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July 2021 Retro Gaming Article


July 13, 2021 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Playlists and shuffle-play are swell, but albums are best when played in the order the artist intended

A well laid out album is more than the sumof ist's songs
Creating singles seems to be the heart of today's music industry, but they lack the cohesion of a properly arranged album.
Musicians used to release collections of songs as albums. The arrangement and order of the songs was as important as the music itself. It all came together in a package that energized the senses from cover art and liner notes, to the music itself. When shuffle-play became a CD feature, it altered the entire vibe of an artist's album - totally changing my reaction to it. It felt like I'd been given a tool, I shouldn't possess. It wasn't my right to alter an album by upsetting it's order. The artist laid it out as it was meant to be heard.

These days, music is regurgitated by end users who create playlists on streaming apps. The heart of music has been reduced to a digital file played wirelessly over a cheap speaker.

I grew up listening to albums by myself and with friends. What I mean is we didn't play music in the background as we did other things. We listened to albums - that WAS the thing! Today, music is equally important as it was when I was a kid, but way we enjoy music has taken a backseat to the artistry of it all.

Album art is a huge part of music to me, Playing the songs is just a part of the overall experience. I loved finding info on the record sleeves or inserts along with the vinyl. As artwork shrank onto cassettes and then CDs, it seemed as though a large part of the visual beauty of listening to music was reduced.

Albums Define Eras

My favorite part of buying a new album was it often represented a new era in a band's development and growth. Some bands released new albums yearly, while others went for years without any new music. It was amazing to unwrap a new album and listen to both sides in one sitting, listening to a favorite band's new material. Part of the magic was the cohesion of the dozen new songs and how they were arranged to create a vibe around the new collection.

These days new singels drop for a doller of so and often never become released as a cohesive album with an era-defining sound. Today, new singles feel like lonely MP3 files that eventually are forgotten or deleted as new ones arrive. Even the technology behind today's music is very different from my youth.

We bought stereos on which we played our records, tapes and CDs. From amps to equalizers and new play components and speakers, we upgraded to achieve better sound. We had stereo - a term that seems lost on today's music fan. Our speakers moved air to create piercing treble and rich bass that could be heard as well as felt. Try that over Bluetooth with single speaker. It may be full of lights and float in your pool, but I assure you that speaker sucks!

Next time you buy a complete album, sit and listen to it from beginning to end. Like reading a good book, a good album will harness your attention and deliver an experience worth having all on it's own. Sure you want to listen to your favorite songs as a mix-tape, but never lose the magic of an album crafted for a unique experience by the artist who created the songs.

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