Friday, April 11, 2014

My Favourite Charity Shop Find

God only knows how many CDs I've bought from charity shops down the years. Scope, PDSA, Cancer Research...they've furnished me with all sorts of second-hand goodies, from unexpectedly good stuff that I would never have paid full price for (e.g. Destiny's Child) to 'holy crap why would somebody give this away' albums by The Magnetic Fields and Camera Obscura.

That said, my all-time favourite charity shop find wasn't a CD at all. It was a vinyl record.

I remember the day quite clearly. I was on Wellfield Road in Cardiff, on my way to somewhere else, with no real intention of doing any shopping. But then I saw a vinyl copy of Mansun's Six on display in the window of Kidney Research UK, and immediately decided to pop in.

Now, I'm not exactly mad for vinyl. I only have a handful of LPs, and most of them were albums that I already had on CD (I like hearing songs on vinyl when I'm used to hearing them on a digital format - different things come through, I think). This was the case with Six - I had bought the CD version off eBay a couple of years prior - but this time, there was a special reason why I was so keen to buy the record.

You see, Six is something of a tribute to vinyl. The tracklist is quite deliberately separated into two halves, and I vaguely remember reading that the album was mostly recorded using analogue technology. It's a proper album - a real labour of love that demands to be taken as a whole.

Yes, I'm aware of the irony inherent in posting a single track after exhorting you to listen to the whole album. So don't bother pointing that out.

I wasn't even aware that vinyl versions of Six existed until I saw one in the Kidney Research window. I had recently been searching for one on eBay, to no avail, and so I assumed that it was CD-only. How wrong I was.

The irony, of course, is that Six doesn't fit on one record. It's a single album on CD, but a double album on vinyl; the strategically-placed interlude was meant to represent the time it takes you to flip the record over, but the authentic Six vinyl experience actually requires three changeovers.

Even so, listening to this album on vinyl is quite the experience. We tend not to give music our full attention these days - I'm certainly guilty of sticking my headphones on so that I can ignore some music while I get on with something else - but the maddening, marvelous maze of ideas that is Six really does deserve your full attention, and vinyl is probably the best way to oblige.

Why? Because, dismissive though I am of audiophiles and vinyl bores, I accept that listening to a record is generally a lot more involving than listening to a CD. For one thing, you have to keep your eye on the tracklist or you'll get lost.

Not that a tracklist will provide much help with songs like this.

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