When Black Friday comes, don’t dig yourself a hole like Steely Dan once suggested. If you’re a music fan whose insatiable hunger for physical media can’t be quelled by the scant list of CDs on sale at Target on the busiest shopping day of the year, Record Store Day once again has made this otherwise unseemly extension of Thanksgiving something to anticipate.
This year’s list yields a bountiful harvest of deep titles, from vinyl debuts of digital-only fan faves to remastered editions of pre-Internet underground classics. Based on the releases on deck for this coming Friday (Nov. 29), there’s a particularly heavy emphasis on the aging Gen X market, diving back into the pages of CMJ for some of the more intriguing LPs you hope your local record shop stocked up on.
Here are some essential titles from this year’s crop to hunt down as the tryptophan still runs through your blood.
Lizzo, Coconut Oil EP (Atlantic)
Not since the heyday of Mary J. has there been a woman who can simultaneously slay as an MC and bring the house down with her powerful voice quite like Lizzo. Plus, she plays the flute on some legit Bobbi Humphrey level of skill. While it wasn’t received as warmly as it should have upon its release in 2016, the resurgence of the infectious single “Good As Hell” has helped raise the profile of her Atlantic Records debut Coconut Oil. This six-song set is far too good to be relegated to the digital domain, which makes this an incredibly welcome arrival on vinyl, pressed on milk-colored wax with a coconut scented insert.
Gray, Shades Of… (Ubiquity)
Jean-Michel Basquiat was not only a master of street art — his connection to music ran deep, beyond his affiliations with Blondie, Fab 5 Freddy and The Clash. In 1979, Basquiat, Nicholas Taylor and renowned rap impresario Michael Holman formed Gray, boasting a sound that fit squarely in the middle of a megamix featuring both DNA and Rammellzee. Originally released in 2011 on their own Plush Safe imprint, the surviving members put together Shades Of…, comprised of both early recordings and performances with Basquiat and newer music featuring Holman and Taylor in collaboration with a drum circle featuring John Cale sideman Dean Anthony, Prairie Prince from The Tubes and TV Party’s Lenny Ferraro. For this year’s Black Friday, Ubiquity Records will be making this essential piece of New York underground history available on vinyl for the first time.
Jonathan Fire*Eater, Wolf Songs for Lambs (Third Man)
Between Morphine, Dr. Octagon and Eels alone, DreamWorks Records had quite the edge on the alternative music market heading into 1997. But the now-defunct imprint, whose logo was the last work of art by Roy Lichtenstein, made the biggest headlines when they won a highly publicized bidding war for New York City’s Jonathan Fire*Eater on the strength of their debut EP Tremble Under Boom Lights. JFE delivered an absolute classic with their sole full-length, Wolf Songs For Lambs, but music press at the time had already moved on. Still, songwriter and frontman Stewart Lupton paved the way for Frightened Rabbit and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in his lyrical forthrightness, while the rolling Lower East Side sway of his bandmates caught the kind of bottled lightning they could never entirely recapture as The Walkmen in the 2000s. Thanks to Jack White, whose Third Man reissued an expanded edition of Boom Lights this fall, this incredibly overlooked college radio classic will enjoy the resurgence it deserves with a new vinyl edition cut on 150 gram coffee brown wax.
The Wrens, Silver (Craft Recordings)
Babies born the year The Wrens released their last album, The Meadowlands, are now driving age. Meanwhile, the members of this beloved working-class indie rock group from North Jersey have been talking about a follow-up for just as long. And while 2020 may or may not bring promise of a fourth album from these guys, Craft Recordings inadvertently celebrates the 30th anniversary of The Wrens with a limited-edition version of their debut LP Silver, which turned 25 this year. Pressed on bottle green vinyl, this has always been the most unsung of the three Wrens records and a most welcome return to the brick and mortar life.
