Deck the turntable spindles with very, very tiny boughs of holly. It’s time for the semi-annual Record Store Day — the smaller, but still mighty, Black Friday edition — as 157 exclusive releases hit indie music shops the day after Thanksgiving. (An additional four are being held back for Small Business Saturday.) If you’re a fan of Weezer, Hozier, Ella Fitzgerald, Rage Against the Machine, Kacey Musgraves, the Grateful Dead, Duke Ellington, U2, Alice Cooper or Bob Marley, among a hundred-plus others, this might be your lucky RSD.
For a full list of releases, consult the Record Store Day site (and find a list of participating stores here). But if you need help winnowing down the list from 157, here are 20 titles we consider doorbusters:
Kacey Musgraves, “High Horse Remixes”
White 10-inch vinyl single (Limited edition of 1500; list price $14)
“’’Cause everyone knows someone who kills the buzz / Every time they open up their mouth,” she sings. This exactly describes your Thanksgiving dinner, right? Boogie those bad talking-politics-over-turkey vibes out of your system with two remixes of the lone disco track from the country-pop singer’s acclaimed “Golden Hour” album. Both the A- and B-sides take the tune in a slightly more house-bound dance-floor direction than the Bee Gees-inspired original. Although these two remixes can be streamed, this vinyl issue is being touted as their only physical release.
Ella Fitzgerald, “Ella at the Shrine”
Translucent yellow vinyl (Limited edition of 3000; list price $25)
The last Fitzgerald live set to come out for Record Store Day was the sublime “Ella at Zardi’s,” but that piece of vinyl followed the CD and digital releases. In the case of this follow-up, the vinyl is leading, with no plans yet announced for a CD. As it turns out, when they were excavating the “Zardi’s” tapes from 1956, the Verve folks also unearthed a seven-song set recorded that same week in a much bigger room, L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium. (In fact, an announcer can be heard at the end telling the encore-demanding throng that Ella has already made her way back to Zardi’s for her club engagement that night.) If you still don’t understand the charm of scat-singing, you must hear Fitzgerald’s climactic run of nonsense syllable-izing through Benny Goodman’s “Air Mail Special.” Even as just 20 minutes, this is an essential treasure.
Alice Cooper, “Live from the Astroturf”
10 different random color vinyl variants (Limited edition of 3000; list price $32)
The original Alice Cooper band broke up in 1975, although their frontman obviously kept the name. In 2015, down by only one dearly departed original member, they spontaneously reunited for a one-time-only gig at a Dallas in-store, of all places, for member Dennis Dunaway’s memoir. Fortunately, someone had the foresight to professionally tape the show. A 7-inch single of highlights was issued for RSD two years ago and quickly sold out, but this marks the first appearance of the full eight-song performance of vintage early ‘70s material. We didn’t preview this one, but look forward along with everyone else to hearing whether the wheels of Alice, Dennis Dunaway, Michael Bruce and Neal Smith were still as deadly 40 years on. (Not on CD.)
Shaped picture disc vinyl (Limited edition of 3000; list price $20)
A year and a half ago, Toto released an Africa-shaped picture disc of “Africa” b/w “Rosanna,” and it was possibly that particular Record Store Day’s hottest item, weirdly enough; good luck finding a used copy for less than $100. Who knows whether Weezer’s cover versions of both the A-side and B-side of that Toto single will command the same secondary-market value, but it proves that imitation is a high form of flattery even when it comes to die-cut novelty pressings.
The Grateful Dead, “Playing In The Band, Seattle, WA 5/21/74”
Single LP (Quantity not revealed; list price $22)
You might take a look at this item, see that the track listing only includes one song, and wonder why it’s being advertised as an LP. It’s got to be a single, right? Actually, it’s both. At 47 minutes long, this 1974 rendition of “Playing in the Band” is officially the longest live number ever performed by the Dead. Naturally, it’s been split between sides for its vinyl rendering. It was released in all its epic glory for streaming earlier this year, but the RSD vinyl marks its first physical release. With any luck, the fade-ins and fade-outs between sides will come at an appropriate point; we’d really like to see Rhino release this on 8-track, just to really put their faders to use.
