Record Store Day! It's that time again where music lovers and vinyl flippers get together at their favorite physical music retailers and wait in line to snag some treasured albums - almost all of which are pressed on vinyl instead of CD (or, you know, sold on secondary marketplaces for above their retail value).
It's certainly easy to be cynical about this stuff, but the crux of the idea still lives: find some music that moves you, something from an old favorite you've maybe never heard before, and let the joy of discovery fill you up. Plus - have you seen the numbers on vinyl? You may not understand paying $25 for a record that you can get on CD for half that, but your neighbors might not, if sales figures are any indication. And, to be completely honest, there's some really great titles on RSD's 2023 list.
Without further ado, Mike, Joe, and Randy will offer you a handful of the titles upon which they'd stake their reputation as catalogue connoisseurs. Whatever you have on your shopping list for Saturday, may your lines be short and your delight be deep!
MIKE'S PICKS (arranged no way except alphabetically by artist)
Duran Duran, Carnival Rio! (Parlophone/Rhino)
This year's RSD list rules because it happens to feature several of my all-time favorite artists or versions of my all-time favorite material. Duran Duran's Carnival Rio is just such a collection, featuring extended remixes featured on various pressings of Duran Duran's Carnival EP (which helped juice the sales of Rio and broke the band in a big way outside of England - Annie Zaleski's recent 33 1/3 book on the record is essential). Rio holds a special place in my heart: when Duran announced a deluxe edition of that record in 2009 - around the time, if not the same day, as news broke of The Beatles' remasters - it was then I started to conjure a vision of a site like The Second Disc. And every time I hear it, from my first spins in the mid-'00s to the group's next leg of the Future Past Tour - see you in September, boys! - I really do find something new to discover. I'm so glad this EP might do the same for someone else.
Crispin Hellion Glover, The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be (Real Gone)
I don't know how much my musical tastes color outside the lines, but I possess enough of an unusual disposition to be interested in a vinyl reissue of actor Crispin Glover's deeply demented foray into recorded sound. I don't remember how I became aware of this record as a teen - a combination of Back to the Future fandom and Allmusic perusal is the likely culprit - but I sure am glad I did. Weird spoken word passages! Unhinged covers! The musical muscle of Barnes & Barnes and even "Weird Al" Yankovic! And of course, "Clowny Clown Clown," the single with a video that would be strange enough even if it didn't feature Glover's alter ego Rubin Farr, a character in an unusual 1991 indie film as well as the persona that nearly kicked David Letterman in the goddamn head.
Klark Kent, Klark Kent (BMG)
Oh sure, I could focus on the 40th anniversary 7" of The Police's "Every Breath You Take" featuring a quirky unreleased alternate version made for Spitting Image. Or, I could alert everyone to some true musical madness from The Kinetic Kid, a loopy burst of pop-punk from Police drummer Stewart Copeland which proved that Sting may have had the songwriting muscle, but his compatriots molded that group's world-dominating sound. (Klark Kent single "Don't Care" actually charted earlier than "Roxanne" in the U.K., leading to a Top of the Pops performance that had to be seen to be believed.)
Billy Joel, Live At The Great American Music Hall - 1975 (Columbia/Legacy)
At once a terrific early document of the Piano Man's still-potent concert prowess, and a stinging reminder to not believe everything you read in a press release, like "currently exclusive to the box set and will not be available at digital outlets." (I didn't buy it, though, so I'm fine.)
Prefab Sprout, Steve McQueen Acoustic (Legacy)
Some years ago, a boss surprised me by thrusting a copy of Prefab Sprout's Steve McQueen in my hand and insisting I take it home with me. It remains one of the kindest gestures anyone's ever done, setting me up for a listening experience that would provide comfort in happy and sad moments in my adulthood. Like many Sprouties, I'd like for nothing more than Paddy McAloon to pull deeply from the trunk of unreleased songs he's allegedly stowed away over his lifetime. For now, I'll take rediscovering this stripped-down take on the group's greatest album and enjoy the intimacy through an alternative lens.
