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For The Record

One Man’s Spin on Why Vinyl Has Made a Resurgence 

Article by Kelsey Huber

Photography by Kristol Kumar Photography

Originally published in Topeka City Lifestyle

Topekan Ben Alford has been collecting vinyl records for as long as he can remember. “When I was young, in the early 90s, we had a record player and records were being phased out, so you could pick them up for a few dollars. That started my journey down the music rabbit hole. I kept picking up records and just never stopped,” Alford said. Fast forward 30 years, and his collection numbers more than 2,000. It’s clear that this love of vinyl has become more than a hobby. It is a lifelong obsession. 

“Vinyl is my preferred medium. It always has been. I like the way it sounds. I like the listening experience. I even like the packaging,” he said. “I think an album tells a story. It's all about the artist painting that picture in your mind. And the package sets the tone.”

With the popularity of vinyl records on the rise (vinyl surpassed CD sales again this year), we asked Alford to tell us why he loves them so much and why he thinks they’ve made a comeback after all these years. “There’s just something about records. Just listening to a bunch of things on shuffle is…I'm not going to say it’s pointless, but it's kind of disjointed. I think it's more of an experience to put on a record and just listen. It sets the mood,” he explained. 

According to Alford, it has a lot to do with how records are sequenced. “If you notice, they'll start off louder and then the last track, the one on the inside of the record, is usually something quiet and more intimate. That's because they have to put the grooves closer together back there so the music can't be as loud or the needle would jump. So you have this ebb and flow on every album. When CDs came out, they were just loud all the way through,” he laughed.

Alford talked about the fact that records are a more tangible medium as well. “A vinyl record is an actual etching of a waveform on that disc. So in a hundred years, I'll be able to take a paper cone and a sewing needle, put the needle in the groove and spin the record and still hear it. That's all you need to play a record. After that, it's just getting the right speed. We didn't need electricity to listen to records. The old Victrolas were wind-up and they just used the big horn to amplify the sound. But a CD… it's encoded bits. You've got to have a laser to read that. For me, it loses something. It just doesn’t have the personality and permanence that vinyl does.” 

Alford not only collects old records, but he creates new ones as well. He has a recording studio in his home and has started his own record label - Moon Tower Records. “My house sits toward the top of a hill. We used to listen to music in my attic. So that’s where the name ‘Moon Tower’ came from,” he explained. “We're putting out our first single soon,” he said. They're being pressed in Salina, home of one of the few remaining record plants in the US. Underscoring the new found popularity of vinyl, Alford said, “They were busy for months pressing the Fleetwood Mac Rumours Live album for their anniversary, so we had to wait.” 

So it looks like this resurgence isn’t just Second Hand News. Vinyl is winning the popularity contest by a Landslide. While some thought we were Never Going Back Again, it looks like vinyl will keep the World Turning. Sorry. We couldn’t resist!

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