Kevin: Three of My Proudest Albums
Everybody has albums in their vinyl collection they consider special for one reason or another. We decided to pick three from each of our personal collections and explain why. These are Kevin's. For Travis' picks, go here.
Yes, The Beatles always deserve to be celebrated. That’s not why I’m particularly proud of this copy of Abbey Road though. It’s also not because this is some extremely rare, purple-label version of Abbey Road found in some dusty record bin in Berlin.
The reason I love this copy of Abbey Road is because it was given to me by my wife on our anniversary, along with my first record player (which I still currently use).
Breaking in my first record player with Abbey Road was an experience I’ll never forget, and it’s what set off this whole obsession I’ve developed with vinyl.
Back in 2007, when Radiohead hadn’t put out a record since Hail to the Thief, they famously surprise-released In Rainbows by giving fans the option to name their price for a download of the new album. There was also, however, another option, which was to purchase a special deluxe box set of In Rainbows, which included an instant download, plus two CDs (including one with B-Sides), original artwork, as well as the album on two 45 RPM 12" vinyl discs.
At the time, the box set cost around $80— which was a relatively large sum of money for me— especially since I didn’t even own a record player and had long since been strictly listening to MP3s. Since I was a Radiohead fanatic, and had never seen anything like this kind of release structure before, I jumped on it.
The In Rainbows deluxe box arrived in the mail two months later, and I’ve treated it like a prized possession ever since. There were tough times, especially when I didn't even own a record player, when I considered selling it since I knew it had a relatively high value on the open market. Thankfully, I resisted and it’s now the anchor of my collection. It helps that In Rainbows was such a great album, but it also sounds fantastic on 45 RPM and remains a perfect memento from that era.
This was the album that first got me into Neko Case. I remember it playing in my then-girlfriend's (now wife’s) car in Tucson, AZ, as I had received a promo copy of it following a 2008 interview I did with Neko about an upcoming local show (right before Middle Cyclone was released). I had never been into country, but my wife genuinely enjoyed the polarizing genre, and this was one of the first albums that helped me slowly walk through the doors of country music appreciation (Neko's astonishing voice didn’t hurt either). That’s not why I’m proud of owning this album though.
Flash-forward to 2015, and my wife and I are living in the Bay Area. Fox Confessor hadn’t been re-issued on vinyl since its original release and used copies were scarce and pricey. When I heard Fox Confessor was finally going to get a vinyl re-issue on Record Store Day, on limited edition, cherry-red vinyl no less, I had to have it.
The problem was, for as much as I wanted the album, I still wasn’t willing to wake up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday and join the Record Store Day diehards in line down at Amoeba in Berkeley. The wife and I had tickets to go see Sturgil Simpson that night at the Fillmore in San Francisco, and I wanted to make sure all my energy wasn’t depleted waiting in line at dawn for a record. Instead, I gambled and drove down to Amoeba in the late morning, knowing my chances for grabbing a copy grew a little slimmer with each pause in traffic.
Amoeba was packed and the checkout line wrapped around the inside walls of the store. The aisles were clogged with vinyl nerds, but I eventually navigated my way to the “C” section, found the plastic divider that read “Neko Case,” and discovered the last remaining copy of Fox Confessor waiting for me. It was such an awesome feeling holding that copy in my hands, and I instantly knew that high was going to carry me through the rest of the day. Sometimes gambles— even lazy ones— pay off.
The special edition of Fox Confessor also came with a special slipmat that teased something called Truckdriver, Gladiator, Mule, which later turned out to be her vinyl box set, which I'm still definitely in the market for.
When my wife and I first listened to the album later that night after getting back from the incredible Sturgil show, it was one of those fleeting moments when everything feels right in the world.