Sunday, September 24, 2017

Book: Vinyl Freak: Love Letters to a Dying Medium by John Corbett (Duke University Press, 2017)

This book is a collection of Vinyl Freak columns that jazz scholar and record label owner John Corbett wrote for Downbeat Magazine from 2000-2012, about the rare vinyl records in his collection complete with color thumbnails of the albums in question. There is a short introductory section where he details his formative years as a teenager catching the vinyl bug and his years as a college radio DJ. The columns themselves are presented in chronological order with Corbett adding a postscript to each entry about whether the album in question had been reissued and the detailing the unexpected resurgence in popularity of vinyl records which rapidly increased as his column progressed. Corbett writes well, and he has done admirable research for each entry, noting the musicians involved in each album and details about the recording sessions, and short biographical sketches of the musicians. There is a whiff of snobbishness, but he’s earned it, and his collecting stories and enthusiasm for the music which is mostly, but not exclusively, free jazz and European free improvisation shines through. There is a chapter of capsule entries of some of the more obscure and valuable items in his collection (both monetarily and culturally) and then he concludes the book with the story of how he was able to come in possession of a huge cache of rare Sun Ra material from the estate of longtime Ra confidant Alton Abraham. Half jazz scholarship and half Storage Wars, it’s quite a yarn and brings together all of Corbett’s passions and ties up all of the books themes of collection, obsession, and giddy excitement in a fine conclusion. Vinyl Freak: Love Letters to a Dying Medium - amazon.com

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