September 16, 2019

Vinyl records find new life in age of CDs

LEWISTON – In this age of digital compact discs, high-tech CD players and music downloaded onto computers, you might think that record players and LPs would have gone the way of the horse and buggy.

You’d be wrong.

At Bull Moose Music in Lewiston, two shelves of new records sit beside the cash register. Used albums are now available at some of Bull Moose’s other locations, including Portland, Waterville and Bangor.

One aficionado even makes part of his living by selling rare records over the Internet, primarily auctioning them on eBay.

Bill Cartmel’s Lewiston home is filled with old records, each carefully wrapped in plastic. He has been so successful with his online business that he quit his day job as a TV journalist with Maine PBS five years ago.

Cartmel specializes in musicals and soundtracks and sells albums around the world. He said Japan and the United Kingdom are his best customers.

There is still demand for vinyl albums in part because for every album that has been reissued on CD, there are several others that will never make it onto a CD, he said.

“Think about Frank Sinatra,” said Cartmel. “He’s about as beloved as they come. But he has many, many albums that have never made it to CD. He issued probably 200.”

Then there are those like Clayton Sanders, 21, a Bates College student who has his own collection of records.

Sanders says he is attracted to older things, and describes how he recently found an album in Salvation Army’s 59-cent bin that has joined a crate of records that he totes between his room in Lewiston and his home in Amherst, Mass.

“It was from somebody named Jackson Browne,” he said. “I think it was called ‘Running on Empty.”‘

Fans of vinyl records include young folks looking for cheap music and hip-hop DJs using pairs of turntables to mix and combine separate recordings. There are also baby boomers who have hundreds of records that they say put out a range of sounds that compact discs cannot.

For all of a CD’s clarity, the sound is sterile and without warmth of the original vinyl, they say.

Michael Dixon, a psychologist from Auburn, buys CDs but listens to his records when he can.

“The only way I can say it is that they sound warm,” said Michael Dixon, a psychologist from Auburn said. “They seem to fill up a room better.”

Roger Poulin, 44, hosts a weekly show called “Vinyl Heaven” on the Bates College radio station that draws from his classic rock tastes.

In recent years, he’s had to show some of the student DJs at the station how to play records. He shows up at each show with his own record duster and cleaning fluid in a pouch, and teaches the students how to hold the LPs and dust them.

He said many have never used a turntable and are nervous of the tonearm or worry they’ll scratch the records.

“I don’t think it’s going to come back,” he said. “There’s going to be a small market for it. And then we’ll be gone.”

He’s training another generation, though. His 6-year-old son, David, watches him play records at home. “He calls them big CDs,” Poulin said.

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