I received two records in the mail yesterday, vinyl copies of the new Bruce Springsteen record and the new Gillian Welch & David Rawlings record.
The Bruce record is on the Columbia label, housed in a thick gatefold jacket with what feels like fancy rice paper inner sleeves and includes a booklet of photos and lyrics.
The Gillian and David record was recorded at home and the jackets were hand made, with title cards glued to a plain white cover.
The Bruce LPs are covered in marks, nothing feelable, but still an eyesore. The inner sleeves don't fit properly into the cover. The vinyl, for the most part, plays clean, but there is some light noise on the intro of "If I Was The Priest" and there is inner diameter distortion at the end of "Rainmaker."
The Gillian & David record is one of the cleanest and most beautiful sounding records I have heard in ages.
Both records cost exactly the same.
Where is the quality control?
The cost of new vinyl by a major artist averages around $20 for a single LP and around $30 for a double LP, and more often than not, the pressings are inferior. Records come out of the shrink wrap covered in sleeve marks, occasionally with specks of dirt. They don't play clean. What gives?
All the bells and whistles--the colors, the weight, the etchings--don't mean shit to your old school vinyl lover. A record used to be a slab of vinyl in a sleeve and those records survived wars and still sound great. Now, places like Vinyl Me, Please charge $45 for a $10 Al Green record just because it's housed in a "tip-on style" jacket, which is code for, "too tight to remove the LP with ease."
The new Gillian Welch & David Rawlings is a standard weight piece of vinyl, with a white label featuring a tracklist, and a plain white jacket with two pieces of oaktag glued to the front and back, respectively. The fidelity is stunning, not a snap, crackle or pop. Clean as a whistle. If they can do this in their living room, so can every one else, especially Columbia Records.
One last point regarding "Letters To You." The album runs appoximately 60 minutes. Why waste a side of vinyl for a useless etching? How much better would the record have sounded having four 15+ minute sides instead of three 20+ minute sides?
That is all.