While the main Record Store Day is reserved for April, the smaller Black Friday event features a nicely eclectic mix of the weird, the wonderful, and the oh-so-commercial—all just in time for Christmas! (cue a Charlie Brown lament somewhere)
The list for 2019 displays a few prominent trends: (1) Christmas music (of course), generally in the form of a collectable 7”. (2) Live albums. (3) Replicas of long-OOP items of historical significance (loosely defined). (4) Reissues of albums that were originally released only on CD (and maybe cassette) in the late 90’s/early 2000’s.
Below, three MusicTAP writers give their Top 3 picks from this RSD Black Friday 2019 List. Below that, your comments are encouraged, because what else is a list like this good for if not to prompt a bit of geeking out over “Oh yeah, but this piece is so cool, too!”
Here are my picks for what to keep an eye on when fingering through vinyl on Black Friday.
Frank Zappa — “Peaches En Regalia”
Even in death, Zappa remains a vinyl God. UMe on Record Store Day: Black Friday is set to release a 10-inch picture disc featuring Zappa’s ever-mesmerizing “Peaches En Regalia” to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of Hot Rats. This one’s got a pretty substantial run – 4,000, all told – so it might be easier than you expect to track down. And an added perk is that the single features both mono masters and rhythm-track mixes of “Peaches In Regalia” and “Little Umbrellas.” Not just for completists.
Blind Willie Johnson — “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground” b/w “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine”
This 10-inch 78 RPM platter, offered as an RSD exclusive in a reproduction Columbia sleeve, is a classic in the making. Johnson’s entire repertoire is riveting but it doesn’t get better than “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground,” Johnson’s response to Christ’s Crucifixion. (Ry Cooder: “[It’s] the most soulful, transcendent piece in all American music.”) The song, a haunting piece for slide guitar and Johnson’s gravelly voice, was recorded in Dallas in December 1927 and remains as resonant today as then, even among secular listeners. Don’t miss your chance to own this Delta blues staple on vinyl.
Hank Williams — The 1940 Recordings
You can’t beat Hank on vinyl. This seven-inch EP features four songs captured at Williams’ home when he was just 18. A Record Store Day exclusive. Williams remains one of the most captivating performers in the American canon and this, especially paired with the 1938 recordings released last year, will further buttress the enduring legacy of the 20th century songwriter. I can’t imagine modern-signifier genres like indie-folk and alt-country, never mind classic country, without the influence of Williams’ songwriting, and this little EP should shine a great light on what the man sounded like in his nascency.
Jeff Buckley — Live On KCRW: Morning Becomes Eclectic
I chose a Jeff Buckley offering as a Record Store Day pick this spring so I’m hesitant to sound redundant – but this 12-inch EP is a find for those captivated with Buckley’s songwriting chops and, yes, that angelic voice. Features the Grace LP lineup performing staples from that era, including “Mojo Pin,” “Corpus Christi Carol,” “Grace,” “So Real” and “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over.” Buckley was a master at radio sessions – anyone who heard him back in the day on WFMU can attest to that – and, here, on a West Coast appearance, I expect him, as ever, to shine.
For the first time in a long time, there isn’t a particular RSD offering that is sticking to me. There are certainly interesting choices to be found for the Black Friday edition, but are they choices I actively want? Not necessarily, but they do spark a morbid curiosity for me.
Alice Cooper — Dragontown
Often considered a “lost classic” to Alice Cooper fans, 2001’s Dragontown finally gets a vinyl reissue. This is one of those releases that emerged as the hard rockers of the 70s and 80s were shoved off to fourth-tier indies which did their level best to keep venerable acts afloat. In many cases, the distribution for such labels was so weak, fans had no idea the records even existed. I never heard Dragontown, so I couldn’t tell you if the hype behind it is merited. I will say, however, for artists who were caught up in similar situations, it might be a good sign.
Geddy Lee — My Favourite Headache
I haven’t heard this one in years, and I was not impressed with it then, if I recall. To memory, the music sounded fine enough, but Ged’s lyrics couldn’t hope to match Rush lyricist/drummer Neil Peart’s. Again, I’m more curious than actively seeking.
Joe Satriani — Surfing With The Alien
Why? WHY?? So, the big sales point for this double LP is that it will feature a second 12″ where Satriani’s guitar leads are mixed out. He says that he wants to show how good his backing band was, and I don’t think I ever heard someone question that, did you? It’s like a defense without an accusation to defend against. Nonetheless, I can’t deny that it intrigues.
I really, really wish there was more new music on the list this year, either in the form of complete new albums or unearthed sessions that have never been released (not just ‘first time on vinyl’). It’s a missed opportunity, but then again, Christmas shopping is a missed opportunity for a lot of things, innit? Nonetheless, this year’s list is rife with pieces both delightful and curious.
Alice Cooper — Billion Dollar Babies (Live in Houston, TX April 28, 1973)
Yes, I just said there should be more new music on the list and I don’t want to contribute to the urban legend that vinyl = nostalgia, but c’mon, this music is FIRE. This is the show that provided much of the material for the film Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper and it’s all the evidence needed to convict the Alice Cooper Band of the crime of being one of the greatest hard rock bands of the early 70’s (and that’s saying something). First time on vinyl, first day of the rest of your life.
Geddy Lee — My Favourite Headache
I didn’t hear this album back in 2000, but listening now, it’s the missing link between Rush’s Test for Echo in 1996 and Vapor Trails in 2002. It’s suitably heavy alternative rock in the way that loudness-wars-mastering amplified (the vinyl remaster hopefully helps with that), and the lyrics successfully meld introspective poeticisms with social commentary. Like “In The End,” “Tears,” or “Cinderella Man,” the songs here show that making Neil Peart THE lyricist for Rush was a choice (and a damn fantastic one), not a necessity. This is a long-overdue reissue and, frankly, 2500 strikes me as a low pressing count for this essential moment in the Rush (solo) canon.
John Linnell — State Songs
Another solo album released during a transitionary period for the main band’s career. In 1999, They Might Be Giants had just made history as the first (probably) band to release an album entirely via digital download from the Internet. As TMBG turned to more ‘behind the scenes’ musical work for a period, Linnell (one of only two John’s in the band) took TMBG’s characteristic fun & melody for a solo drive across approximately one-third of the United States of America. The music is peppy, the songs only tangentially related to the states they are ‘about’, and the results smile-inducing. Why is the world in love again? Because They Might Be Giant (singular) as State Songs comes to vinyl for the first time.
They Might Be Giants — Don’t Let’s Start EP
The first (‘pink’) album from TMBG celebrates it’s 33 1/3 birthday the week before Black Friday, so the accompanying EP is re-pressed as well. You can make it a big ol’ Christmas miracle and pick up all three groovy pieces (They Might Be Giants, Don’t Let’s Start EP, State Songs) at your local independent record store.