What’s hot, rare and ready to pick up this season
Ask any music retailer and they’ll tell you that the slow-rolling manufacture and shipping of album titles on vinyl has had a negative impact on their business.
Blame it on Adele if you like (and many do, although the beleaguered songbird has little to say about global supply & demand issues), but it’s gotten to the point where this spring’s Record Store Day had to hold a second “drop” in June for albums that hadn’t arrived on time to be sold in April. As a degenerate rock critic and rabid record collector, I find this an unacceptable situation!
Luckily, the Record Store Day ‘Black Friday’ event is coming up soon (November 25th), so after stuffing ourselves with turkey and mashed taters and the like and sleeping through Thanksgiving’s traditional NFL games, we’ll all be ready to do some vinyl shopping Friday AM!
This year’s list of available titles seems a little lighter than years past, but there are some real bangers to be had – Marshall Crenshaw’s self-titled debut LP, for instance, or Frank Black & the Catholics’ One More Road For the Hit compilation, available on vinyl for the first time. There are albums by Iggy Pop, Billie Eilish, the Grateful Dead, the Cure, Duran Duran, the Monkees, and even a 3” vinyl single from Beck. What do you play it on, a sewing machine? You have to buy a special RSD mini-turntable? Yikes! There goes the budget…
Here at the Rock & Roll Globe world HQ, sheltered deep in the canyons of an inactive island volcano (tho’ I’m not saying which island!), we thought that we’d make the RSD ‘Black Friday’ event a little easier on you with the ‘shopping list’ below of recommended records. As your humble ‘curator’, the Reverend has tried to pick as diverse a bunch of elpees as possible for your enjoyment, but you can’t go wrong picking up any of this hot wax on that holiest of holy days, Record Store Day ‘Black Friday’! Good luck!
Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band – Clear Spot (Rhino Records)
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of this oft-overlooked slab of Captain Beefheart’s complicated catalog of music, Clear Spot was Mr. Van Vliet’s obvious attempt at chart success after the challenging, albeit critically-acclaimed Trout Mask Replica album. Bless his little heart, no matter his intentions, the good Captain was never going to make a truly “commercial” album, even using producer Ted Templeman (who was in-between blockbuster LPs by the Doobie Brothers and Van Halen) to get a radio-friendly sound. Beefheart downplays his raw, gritty, sandpaper vocals into an ersatz soulman croon, and further softens his sound with backing harmonies by the Blackberries and a full R&B-styled horn section. He poached bassist Roy Estrada (a/k/a ‘Oréjon’) and drummer Art Tripp (a/k/a ‘Ed Marimba’) from his buddy Frank’s Mothers of Invention, but guitarist ‘Zoot Horn Rollo’ is here with his imaginative, angular, and always-jagged guitar solos. The RSD ‘Black Friday’ reissue has been expanded to two discs, recut from the original master tapes and including an LP of rare studio outtakes, alternate versions, and previously-unreleased rough mixes from the Clear Spot sessions. (4,500 copies available)
Jim Carroll Band – Catholic Boy (Fat Possum Records)
Junkie poet, punk rocker, and biographical author Jim Carroll is best remembered for his 1978 memoir The Basketball Diaries, which was made into a 1995 movie. Carroll also enjoyed a short-lived musical career (three studio LPs) supported by his friend Patti Smith, and the poet/performer impressed Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones so much that he secured an Atlantic Records deal for the newly-formed Jim Carroll Band. The Earl McGrath-produced Catholic Boy was their 1980 debut, remembered largely for its underground rock hit “People Who Died”, but also featuring great songs like “Wicked Gravity”, “Day and Night” (written with Blue Öyster Cult’s Allen Lanier), “City Drops Into the Night”, and the incendiary title track. Sporting the original Annie Leibovitz cover photo of Carroll and his parents, this RSD ‘Black Friday’ reissue includes a second disc comprised of original 1978 demos, including two previously-unreleased songs, with liner notes and photos, all put together by former bandmember Stephen Linsley. (1,500 copies available – grab one while you can!)
