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Saturday, 30 October 2010

A New Way to Recycle CDs

Back in the '90s I used to subscribe to a magazine called Classic CD. Every month it would come through my letterbox full of reviews of the latest classical CDs, until one month it vanished forever. I used to scour through those reviews, at first buying a couple of discs a month, then three or four, and finally, with the ease provided by the internet and Amazon, up to half a dozen a time. (This is one reason why I consider paying £10 a month for a Napster or Spotify 'all you can eat' subscription to be blisteringly good value.)

Anyway, accompanying the magazine there was a CD sampling the best albums of the month. Or maybe even two on good months--ah, the anticipation. Over the time of my subscription I accumulated dozens of these discs. The magazines I threw out years ago (recycled, of course), but the CDs were harder to let go. They still worked, and I could play them like any other compendium disc (albeit one where many of the tracks just faded away mid-piece). I rarely did, and the discs inevitably ended up languishing at the back of a drawer.

Fast forward to a fortnight ago. A 2 disc set of the ballet 'Undine' had stuck in my head since I heard it sampled in Classic CD back last century, but I'd never got around to buying it. The music seemed a bit too alien to my taste at the time, and it was priced at around £30. I'd tried looking for it in Napster when I was with them, and Spotify when I moved to that service. Now on the off chance I check again, and it's there.

Brilliant! I've saved thirty big ones. With interest over thirteen years, that's ...

To my surprise I have no difficulty with the music at all now. Indeed, it sounds completely different to my memory of it. This happened before with 'Boston', which I'd heard at a friend's house, and bought several months later only to find it a totally different experience. I didn't like it, and gave up on it on the third playing. Now that turned out to be because the cassette had been wrongly printed: it was in fact 'Abraxas' by Santana, which I only discovered when I purchased the real thing and noticed its stunning similarity to Boston. It must say something significant, but possibly uncomplimentary, about me that I only liked Abraxas when the music matched the album cover. I don't want to consider what exactly it says, so I'll put it down to cognitive dissonance.

Back to Undine. Could it be that it sounded so different to my recollection because the sampler had played me the wrong track? I dug out the CD from the back of the drawer, ripped it onto my hard drive, and played it alongside the Spotify version. No, it was the same piece; my tastes must just have widened over the years.

And now to the original point of this blog entry. If one album I once thought about purchasing is now available for download, why not others? Maybe lots of others. All those albums I toyed with buying but didn't because everyone has to draw a line somewhere between collecting and compulsive behaviour.

So the sampler CDs will get one more outing, a celebration of the effort that those Classic CD reviewers put in every month, for 130 issues.