Various Artists, Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits (UMe)
Taking into consideration Empire Records and Clueless, 1995 was arguably the most Gen X year of the decade. And there wasn’t a compilation that fed into the year’s flannel-clad irony better than this collection of alt-rock and pop-punk covers of ’50s, ’60s and ’70s cartoon theme songs. It’s an idea that seemed to have been A&R’ed by Eric Stoltz’s Speed Racer shirt in Pulp Fiction. And honestly, about half of this collection — originally released by MCA on Dec. 5, 1995 — is a dollar bin of forgotten names from the era (do you remember Dig?). However, there are some serious gems hidden beneath the fat, including a fantastic version of the Banana Splits theme by Liz Phair with Chicago power pop greats Material Issue, Matthew Sweet’s take on “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” and The Ramones’ epic tear through the ’60s Spider-Man cartoon theme. And there’s a rendition of “Josie and the Pussycats” by the mid-90s dream team of Tanya Donelly and Juliana Hatfield that is worth the cost of the blue and green vinyl alone.
U2, Three (Island)
Forty years after it was originally recorded, “Out of Control” remains a key staple at a U2 concert to this day — but it never sounded more pointed and confrontational than it did on U2’s debut EP released in 1979, which is repressed as an RSD exclusive this Black Friday. Amped on the influence of The Edge’s brother’s band, The Virgin Prunes, the original “Out of Control” is a streak of pure Irish lightning that is further enhanced by an early version of Boy cut “Stories for Boys” and B-side “Boy/Girl.”
Cheap Trick, Are You Ready?: Live 12/31/79 (Legacy Recordings)/Marshall Tucker Band, New Year’s in New Orleans – Roll Up ’78 and Light Up ’79 (Ramblin’ Records)
You won’t find a pair of more distant cousins on AOR than Cheap Trick and the Marshall Tucker Band. But if there’s one thing that unites these disparate acts, it’s their passion for live performance. This pair of RSD exclusives showcase both of these legendary acts in concert, and on New Year’s Eve no less. Recorded at The Warehouse in New Orleans in the final hours of 1978 and simulcast on nationally syndicated FM, the Marshall Tucker Band were in rare, rowdy form as they barreled through electrifying versions of such MTB faves as “Can’t You See,” “Desert Skies” and “Searchin’ For A Rainbow.” The following year, Cheap Trick ushered in the ’80s with an earthquake-inducing set at the Forum outside of L.A., where a perfect soundboard recording captures Robin, Rick, Tom and Bun E. blazing through hits like “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender” interspersed with a healthy sampling of fourth LP Dream Police. For fans of the Trick, this vinyl debut of the previously unreleased show is something of a Holy Grail.
Beck, “Uneventful Days” 3-inch (Capitol)
Leave it to Mr. Hansen to embrace the absolute weirdest concept to emerge from the minds behind RSD: the 3-inch turntable. And to promote his new album Hyperspace, Beck has made its single available in this unique new format. One can only hope that the might of the Pharrell Williams co-helmed banger won’t blow the RSD3 apart.
Velvert Turner Group, Velvert Turner Group (ORG Music)
There was only one man in the world who was able to claim that Jimi Hendrix taught him how to play the guitar. His name was Velvert Turner, who would link Jimi to the future NYC punk scene by kicking down his lessons to future Television guitarist Richard Lloyd. Sadly, his mentorship with Jimi ended upon the guitarist’s death in 1970. But in 1972, Turner released his sole album with The Velvert Turner Group, which perfectly poised him to showcase what he learned as the only understudy of Jimi Hendrix in a wash of bluesy acid rock. That LP has now been remastered and reissued for Black Friday by the great folks at ORG Music, ensuring that the legacy of this talented musician — who died in 2000 at 49 — gets more than a footnote in rock’s back pages.
The Comet Is Coming, The Afterlife (Impulse!)
There isn’t an act on the modern incarnation of Impulse! Records that embodies the spirit of the legendary jazz imprint’s late ’60s/early ’70s creative peak quite like London trio The Comet Is Coming. Comprised of Danalogue (synths), Betamax (drums) and King Shabaka (saxophone), this wholly unique triad follows their acclaimed debut Trust in The Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery with The Afterlife EP, six new compositions that continue to push their collective creativity into an interstellar zone where Aphex Twin has earned himself a seat in Sun Ra’s Arkestra. It’s stunning to consider this music is made by just three people.