DownBeat’s Shopping Guide to RSD Black Friday

  I  
Image

The Afterlife, by the trio The Comet Is Coming, will be available on Friday, Nov. 29, as part of the Record Store Day Black Friday retail event.

(Photo: Josh Cheuse)

Record collectors and vinyl fans are checking their bank accounts and mapping out their shopping routes for Black Friday. Independent music retailers are prepping, too, as they are likely to enjoy a spike in sales on Nov. 29 during the shopping event known as Record Store Day Black Friday.

Indie shops will be offering releases by a diverse assortment of artists, including Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, The Comet Is Coming, Herbie Hancock, Jimi Hendrix, Dr. John, Bill Evans, Norah Jones, Jon Batiste, Frank Sinatra, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Cecil Taylor and Frank Zappa.

There will also be titles by Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Patsy Cline, Paul McCartney, Phish, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Tony Joe White, Leon Redbone, James Brown, Cheap Trick and dozens more.

This shopping extravaganza is basically a “junior” version of the massive Record Store Day event, which happens annually in mid-April.

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 event was so successful that it spawned a second event in November, which happens on the Friday after Thanksgiving. (Some participating record shops also have events tied to Small Business Saturday, an unrelated event that happens on Nov. 30.)

In collectors’ parlance, the titles that indie shops will sell on Friday are divided into three categories: RSD exclusive releases, RSD limited-run/regional focus releases and “RSD First” releases.

RSD exclusive releases are available exclusively on Black Friday at participating stores. The most rare titles are the limited-run/regional focus releases, 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. The intention behind the “RSD First” titles seems to be to drive business to indie shops before a release becomes widely accessible, particularly at online retailers.

The format for the vast majority of titles is vinyl LP, but there are some CDs offered, too.

Shoppers should contact their local stores to see what time they open because many businesses have unusual shopping hours for Black Friday.

Below is DownBeat’s list of the Top 10 items offered on Black Friday. For more details and for a list of participating shops, visit the Record Store Day website.

DownBeat’s Top 10 Titles for RSD Black Friday

1. The Comet Is Coming, The Afterlife (Verve). A 12-inch vinyl release, this EP is a follow-up the trio’s acclaimed album Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery. Synthesizer player Danalogue—whose bandmates are drummer Betamax and saxophonist King Shabaka (aka Shabaka Hutchings)—has commented on the relationship between the Deep Mystery album and the subsequent EP. In a quote posted on the RSD website, Danalogue said, “The two records can be seen as companions that cannot exist without each other, like day and night, light and dark, creation and destruction. They were made together, at the same time, and have always been intended to be experienced together.”

The six tracks on the cosmic EP are “All That Matters Is The Moments (featuring Joshua Idehen),” “The Softness Of The Present,” “The Afterlife,” “Lifeforce Part I,” “Lifeforce Part II” and “The Seven Planetary Heavens.”

This “RSD First” title is limited to 1,500 units, but eventually it will be available at other outlets. Fans can expect this title to generate a lot of buzz, in part because the prolific Hutchings has other music slated for release in 2020.

2. Miles Davis. The iconic trumpeter is represented with two releases. The LP Early Minor: Rare Miles From The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions (Legacy) presents three tracks from the sessions that generated Davis’ 1969 masterpiece In A Silent Way. “Splashdown,” “Early Minor” and “The Ghetto Walk” arrive on vinyl for general release for the first time—though they were included on The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions, released in 2001. This RSD exclusive release is limited to 3,500 units.

Additionally, the Get On Down label will release Miles In Tokyo, which previously has been available in Japan but not in the United States. The 1964 concert recordings feature Davis with Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums) and saxophonist Sam Rivers, stepping in to replace George Coleman, who recently had exited the band. This “RSD First” LP is limited to 2,200 units.

