As vinyl continues to supplant CDs as the physical medium of choice for music buffs, the annual Record Store Day event keeps growing in prominence as a clarion call to get into the groove. The lineup for this year’s brick-and-mortar blowout has just been unveiled, with (by our count) 394 mostly vinyl-excusive, mostly limited-edition releases hitting independent shops April 13.
Helping lead the charge into stores are archival works finding their way onto wax for the first time from Bob Dylan, Prince, Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead, Elvis Presley, Elton John, Bill Evans, John Lennon, Roxy Music, Jeff Buckley, R.E.M. and many dozens of others. New material makes its way into the mix, too, with artists like Jeff Tweedy, Courtney Barnett, Czarface, Steve Earle, John Hiatt and the Minus 5 coming out with previously unreleased studio albums or singles, on top of a fresh live EP from U2 and the first release in any physical medium of Weezer’s recent “teal” digital album of cover songs.
The full list of titles and participating stores can be found here.
“We’ve got amazing support from all the labels again this year,” says Record Store Day co-founder Michael Kurtz. “It’s sort of separate from the music business in general, which is pretty much all streaming now, with some effort being put into vinyl.” The RSD powers-that-be be do curate what passes muster as an official release: “We get offered about 500 or 600 releases, and then it just kind of finds its own way as we narrow it down to about 375,” he says. (There’s also an adjunct event in the fall, RSD Black Friday, that offers about half that number of new titles.)
For rock fans, one of the marquee items is Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks — Original New York Test Pressing,” an exact reproduction of the version of that landmark album he was about to release before he went back into a Minneapolis studio and re-recorded half the material. Most of what was on that legendary 1974 test pressing found its way onto last fall’s “Blood on the Tracks” CD boxed set, but even then, one of the tracks was issued there in a slightly different mix or edit, so this LP is being billed as “an exact duplicate of those original test pressings” with “unique mixes available for the first time ever.” Says Kurtz, “It sort of is a classic Record Store Day release — it’s produced in (a reproduction of) the original promo sleeve, it’s truly exclusive, and it’s a limited edition, at 8000 worldwide.”
As a big Wilco fan, RSD’s Kurtz is particularly excited about Jeff Tweedy’s “Warmer.” “Jeff is releasing an album that’s completely unique for Record Store Day, which I think is one of the few times we’ve done anything quite that amazing — at least it is for me,” Kurtz says. “When he made his last album (‘Warm’), my understanding is he recorded two albums, and one of them was for the general release and one of them was for Record Store Day.” The LP, limited to 5000 copies, will initially be sold only as part of RSD, although the release will also be sold at the annual Wilco-hosted Solid Sound Festival in late June.
The biggest novelty at this year’s Record Store Day isn’t just an oddball new release but an oddball whole new medium: the 3-inch record. (Cue Aerosmith singing: “I pulled out my big 3-inch.”) Not to worry — no one will have to force the tonearm on their turntable to do unnatural acts to play these. The RSD org worked with Crosley to develop a small turntable that can play these discs. There may never be a huge new rush of software for these, but for this RSD, there’ll be four releases from Third Man (including Jack White and the White Stripes), four more from Rancid’s punk roster (including Rancid and Bad Religion), and one from the Foo Fighters.
“We demonstrated it at CES in January, and a lot of journalists picked it as the coolest item there,” says Kurtz. “We spent a lot of time developing the turntable — it’s a moving magnetic cartridge, belt-driven, it has RCA outs so you can plug it into your stereo, and it sounds fantastic through the stereo — but it’s pretty affordably priced. Stores will probably sell it between $60-70, and each one comes with a Foo Fighters record.” The other 3-inch records sell for $9.98 and each come with a poster.
Pearl Jam has been named this year’s Record Store Day ambassador, which they’ll celebrate with the first-time vinyl release of “Live at Easy Street Records,” which was only released as a CD to indie stores 14 years ago and quickly went out of print.
Elton John’s “Live From Moscow,” recorded when he visited the then-USSR in 1979, is being released for the first time in any format for the show’s 40th anniversary.
U2 has a release almost every Record Store Day. “They’ve been fantastic. They really get what we’re trying to do, and they’re doing what they can to help support us,” Kurtz says. “The Europa EP” comes from the recent “Experience” tour and includes their live set’s opening use of Charlie Chaplin’s closing monologue from “The Great Dictator,” which eventually segues into a live “New Year’s Day.” Because of the Chaplin connection, the release is being cross-promoted with a campaign for the silent comic’s 130th birthday and marketed with a “Chaplin 130” sticker as well as the usual RSD sticker.
Record Store Day’s own imprint is releasing a benefit compilation album curated by famed podcast host Marc Maron, including acoustic performances culled from his show by Aimee Mann, Jason Isbell, Margo Price, Eels, Dave Alvin, Melissa Etheridge, J Mascis, Ben Harper and Nick Lowe.
