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Record Store Day Black Friday 2019: What to Hunt Down, from Lizzo to U2

Our picks include vinyl releases from Paul McCartney, Jenny Lewis, Rufus Wainwright... and a weirdly conceived 3-cassette set from the National.

LizzoAustin City Limits Music Festival, Weekend
Suzanne Cordeiro/Shutterstock

It almost seems wrong to call this semi-annual installment of Record Store Day the Black Friday edition, since so many of the 182 official releases are on colored vinyl or picture disc, it’s really more like Blue, Pink, Green, Purple and Yellow Friday. But if you try, really try, you might find some actual black shellac to fight over as the RSD doors open.

The number of releases for the BF RSD is only about half that of the amount of titles pressed for the main April edition. Some of the artists who typically prove to be a big draw on any given Record Store Day are sitting it out this time (no Beatles, Bowie, Floyd, Dylan or Dead), so it’s possible there’ll be a little less doorbuster fervor this time and more opportunity for stragglers to find what they want in the coming days. Those 12,000 copies of the Paul McCartney picture disc 45 are probably going to last a while. The 5500 copies of a never-before-on vinyl Lizzo EP… or the mere thousand units of a unique multi-cassette live album from the National? Maybe pick up the pace, soldier, if you want to snare one of those. Needless to say, or needles-in-a-haystack to say, anything pressed at under 1000 copies may require taking the scavenger hunt to multiple stops.

Here are our picks for some of this year’s most gettable. (For a complete list of releases, look here, and locate your nearest participating indie stores here.)

Lizzo, “Coconut Oil” (5500 copies, 12-inch EP). You’ll be 100 percent that buff if you pick up this first-time vinyl issue of the possible Grammy queen’s first major-label EP from 2016. It’s being billed as an “RSD First” release, which may mean there will be another pressing sooner rather than later, after this one sells out. But will a second vinyl edition of “Coconut Oil” come on “on a milky white pressing with a coconut-scented insert!”? Very possibly not! Get it while it’s stinky.

U2, “Three” (7000 copies, 12-inch EP). You can see why U2 didn’t exactly rush to re-release their initial three-song EP from 1979 after they hit it big, but they’ve apparently finally become secure enough to let them hear us in their brash youth again. This vinyl re-release may be a limited edition, but it’s still being pressed in far larger quantities than the 1,000 numbered copies that were released in Ireland 40 years ago. (The three songs were also snuck onto a deluxe CD edition of “Boy” some years back, but not altogether identically to what we hear here.) All three songs — the familiar “”Out of Control” and “Stories for Boys” and nearly lost to time “Boy-Girl” — are performed frantically as if they’re trying to push the tempo even further as they go along, and as if their greatest aspiration in ’79 was to be Europe’s most hyperactive new wave band.

The National, “Live at the Greek Theatre, Berkeley, CA, 9.24+ 9/25/2018 (The Mike Millard Method)” (1000 copies, triple-cassette). The National have self-bootlegged themselves, but it goes beyond that. As a formal experiment, the same vintage microphones and cassette deck were used to record two of the group’s shows at the Greek in Berkeley as were used by bootlegger Mike Millard to record shows for posterity back in the late ‘70s. Then these shows that were recorded on cassette are being released on cassette only — two full shows on three tapes, taking up three sides apiece. If you’re wondering how good this live album sounds if it was recorded on sub-pro analog equipment, we’ve previewed the release and the answer is: very. The lack of working cassette decks out there at the moment shouldn’t stop this one from going quickly.

Paul McCartney, “Home Tonight”/”In A Hurry” (12,000 copies; 7-inch picture disc single). McCartney can’t stop finding unreleased tracks from his “Egypt Station” sessions. In February, he put out a deluxe edition of the 2018 album with two previously unknown studio cuts, and now has come up with two additional ones, both from the sessions with producer Greg Kurstin. This pair of tracks came out digitally a week prior to Black Friday and met with fan approval; it’s promised that this vinyl picture-disc single will be the only physical release for them.

Jeff Buckley, “Live on KCRW: Morning Becomes Eclectic” (3750 copies, 12-inch EP). How is it that, after all this time, Buckley continues to be one of the most reliable sources of newly unearthed RSD product? This five-song release, recorded in-studio at L.A.’s public radio powerhouse with his “Grace” band, is being described as an EP, but that may be underselling it: they’re five substantially long songs, allowing this breakfast session to feel more like a main course than brunch snack.

Lewis Capaldi, “Hold Me While You Wait”/”When The Party’s Over” (1500 copies, 7-inch single). Freshmen artists typically salute their heroes, but Capaldi didn’t aim that high when he went in for his Spotify Sessions earlier in the year — or maybe he aimed higher than imaginable in choosing to cover a song by someone who is officially a fellow 2019 freshman: Billie Eilish. The Finneas-penned “When the Party’s Over” was one of the highlights of Eilish’s debut album, and although we weren’t able to preview Capaldi’s version, maybe it will make the Recording Academy think twice about not having given the Scot his own nomination for best new artist (although he’s up for a Grammy for song of the year).