Matthew Sweet, “Wicked System of Things”
Single LP (Limited edition of 1500; list price $18)
Here’s a rarity: a full-length album of new, original songs from a name artist who says he has no plans to give said record any additional release beyond a very limited Record Store Day edition. Sweet wrote and recorded this 11-song collection in 2017 with the intention of getting his friends in Cheap Trick to play on it, then finished it himself when they were tied up at the time. It’s unpreviewed by Variety but his description of it in a recent Popdose interview certainly aroused our curiosity: “It’s just kind of a ‘lost record’ and I wanted it to somehow come out without it really being ‘my next record’,” Sweet said. “I don’t know what people will think of it. But the intention, it was kind of a nod to Midwest power pop groups from the era when I was a teenager and it was guys like Cheap Trick, Shoes, the Raspberries…”
Lone Justice, “The Western Tapes 1983”
12-inch EP (Limited edition of 1000; list price $17)
Lone Justice put the “pow” in “cowpunk” (well, it’s there with just a slight bit of rearranging). Although there has already been one full-length release of peak-period, pre-Geffen demos in recent years, this six-song release goes back a little further, even, to when the band was completely fresh-faced, with a different rhythm section that would soon not be at home in this world anymore. Their seminal-seminal sound was so country, you may be shocked to hear the appearance of a steel guitar on the opening track, “Working Late.” (A CD version also goes out wide this weekend; Omnivore also has a separate live album from this early period arriving in the coming months.)
Eric Dolphy, “Musical Prophet: The Expanded N.Y. Studio Sessions (1962-1963)”
Triple LP (Limited edition of 3000; list price $65)
If you’re a serious jazz-head, chances are you’re already familiar with and anticipating this release. If you’re inclined toward jazz but a little less in the know, this is absolutely at the top of the list of RSD releases you should just take a chance on, because based on the quick sellout factor of past Resonance Records releases, it won’t still be in stores by the time you hear more about it from the in-crowd. Dolphy, a master of the alto sax as well as several other wind instruments, made too few records before his early death in 1964 to become quite a common a household name as, say, John Coltrane, with whom he played before becoming a headliner. There’s no disputing he belongs on the same tier after hearing this three-LP set, which features an hour and a half of newly discovered studio recordings on top of the two full albums from which the outtakes derive. Part of the pleasure of any Resonance release is the elaborate historical booklet, which will take much longer to read than it does to play three LPs. A CD issue is coming in January, but anyone with a turntable will want to score this elaborate, hand-numbered collectible.
The Bangles, Dream Syndicate, the Three O’Clock and the Rain Parade, “3 x 4”
Double LP on psychedelic swirl colored vinyl, or CD (Vinyl limited edition of 900, list price $24; CD limited edition of 1350; list price $16)
It’s a slightly genius way for four bands from L.A.’s 1980s psych-pop/Paisley scene to pay tribute to those roots, by each recording one cover each from the three other groups’ catalog. We joke about it now, but it really is like we went to school together. Paisley High, Class of ’83,” writes Vicki Peterson in the liner notes. Listening to this revival, it’s as if plaid and flannel never happened.
Czarface, “Dogs Days of Tomorrow”
7-inch single with comic book (Limited edition of 2375; list price $22)
The packaging here — a comic book illustrated by Marvel’s Mike Del Mundo — is as big a part of the attraction as the collaboration between Czarface (a teaming of Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck and Boston’s 7L) and, newly on board, Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah. It debuts four songs from Czarface’s upcoming full-length, a follow-up to their 2018 hookup with MF DOOM.
Difford & Tilbrook with ?uestlove & Robert Glasper, “Take Me I’m Yours”
7-inch single with download card (Limited edition of 1350; list price $10)
A delightful mash-up of unlikely bedfellows, this jazz-rock-electronic fusion version of Squeeze’s first hit has the core duo joined by a horn section and some very heavy guitars for a 40th anniversary remake that might actually be more fun than the original.
Duke Ellington, “Duke Ellington Plays With The Original Motion Picture Score Mary Poppins”
Color vinyl LP (Limited edition of 3000; list price $20
Various artists’ “Stay Awake: Various Impressions of Music from Vintage Disney Films”
Double LP (Limited edition of 3500 copies)
If the revival represented by the upcoming release of “Mary Poppins Returns” produced nothing else but this reissue of Ellington’s long-lost (on vinyl) cover version of the Sherman brothers’ original song score, it’d be worth it. While you’re at it, seek out a more sprawling but equally splendid set of Disney covers, “Stay Awake,” produced by Hal Willner in 1988 and featuring the likes of Tom Waits and Los Lobos, now spread across two LPs instead of the original one for fidelity’s sake.
The Mamas and the Papas, “The Complete Singles”
Double LP (Limited edition of 750; list price $40)
Apparently, there’ve been technical and/or rights issues preventing a proper collection of all of the Mamas and Papas singles in one place, until this two-record set, which has the mono versions of every A-side and every B-side they ever released. How that adds up to an odd number, the promised 31 tracks, we’ll need to consult the final track list to figure out. But there’s an even odder number here: 750. That’s the quantity Sundazed is saying they pressed of this long-coveted set. Fans seem to be agreeing it would go out the door at several times that amount, so godspeed to all children of the ‘60s.