John Lennon, Van Morrison and Fleetwood Mac will all have “alternative” versions of some of their biggest albums put on LP. The material is derived from CD boxed sets that have already come out — of “Imagine,” “Astral Weeks” and “Fleetwood Mac,” respectively — but having alternate-universe versions of these essential works on one disc will be catnip for fans.
The Resonance jazz label continues to find and release material from the archives exclusively on LP, a few months ahead of any CD release, and that’s the case again with newly unearthed late ’60s live sets from Bill Evans (“Evans In England: Live at Ronnie Scott’s”) and Wes Montgomery (“Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings”), both of which are double-LPs. Resonance’s vinyl releases always go quickly, and they’re releasing just 2000 copies of the Evans set and 1500 of Montgomery’s.
Jeff Buckley’s “In Transition” has seven previously unreleased studio tracks from his initial Columbia sessions, including an alternate version of “Hallelujah.”
One of the quickest items to go at Record Store Day 2018 was a reissue of the very rare mono version of Pink Floyd’s “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”; that’s getting a sequel this year with a mono “A Saucerful of Secrets,” also from the late ’60s. It has a high number of copies available, as RSD releases go — 6500 — but that didn’t keep last year’s Floyd release from disappearing off shelves surprisingly quickly.
Presley’s “Live at the International Hotel, Las Vegas, NV August 23, 1969” is a double-LP previewing an upcoming boxed set that will include a plethora of performances captured that month. RSD reports 3000 copies are being released.
The Prince estate has two releases coming for Record Store Day, both recreating extremely rare compilations. One is a two-LP set called “His Majesty’s Pop Life,” a redo of a very rare Japan-only 1985 compilation that included exclusive remixes. Another is “Prince: The VERSACE Experience,” a cassette that was given to attendees at a 1995 fashion show, which also includes a few exclusive tracks and remixes — and, like the impossible-to-find original collector’s item, it’s being issued only on cassette.
On the contemporary indie front, Soccer Mommy is represented by “For Young Hearts,” the Bandcamp EP that had previously only ever received a physical release in the form of 130 cassettes in 2016, all now going for a premium on the resale market. This LP will be limited to 2000 copies.
Several boxed sets are in the lineup. A collection of all of Al Green’s Hi singles, 26 of the 7-inch records in all, is being released in a limited edition of 1500 copies. Aretha Franklin’s 1967 Atlantic singles have been collected into a box as well. Todd Rundgren’s complete library of Bearsville and Warner Bros. singles is being released as a boxed set, but they’ve been gathered onto four LPs, not individual 7-inches. Also, there’s a six-LP Devo box and a Sugar Hill compilation with that same amount of discs.
R.E.M. isn’t officially on the list, but “Bingo Hand Job” is the band under a pseudonym, on “Live at the Borderline 1991.”
David Bowie is represented by a reissue of the late ’60s compilation “The World of David Bowie,” a picture disc of the “Pin-Ups” album and a split single with his “Just a Gigolo” costar Marlene Dietrich, although not one of the live albums that RSD aficionados have come to expect this time every year.
“Roxy Music — Remixed” will be of considerable interest to fans. The double-12-inch consists of remixes that were planned for the boxed set commemorating Roxy’s debut album that came out last year; although commissioned under Bryan Ferry’s watch, they ultimately weren’t included and were held back for this.
Some releases that may be of less interest to the hardcore nerd set but may attract more of the rank-and-file to come out for RSD include a picture disc of Queen’s recent “Bohemian Rhapsody” soundtrack and a blue vinyl edition of Madonna’s “True Blue (Super Club Mix).”
John Hiatt and his daughter Lilly Hiatt have covered each other’s songs for an exclusive 45. Other singles of curiosity include an Anderson Paak/Busta Rhymes collaboration; country star Kelsea Ballerini covering a Shawn Mendes song, live; an exclusive Steve Earle single of acoustic Guy Clark songs he’s not including on his upcoming Clark tribute album; a previously unreleased Courtney Barnett single; Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus teaming up; a collaboration between the surviving members of Queen and the Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins with, posthumously, the Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson; and an Erykah Badu/James Posner duet of Squeeze’s “Tempted.”
Another oddity: a three-LP “Woodstock” set dubbed the “monitor mix,” which promises to deliver those familiar 1969 live cuts the way they would have been heard coming out of the speakers, as opposed to how they were mixed for the soundtrack.
Other artists represented with new or previously issued material: Greta Van Fleet, Elvis Costello, Janis Joplin, Charlie Parker, the Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel, Swervedriver, Gorillaz, Joe Strummer, Green Day, the Blasters, Bill Hicks, Captain Beefheart, Emmylou Harris, Dio, Hank Williams, Lone Justice, the Doors, Cheech & Chong, the Ramones, Motorhead, “Twin Peaks,” “Breaking Bad,” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Wolfman Jack.
Ninety-eight percent of the lineup is now online, but, says Kurtz, “There are a couple other surprises we can’t announce yet that are really cool, because the band wants to do it themselves — two or three or four things that’ll come later.”