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The Blasters, Hard Line


My big Christmas gift this year was a Pyle turntable-receiver combo unit, the biggest attraction of which is its USB output. Like most music lovers who came of age up to around the mid 1980s - just before CDs got huge - I have a big stack of vinyl LPs that I haven't listened to in years. My stack (two boxes worth) ended up in the attic when my stereo system was finally stored away. Now, with my new setup, I can finally resuscitate my vinyl collection, and bring it into the digital age by ripping tunes to MP3.

After some practice runs with 7" singles (I have a lot of those, too - many more than I had remembered), yesterday I successfully tackled my first album, the Blasters' final release, Hard Line. Though critics back in the day had issues with the album, seeing it as a somewhat desperate stab at radio airplay, I think it's the strongest album of their too-brief career. (The brothers Phil and Dave Alvin, the creative soul of the band, parted ways during the late 1980s.) Sure, there's a John Mellencamp tune on there (having a Mellencamp connection back in 1985 was seen as commercial move) and the sound is heavier than their earlier albums. But the Mellencamp tune fits in fairly well, though it's clearly inferior to Dave Alvin's songs, and the heavier-ness really works for me. Their early albums sounded almost brittle at times, all trebly and thin. But Hard Line really rocks, and I'm enjoying listening to it again.

You might ask why, if I've always liked the album, why I never bought a digital copy. First, it was out of print for several decades, and never made it onto CD while I was still an avid fan of the band. (In 1985, CDs were still new enough that new releases still came out only in LP and cassette, and didn't necessarily come out in CD.) It looks like it finally came out on a small label in 2010, and on iTunes only recently. A lot of the Hard Line songs have been available in digital Blasters anthologies for a while, but I generally avoid anthologies, preferring to hear the songs in their original album context. And I'm, shall we say...frugal. I've only replaced a handful of my LPs with their digital versions, so I've always hesitated to spend extra money for a digital copy of something that I technically already own (even though it's stashed away in the attic). So making my own digital version was affordable and fun, and kept me busy for a few hours on a winter afternoon.

I plan to digitize an album every weekend for the next several months. Looking forward to it.

January 31, 2016 in Music | Permalink