Record Store Day 2019: The Essentials
Mapping out the weekend’s most crucial pursuits.
For better or worse, Record Store Day has rewired crate-digging consciousness and reinvigorated a medium that was once on the cusp of complete erasure. In 2018 alone, US vinyl sales jumped another 8% to a 30-year high, commanding more than a third of all physical music revenue. As CDs head down the path of their recently revived predecessor, it’s entirely likely that wax will reclaim the throne of tangible formats by the end of the decade.
Record Store Day is doing its part for the boom. Last year, more than 750,000 units were sold in a 24-hour period, breaking its own single-day record. And this year — anchored by the broadest range of limited-run reissues and never-pressed acetates yet — could push the needle north of that peak. Brimming with proto-funk, early psychedelia, distant jazz, and scenes from hip-hop’s infancy, this year’s releases are both densely-stacked and sprawled-out all at once.
Scroll on for a hand-picked guide to the weekend’s essential grabs. Head over to Record Store Day’s website for the full list of regional, national, and global, releases for reference. And please, don’t hurt anyone in the trenches. There’s (usually) plenty to go round.
Various Artists – The Rough Guide to Arabian Jazz
The latest installation of World Music Network’s expansive Rough Guide series excavates the deceptively-deep bond between the Arab world and the first categorically American music form. Spanning the geographic and stylistic distances of a decades-long cross-continental exchange, the seven-track compilation is as much a bridge as a crash course in unlauded linkage. The perfect piece to supplement a heavy jazz rotation and stump even the most studious snob.
Pete Rock – Return of The SP-1200
Well before Mecca met The Soul Brother, he invented the remix on the juggernaut of samplers. And this year, with the launch of his own imprint, Pete’s pulling back the curtain on his formative frequencies. Return of The SP-1200 collects the recordings of a 19-year-old prodigy plucking away in his Mt. Vernon basement, only just realizing his command of the singular sequencer. Consider it the origin story of a rare union between man and machine.
Alice Clark – Self-Titled
Though an original pressing will currently run you a cool $300 on Discogs, Alice Clark’s self-titled debut wasn’t a smash upon arrival. I’d argue, as a whole, it’s not even one in retrospect. But Clark’s one-off 1972 studio outing has developed a cult-ish following. Mainly, surrounding the buried album cuts, “Don’t You Care,” “Hard, Hard Promises,” and “Hey Girls,” as well as the singer’s virtual disappearance since the album’s release. The first official reissue from WeWantSounds finally tells that story with a 20-page booklet of unseen photos from the sessions and liner notes by Marcus J. Moore.
Various Artists – Stax Does The Beatles
Back for a first run on wax, the Memphis soul institution is pressing their collection of Fab Four recalibrations. Featuring appearances from Isaac Hayes, Booker T and The MGs, Carla Thomas, The Bar Kays, and more label mainstays, expect heavy-hitting takes on pop and R&B standards from an unlikely, albeit ubiquitous, source. For those unable to scoop a copy on the hunt, Rough Trade will have their remaining stock available online once the festivities die down.
The 13th Floor Elevators – The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators
Another one that’ll run you an outrageous amount in the secondhand market, the debut album from The 13th Elevators is perhaps the first to adopt and openly embrace the psychedelic tag. The washed out strums and searing vocals glimpse an early and raw movement with UK roots, just a year out from world conquest. The mono mix is pressed to a limited edition picture disc, ripe for countless mind-bending moments in front of the turntable.
Prince – His Majesty’s Pop Life/The Purple Mix Club
Though Record Store Day is brimming with Purple treasures from the vault, His Majesty’s Pop Life is the one you’ll want to come home with. Originally released in 1985 as a batch of just 500 Japan-only pressings, the towering four-track suite features rare mixes and extended edits from the meat of the genius streak. No home-assembled purple pantheon is complete without it.
Albert King – Born Under a Bad Sign
Though the title may indicate otherwise, Born Under a Bad Sign was the first jewel in the crown of a new blues king. Backed by Booker T & The MGs, the hard-hitting Stax debut from the flying V specialist captures a breakout moment for both King and the label’s rapidly expanding roster of musicians, A&Rs, and producers (including, but not limited to, William Bell, Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton.) Remastered from original tapes and pressed to heavyweight 180g wax, King’s premiere on the Southern soul label is a crucial addition the shelf and remains one of the most reasonably-priced original pressings on this list, should you be looking to double down.
Sly & The Family Stone – Woodstock Sunday August 17, 1969
Sly & The Family Stone’s legendary 3:30am set from the inaugural Woodstock gathering is finally getting the wax and grooves treatment. The setlist features all the hits and a rare glance at a performance so early/late you might have missed it even if you were actually in attendance. Entering its 50th-anniversary year, here’s a toast to the counter-cultural current that pushed music and politics to the outer reaches and provided the festival framework by which all current iterations abide.
Soul Jazz Records Presents: Boombox 45 Box Set – Early Independent Hip Hop, Electro and Disco Rap 1979 – 83
Format: 7″ Box Set
Some of hip-hop’s rarest baby photos are on full display in a new set from the UK’s compilation specialists. The five-piece RSD-exclusive assemblage remasters a handful of zaps from hip-hop’s disco-leaning past, ranging from regionally revered to impossibly uncommon. Pressed on replica labels, Soul Jazz’s Boombox collection might just be the most efficient (and cost-effective) angle on snagging Manujothi’s “Shake Your Body” and Bramsam’s “Move Your Body” in one haul. That’s a helluva a day in the trenches by any set of metrics.