The Gun Club – Live At the Hacienda ‘84 (LMLR Records)
Jeffrey Lee Pierce and his gang of musical miscreants are a familiar presence on RSD release lists, the ramshackle-yet-obscure L.A. punk-blues outfit holding onto enough of a cult audience – nearly 30 years after the troubled frontman’s death – to make it worth the gamble to press up a few thousand pancakes to sell to the gullible…er, faithful Gun Club fans. Yes, I’ve bought ‘em all, and I’ll buy Live At the Hacienda ’84 too, the album documenting an often-bootlegged performance at the Manchester, England venue in support of the band’s third album, The Las Vegas Story. The band at the time comprised of Pierce on vox and guitar, guitarist Kid Congo Powers (original Gun Club member returning after a stint with the Cramps), bassist Patricia Morrison and drummer Terry Graham, both from L.A. punk band the Bags. Although primarily packed with songs from the new LP – “Eternity Is Here” is a cowpunk rave-up, “Stranger In Our Town” is a dark-hued blues-rocker with trembling guitar, and “Bad America” is a wiry razorblade symphony – older tunes like “Fire of Love” and “Sex Beat” cut pretty deep as well. This RSD ‘Black Friday’ release includes an OBI strip and printed inner sleeve and is pressed on double-split purple and white colored vinyl. (2,500 copies available)
VIDEO: Live at the Hacienda ’84 trailer
Jimi Hendrix – Burning Desire (Legacy Recordings)
Jimi Hendrix fanboys will buy anything with the man’s name on it (yes, I have Crash Landing on both CD and vinyl…), so it’s no big surprise that the guitarist pops up on the RSD lists with regular frequency. Plus, this year’s ‘Black Friday’ event occurs just a couple days before Jimi’s 80th birthday, so to celebrate Legacy Recordings is reissuing Burning Desire, a collection of studio experiments and demo tracks recorded circa 1969 and ’70 by the future Band of Gypsies line-up of bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. Originally released on CD in 2006 by Dagger Records, the Hendrix Estate’s boutique label, and available only via mail order, Burning Desire was later reissued on black vinyl for Record Store Day in 2015. This new edition is part of the new “RSD Encores” series revisiting popular released from past RSD events, and is pressed on translucent orange and red vinyl as a two-LP set. If you don’t have either of the previous versions, you should grab this one as the freewheeling sessions, held at the Record Plant Studios in NYC, were used by the band to hone songs like “Izabella”, “Ezy Rider”, and “Stepping Stone” that would become favored parts of Jimi’s catalog. (5,000 copies available, plenty for everyone!)
AUDIO: Jimi Hendrix “Burning Desire”
Etta James – Etta Is Betta Than Evvah! (Anagram Records)
By 1976, blues legend Etta James was a long way from her commercial heyday (1960-1964), during which she strung together a dozen Top 10 R&B charting singles. She was suffering from addiction problems and bad relationships, often resorting to crime when she couldn’t book gigs or recording sessions. Her last album for Chess Records (with which she also had a tumultuous relationship), Etta Is Betta Than Evvah! is an odd outlier even in a remarkably sporadic catalog of music. A collection of disco-tinted R&B groovers and ‘iffy’ white funk jams, even with songs written by Randy Newman and Allen Toussaint, Etta Is Betta Than Evvah! offers mostly generic soul tunes. Credit Etta and her band, which is certainly game, for breathing life and energy to the otherwise mundane material. A raucous cover of King Floyd’s “Groove Me” shows that James could still belt it out, and although he ultimately awarded the album a ‘B’ grade, rock critic Robert Christgau nevertheless complained about the album’s lack of raunch (and I agree). (2,500 copies available)
Skip James – The Complete 1931 Session (ORG Music)
I’ll let musician and music historian Cub Koda, writing for All Music Guide, lay it out for you: “among the earliest and most influential Delta bluesmen to record, Skip James was the best-known proponent of the so-called Bentonia school of blues players…coupling an oddball guitar tuning set against eerie, falsetto vocals, James’ early recordings could make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.” Cub ain’t lying…the bluesman’s long out-of-print The Complete 1931 Session collects 18 of the estimated 26 sides that James recorded for the Paramount Records label (none of the other songs have since resurfaced, 90 years after the fact), reissued for the first time on vinyl since Yazoo’s 1982 release. The collection is notable in that it features James’ unique guitar style as well as his little-known talents on the piano, something ignored when he was “rediscovered” by rabid blues fans in the 1960s. The individual performances can sound rough and rather antiquated – although remastered, they’re largely sourced from fragile shellac 78s – but that’s what old-old-school blues collectors are looking for anyway. This ORG Music reissue includes new artwork and liner notes by author Larry Jaffee, but it’s classic blues songs like “Devil Got My Woman”, “22-20 Blues”, “Hard Luck Child” and “I’m So Glad” that inspired every blues guitarist that followed. (1,400 copies on colored vinyl available, so get you one!)
