Liner Notes by Brian Chozick
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Santa brings vinyl cheer a little early Record Store Day
Once again music lovers, in particular fans of vinyl, will hear sleigh bells ringing a little bit early this year. Their fantastic sound systems have nothing to do with it. It’s all about Record Store Day part deux, or simply Black Friday RSD. The day when the independent record stores across the land ban together to fight giant retailers the Friday after Thanksgoving. This was more of a thing when the megastores were selling music, but either way the tradition still continues and there are some stores in El Paso and Las Cruces that will be participating. The Nov. 29 celebration may be the biggest yet, with over 175 titles making their debut. Let the feasting begin.
It appears that the decision makers are offering up more seasonal dishes than ever before. The Squirrel Nut Zippers’ “Christmas Caravan” from 1998 gets the shiny wax treatment. Then jump in the time machine and go back 30 years for Jimi Hendrix and his Band of Gypsys playing “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year,” but now it is a visual experience as well. The update is a picture disc with Jimi in full Santa garb. There is also Hall and Oates, Sammy Hagar, Peter Holsapple, The Monkees and Vitamin String Quartet, with their rendition of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and that still doesn’t cover it all.
Box sets, multi-disc collections
Leave it to Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead to have one of the largest sets, with five records that are the first of many in the Garcialive Series of his 1980 performance at the Capitol Theatre. New Riders of the Purple Sage prove they really understand the theme with the 1972 show “Thanksgiving in New York City.” Velvet Underground leader Lou Reed’s “The Raven” spreads its wings across three discs and adds unreleased material. Primus alum Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade uncovers a 12-track collection that was recorded live over two nights in San Francisco on three 140-gram transparent green vinyl LPs. Of course, Dave Matthews continues his live installments with “live at the Hollywood Bowl.”
Unique colors, deluxe packaging
Black Label Society revisit their extremely scarce 1999 EP “Nuns and Roaches,” which fittingly enough includes a holiday tune. The Doors’ 1970 recording from “Live at the Isle Of Wight Festival” makes its vinyl debut on heavyweight double audiophile-quality vinyl. There is a reason that Pearl Jam is this year’s ambassador: One of the most intriguing releases of the lot is the 1992 “MTV Unplugged,” containing a complete performance by Pearl Jam recorded three days after they completed their first American tour. Hard to find in any configuration is Grandpaboy, alter ego of The Replacements’ Paul Westerberg, which is extended to a 2-LP set. Breaking out all the colors is Third Man Records with their 3-record set from Patsy Cline, “Sweet Dreams: The Complete Decca Masters 1960-1963,” on pink, purple, and yellow pastel vinyl packaged in a very nice tri-gatefold sleeve.
7 -inch 45 singles
This year the 7-inch single seems to dominate with artists from all genres, from newcomers to legends and everything in between. Naturally Acid Witch gets in the spirit with “Black Christmas Evil.” The Beatles’ own Paul McCartney creates an “Egypt Station”-themed picture disc. Arcade Fire unearthed fan favorite “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” since the original had gone through the price stratosphere on the secondary market. The Kinks take it way back with a special mono remaster pressing of “Arthur” / “Brainwashed.” Country legend Willie Nelson makes a return appearance with a humorous ode to his favorite treat, “Sometimes Even I Can Get Too High,” backed with “It’s All Going to Pot.” Tenacious D get back in the game with a brand-new song on the one-sided “Don’t Blow It, Kage.”
10- & 12-inch EP singles
Who better to put his image on a picture disc than Frank Zappa with an anniversary 10-inch EP of “Peaches En Regalia”? If you want to go a bit more dramatic, no one does medieval dragons like Ronnie James Dio does with his full-color disc “Rainbow in the Dark.” Madonna has a pair of new remixes on “I Rise,” and who knew it was the 25th anniversary of Lisa Loeb’s “Stay (I Miss You),” which tacks on a couple of live songs. Even the Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra gets things done with a rare image picture sleeve on “My Way.” Mega stars U2 dig up their holy grail with “Three,” recorded back in 1979 in Ireland at Windmill Lane Studios. Newcomer Lizzo goes back to the beginning with her 2016 EP “Coconut Oil.” Let’s not forget where it all came from, with a pair of blues 10-inchers from Robert Johnson and Blind Willie Johnson, both presented as 78 RPM microgroove records, with reproduction of the original sleeves wrapped in a full-color obi strip with detailed liner notes.
Wacky, Bizarre & Questionable
Always questionable on Record Store day is when a CD slips out. Fu Manchu “Live at Roadburn 2003” takes care of that this time, but even more puzzling is a cassette. In this case it’s the Nationals’ set of three cassettes on “Live at the Greek Theatre, Berkeley, CA.” The band, known for taking modern songs and channeling them into children’s lullabies, has outdone themselves in this bizarre category by covering Snoop Dogg. The award for strangest pairing, although not performing together, goes to Star Trek star William Shatner and punk legends The Cramps on “Garbageman,” presented on neon yellow. Then there are the countless soundtracks that for puzzling reasons are being repressed, but I could go on forever.
All of these are being released in limited pressing numbers, from as much as 13,000 to as little as only 300 made. Many are numbered and most will disappear very quickly. This was only a small sampling of what is being offered, so if finances are a concern for you, it might be time to take on a roommate, move back in with the parents, or even get a second mortgage, because November 29th will not be a cheap date.
Brian Chozick is owner of Tumblin’
Dice Music. Drop him a line at
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