Soul Jazz Records Presents: Studio One Showcase
Format: 7″ Box Set
Soul Jazz is 2-for-2 on the year. Another five-spot from the UK crew, Studio One Showcase compiles 10 painfully infrequent finds from the legendary Kingston production catalog in one very digestible package. Much like the Boombox collection, all singles are remastered from the original tapes and furnished with replica labels.
Czarface – Double Dose of Danger
On the heels of their recent collision with Ghostface Killah, the mighty Czarface — aka 7L, Esoteric, and Inspectah Deck — are charting a new adventure. Double Dose of Danger features unheard remixes and edits, alongside a pair of fresh frequencies. The project is housed in a beautifully rendered gatefold with a built-in comic book, written by Esoteric with illustrations by Benjamin Marra and Lamour Supreme.
Fela Kuti and Roy Ayers – Music of Many Colours
Intended as a tour capping session between intercontinental pioneers, Music of Many Colours has become a criminally overlooked collaboration in the 30 years since it went out of print. Initially recorded in 1979, following a three-week run of shows in Nigeria, the two-track outing is a singular bridge-building capture, comprising Ayers’ “2,000 Blacks Got To Be Free” and Kuti’s “Africa- Center of The World.” Knitting Factory’s reissue presses the project to a predictably colorful, limited edition “rainbow starburst” acetate.
Buari – Self-Titled
One of Afrobeat’s earliest Americanized offshoots, Buari’s self-titled debut is a snapshot of his stateside tenure. Recorded in 1975 upon landing in NYC, the Ghanian transplant’s namesake release hardwires a connection between funk and its distant West African cousin, infusing the East Coast’s proto-disco template with polyrhythmic cadences and anthemic vamps. A limited run pressing, Nature Sounds’ reissue is the first in years, easing access to an increasingly rare sight in the crates.
James Brown – Sho is Funky Down Here
Brown’s final studio album with King Records is a forgotten psychedelic wonder in The Godfather’s mammoth catalog. The entirely instrumental cap on nearly two decades with his former label was also his debut with David Matthews — not that David Matthews — as bandleader. Matthews steered the King finale away from Brown’s good-footing freakouts, down a wormhole of fuzzed-out guitars and scorching organ beds. Reissued for the first time since 1990, the Now-Again pressing offers a remastered tracklist pulled from Capitol Studios’ tapes, furnished with unseen photos and extensive liners by Brown’s longtime tour manager, Alan Leeds.
The Parliaments – Baby I Owe You Something Good
Format: 10″ LP
Long before the mothership landed, a still slightly-sober George Clinton was duking it out for a slot in the majors. And while he’d go on to lead a rhythmic and stylistic revolt in the following decade, the late-60s recordings that propelled him to and through the upper ranks of funk. The three tracks and accompanying instrumentals presented on this collection comprise early (subdued?) takes on Funkadelic classics with a ’60s vocal group flair. Clean, but not spotless. Reserved, but never timid.
Bernard Purdie – Soul Is… Pretty Purdie
Bernard Purdie is very likely your favorite drummer’s favorite drummer. His third studio album as bandleader peels back the curtain on a generational rhythmic wonder. In the front seat, Purdie recalibrates the masters (Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers) and pays tribute to another (Aretha, who he backed in the recently released Amazing Grace concert film.) Along with his Lialeh soundtrack, Pretty Purdie is essential to any fledgling or full-formed soul archive.
Wes Montgomery – Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings
One of the most gifted hands to ever hold six strings, Wes Montgomery’s strums and plucks literally sizzle upon impact if you listen close enough. Though he’d soon be known as much more, this double-album release of previously unissued compositions was recorded in Montgomery’s hometown of Indianapolis with Carrol DeCamp, just after Lionel Hampton outed him the world’s most proficient Charlie Christian impersonator. Back on Indiana Avenue arrives via Resonance on 180g wax, featuring extensive liner notes and rare photos, alongside interviews with George Benson and John Scofield.
Erykah Badu & James Poyser feat. Thundercat, Dereck Hodge, and Ali Jackson – “Tempted”
Format: 7″ Single
Though it was kind of a dud upon initial release, Squeeze’s 1981 single “Tempted” maintains an oddly ubiquitous status amongst The Glamorous Decade’s remnants. You can chalk it up to an immutable hook or your local watering hole’s soft spot for yacht-rocking slow-burners, but “Tempted” has lingered with the best of ’em. As a tribute to its staying power, Erykah Badu and Robert Glasper have teamed with The Roots engineer (and Squeeze scholar) Steve Mandel for a Soulquarian spin on the late-blooming ’80s classic. Here’s hoping it hits DSPs at some point in the near future.
Devo – This is The Devo Box Set
Format: 6xLP Box Set
The type of release that could fetch thousands on Discogs ten years down the line, this collection of Devo’s Warner albums is both comprehensive and a sound investment. Housed in deluxe packaging, each of the six albums is pressed to a different color of wax. Whether you’re looking to complete your pile of new wave pioneers or just cash in on a limited set, take this behemoth home if it crosses your path this weekend. The decade-older you won’t regret it.