Let the fun begin. Music retailers have stocked up, and vinyl collectors have plotted their shopping strategy for the 10th annual Record Store Day, which will take place on Saturday, April 22, at hundreds independent retail shops in the United States and abroad.
Record Store Day (RSD) began as a grassroots effort to raise the profile of independent brick-and-mortar retailers, some of whom were desperately struggling due to competition from online outlets. The yearly event has evolved into a massive international celebration that features in-store performances, film screenings, book signings and a vast array of exclusive releases, mainly on vinyl. Formats include 7-inch singles, 12-LPs, vinyl box sets and more.
Our personal favorite packaging is the LP that is accompanied by a free digital download code: That’s an approach that gives consumers the best of both worlds.
Among the artists whose titles shoppers will be scooping up are The Beatles, David Bowie, R.L. Burnside, Nels Cline, David Crosby, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Bill Evans, Marianne Faithfull, Flat Duo Jets, Dexter Gordon, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Son House, Jason Isbell, Bert Jansch, Robert Johnson, Sharon Jones, The Lumineers, Dave Matthews Band, Paul McCartney, The Meters, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery & The Wynton Kelly Trio and Mark Mulcahy—and those are just examples from the first half of the alphabet.
Other artists represented include Dolly Parton, Jaco Pastorius, Art Pepper, Prince, Run The Jewels, Todd Rundgren & Utopia, Santana, Lalo Schifrin, Patti Smith, Spoon, Sting, Sun Ra, Tegan and Sara, Peter Tosh, Allen Toussaint, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Yes, Neil Young and Frank Zappa.
Most of the releases will only be available in select indie stores. In collectors’ parlance, the titles are broken into three categories: RSD exclusive releases, RSD limited-run/regional focus releases and “RSD First” releases.
RSD exclusive releases are available exclusively on Record Store Day at participating stores. The rarest titles are the limited-run/regional focus releases, all of which are available in extremely limited quantities, and many of which are only available in certain geographic regions.
In contrast, the least-collectible albums are “RSD First” titles; they are available at participating stores for a limited amount of time before they become widely available at other outlets at a later date.
In celebration of the 10th annual edition of this glorious event, DownBeat presents a list of the Top 10 titles on sale this year at participating Record Store Day shops. We’ll list the titles David Letterman-style, starting with Number 10.
10. Sharon Jones with the E.L. Fields Gospel Wonders, “Heaven Bound”/“Key To The Kingdom” (Daptone/EVER-SOUL). In honor of the late, great Sharon Jones, Daptone presents these two gospel-funk tunes from the 1970s on a 7-inch single. The picture sleeve features a portrait of Jones in high school.
9. Dexter Gordon, Walk The Blues (ORG Music): On July 20–21, 1967, Gordon and his quartet recorded several tunes at one of the saxophonist’s favorite venues, the Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen. This color vinyl LP contains songs from the second night: “Blues Walk,” “I Guess I’ll Have To Hang My Tears Out To Dry” and “Love For Sale.” This release is limited to 1,750 copies.
8. Paul McCartney, Cassette Demos (Capitol/UME). The title says it all. This is a little gem for collectors who embrace all formats. It’s a three-song cassette of Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello’s demos for Sir Paul’s 1989 album Flowers In The Dirt. The tracks are “I Don’t Want To Confess,” “Shallow Grave” and “Mistress And Maid.” Who said cassettes are dead?
7. Art Pepper, The Art Pepper Quartet (Omnivore Recordings). Recorded in late 1956 and released in early 1957, the same year as the landmark Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section, this LP features Pepper on saxophone along with Russ Freeman (piano), Ben Tucker (bass) and Gary Fromer (drums). Mastered from the original mono tapes by Kevin Gray, this is not only a welcome reissue but also the album’s first appearance on vinyl in far too long. Pressed on clear wax, the LP’s packaging reproduces the original art and liner notes. The project was overseen by Art’s widow, Laurie Pepper, and Grammy-winning producer Cheryl Pawelski. An alternate take of “Blues At Twilight” is included as a bonus track.
6. Allen Toussaint, The Allen Toussaint Collection (Nonesuch). Never before released on vinyl, this set contains the music on the 1991 CD in a 2-LP package, including songs like “From A Whisper To A Scream,” “What Is Success,” “Soul Sister,” “Southern Nights,” “What Do You Want The Girl To Do?” and “Night People.”
5. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Live At Carnegie Hall (Sony Legacy). Vaughan celebrated his 30th birthday in style in 1984, transforming iconic Carnegie Hall into a blistering Texas roadhouse. He’s backed by Double Trouble (bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton) and some special guests: Dr. John on piano and organ, brother Jimmie Vaughan on guitar and horn players from Roomful of Blues. This 2-LP set is pressed on marbled brown vinyl.
4. The Meters, A Message from The Meters: The Complete Josie, Reprise & Warner Bros. Singles 1968–1977 (Real Gone Music). This 3-LP set features all the singles the legendary New Orleans funk band released on Josie, Reprise and Warner Bros. Most of this material has never been on vinyl since its original 45 r.p.m. release. Included are classic tracks like “Sophisticated Cissy,” “Cissy Strut,” “Chicken Strut,” “Hand Clapping Song” and “Hey Pocky A-Way.” Each of the vinyl LPs is a different color: red, yellow and green.
3. Thelonious Monk, Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 (Sam Records/Saga). This 2-LP box set contains performances of classic Monk tunes, such as “Well, You Needn’t,” heard in Roger Vadim’s 1960 French film Les Liaisons Dangereuses. It features Monk’s 1959 band of Charlie Rouse, Sam Jones and Art Taylor, with special guest saxophonist Barney Wilen. The set contains a 50-page booklet with previously unpublished photographs and memorabilia from the recording session.
2. Jaco Pastorius, Truth, Liberty & Soul—Live in NYC: The Complete 1982 NPR Jazz Alive! Recording (Resonance). This 3-LP set captures the iconic bass innovator leading a 22-piece big band on June 27, 1982, at Avery Fisher Hall in New York. The set has more than 130 minutes of music and features a congregation of amazing jazz titans, including Randy Brecker, Jon Faddis, Bob Mintzer, Frank Wess, Lew Soloff, Howard Johnson and Peter Erskine, along with harmonica wizard Toots Thielemans. The set includes a whopping 100-page book with essays by Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, producer Zev Feldman, Jaco Pastorius biographer Bill Milkowski and original recording engineer Paul Blakemore. Plus, there are interviews with Brecker, Erskine and Mintzer.
1. Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings: The Centennial Collection (Sony Legacy). This 3-LP set contains all 42 known recordings by the blues icon, remastered and packaged in a limited-edition gatefold jacket including extensive liner notes. This marks the first time Johnson’s complete recorded works are available in one vinyl package. This set also includes an exclusive bonus poster featuring the original labels of Johnson’s 78 r.p.m. singles, released by early-20th century labels like Vocalion, Conqueror and Orion. This music is essential for anyone who cares about the blues.