JOE'S PICKS (arranged no way except alphabetically by artist)
Miles Davis, Turnaround: Rare Miles from the Complete 'On the Corner' Sessions (Columbia/Legacy)
Miles Davis' 1972 studio album On the Corner was a shock to the system even for those listeners accustomed to the trumpet titan's musical experimentation. Inspired more by Sly and the Family Stone and James Brown than by his roots in bebop, the album leaned heavily into funk and rock sounds as well as free jazz and the avant-garde. Davis even played the electric organ in addition to his trumpet, joining a fluid group of musicians at times including John McLaughlin and Reggie Lucas, on guitar, Herbie Hancock on keys, Michael Henderson on bass, and James Mtume on congas. Producer Teo Macero played a key role, as well, splicing together various takes to make the four tracks on the original LP. In 2007, the 6-CD box set The Complete On the Corner Sessions was released, preserving the wildly varied musical experiments of Davis and his bands at this time. The new Turnaround: Rare Miles LP brings together four lengthy cuts from that box, most of which post-dates the original album's release. (The box covered the period from 1972-1975.) These four cuts are in the hard-hitting spirit of the original LP. While that album didn't sell well upon its 1972 release and was dismissed by many critics, it's since proven just how ahead of his time Davis was. This music anticipated hip-hop - and by extension, popular music - in a strikingly visceral fashion. It still sounds fresh, vibrant, and unlike anything else in Davis' varied catalogue. Michael Cuscuna, co-producer of the 2007 box, provides brief new notes for this colorful package. The album has been pressed on "sky blue" vinyl and mastered by Mark Wilder.
Marianne Faithfull, A Secret Life (Island/UMC) (RSD U.K. Exclusive)
For her twelfth studio album, 1995's A Secret Life, Marianne Faithfull teamed with late American composer Angelo Badalamenti (1937-2022), best-known for his haunting works for director David Lynch including Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and television's Twin Peaks. In the pop realm, Badalamenti had written songs for Nina Simone and Shirley Bassey, and arranged for Dusty Springfield and Pet Shop Boys; for A Secret Life, he co-wrote every track (most with Faithfull). Lyrically drawing on the works of poet Frank McGuinness as well as Shakespeare and Dante, the musically rich LP was orchestrated and conducted by Badalamenti and sung by Faithfull at her most darkly beautiful. A languid suite of interconnected songs that are both hazy and crystal-clear, A Secret Life was a conceptual portrait of a woman which drew, in part, on the artist's own experiences and the audience's knowledge of those experiences. This reissue, beautifully remastered by Andrew Batt and pressed on black vinyl, includes the bonus track "You're Not in London Anymore" which had previously crept out only on a French promotional pressing. Batt also provides the comprehensive liner notes on the inner sleeve, shedding further light on this lost masterwork from an ever-searching artist and a most sympathetic musical collaborator. A CD version, also out on RSD, adds two more bonus cuts ("Losing" and "Bored by Dreams"). It's time for A Secret Life to be secret no more.
Carole King, The Legendary Demos (Rockingale/Legacy)
More than a decade ago, Carole King finally opened the vaults to unveil a collection of her demos - a baker's dozen, in total - tracing her journey from the Brill Building to Laurel Canyon. Now, those 1961-1970 demos have arrived on vinyl in an "ivory clear" pressing. There's something appropriate about that color choice, as King's own demos represent her clear and pure musical vision. These tracks were the blueprints which other artists would strive to follow, knowing that a hit record was likely in the offing if they did so. The Legendary Demos starts at the very beginning of the artist's career, when King's demos for Aldon Music were well-known up and down Broadway. David Browne's liner quotes quote Tapestry producer Lou Adler: "Within her piano, you could hear a string part, or another background part, and she did the background parts!" Five demos from Tapestry are included as well as a galvanizing take on that album's "(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman" which predates Aretha Franklin's original recording. The biggest thrill, though, comes from hearing King sing The Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and The Righteous Brothers' "Just Once in My Life." Good as the demos of "It's Too Late" and "You've Got a Friend" are, one has the nagging wish that they had been saved for a Tapestry: The Demo release, allowing King's versions of songs written for others to take the spotlight here. Her gifts as a vocalist truly come to the fore on these intimate demos. She never imitated a singer for whom she pitched a song - most of those singers ended up imitating her - but adopted different tones and phrasing for each title that might recall the artist for whom the song is intended. More likely, it was just intuition of knowing which artist might be most suited to a particular composition and tailoring that demo to his or her strengths. Long before "confessional" songwriting was the metier of the day, honesty and believability was at the core of the Carole King songbook. Her then-husband and lyricist Gerry Goffin had the knack for verbalizing the emotions of kids his own age; Goffin was just 20 and King 17 when they married in 1959. Although Legendary Demos also contains songs with lyrics by Howard Greenfield ("Crying in the Rain"), Toni Stern ("It's Too Late") and King herself ("You've Got a Friend," "Tapestry," "Way Over Yonder"), the early songs with Goffin are the heart of this remarkable collection. Now can we finally have Volume Two?