Tank and the Bangas, “Live Vibes 2” (2000 copies, 12-inch EP). It was a bit of a shocker that Capaldi didn’t get that best new artist nod but Tank and the Bangas did, but maybe not so big a surprise to anyone who’s caught them on the jam-band circuit or at festivals like Coachella. Their first installment in this series was a hit at Record Store Day a year ago; its followup is a chance for fans to celebrate the unexpected Grammy acknowledgement. The six-song set, recorded in their native New Orleans, comes on purple and yellow splatter vinyl.

Brothers Osborne, “Live at the Ryman” (2500 copies, double LP).  A double header at the Ryman in February of this year was the source of a live album from country’s favorite brother duo since the Bellamys. It might seem premature for the Osbornes to be doing a live album after only two studio efforts but, of course, it’s a chance for singer TJ to cede more space to his shredder sibling John. The three-sided LP version is the only physical release for a 12-song set that already came out digitally.

The Record Company, “Early Songs and Rarities” (1000 copies, LP). The Record Company — no relation to any actual record companies — have provided the kind of release that Record Store Day was made for: a full album’s worth of previously unreleased studio material. Recorded in the early 2000s when they were just finding their own blues-based sound, well before their 2016 album debut, “Early Songs” includes only one number that subsequently made it onto that first effort in any form (“This Crooked City”). The rest is a compendium of songs that could have just as easily become album cuts and covers of songs by bluesman Jimmy Reed (“Bright Lights Big City”), the Grateful Dead (“New Speedway Boogie”) and the Beastie Boys (“So What’cha Want”). It’s basically a third full studio album by the band — highly recommended.

Cheap Trick, “Are You Ready? Live 12/31/1979” (3500 copies, double LP). Vinyl duplications of Cheap Trick rarities collections that previously appeared on CD have been a collectible staple of, and quick sellout during, recent Record Store Day events. This 40-year-old live album should be even more covetable, since it hasn’t been previously released in any form. The 19-song set finds the foursome surrendering the 1970s to the ‘80s at L.A.’s Forum in their barely post-“Dream Police” prime. (Cheap Trick also has a separate 7” release from a different label for this RSD: a recent album’s cover of John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth” backed with a previously unreleased live version of “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” in which they’re joined by the holiday classic’s author, Roy Wood.)

Alice Cooper, “Billion Dollar Babies Live” (pressing quantity unknown; LP + 7-inch single). Like Cheap Trick, the original Alice Cooper band is found in its prime with a live set, which in this case was 1973, touring behind their best album, “Babies.” Unlike the Trick album, this one has previously seen the light of day somewhere — on a 2001 deluxe edition of the studio album in question — although not in the full form it’s found here. The addition of a bonus 7-inch single featuring “School’s Out” and “Under My Wheels” ensures the entire Houston arena show makes it into this first-time packaging as a stand-alone item.

Rufus Wainwright, “Come a Little Bit Closer” (1500 copies, 7-inch single). The title of this two-song single comes from the lyrics of the A-side, a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.” The B-side has him taking on the more contemporaneous Arcade Fire’s “Crown of Love.” If you sense a theme, you’re right: Wainwright was participating in a salute to Canadian artists at the John Anson Ford Theater gig in L.A. from which these covers were pulled. We previewed the music — although we have not laid eyes on and cannot vouch for the translucent redness of the vinyl — and, backed by strings, Wainwright treats these tunes as gorgeously as you’d expect.

Bill Evans, “Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of The Gate” (2000 copies, double LP). Resonance Records, the great finder of lost golden-era live jazz recordings, which usually has unveiled some of the year’s top archival releases on Record Store Day, already shot its wad this fall by releasing a humdinger 7-LP Nat King Cole box ahead of RSD. Or so you thought. They are staying in the RSD game by going back and releasing a couple of their essential releases that have been out of print. There was a prior 3-LP set of this released on 45rpm in 2012, but if you lost out then or don’t buy into the superiority of 45 and were waiting for a 33 1/3 rendering of the 1968 Village Gate show by the Evans trio, your day has come. There is no catnip for RSD jazz aficionados like anything Evans, so the previous availability of this collection probably won’t put a damper on how fast it goes.

Charlie Parker, “The Magnificent Charlie Parker” (3000 copies, LP). Like the vintage cover, the vinyl is songbird-yellow — get it? — and the reproduction of the ‘50s LP’s original text and credits on the back reads like a who’s who of household jazz names backing Bird. Miles Davis, Max Roach, Charlie Mingus, Ray Brown, arranger Gil Evans… they’ve got to be making this up, right? Some fans might be able to do without the very white-sounding vocal chorus that pops up on “In the Still of the Night,” but that’s a small quibble that hardly diminishes an all-star effort’s return to vinyl.

