Remember when Robert Johnson was all the Delta variant anyone needed? Mask up and imagine those more innocent days as you line up this weekend for the second half of Record Store Day 2021, which was divided up into two parts this summer to theoretically keep crowds down.
As anyone who attended the first of the two “drops” June 12 can probably tell you, that didn’t seem to be the result. Morning lineups seemed to be as long as ever, and many of the key exclusive releases certainly sold through their limited allotments faster than ever, as vinyl enthusiasts medicated their long case of quarantine-itis with retail therapy. Lines for the July 17 wrap-up may be shorter than in June, because there are fewer releases in this particular drop — just over 160 freshly minted LPs (and a couple of token CDs or cassettes) in the U.S., and nothing from a current superstar like Lady Gaga last time.
Don’t count on any markdown in interest, though, with a release list that runs the gamut from Foo Fighters to Donna Summer. Actually, that’s not so much of a gamut: Dave Grohl and company are treating this Record Store Day as Halloween and dressing up as the Dee Gees, a disco-rock band. If you don’t find the holiday that is RSD to be a laughing matter, though, you can get serious with haught waxx from Gorillaz, Aretha Franklin, John Prine, the Beastie Boys, Future, Pearl Jam, Jxdn, Pearl Jam, the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, Richard Pryor, the Ramones, CSNY, Amy Winehouse and, of course, our perennial favorite band, the Various Artists.
The full list of releases can be found here, with a search function for participating indie music stores here. What follows is a baker’s dozen of worthy buys:
Foo Fighters, “Hail Satin” (12,000 copies)
Announced after the initial lineup for Record Store Day was unveiled, this novelty record is a late entry that looks to be the marquee release for Record Store Day Drop 2. Half the LP consists of the Foos doing mid-’70s Bee Gees covers (plus an Andy Gibb disco number, “Shadow Dancing,” for intra-disco variety), with the flip side devoted to live-in-studio versions of cuts from the band’s most recent album, “Medicine at Midnight.” One complaint from some of those who heard leadoff track “You Should Be Dancing,” or a leak of the full album, is that the Foos are just too faithful to the Bee Gees’ originals; they’re not rocking these songs any harder than the Gibbs did. But anyone who ever tested their falsetto at karaoke with these songs may not mind them being studiously — or Studio-54-iously? — slavish.
John Prine, “Live at the Other End December 1975” (8500 copies on LP, 3000 on CD)
John Prine, “Stay Independent: The Oh Boy Years Curated by Indie Record Stores” (3000 copies)
Various artists, “Kiss My Ass Goodbye (John Prine Tribute)” (1000 copies)
Has Prine replaced David Bowie (who isn’t represented with a release this year) as the new posthumous king of RSD? His two vinyl boxed sets were major draws for RSD events last year. As for him being an unofficial flagship artist for this drop, it’s hard to remember the last time anyone had three albums come out for one RSD day. One of them isn’t really a Prine release per se; “Kiss My Ass Goodbye” is a very limited collection of independent artists from the east-ish side of Nashville covering his work. The man himself appear via a single-disc distillation of the last few decades of his career, via his own Oh Boy label. But the biggest draw may be a three-LP live album of Prine in his mid-’70s prime at a New York club. It’s such a draw they even pressed up CDs for this one, albeit only about a third the number of the vinyl packages going out there.
Gorillaz, “G Collection” (980 copies)
Nine-hundred-eighty copies (it bears repeating)? Seriously? It wouldn’t be Record Store Day if at least one artists weren’t putting out a boxed set pressed in a puzzlingly low quantity even by instant-scarcity RSD standards. (Last month, it was the Dirty Three set, issued in an even scarcer 400-copy edition.) The box contains six Gorillaz studio albums that have come out in the last couple of decades, up to the recent “Song Machine, Season 1.” If you don’t come across it in your weekend travels, and you probably won’t, don’t panic — this is an “RSD First” release, which means there’ll likely be a repress before you know it. (“Don’t panic” are words that, of course, go unheeded on any RSD.)