Dolly Parton, The Monument Singles Collection 1964-1968 (Monument/Legacy)
Dolly Parton's first significant label affiliation came with Fred Foster's scrappily independent Monument Records in 1964. Already possessed of expansive musical tastes, the Sevier County, Tennessee native brought folk, gospel, pop, and even soul to her country and western sides at Monument. This 18-song, single-LP collection traces the evolution of Parton as a songwriter and an artist, from the early teen-pop sides she recorded with Ray Stevens through the pure country sides which would augur for her future recordings at RCA Victor. In addition to Stevens, a frequent collaborator during this period was her uncle Bill Owens, with whom she co-wrote eight songs here. She also surveyed songs by Ben Peters ("Control Yourself"), Buzz Cason and Bobby Russell ("Don't Drop Out"), and Curly Putman ("Dumb Blonde," her first charting hit). With context provided by liner notes author Holly George-Warren, this collection is a must-have look at the ground floor of a superstar whose legacy only grows richer by the year. The package has been designed by John Sellards (who also provides a historical note on the back of the jacket) in period-perfect fashion, including replica Monument labels. Everything has been remastered by Vic Anesini from the original mono single masters and pressed on black vinyl. Is it too much to ask for a CD release next?
T. Rex, Rockin' and Rollin' (Demon (U.K.) / UMe (U.S.)
This 1973 compilation originally released in Japan on the Odeon label returns to print on 140-gram pink vinyl. Rockin' and Rollin' rounds up eighteen tracks from the glam rock superstar including single sides and album cuts from 1972's The Slider and 1973's Tanx. While there's nothing here from Electric Warrior - that means no "Get It On" or "Jeepster" - there's still plenty of the brash sounds on which Marc Bolan made his name including "Children of the Revolution," "Metal Guru," and "Born to Boogie." Every cut has been produced by Tony Visconti, and Bolan is supported by Mickey Finn (percussion), Steve Currie (bass), and Bill Legend (drums) as well as guests including Flo and Eddie on background vocals and Howard Casey on saxophone. Visconti provided string arrangements, Mellotron, and recorder. The package replicates the original design, so the back cover has the song titles in Japanese. The inner sleeve has the credits in English plus a gallery of Japan single sleeves. It adds up to a fun collectible as well as a powerful romp through the glam era's finest.
Various Artists, Bluey: Dance Mode! (BBC/Demon)
Anyone with kids surely knows Bluey, the animated superstar who has been entertaining families - and let's admit it, that includes the adults, too! - since 2018. Now, Bluey and her zany family of Blue Heelers (Bingo, Mum, and Dad) are back on this new LP collecting Joff Bush's catchy tunes from the first, second, and third seasons; Dance Mode! follows Bluey: The Album which became the first children's album to reach No. 1 on the charts in Bluey's native Australia. The album is, like its predecessor, fun for everybody. The first side concentrates on uptempo tracks - including a dance remix of the theme tune - drawing on various genres from EDM to country and bluegrass. The second side captures the series' quieter musical moments. Most are instrumental, though there are a couple of vocal highlights, too. The vibrant package encompasses a picture disc zoetrope which is best viewed using a smartphone's stroboscope app. (A standard orange vinyl pressing is also available as well as CD and digital editions.) You'll want to pick this one up for your kids and steal a listen to this peppy, buoyant, and altogether enjoyable disc.
RANDY'S PICKS (arranged no way except alphabetically by artist)
Hal Blaine, Psychedelic Percussion (Jackpot Records)
A little more on the obscure side, this 1967 album on Dunhill was Blaine's third solo album. Blaine, of course famously part of the session group The Wrecking Crew, ventured into solo recording in the early 1960s. Psychedelic Percussion is an all-instrumental jazz album featuring songs devoted to the months of the year. It is also reportedly the second album to ever feature the Moog synthesizer. This is its first vinyl reissue and it comes on turquoise/gold vinyl, limited to 2,000 copies. Fans of late 1960s instrumentation and sound should definitely check this out.
Belinda Carlisle, Remixes (Demon)
Demon has been exploring Belinda Carlisle's solo output for over a decade now with a series of archival projects. Now they have assembled this 2-LP set of period remixes of some of Carlisle's biggest hits from her first three albums (Heaven on Earth, Runaway Horses, Live Your Life Be Free). You'll hear work by Shep Pettibone, William Orbit, Steve Beltran & Keith Cohen, Peter Arata & Rick Nowels, Justin Strauss and more. The music comes on 140-gram clear vinyl. The LPs come housed in individual sleeves in a single dustjacket. The album has been remastered by Phil Kinrade at AIR at Alchemy and new artwork has been commissioned for the dustjacket and sleeves by Oink Creative. It is limited to 1,500 copies. None of these extended songs are under five minutes; it's a treat for dance music and Carlisle fans alike.
