Monday, September 16, 2013

Bootleg? Never again!

By Vagabond Apprentice

I would like to start this review by telling you how I became a disciple of Vagabond Brother Samuel (aka VVer #1).  One score ago (that's twenty years to the common folk) I found a flyer on a wall to hear Brother Samuel preach about music.  The announcement intrigued me, so I decided to check it out.  I listened to his first sermon, dedicated to those 90's whippersnapper rock gods Nirvana!  After the gospel was finished, I became a Nirvana addict!  With the help of Vagabond BS' teachings I bought dozens of CDs by the Seattle alt band -- concerts, as well as rarities discs.  Even though the band only had four official album releases at this point there were other ways for the faithful to get their hands on more music.  Back in the mid-90's the strip of impressive record and CD stores on Thayer Street in Providence, RI was jammed with all sorts of ear candy.

Fast forward to 2013, I still watch with an unwavering eye for any new Nirvana.  This brings me to the following musings.  My recent trip to California helped aid my vinyl obsession when I journeyed to the most famous record store west of Pecos: Amoeba Music!  If there is a vinyl heaven, this is it.  I raced into the massive LA store and started flipping through the alphabetical bins.  It was twenty years since first hearing Nirvana, but the thrill was still strong.  Back in the 90's we listened on CDs and now here I was looking at the possibility of hearing everything anew on vinyl format!  I excitedly reached for the "sacred" section.  I spotted a curious LP titled Nirvana: Almost All The BBC Sessions.  This was a record I had never before laid eyes on.  Giving it a once over, my gut had a funny feeling.  I was dead sure it was a bootleg.  You know, those products that are illicitly produced, distributed, and/or sold without the authorization of the band or record company.  What tipped me off? The cover was made of a thin cardboard, sort of resembling a brown paper bag.  It had an obscure illustration that Kurt Cobain had drawn for a past concert poster printed slapdash across the front.  The back indicated it was made in Italy.  No Geffen or even a Sub Pop logo graced the sleeve.  Very unusual!  The track listing had a few song titles that were not on any of there original albums; names such as "Here I Am," "Pretty Scary," and "Meltdown."  Due to a few prior bootleg CD experiences I knew that these titles were actually lyrics or nicknames to real songs.  Songs such as "Endless, Nameless," "Turnaround," and "Aneurysm" were at one point these work in progress titles.  It was also signed and numbered 79 out of 100.  Super limited Edition!  The price was $20 so I decided "What the hey" I'll buy it, how bad could it be ...

Guess what ... it was absolutely horrid!  First of all, it sounded like a cloudy CD.  The vinyl had no highs and lows to my ears.  Each song had an entirely different sound quality with no smooth progression between tracks.  I frequently had to adjust the volume up or down track to track.  On certain songs the vocals sounded in the forefront, sometimes it was the drums, but mostly the guitars sounded very mushy, and stale.  Unlike a CD bootleg where tracks are listed as being from separate times, places, and recording sessions, this release had bupkis.  Past bootlegs I have owned suffered from these same issues, but never to such an abysmal extent.  The sound problems here were a total disgrace to the vinyl format.  The only cool aspect being the dark, red color of the vinyl was in no way redeeming; this LP was a mess.  Shame on the people who put out this garbage!  It did not deserve to have a place in my record collection, so I sent it straight to vinyl hell: the trash can.  I hope I will have better luck next time, though it's possible that the Nirvana vaults have finally been exhausted.  Either way, I will be more suspect of oddball vinyl releases.

What say you, vinyl disciples?

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