Roy Hargrove & Mulgrove Miller, “In Harmony” (3000 copies)
Bill Evans, “Behind the Dikes – The 1969 Netherland Recordings” (3500 copies)
Jazz lovers have come to especially revere RSD as a holy day, largely thanks to the near-certain presence of something new from the Resonance label every year (or half-year, if we factor in the Black Friday edition to follow in November). For the June drop, there was a rare instance of Resonance taking the day off, and it was another imprint’s “Quiet Kenny” from Kenny Dorham that unexpectedly became the hot draw of Record Store Day. A month later, Resonance is back in action and has one of the day’s most essential releases in a tandem live set by trumpeter Hargrove and pianist Miller — both no longer with us since the show went down in 2006. If you’re not clued in to just how essential this might be to the jazz cognoscenti, look at who Resonance’s Zev Feldman lined up to contribute liner-notes essays for one of the label’s typically lavish booklets: Sonny Rollins, the rapper Common, Jon Batiste, Robert Glasper, Christian McBride, Keyon Herrold and several more came to testify. The handsome packaging doesn’t deceive — it’s indescribably joy-inducing music. If you miss out on this weekend’s surely quick-to-disappear vinyl and don’t have the stomach for flipper prices, don’t double-up on the Lexapro: a CD edition is due out in a week. Meanwhile, one of RSD’s most cherished traditions — a new find of a long-buried Bill Evans tape — is showing up for this event as well. The fact that it’s on a different label than Resonance shouldn’t faze you: Feldman is behind “Behind the Dikes,” as well, even though another imprint made the deal to do this one, and the same quality control — and scarcity — are assured.
Dr. John, “The Sun, Moon and Herbs Deluxe 50th Anniversary Edition” (3000 copies)
If there’s anything vinyl enthusiasts love, besides comparing turntables, it’s the promise of a lost or merely compromised album restored. We get a doozy of an example of the latter with this semi-restoration of New Orleans poster boy Dr. John’s fourth album, from 1971, which was purportedly planned as a three-LP set, before the good folks at Atlantic put the kabosh on that. Now, Run Out Groove — a label that specializes in nothing but limited editions of rare archival works all year round, not just for Record Store Day — has done a yeoman’s job of bringing what might be something close to Mack Rebennack’s original vision to light, as, yes, three slabs of vinyl — the original Atco LP, with its guest contributions from Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, followed by two full discs of previously unreleased tracks. Does anyone know exactly what the track list would have been? Maybe not, but this is close enough for rock ‘n’ roll voodoo. Extensive liner notes tell much of the tale.
Randy Newman, “Roll With the Punches: The Studio Albums” (1300 copies)
War, “The Vinyl: 1971-1975” (2150 copies)
Warner Music’s catalog division has done a Warner-ful job in recent years of offering at least one complete (or semi-complete) set of a veteran artist’s studio recordings every year, including sets from Prine and Emmylou Harris in the past. This time around, they’ve got a couple. Newman’s box picks up where a previous one, “Lonely at the Top,” which contained all of the brilliant singer-songwriter’s albums from 1968-77, left off, starting with 1979’s “Born Again” and wrapping up with 2017’s return to form, “Dark Matter.” (Spoiler: every Newman album is a return to form.) Particularly of note, besides the chance for Dodgers fans to own “I Love L.A.” on wax, is the inclusion of a two-LP version of “Faust” that differs from a previous very limited edition that only included the original album spread across four sides; this update puts the original on three sides and fills the fourth with Newman’s demos of songs that made it to the stage production but not the album. Any home that doesn’t own all these albums is a sad one. Meanwhile, happiness truly is having War’s first five and best five albums back in circulation via a boxed set that brings back the time when we knew exactly what War was good for: a melting pot of soul, funk and rock almost too hot not to ruin the lacquer.
Bob Dylan, “Jokerman/I & I Remixes” (7,000 copies)
The “Infidels”-era edition of Dylan’s annual Bootleg Series still has not been announced, but there could be no better tipping of the hat to his camp’s intentions for later this fall than this four-track EP of reggae-fied remixes from Doctor Dread. It’s not as if there was no reggae in these 1983 tunes to begin with — not with Sly and Robbie as the rhythm section, joining Mark Knopfler and Mick Taylor on guitar. But that flavor is ratcheted up, and not so remixed that they sound like, you know, remixes. (The dub versions that fill out the disc do go there, and it’s fine.) It’s a pleasing teaser for the vault stuff surely about to come.
St. Vincent, “Piggy/Sad But True” (3200 copies)
There seem to be fewer 7-inch singles with each new RSD, which is probably OK — you come for the meat, not the apertif. But this one, which we weren’t able to preview in advance, is intriguing: one of the essential artists of the last decade takes on a Nine Inch Nails song for the A-side, with Dave Grohl on drums. (He gets around RSD just like he gets around everywhere). The B-side is a Metallica cover. Will some all-too-rare Annie Clark shredding ensue?
Donna Summer, “Bad Girls” (3000 copies)
There is no bonus material on this straight reissue of the 1979 double album, arguably the last of Summer’s all-out classics. So why pick it up, beyond the promise of red and blue colored vinyl? Aren’t there millions of vinyl copies already floating around out there? Yes, but as one record store owner pointed out in an unboxing video, most of the millions of people who bought this album in 1979 took really, really shitty care of it, so you’ll get what you pay for if you pick up a used copy in the 50-cent bin. This will go fast, so time to pick up a copy that won’t make you want to turn down the volume as well as dim all the lights.