Elvis Costello - National Ransom
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Why I Still Buy CDs

The Rantings of an Old-Guy and Music Fan

Elvis Costello - National Ransom
This is an Amazon Affiliate Link
November 2, 2010 was a remarkable day for our beloved Nation: Elvis Costello’s newest album National Ransom was released, and there was some sort of election. I digress.

I ventured out on my lunch hour to go pick up a copy at my local big-box Book & Music retailer, only to find their music department cordoned off with plastic sheeting as they convert it into a Games Department. Where’s the music department I asked; a fellow customer replied: “Gone.”

I catch unending heck from my friends on Twitter & Facebook about this all the time, but here’s my confession: I still buy CDs. In fact, I prefer buying CDs. I’m old.

Here’s why:

  1. Albums are Still a Viable Artform – I know this is the age of the single download, but many of the artists I listen to and whose music I buy, still create albums that are bigger than the sum of the songs that make them up. Take Elvis Costello’s National Ransom, there’s a reason that it was released today, Election Day in the US, and 4 days ago in the rest of the world. He has something to say, it’s a commentary on something, not just a collection of tunes trying to be #1 on the dance charts. Sure there are Greatest Hits collections, and others that don’t fit this description, but hey, so what.
  2. CDs Have Artwork – As with #1, albums have artwork that contributes to the overall statement or story the artist is trying to tell. Yes I remember buying vinyl “Albums” when I was a kid, and yes, CD’s in some ways killed the importance of the cover art, but again looking at National Ransom, this is Elvis’ 2nd Album with cover art by Tony Millionaire. His last one, Secret, Profane and Sugarcane, was beautifully illustrated, so I have reason to believe this one will be as well. To me, music is more than the distraction in the background, call me goofy.
  3. I Like Poop – (There’s a headline that’ll come back to haunt me) Maybe this should be my #1 reason. One of the ways I discover new music is by reading the liner notes of albums. If I hear a solo I like, I check out the notes to see who’s playing what on any given song. I’m a jazz fan, and jazz musicians are notorious for jumping from group to group, playing as sidemen on each other’s recordings. Downloaded MP3s have no liner notes (poop), so let’s say I heard an amazing drummer on a Zoot Simms album, and wanted to know who it was. Sure I could pop over to allmusic.com and see what info they have, but what if there are no drummers listed? Looks like I’m SOL without further digging.

    OK, so I listen to a lot of stuff that’s out of the “main stream” of the music biz, I also tend to listen to a lot of stuff that’s produced by independent artists. Good luck finding credit poop on the Jason Parker Quartet (Allmusic only lists 3 of the 4 players in the quartet) or Liz Pennock & Dr. Blues (Allmusic only lists 1 of their 5 albums, and not even the one I “played” on!). Sure I could always Tweet Jason or call Liz, but the fundamental immediacy of having a physical booklet with that information on hand is gone.

  4. CDs are Like Buying a Backup – I’m not totally old skool when it comes to music, I rip the CDs I buy onto my hard drive & usually listen to that, keeping the CDs as a backup for the inevitable day the hard drive crashes. (Yeah, I do have a backup of that drive too, what’s with all the interruptions?) Having my collection of CDs sitting on the shelf is like having a multi-colored backup library at the ready.
  5. I’m sure there will be a day when nobody releases CDs anymore, and all music will be downloads. It might be sooner than I wish it to be. In the mean time, I’ll just order my CDs online, and wait for them to be delivered.

    By the way, Elvis’ National Ransom was also released on 78rpm vinyl today… ask your Grandparents.