Everybody likes “free” music, right? Remember Napster? Look at the popularity of Pandora, iHeart Radio, etc.
But some of us like to own the music. So what if you could score a bunch of recordings for free? Like that big ol’ shopping bag full of compact discs I brought home a few weeks back.
These cost-less-than-pennies from heaven came courtesy of my older brother. Jim, 70, retired and with few hobbies other than riding his Harley, collects CDs, haunting the second-hand stores in search of music he finds interesting.
Which covers a lot of ground, because he likes everything from John Denver to John Lennon, and doesn’t mind trying something he’s never heard. He regularly calls me from the used music section, asking about a group that he’s never heard of but thinks I might know.
Jimbo’s pennies-on-the-dollar purchases have produced a collection that numbers hundreds, perhaps over a thousand, CDs. (I’ve added to that a bit by burning CDs of my library.) But he sometimes forgets that he’s already purchased an album, and ends up with duplicates.
So, when I visited him recently, and got the tour of his CD room, he handed me a grocery bag about three-quarters full of his extras. When I got home and was able to take stock, I found some music that I had wanted — but was also reminded that the best things in life aren’t necessarily free.
So far, about 15 of those dozens of CDs have been added to my iTunes library. There were some obvious finds: “Hotel California” by the Eagles, Springsteen’s “Lucky Town,” “Slowhand” and “Journeyman” by Clapton, “Days of Future Passed” by the Moody Blues, “Deja Vu” by CSN and Sometimes Y, an Emmylou album, a two-disc Billy Joel collection and several Heart and Bonnie Raitt CDs.
But there were also some head-scratchers — Brother Phelps? — and a few discs by groups mentioned in that “What I Don’t Like” blog post of a few weeks back, like Rush and Queen. Also, some questionables that would push my library even closer to filling up my 128 GB iPod Touch: a Bill Withers greatest hits CD, a Gary Puckett and the Union Gap collection.
The Seals and Crofts greatest hits disc duplicates a vinyl LP that I have, but the latter is a cheap knock-off and a poor recording, so maybe I’ll load that one. There are also a couple CDs that duplicate ones already in my collection, the Dead’s “American Beauty” and “Changesbowie.”
Those, and the dozens of CDs that don’t interest me, likely will get passed on, perhaps to my neighbor or the public library. Or they may return to the second-hand store shelves, for another turn of the wheel.
Getting the music I wanted to keep onto my computer was not easy, though. CDs that end up in the second-hand stores sometimes haven’t been treated with tender loving care, and Jim has a “buffer pile” of discs that need to be run through a device that polishes them up. Some of the CDs in the grocery bag had post-it notes saying that they needed that treatment.
Also, the CD/DVD drive in my 10-year-old desktop computer sometimes rejects discs. I used to get around that by running them through iTunes on my laptop, but my new MacBook doesn’t have a disc slot, so I had to dig out the laptop it replaced.
One of the CDs rejected by the iMac but accepted by old MacBook was “Hotel California.” But on the first listen on my iPod, the title tune skipped midway through.
It wasn’t just mechanical problems, though; sometimes stuff isn’t as good as you remember it. I’d forgotten how many smug hippie anthems — “Teach Your Children,” “Our House,” “Almost Cut My Hair,” etc. — you have to wade through on “Deja Vu” to get to the good stuff, like “Helpless.”
The Heart CDs were albums — “Brigade,” “Bad Animals,” “Desire Walks On” — that I haven’t heard much of. They won’t knock “Dreamboat Annie” and “Dog and Butterfly” off the top of that group’s list.
The Billy Joel collection reminded me why I stay away from greatest hits collections; too often, they include songs that you’ve heard too many times, but leave out the stuff I like best. The Paul McCartney greatest hits disc contains too many silly love songs and music by Wings.
There were two Led Zeppelin CDs in the bag, one of which I thought was their third album, which I don’t have. Turns out they were half of a four-CD collection that at least includes some cuts I don’t have on disc.
There also were some CDs in the bag that I’d never heard (or heard of), but need to listen to and decide their fate, including later albums by Carole King and Dan Fogelberg. “The Beatles Anthology” includes some interesting stuff, historically, but I have the entire remastered collection in my library; do I have room for that two-CD set?
So, still lots to digest in that Big Ol’ Bag of Free CDs. I know that you’re not supposed to look too closely at that gift horse’s dental work, but sometimes the best things in life aren’t free.