U2, “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me”
12-inch single (Limited edition of 7000; list price $16)
U2 frequently come through with a remix for RSD, and this is no exception. Copies of last year’s RSD edition of “The Blackout” were pressed at overoptimistic levels and are still sitting around in stories. This new take on a 1995 “Batman Forever” soundtrack single, although unavailable for preview by Variety, sounds a bit more tantalizing: It has new lead vocals by Gavin Friday and Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne. Still, 7000 is a lot of copies for this one, so if it’s your sole RSD heart’s desire, you can probably wait till Small Business Saturday.
Cheap Trick, “The Epic Archive Vol. 2 (1980-1983)”
Double LP on clear vinyl (Limited edition of 1100; list price $40)
Although it hasn’t been pressed in quite the ridiculously low quantities of the Mamas and the Papas collection, this collection of mid-career rarities may fly out the door about as fast, based on the quick disappearance of “Vol. 1” last year.
Rage Against the Machine, “Live & Rare”
Double LP with download card (Limited edition of 5000; list price $26)
The only time this assortment of Rage oddities was released in any collective form was on CD in Japan in 1997, so America has remained mostly bereft of the band’s covers of N.W.A (“F— the Police”), Public Enemy (“Black Steel in the Age of Chaos”) and Springsteen (“The Ghost of Tom Joad”) in any medium until now.
Lake Street Dive, “Freak Yourself Out”
10-inch EP (Limited edition of 1500; list price $15)
The jazzy, R&B-y pop group with the powerhouse pipes got prolific while recording the excellent “Free Yourself Up” outfit and had five tracks that didn’t make the cut. They earn their freedom on “Freak Yourself Out,” an adjunct EP.
Byrds, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo — Legacy Edition”
Quadruple LP with download card (Limited edition of 2000; list price $68)
For a certain contingent of fan, 2018 has been the year of “Rodeo” fever, as original Byrds members Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman have toured the landmark 1968 country-rock classic. For anyone who loves the album, Sony’s expanded Legacy CD package has been indispensible, with its outtakes and alternate versions including several tracks that have Gram Parsons singing a lot more lead than he did on the finished product. This first-ever vinyl issue of that set includes all that bonus material on three additional LPs. A similar vinyl version of Legacy’s “Johnny Cash at San Quentin” sold out instantly a year ago, and despite the price tag, this one should go about as fast, at this low quantity.
Paul Williams, “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas Soundtrack”
Single LP (Limited edition of 2000; list price $22)
Jim Henson fever: catch it. It took until this fall for the powers that be to finally get around to issuing a CD soundtrack for this staple of the childhoods of at least half the people reading this. Weeks later, a vinyl edition is following for RSD. Don’t be misled by the title; Williams rocks out almost as much in this quirky collection as he did in “Phantom of the Paradise.”
Taylor Swift, “Red”
Double LP on clear vinyl (Limited edition of 4000; list price $30)
For RSD in April, Big Machine released two Swift albums on colored vinyl, and they swiftly disappeared off shelves. This fall they’re doing two more — this one and “Speak Now” — and, although there are no extras, sometimes you just have to congratulate a label for doing the right thing. Which, in this case, is not going with red vinyl for “Red.” We’d like to think that the choice of clear vinyl is acknowledgement that, by some yardsticks, this was Swift’s most transparent album.
Cannonball Adderley’s “Swingin’ in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse (1966-1967)” — 1800 copies
Dead Kennedys’ “Iguana Studios Rehearsal Sessions” — 2000 copies
Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” — 1500 copies
Dexter Gordon’s “Live at the Playboy Jazz Festival” — 2000 copies
Hozier’s “Nina Cried Power” — 3000 copies
Etta Jones’ “A Soulful Sunday: Live at the Left Bank” — 900 copies
Harry Nilsson’s “The Nilsson Popeye Demos” — 1800 copies
The Ramones’ “Live in Glasgow December 19, 1977” — (quantity unknown)
Keith Richards’ “Run Run Rudolph (40th Anniversary)” — 3000 copies
Todd Rundgren’s “Something/Anything?” — 3500 copies
Various jazz artists’ “A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper” — 2000 copies
Hank Williams’ “The First Recordings, 1938” — 2500 copies
Frank Zappa’s “We’re Only In It for the Money” — 4000 copies