Monday, 10 July 2017


Sony Music recently announced it will begin to make vinyl records again in Japan for the first time in three decades, following up the release of a new turntable last year.

As someone who has collected vinyl record albums for nearly five decades, I find the move interesting. I was a little surprised to learn that the market is returning to vinyl in a big way. The Guardian recently reported that sales of vinyl in the U.K. suddenly exceeded sales of digital downloads. Vinyl sales have shown eight consecutive years of growth. These numbers explain, then, Sony's interest in investing in the future (!) of vinyl.

Experts commenting on the trend point to a desire by consumers to be able to purchase something physical to own. Music lovers are drawn by the cover art, lyrics, and liner notes which "give them a more tangible sense of connection to the music they love."

Cover art often drew me to new music. As a teenager I discovered Wishbone Ash by purchasing There's The Rub when it came out because I thought the cover was quirky and cool. The music was solid, and I went back for more. When I spotted Argus, that was it. Now there's a cool cover.

Long-play albums often offer other attractions. I recently picked up John Prine's first album, pictured above, for a buck at a community yard sale in Kemptville. On the back cover Prine had inscribed it in ballpoint pen to "Ric and Bonnie from a Grateful Guest 20/8/74." He drew a peace flower and signed it. Now who wouldn't like to have something like that in their collection?

The best part of the whole thing, though, is the fact that Sony Music is reaching out for expertise to achieve the best possible sound for their new pressings. What does that mean? "Cutting is a delicate process, with the quality of sound affected by the depth and angle of the grooves ... and Sony is scrambling to bring in old record engineers to pass on their knowledge."

There must be a feeling of quiet triumph in the minds of the old guys who suddenly find themselves wanted again. Their sound engineering skills are once again a valuable commodity. Who woulda thunk it?

Rock on, Old Dudes! Show the people how it's done!!

It's enough to blow your mind, man.

Saturday, 1 July 2017


Today marks the 150th anniversary of the confederation of British colonies in North America into the Dominion of Canada. Over the past century and a half we've built this country into the proud, self-reliant nation it is today, and we're very grateful to live within its borders as citizens of one of the most progressive, free, and safe countries in the world.

Unlike patriots in some other countries who like to bray about how wonderful and powerful their nation is compared to others (ahem), we Canadians prefer to maintain a low profile and tout the accomplishments of our nation a little more quietly and politely. However, today being the day it is, this particular Canadian citizen would like to speak a few words explaining to readers of this blog who live in other places such as the Netherlands, Taiwan, the UK, Ireland, and yes--the United States of America--why we're so proud today. We Canadians know who we are and what we're about, but you other folks may be a little fuzzy on the details. Allow me to mount the bully pulpit for a minute and deliver a few words of enlightenment.

Unavoidably, I have to start with health care. While Americans on the political right love to take potshots at our publicly-funded, single payer, national health care system, its inadequacies are the rare exception rather than the rule. Consider this: 99% of all physician services and 90% of hospital care are paid for by the state, and it's been that was since 1966 without Canada falling into complete and total chaos as a result, thank you very much. It works, people. For everyone--rich or poor, male or female, and no matter what race, religion, or whatever the heck else. Period. End of story. Get over it.

Immigrants are welcome in my country. Why? Because we believe very strongly in the concept of a cultural mosaic, a multiculturalism where different peoples from all over the world bring new, exciting, and innovative ideas into our social fabric. We like things that are different and new to us. We're not afraid of them. We embrace diversity with open arms. New music, new food, new languages, new clothing/fabric/fashion ideas, new fiction and film, new perspectives on the meaning of life. My Irish ancestors were immigrants. I like to think their descendants have contributed something to this country in the century and a half since. Let's continue that tradition with smiling faces and open hearts, shall we?

To take this point a step further, Canada is an ideal destination right now for innovators, scientists, engineers, and others to come to Canada to continue their careers. It's a perfect opportunity for Canada to benefit from a brain drain of the best and brightest flowing into our country for once, instead of out. As this trend progresses, perhaps venture capitalists and other start-up investors here will take the opportunity to provide seed money to help a new wave of innovation bear fruit, for example in the alternative energy industry. What a great opportunity for us to grow and show the way into the future!

As welcoming as we are to people seeking a new home in our country, we're still vigilant in keeping our borders, our highways, and our cities safe and secure. Make no mistake, the women and men who maintain our border services and provide our federal, provincial and municipal policing are the best in the world at what they do. Period. End of story. Get over it.

I won't talk about hockey, because the entire world knows we're the best, and there's no point rubbing it in. 

I could go on forever, but I have a suggestion instead. Come to Canada. Check us out. See what we're talking about, why we're making such a fuss here today about what we've got and why we love it so much. Seeing is believing, folks.

Happy Canada Day!