2005 Records To Die For

Last year, during a particularly painful moving experience, I had the opportunity to reflect in a very personal way on the virtues of our annual "Records To Die For" feature.

More than once in my life, records, be they LPs or CDs, have nearly killed me. Carrying those dense, heavy objects in a Bataan death march up three flights of stairs in August, when New York City is climatically akin to Manila, had my life flashing before my eyes. I envied such folks as homeowner Michael Fremer, who has a bunker full of vinyl he'll presumably never have to move, and wondered what in God's earth keeps me so attached to these things that I'd drag them around like a dog refusing, beyond all good sense, to relinquish a bone.

Of course, once friends descended, records were played, and arguments over any number of esoteric musical knots had ensued, I had my answer. Equal to the toll that packing and hauling has exacted on my cardiovascular system are the joy and, yes, the life they've given me—endless hours of nearly inexpressible enjoyment. In some sense, they are my babies. So in future, instead of "Records To Die For," I'm thinking this feature should be titled "Records We Live For." It's the music that keeps us alive—and that we never want to move again. Can't someone please invent a credit card with the "White Album" on it?

As always for "R2D4," the instructions to the writers were simple: nothing that's impossible for average citizens to obtain, and nothing the writer has chosen before.

The hard part of being attached to records is finding the time to listen to them— actively listen. My thanks, as always, to the writers who've done that here and all year long, and without whom Stereophile wouldn't be as heavy (sorry) as we hope it is! To everyone who's ever gazed at a shelf full of their records and wondered, "Why?"—or, more likely, "Why aren't there more?"—we hereby offer up R2D4 2005.— Robert Baird

Note: If a recording listed here has previously been reviewed in Stereophile, whether in "Record Reviews," "Recording of the Month," "Quarter Notes," or past editions of "Records To Die For," the volume and number of the pertinent issue appear in parentheses at the end of the review. For example, a listing of "(XXV-10)" means that a review of the recording appeared in Vol.25 No.10 (October 2002).