whether CD or LP — are an art form, a physical achievement that’s more than unconnected sound in cyberspace. It’s the art, the graphics, the credits that underscore the experience and make it feel whole.

I realize that the economics of the music biz — and in fact, the music biz itself — isn’t very healthy these days. And yet, there seems to be more and more great music to choose from, even though much of it resides below the radar. And yet, without a physical representation of those efforts, a multi-sensual experience, most of these struggling artists are doomed to reside in some sort of amorphous, ambiguous oblivion that thwarts the proverbial fifteen seconds of fame because no physical presence is there to affirm the fact it ever existed. It’s here one moment, gone the very next. There’s no evidence to sustain its existence, its lure, presumptive appeal. Instead, its transient, fleeting and then gone into the void. It’s like passing off a phantom as I a physical person. What is there to grab, to hold, to add to one’s collection and rest it proudly on a shelf?

And seriously... do downloads and streams sound as good as physical records? On that point alone, I rest my case.

And with that, I give you my initial rant. And my initial rave to you for hearing me out. I welcome your comments!

Longtime Goldmine contributor Lee Zimmerman is taking over the blog Indie Showcase from editor Patrick Prince and developing it into a print column as well. It will premiere in the July print edition of Goldmine and posted bi-weekly here online.