I had a frightening Christmas break. Since I live in Sydney, at least half my time off was spent listening to the rain beating down on the roof… and, in my case, coming in through the roof and windows, and also flooding the back of my house. But that wasn’t the frightening bit. The frightening bit was when I started ripping my CDs to a new NAS.

I'd decided this would be a great project for a rainy week. I could insert CDs and read books during the rips, thereby multi-tasking and not feeling even a bit guilty about not being out in the great outdoors.

My first fright came when I opened the cases of some of my older double and triple-CD sets, many of which came with thin squares of foam inserted behind the CDs to keep them in place. The very first one I opened was Andreas Vollenweider’s ‘The Trilogy’ and when I tried to remove the foam insert I found it had stuck to the label side of the disc. Bad. 

But when I looked more closely, I discovered that where it had stuck to the disc, it was because the foam had disintegrated and in so doing had dissolved both the label and much of the aluminium reflective layer beneath it. As you’ve no doubt guessed, it was unplayable. Worse.

I then pulled out all my other multi-disc albums only to find that almost every single one where I’d left the foam inside had been completely destroyed by the so-called ‘protective’ foam insert. In the few cases where I had removed the foam from the case, the CDs inside were fine. Since I have a great many multi-disc sets, this was a disaster. But there was more to come. 

When I went onto the internet to re-purchase the discs that had been destroyed, I discovered that some were not available at all, and of those that were, most were now available only as ‘re-masters’… and I’ll give you one guess what ‘re-mastered’ means these days. Yep, they’ve been re-equalised to suit the mastering engineer’s personal taste and at the same time compressed to within an inch of their lives, removing the original dynamics. Then it got even worse. 

As I worked my way through my single-disc CD cases, I came across case after case that didn’t contain a CD. And, as the pile of empty CD cases grew taller, I began to wonder where they’d all gone. Since I don’t own a car they weren’t in a travel case somewhere. Then the penny dropped. I’d left them in CD players that had been returned to distributors after I’d finished reviewing them. Easy to do, but dumb. 

When I went on the replacement trail, I ran into problems again. One that particularly galled me was that one of my favourite CDs, Janis Ian’s album ‘Between The Lines’ is now available only in the DMG label on which the sound isn’t nearly as good as on the version I owned, which was from Ian’s own ‘Rude Girl Records’ and another one of hers that was released to synchronise with her Australian tour and has tracks that aren’t available on any of her other albums, is completely out of print. I ended up having to buy a second-hand copy on E-Bay... which I ended up paying through the nose for.

Why am I telling you all this? So you can go through your own CD collection right now—particularly if you ripped your discs some time ago and they’ve been in storage—and remove any CD-destroying foam inserts before it’s too late! #  greg borrowman