Outdated media: the compact disc

A look at a CD collector’s most interesting finds

From Amazon.com

From Amazon.com


When you work at a newspaper, you start to pick up a fondness for outdated media. Last March, I spent a half hour and twenty dollars at the used CD section of Half Price Books in Concord walking around the place after dinner, and since then I’ve been collecting CDs as a hobby. I’ve collected a little bit over four dozen at this point, and there’s a few I’d consider to be either hidden gems or very interesting releases.

Yellow Magic Orchestra’s self-titled album released in 1978 proved itself to be a huge influence on the emerging techno, synthpop and even hip-hop genres with its at-the-time revolutionary computerized sound filled with cutting-edge electronic instruments and arcade machine sound samples.

Originally intended as a one-off project between bass player Haruomi Hosono, drummer Yukihiro Takahashi and keyboard player Ryuichi Sakamoto, the name “Yellow Magic Orchestra” was a very tongue-in-cheek choice to play around with and subvert the concepts of orientalism and exotica.

Several tracks, such as “Computer Game / Firecracker” and “La femme chinoise,” feature melodies meant to emulate Chinese music produced during the Cultural Revolution the decade prior. “Computer Game / Firecracker” would later go on to be sampled itself by everyone from Afrika Bambaataa to Jennifer Lopez to Mariah Carey.

The album “Stadium Arcadium” from the Red Hot Chili Peppers is much less obscure, but still interesting due to its unique packaging. The full CD version package features 24 tracks across two discs, “Jupiter” and “Mars,” and a jewel case filled with sketches and photography that would go on to win the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package.

Fans of Red Hot Chili Peppers can pick up stylistic traits from all across the band’s lengthy career while listening to the album, which alternates in tone and pace from track-to-track. Songs like “Slow Cheetah” and “Desecration Smile” feature very down-tempo, longing melodies while songs like “Warlocks” and “Storm in a Teacup” consist of fast-paced, funk-style bass riffs.

One of my personal favorites in my collection is 1986’s “Jazz from Hell,” a provocative instrumental affair from the controversial Frank Zappa. Urban legend states that the album was sold in some stores with a “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” sticker in some stores despite being purely instrumental. Some speculate it was due to either Zappa’s publicized feud with the Parents Music Resource Center, the word “hell” in the title or the presence of a track titled “G-Spot Tornado.”

All that aside however, the music itself holds up very well as an experimental electronic jazz collection, with each track varying in composition, length, tone and tempo. Some tracks like “The Beltway Bandits” deliberately features atonal melodies to create a truly unique sound.

These are just a handful of the more interesting albums that I’ve picked up. CD collecting is something I’d recommend any music lover to get into if you aren’t already. Today’s age of digital music streaming services allows listening to music to be way simpler and more accessible, but there’s still something quaint about physically owning the media of your favorite performer, or rifling through a used music store for a hidden gem.

CDs represent a great middle ground between digital and physical formats; they’re much more substantial than audio files streamed from a cloud server, but they’re also much less of a buy-in than vinyl.

And, you know, the jewel case art is cool.