music on the cheap

I remember when cds first caught on – there was this transitional period during which most music stores got rid of their records, cheap.

The irony is that a few decades down the road, records are desired and collectable and can be expensive, while the value of cds is dropping like a stone.

Yes, almost all new music still comes out on cd, and cds still sell in the millions. But their resale value – a measure, I guess, of how much stock people put in them – declines.

There are exceptions: some box sets, where you’re really buying the rarities and the packaging, and individual pieces of music that are hard to come by. But if you want music that’s been generally available over the last couple of decades, now is a  great time to find cds.

With that in mind, I’ve been shopping the used bins and thrift stores lately, pursuing the cheap cd. My general idea is to see what I can find that’s good for under some arbitrary number, generally no more than $7 shipped. My conclusion: with patience, you could build a fine, very listenable library, for not much. You will not go deep and there will be big gaps, but you will find pleasure.

For instance, I invested just over $10 on three cds from the local second hand shop. I had six or seven in my hand at one point, but they wanted at least $2.99 a cd – and in the spirit of this project, I’d like to not spend quite that much all the time.

So I got:

– K.D. Lang’s ‘Invincible Summer,’ which is widely and accurately described as a bauble, frothy pop music that exactly conjures the season in the title. $2.99.

– ‘Re-bop: The Savoy Remixes,’ from 2006, the now well past trend of having d.j.s remix classic jazz cuts. I am a sucker for this stuff: even if it isn’t consequential or great, it lets an old jazzbo like me have a little taste of hip-hop with my Bird. The most expensive cd at $3.99.

– ‘The Oregon Festival of American Music Presents William Grant Still.’ I fell in with Still a while back when I got a Naxos collection of his piano work. This is assorted music for string quartet, piano and violin, and as one reviewer on Amazon points out, it has a great work by Still, ‘The Lyric Quartet,’ and some other, lesser music.

The thing about Still is – at his worst he’s merely lovely. When he’s better than that, he can put a lump in your throat. $2.99, unopened.


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