3. Aretha Franklin, The Atlantic Singles 1968 (Atlantic). This box set of four 7-inch vinyl singles is a “sequel” of sorts to a previous 7-inch vinyl set: The Atlantic Singles 1967. This new RSD exclusive release includes “Sweet, Sweet Baby (Since You’ve Been Gone),” backed with the B-Side track “Ain’t No Way”; “Think,” backed with “You Send Me”; “The House That Back Built,” backed with “Say A Little Prayer”; and “See Saw,” backed with “My Song.”

4. Herbie Hancock, Directstep (Get On Down). In the 1970s, Hancock recorded several albums for Columbia that were only issued in Japan, including Directstep (1979). The sessions used a new form of recording technology called Direct-To-Disc, which recorded masters, in real time, to acetate discs, rendering high fidelity LP pressings, but sacrificing the ability to edit or overdub.

The musicians used future-looking instrument technology, including the electronic wind instrument known as the Lyricon, the Prophet 5 synthesizer and the Sennheiser Vocoder, which would become an essential part of Hancock’s palette in the 1980s. Directstep hasn’t been available on vinyl for 30 years. This “RSD First” title is limited to 2,200 units.

5. Jimi Hendrix. Who wouldn’t want a 12-inch picture disc featuring a photo of Jimi Hendrix dressed as Santa Claus? Merry Christmas And Happy New Year (Legacy) includes two versions of three tracks—“Little Drummer Boy,” “Silent Night” and “Auld Lang Syne”—plus the outtake “Three Little Bears.” The band included Hendrix, bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. This RSD exclusive release is limited to 4,500 units.

6. Cecil Taylor, Indent (ORG Music). Avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor recorded the live solo album Indent in Ohio in March 1973. It was originally released on Taylor’s own Unit Core label, then subsequently more widely released on the Freedom label, but it has been out of print for decades. Pressed on white vinyl, this is an RSD exclusive release with a small print run of 1,750 units. The album was remastered for vinyl at Infrasonic Mastering.

7. Charlie Parker, The Magnificent Charlie Parker (UMe). Pressed onto yellow vinyl and featuring illustrator David Stone Martin’s cover art, this “RSD First” release is limited to 3,000 units. The 12-inch LP includes a dozen tracks, including “Au Privave,” “In The Still Of The Night” and “Lover Man.”

8. Robert Johnson. “Sweet Home Chicago”/“Walkin’ Blues.” There’s retro, there’s Old School, and then there’s a pair Robert Johnson tunes pressed onto 10-inch vinyl as a 78 RPM microgroove record, housed in a reproduction of the Vocalion label sleeve. Detailed liner notes are included in this Traffic Entertainment release, which features two songs: “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Walkin’ Blues.” This RSD exclusive release is limited to 1,900 units.

9. Bill Evans, Live At Art D’Lugoff’s Top Of The Gate (Resonance). Some veteran RSD shoppers might have a sense of déjà vu when they see this title, which previously was offered by Resonance as a 3-LP box set pressed at 45 RPM and which has been out of print on vinyl for years. This new version is a re-pressing on 180-gram vinyl, mastered by Bernie Grundman and pressed by Record Technology Inc. at 33 1/3 RMP. This RSD exclusive release is limited to 2,000 units. The pianist was joined by bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell for this set recorded on Oct. 23, 1968.

10. Anne-Sophie Mutter/John Williams, Across The Stars: Special Edition (Deutsche Grammophon). In August, classical music buffs and Star Wars nerds united to purchase Across The Stars, a collaboration between the superstar violinist and the legendary soundtrack composer. For Record Store Day, Decca/Deutsche Grammophon will offer a 12-inch vinyl version, Across The Stars: Special Edition, which includes music from five different Star Wars films. This RSD exclusive release is limited to 3,000 units. If you seek this title, may The Force be with you.

DownBeat’s 2017 article “Record Store Day Is Boon for Vinyl Sales” traces the history of this shopping event. DownBeat explores the ongoing popularity of vinyl in the 2019 article “A Vinyl Renaissance.” DB