2002 Records To Die For


It's that time again—time for Stereophile's annual "Records To Die For" extravaganza. This year, when it came time to write my intro for the 12th edition of this ever-popular feature, I found that several books I'd been reading had passages that applied to "R2D4."

First, from Sex for Dummies (1995, Running Press, miniature edition), a slight tome given to me by my co-workers in a sweet gesture the import of which I prefer not to contemplate, this section heading: "The G Spot: Myth or Fact?" For some reason, that started me thinking about music...which is probably why I was given the book in the first place.

What is it that drives audiophiles, record collectors, and tape traders—all those obsessed with possessing and listening to more and more music? For nearly two decades I've hung on the everyday arrival of the mail, anxiously awaiting that next advance, that next record by someone I love or, conversely, someone I don't know but am about to discover. My music G Spot is pure fact. I'm hooked, a condition I know exists in the hearts and minds of the rest of the writers who happily participated in this year's "R2D4." To them, as always, go my thanks for their good energies and ideas. We literally couldn't do it without them.

But why are we hooked? When I go on a trip—even a mere hour's flight over dry land—what compels me to carry 20 or 30 CDs...just in case? Going criminally insane is one thing; this is a progressive illness that, once contracted, is incurable—a spell that allows the victim to live on, passing unnoticed through society, waiting, wondering, stewing over when the next rip-off Velvet Underground boxed set will be released, seething over the how many great records have been maimed by the overuse of compression.

For a clue to this riddle, I turned from Dummies author Dr. Ruth and put my faith in one Alfred Einstein, and his A Short History of Music (Vintage, 1957). At the end of his very informative survey, Einstein concludes, about the music of Béla Bartók, "He demonstrates that the future of music does not lie in imitation, in the parody of the past, or in a vain return to the past, nor in this school or that clique, nor in any particular system. But in the great and creative personality of the individual—that is, in the human."

Seems to me that this cousin of the old diviner of the Theory of Relativity hit it on the head. In an audiophilic world, where glowing lights, brushed-aluminum façades, and the almost silent hum of power, power, and more power seem like wonders, it's the music that is the real human magic. And so, to quote Dr. Ruth from the introduction to Dummies, I ask: "Why not get the most out of the pleasures our bodies (particularly our ears), are capable of giving us? Relax and read on".—Robert Baird

Note: If a recording listed here has previously been reviewed in Stereophile, whether in "Record Reviews," "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 "(XVIII-10)" means that a review appeared in Vol.18 No.10 (October 1995).