Elton John, Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player (50th Anniversary Edition) (Mercury/UMe)
Over the past few years, Elton John has opened up his vaults a bit with the release of 2020's Jewel Box, last year's Madman Across the Water super deluxe box, and an expanded Honky Chateau just under a month ago. Now, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player (released originally in January, 1973), he unveils this RSD expansion. With the hits "Daniel" and "Crocodile Rock" among its 12 tracks, the album would be John's second straight U.S. No. 1 album and his first in his native U.K., as well. This new anniversary edition has been expanded with a second LP featuring 10 session demos. Among those are three tracks not on the album: a cover of "Hi-Heel Sneakers," a remake of "Skyline Pigeon," and "Jack Rabbit." Limited to 4,000 copies and on splatter vinyl, this set listed as an "RSD First" release, so hopefully a CD version will be forthcoming.
And now, a couple more releases exclusive to the U.K. Record Store Day event:
David Bowie, Laughing With Liza: The Vocalion and Deram Singles 1964-1967+ (Decca)
This box collects four singles from the earliest days of David Bowie's career while he was more in mod-pop style, on the edge of becoming the artist that would be famous all over the world. The eight songs come from one Vocalion Pop and three Deram singles spanning 1964-1967. A fifth bonus single, newly created for this box, features the Love You 'Til Tuesday version of "Space Oddity" and an unreleased early take of "The Laughing Gnome." This part of Bowie's career has been overlooked in the past (and the recent Eras boxes skipped right over it), but this music has its charms and lays the groundwork for all that would come. And who doesn't love "The Laughing Gnome"? Ha-ha-ha, he-he-he...
Sheena Easton, The Essential 7" Singles (Cherry Red/Cherry Pop)
A part of the label's continuing series of Sheena Easton reissues, Cherry Pop is releasing this 2-LP set which features every one of the singer's Top 40 U.S. and U.K. hits from her EMI years. This includes such songs as "Morning Train (9 to 5)" and "For Your Eyes Only," among many more. Also included is a bonus 7" featuring the shelved 1986 singles "Anything Can Happen" and "Sweet Talker" (the latter in its Shep Pettibone Short Version) making their vinyl debuts. The twenty songs on the two white LPs have been specially curated for this release and make a fine overview of this period of Easton's career.
Lastly, our old friend Sam Stone has dropped in with a few of his recommendations...
Ten years into Record Store Day's existence, it's easy to get burned out as you scan through a list of shiny new color vinyl pressings of CDs you're pretty sure you have in storage somewhere. That's why we'd be remiss not to mention releases that buck the trend.
Craft Recordings deserves special mention for the long-awaited vinyl reissue of Flash & The Dynamics' lone LP, The New York Sound. Released on the Tico label in 1971, this album delivers on all fronts. The music is an infectious, endlessly listenable mix of psychedelia, New York pop-rock and boogaloo direct from the Barrio. The printing and sleeve is gorgeous; the sound quality of the Kevin Gray-mastered vinyl is dynamic enough to crank up at your next dance party; and the translucent purple swirl colorway nicely complements the illustration on the cover. It bests a secondhand original hands-down.
Craft also dug into the vaults to curate a dreamy new volume of the Jazz Dispensary series. Comprising psychedelic jazz gems from the Concord, Fantasy, Milestone, White Whale, Prestige, Pablo, and Vanguard vaults, Jazz Dispensary: Hotel Jolie Dame is a clever concept album that brings together tracks by jazz artists famed and forgotten for a story of love and loss. The result breathes new life into the Record Store Day ritual, proving that some of the most exciting finds can be those that are totally unfamiliar or long-lost.
In fact, it's that ethos that underpins the classic Lenny Kaye-produced collection, Nuggets. To celebrate 50 years since the beloved rock compilation's release, Kaye has produced another volume and a bonus disc of "Also Dug-It" tracks which are collected in a deluxe 5-LP box set by Rhino for Record Store Day. Besides all the groovy garage rock tracks and 60s pop, there's a double-sided poster and an extensive liner notes book. Packaged in an eye-catching, iridescent silver slipcase, you won't miss it on the shelves - and you won't want to!
Rhino also has an exciting 2LP expanded, pink-vinyl edition of Tom Tom Club's self-titled debut, which has seen a resurgence since "Genius of Love" was sampled in Latto's dancefloor smash "Big Energy" in 2021. Speaking of Talking Heads-adjacent albums, David Byrne's 1981 soundtrack to The Catherine Wheel will finally be released on vinyl in its full 23-track length alongside new Byrne-penned liner notes, while Jerry Harrison's The Red and The Black is presented on red and black vinyl, naturally, with a second disc of unreleased mixes.
On the live album front, Rhino has the vinyl debuts of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band's Live at My Father's Place 1978, Yes in Knoxville 1972, Stevie Nicks at the Fox Wilshire Theatre 1981, the legendary Grateful Dead Boston 5/7/77 show, and a 30th anniversary 4LP red vinyl pressing of Van Halen's Live: Right Here, Right Now with three bonus tracks making their audio format debut.
Happy shopping, everybody!