June 03--At the Lehigh Valley Music Expo, I found redemption in a room filled with more than 30 music dealers, dozens of collectors and thousands of vinyl records.
When I walked into the show at Allentown's Merchants Square Mall, I felt like an old LP that crackles and pops. But after discovering a roomful of people shopping for albums I bought as new releases 40 or 50 years ago, I felt like a brand new 45 at the top of the charts.
"Vinyl's at an all-time high," said Bob Kosteva, an East Allen Township resident and an organizer of the show that's staged four times a year. "We've also got videos, CDs and DVDs, but most people are shopping for vinyl in every genre imaginable."
Don Hobar, a Stroudsburg resident and retired sound engineer who figures he easily owns a million records, said, "Vinyl is an addiction. Although I haven't played a record in years, it is comforting to me to have the vinyl. When I want to listen to the music, I'll play a CD."
He added, "When people load their CDs on an iPod and then sell or discard the CDs, what happens if it crashes, falls into the water or gets lost? They're out of luck."
Two shoppers traveled a long way in their search for rhythm and blues records. Ian Petrie and Reg Parker of Gloucester, England, made the Lehigh Valley their last stop on a record-buying tour that also took them to shows in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Because the records cost so much more in England (at least double the price), the savings pays for their plane tickets, they said.
Jim Cavalier of Macungie explained his reason for shopping the show.
"Not everything is on digital. You might find a group's greatest hits, but not much else."
He was thumbing through box after box to find albums recorded live during groups' concert appearances.
Jesse Cipollini, a 17-year-old Saucon Valley High School student, treasures vinyl for its sound.
"When you play a CD and then listen to the same thing on vinyl, vinyl recording has a softer, blended sound," he said. "You can hear the instruments and vocals more clearly. The CDs are made from chopped audio that's cut in bits and pieces for a song. If you slow it down, you can hear how it was digitalized."
Cipollini, who began collecting records as an 11-year-old, said he liked the "retro" or "vintage" feeling of vinyl, too. But he's becoming more than a collector. He's opening a shop called "gr8sounds" at 1055 Main St. in Hellertown on June 15. He'll stock "something for everyone," but says he'll focus on classic rock, classical and jazz as well as records by Lehigh Valley groups.
Not everyone collects vinyl for the sake of having it on the shelf. Jenna Lay of Bethlehem began buying vinyl records 10 years ago after getting some from her parents and receiving a turntable as a college senior.
"I usually play them when I'm entertaining guests or cooking," she said.
"I'm looking for old records for the record player, but not one that has to be cranked," said Arlene Spade of Catasauqua. She loves "music of the 50s and 60s" and listens to records "morning, noon and night. I even have a speaker pillow so I can fall asleep listening to music -- including New Age and rockabilly."
As she paused between boxes of records, she shared a bit of advice from her grandmother: "If you find a person who doesn't like kids, animals and music, stay away from them!"
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