There's a quiet revolution taking place in audio, and it started last year in a pub in Islington. It's called Classic Album Sundays. Starting in Autumn 2010, DJ Colleen 'Cosmo' Murphy took over the top floor of the Hanbury Arms pub one Sunday a month. That seemingly rare combination of music-loving DJ and audiophile, Colleen pitches up with a damn good system (there can't be many DJs that cue up a Koetsu cartridge, or play through Klipshorns) and plays an album as it was originally intended; complete, from first track to last.
It is indicative of just how far we've come that listening to a whole album has become a special occasion, but the idea of a gathering of people listening to a whole album in quiet contemplation (phones to silent, no comfort breaks because the flushing sound breaks the spell) is both rare, and the results magical. And the word is spreading; the BBC has covered the events, DJs and audiophiles alike have licensed the Classic Album Sundays concept and are doing their own thing, and it is going transatlantic soon. My first sampling of the Classic Album Sundays experience wasn't on a Sunday, but the concept works and works almost immediately. Listening as a group to the complete album from one end to the other is surprisingly fascinating, exciting and moving.
The Classic Album Sundays movement is resolutely LP-based. This is entirely understandable and praiseworthy; the 12" vinyl LP and its sleeve are the canvasses upon which artists and artistes alike painted the soundtrack to our lives. The same totemic power of the album doesn't have the same 'reach', when peering at a CD sleeve, or even a computer screen. Ultimately though, it is the album, not simply the media it is stored on, that is so important.
It is time to get involved. The Vintage festival is coming to London's Southbank Centre from the 29th through 31st July. This festival - arranged in partnership with Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway - is given over to celebrating the best of British from the 1920s to the 1980s, as part of the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain. Naturally, the Classic Album Sundays concept fits beautifully here, playing the best of British sounds of the past on the best of British audio of today. And Hi-Fi+ will be there, too. This is not just a great way of putting high-quality audio in front of a new audience; it is a way of reinvigorating listening to music, an activity that is in danger of becoming very passive today.