Willie Nelson “Sometimes Even I Can Get Too High” (4000 copies, 7-inch single). Is the promise of something that lays out flat even the king of weed any way for Willie to advertise his new strain? Yes, it is. This previously unreleased track, recorded during the sessions for Nelson’s recent “Ride Me Back Home” album, was not available for preview, but the title augurs well for an even better giggle fit than the already heard one on the B-side, Willie’s four-year-old duet with the late Merle Haggard, “It’s All Going To Pot.”

Various Artists, “Jazz Dispensary: The Dank D-Funk Blend” (2000 copies, LP). Although the “Jazz Dispensary” series started off with a pot angle, you don’t have to inhale anything but “Shaft”-ian fumes to enjoy the turns into obscure ‘70s funk the franchise has taken. This installment, compiled by Doyle Davis, the co-owner of the beloved Grimey’s record shop in Nashville, has instrumental delights like Bernard Purdie’s own version of the “Shaft” theme, sans any of Isaac Hayes’ vocal narrations, and a soul-revue cover of Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” by Boogaloo Joe Jones that’s the speed-freakiest version of an earthquake you’ve ever heard.

James Brown, “Live at Home: The After Show” (5000 copies, LP).  There’s more funkaphilia where that came from. Brown’s live prowess was recalled earlier this year in a live collection, “Live at Home With His Bad Self,” recorded in his hometown of Augusta, Georgia 50 years ago. This vinyl-only sequel that release is a far from essential postscript, but if you’re prone to kissing the godfather’s ring, you’ll want it anyway. Brown and his band stayed on stage after hours to work on some other material he wanted to release, including an instrumental cover of Blood Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel” and a collaboration with a protégé, Marva Whitney, whom he can be heard predicting will become one of the biggest artists in the world. (A prophet he wasn’t.) This is pretty much the definition of RSD marginalia  — and yet, given the precision and power of Brown’s band when they’re in a jam, a completely respectable party record in its own right.

Jenny Lewis, “On the iPhone” (3000 copies, 7-inch single). There are three reasons to pick up this 45: the cover illo of Lewis astride a horse in a pink cape and pantsuit, gazing into the titular smartphone; a home demo of her recent “Rabbit Hole,” recorded on said device; and last and definitely most of all, a demo version of a cover she’s done a number of times over the years, Bob Dylan’s “Standing in the Doorway,” one of the lesser remembered songs from his great “Time Out of Mind” album.

Raymond Scott, “The Jingle Workshop: Midcentury Musical Miniatures 1951-1965” (800 copies, double LP; or 300 copies, double CD). Why not break away from watching so much television the rest of this Thanksgiving weekend to… well, listen to a lot of television from the ’50s and ’60s, courtesy of the revered jingle-meister Scott, who is celebrated in an 82-track collection being released for RSD on both vinyl and CD? This set was not made available for preview, but we have a good idea what to expect, and to recollect, with titles like “So Good, So Fresh, So Southern (Mel Tormé) (Southern Bread),” “Ex-Lax Helps You [Demo]” and “Stuckey’s Theme.” Quantities for both versions of this are very limited, so I implore you, as both a Scott fan and Stuckey’s maniac, please don’t buy them all up before i get to it.

Steep Canyon Rangers, “North Carolina Songbook” (1000 copies, LP). You don’t have to be an NC loyalist to appreciate the devotion with which this live concept album salutes the state. In a set recorded at this past April’s Merlefest, the Rangers cover eight songs by artists associated with the state — some of which are right in their roots-music wheelhouse (earl Scruggs, Doc Watson), some obvious popular favorites (James Taylor, Ben E. King), and one or two off the beaten track of what you expect from a bluegrassy spring band (Thelonious Monk). The icing on the cake is that this limited first edition comes on tri-color vinyl — equal parts blue, white and red, aka the colors on the North Carolina flag.

Beck, “Uneventful Days” (pressing quantity unknown; 3-inch single). The format is not a misprint, as RSD regulars know; Beck’s latest really is available in a 3-inch format, which requires a special player. (Other three-inches are also being released this time around, including a slew of Disney theme songs.) Yes, some of us same enthusiasts who appreciate the weightiness of a well-pressed piece of 180-gram vinyl will also pick up something in a format that makes the flexidiscs of old seem like the model of high fidelity. Why? Because it’s flair.

Also recommended:

Benmont Tench, “Nervous From the Fall” (2000 copies, 7-inch single).

The Hold Steady, “Four on Ten”(1800 copies, 10-inch EP).

Devo, “Devo Live!” (pressing quantity unknown, LP).

Elvis Presley, “American Sound 1969”(4000 copies, double LP).

Pylon, “Cool”/”Dub” (900 copies, 7-inch single).

The Pretenders, “UK Singles 1979-1981”(quantity unknown, 7x 7-inch singles box).

New Riders of the Purple Sage, “Thanksgiving in New York City (Live)” (1800 copies, triple LP).

JD McPherson, “Red Bows For A Blue Girl” / “Holly, Carol, Candy and Joy” (1500 copies, 7-inch single).

Louis Armstrong & His All-Stars, “Live in 1956” (2000 copies, LP).

Johnny Griffin / Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis Quintet, “Ow! Live at The Penthouse” (750 copies, double LP).