AUDIO: Skip James “Devil Got My Woman”
Jefferson Airplane – Live At The Monterey International Pop Festival (The Monterey International Pop Festival Foundation)
San Francisco’s psychedelic rock legends Jefferson Airplane appeared at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival, but their stunning Saturday night concert was overshadowed by career-making performances by Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Still, the Airplane weren’t exactly chopped liver, and the band comprised of singers Grace Slick and Marty Balin, guitarists Paul Kanter and Jorma Kaukonen, bassist Jack Casady and drummer Spencer Dryden was firing on all cylinders after the release of their Top 10 charting album Surrealistic Pillow. Part of their Monterey set was previously released on CD and cassette in 1992 as part of a Rhino Records box set, but this RSD ‘Black Friday’ reissue is its first appearance on vinyl. It’s a good ‘un, too, featuring eight tunes from Surrealistic Pillow and their debut album from the previous year, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, including the hit singles “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit” as Y well as fan faves “High Flyin’ Bird” and “The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil”. (2,500 copies available)
VIDEO: Jefferson Airplane “Somebody To Love” at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival
Lonnie Mack w/Stevie Ray Vaughan – Strike Like Lightning (Alligator Records)
Lonnie Mack burst onto the rock ‘n’ roll scene like a supernova with the 1963 Top 10 hit “Memphis”, an instrumental cover of the Chuck Berry tune from Mack’s debut album The Wham of That Memphis Man. A blue-eyed soul singer and proto-Southern rocker, Mack’s innovative, edgy, aggressive lead guitar style influenced fellow fretburners like Jimi Hendrix, Robbie Krieger of the Doors, and Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers Band/Gov’t Mule, among many others. The master of the Gibson Flying V guitar, Mack’s career spanned five decades during which he recorded better than a dozen albums of guitar-driven rock, blues, and country music. With his career going nowhere fast in the 1980s, he hooked up with longtime fan Stevie Ray Vaughan to record 1985’s Strike Like Lightning, his first of three blues-rock oriented albums for Chicago indie label Alligator Records. Mack was in peak form for Strike Like Lightning, which opened a satisfying final chapter to his career. Don’t let the SRV second billing fool you – Stevie Ray co-produced the album with Mack, and duets with him on “Wham”, but otherwise the heavy lifting, instrumentally, is done by Lonnie and his brother Bill. (1,500 copies available on red vinyl)
Overwhelming Colorfast – Overwhelming Colorfast (ORG Music)
With less than a thousand copies available worldwide on colored vinyl, Overwhelming Colorfast’s self-titled 1992 debut may well be the hardest to find of this year’s RSD ‘Black Friday’ releases, but it’s well worth your time to track down. A San Francisco Bay area band, Overwhelming Colorfast was a poppish punk precursor to Green Day and the Offspring that incorporated Hüsker Dü’s sense of urgency, the Buzzcocks’ sense of melody, and the Replacements’ shambolic sense of musical chaos. Singing above stunning fretwork and dense jackhammer rhythms, band frontman Bob Reed sounds uncannily like Bob Mould, albeit with his own original spin. Producer Butch Vig, who had previously worked with alt-rock royalty like Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and the Smashing Pumpkins, imbues the album with a claustrophobic edginess and dangerous energy that makes one wonder why Overwhelming Colorfast never broke through into the major leagues. (900 copies available)
