Rarities from Lou Reed, Charles Mingus and Darlene Love highlight the 15th anniversary of the music industry’s annual shoppers holiday
So Record Store Day is upon us again (April 23, to be precise; a second drop follows in June).
As usual, there are numerous releases from the heavy hitters — the likes of David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, the Doors, Patti Smith, Alice Cooper (and Alice in Chains), the Rolling Stones, Madonna, etcetera, etcetera. Well, you won’t find anything about those releases here. There’s a plethora of more diverse offerings to discover: exciting previously unreleased live recordings, long forgotten artifacts that deserve a revival, and stuff that’s just plain odd. So here’s a few notable items you might encounter as you dig through the record bins….
We’ll start with Org Music, and the kitsch-fest that is Jeannie C. Riley’s Harper Valley P.T.A. album, long out of print, now back on transparent yellow vinyl. The title track is of course Riley’s cheeky exposé of hypocrisy amongst those family values-lovin’ neighbors, though on “Mr. Harper,” something of a sequel to her big hit, she graciously shows some empathy for those who have judged her. She covers similar terrain in “Satan Place”; truly, sounds like an album inspired by the NextDoor generation! Elsewhere, the bright beat of “Sippin’ Shirley Thompson” might make you overlook the fact that it’s a rather despairing portrait of a genteel alcoholic.
When Led Zeppelin caught a show by Michael Des Barres’ first band, Silverhead, they were immediately won over, and ended up inviting the boys to spend the night at John Bonham’s farm to spend what Des Barres calls “a deliriously debauched 24 hours.” So when Zeppelin later arrived in LA to find that Des Barres had a new band, Detective, Jimmy Page promptly signed them to Zeppelin’s label Swan Song. Despite quite substantial overindulgence in far too many substances, Detective managed to record some pretty decent albums, and their self-titled debut is makes its return for RSD on (what else?) silver vinyl. Detective fares best when they’re in high gear. “Detective Man” is a tight, punchy rocker, “Wild Hot Summer Nights” is bristling funk, “No More Heartache” has plenty of swagger. “Recognition is what I want,” Des Barres sings in the album’s opener, “Recognition,” and this time, a little of that stuff just might come their way.
Also from Org: Mike Watt and Larry Mullins have turned out a cover of the Stooges’ “Fun House” that becomes increasing fractured over the course of its seven-plus minutes, split over two sides of a 7-inch single (half the releases on black vinyl, half on colored vinyl). Plus the ninth volume in The Sam Phillips Years: Sun Records Curated by Record Store Day, a swingin’ party platter featuring a few of the usual suspects (Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis), but also the likes of Rufus Thomas, Jr., Rosco Gordon, Sonny Burgess, and the Miller Sisters, with their sweetly upbeat warning to a former beau, “Someday You Will Pay.”
You always count on the Real Gone Music label to come up with something interesting. Like The Many Sides of Love: The Complete Reprise Recordings Plus! by Darlene Love, featuring all the tracks she recorded for the label in her various guises: as a member of the Blossoms, as a member of the Wildcats (who, confusingly, were just the Blossoms working under another name), and as herself. The Blossoms provided backing vocals for numerous performers (Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Elvis), and demonstrate how easily they could stand out on their own, on tracks like “Good, Good Lovin’” and “Let Your Love Shine On Me.” I have a special fondness for the Wildcats songs, written by Lee Hazlewood, “What Are We Gonna Do in ’64” in particular, brash pop with a fierce vocal from Love, speculating about future music trends just on the cusp of the Beatles’ arrival in the US. And there’s a storming version of “River Deep, Mountain High” that’s just as riveting as Tina Turner’s original. You can pick this up on teal vinyl on RSD, or get it later on CD.
Real Gone’s also delivering the first vinyl release outside of Australia of Brian Bennett’s 1978 electronic music dazzler Voyage: A Journey into Discoid Funk (on blue vinyl with black swirl) There was quite a vogue for electronic music in the ’70s (think Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene, Wendy Carlos’ Switched On Bach, and Andrew Kazdin’s and Thomas Z. Shepard’s Everything You Always Wanted to Hear on the Moog), and Voyage, while perhaps not quite living up to the “funk” quotient promised on the cover, nonetheless conjures up dreamy visions of interstellar flight.
The year has already seen the reissue of Karen Dalton’s second album, In My Own Time, from Light in the Attic. Now Delmore Recordings serves up another treat, with a previously unreleased live album by Dalton, Shuckin’ Sugar, on what’s described as transparent “natural” vinyl. It’s a captivating release, not least because there are seven songs by Dalton never heard before in any rendition — including a version of Leadbelly’s “In the Pines” (aka “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”) with her husband Richard Tucker that’s steeped in country blues. The performances date from two club shows at the Attic in Boulder, Colorado in January 1963 and February 1964. “Trouble in Mind” gets the album off to a spine tingling start, there’s a positively spooky “Lonesome Valley,” and “Katie Cruel” is even more searing in its live rendition. CD and digital versions of the album will become available on May 6.
Another release being given a vinyl debut before coming out on CD and digitally is The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott’s (Resonance Records), a previously unreleased performance by Charles Mingus and his band, recorded on August 14 and 15, 1972. The sets were recorded professionally with the intention of releasing a live album at the time, so the sound quality is superb. But in early 1973, Mingus was dropped by his label, Columbia Records (who dropped a number of their other jazz artists as well), and so the tapes were left to languish in the vaults until now. There’s over two hours of music, ranging from numbers old (“Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Silk Blues” from 1964) to the not-yet-recorded “Noddin’ Ya Head Blues,” plus extensive, well-written liner notes, including an interview with the inimitable Fran Lebowitz.
Okay, here’s one release from a heavy hitter. Sharp-eyed internet trawlers might have noticed that a new Lou Reed album, I’m So Free: The 1971 RCA Demos (RCA/Legacy), briefly appeared for a few days on iTunes in Europe this past December before being deleted. The release/withdrawal was to extend the copyright on the recordings; similar things have been with the work of the Beatles and Bob Dylan. But if you missed it then, fear not, for you’ll now be able to pick it up on vinyl. All but one of the thirteen songs are previously unreleased (“Perfect Day [Take 2]”) appeared on the 2002 reissue of Transformer). You get nascent versions of many of the tracks from Reed’s solo debut (“Going Down,” “Wild Child,” “Ocean”), along with early versions of stuff from Transformer (“I’m So Free”), Berlin (the title track) and Coney Island Baby (“Kill Your Sons,” “She’s My Best Friend”), a fascinating road map of his work over the coming decade.
VIDEO: Jeannie C. Riley “Harper Valley P.T.A.”