Augustus Pablo – Thriller (ORG Music)
Dub reggae legend Augustus Pablo’s often-overlooked 1975 album Thriller gets a long overdue second life on vinyl with this RSD release. Although not nearly as well-known as contemporaries like Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, or Peter Tosh, the virtuoso keyboardist and musical visionary left his mark on the genre nevertheless. Thriller is somewhat thinly-produced – not unusual for Jamaican recordings of the era – an instrumental collection that veers from reggae’s traditional rhythms and haunting dub production to incorporate jazzy improvisations and fleeting piano licks reminding one of McCoy Tyner. Pablo popularized the use of the melodica in reggae, adding a different dimension to the music, and although his later albums for Shanachie Records (especially Original Rockers) incorporated legendary island musicians like guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith and bassist Robbie Shakespeare, Thriller provides a fine introduction to Augustus Pablo’s immense talents. (1,900 copies available on transparent red wax)
Joe Strummer – Live At Music Millennium (Dark Horse Records)
Former Clash frontman Joe Strummer has never really disappeared from the public consciousness, but with Dark Horse Records now administering his creative catalog, we’re beginning to see a third revival of the late, great singer/songwriter’s legacy. The recently-released Joe Strummer 02: The Mescaleros Years collects every scrap of music Strummer made with his often-overshadowed second great band, and it’s only appropriate that this year’s RSD ‘Black Friday’ event includes Live At Music Millennium, a document of a November 1999 in-store performance at indie Portland OR record store Music Millennium. Sourced from a soundboard recording, the album captures Strummer performing acoustic versions of songs like “Junco Partner”, “X-Ray Style”, and “The Road To Rock ‘n’ Roll”. (3,600 copies available, so y’all grab one!)
VIDEO: Joe Strummer “Fantastic”
Various Artists – The Best of Dark Horse Records: 1974-1977 (Dark Horse Records)
For those of you who don’t know its history, Dark Horse Records was the boutique label started by former Beatles’ guitarist George Harrison back in the mid-‘70s. It largely became a conduit for Harrison’s solo albums until his death in 2001 (including his posthumous LP Brainwashed), but the label was recently revived by George’s son Dhani, whose first release in the new era was the fine Joe Strummer compilation, Assembly. This “best of” RSD album takes a rose-colored look backwards at some of the label’s earliest releases, featuring performances by Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar, the pop-rock duo Splinter, L.A. rockers Attitudes (which included George’s buddies Danny Kortchmar and Jim Keltner), Chicago soul band Stairsteps (and their singer, Keni Burke), former Grease Band/Wings guitarist Henry McCullough, and Jiva, a white funk band of which nearly everybody has forgotten. (2,150 copies available)
VIDEO: Dark Horse Records Catalog 1974-1977 trailer
Bonus Track: The classic Motown era is well-represented at this year’s ‘Black Friday’ event, with vinyl reissues of albums by the Four Tops (1965’s Second Album), Smokey Robinson & the Miracles (1965’s Going To A Go-Go), the Supremes (1964’s Where Did Our Love Go), and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas (1964’s Dance Party). This is a bona fide public service as all of these classic platters have been out-of-print forever and used copies are increasingly hard to find (and pricey). The Rev sez “check ‘em out!”
For more information on Record Store Day ‘Black Friday’, check out the site.
VIDEO: Record Store Day Black Friday preview at Princeton Record Exchange