For fans of vinyl, it doesn’t get much better than the third Saturday in April. While vinyl purists and diehards are probably rolling their eyes, I think it’s great to see the public embrace records as a viable musical format. In honor of this year’s Record Store Day (RSD), I’ve compiled this rundown of standout releases from a slew of genres, some made especially for RSD, plus a few other recent releases you should check out while reveling in the bins.
Kings of the Wild Frontier/Antmusic
Adam Ant and his merry band released their best album Kings of the Wild Frontier some 35 years ago. To commemorate the occasion, Sony has released this svelte 7-incher on gold vinyl in a thick picture sleeve showcasing Mr. Ant at the height of his powers. The fuzzy guitars and jungle beats have never sounded better. (Sony Legacy)
Coachman/Poor Man Run
Released in a small batch of just 300, this 7” obscurity was culled directly from original reel-to-reel tapes by the good folks at Permanent Records. Bad Axe was a surly 5-piece combo from Chicago that played, heavy, sludgy proto-doom rock à la Dust and Blue Cheer, but never quite “made it” until now. Sounding very timely in these doomy days, this archival single rocks hard and is essential listening for fans of early heavy metal. (Permanent Records)
Blind Mr. Jones
Tattooine – 20th Anniversary Edition
While not a household name in these parts, UK shoegazers Blind Mr. Jones created a psychedelically charged racket back in the early ‘90s that could easily have rivaled the likes of Stone Roses, The Jesus and Mary Chain or My Bloody Valentine. Tattooine features a varied and intriguing set of decidedly British-sounding melancholia that ranges from up-tempo guitar bursts (“Disney World”) to hazy, fuzzy slow-burners like “Hey” and “Viva Fisher.” This limited release features the full album from 1994 in a deluxe sleeve. (Saint Marie Records)
Frankie and the Witch Fingers
Hailing from Bloomington, Indiana, Frankie and the Witch Fingers play fuzz-drenched, organ-swirling garage rock, circa mid-‘60s San Jose, California. Lead single “Vibrations” is the perfect example of the band’s adoration for the past with its wiry guitars, creepy pop vocals and saucy hip shake. Fans of OG garage bands such as The Count Five and Chocolate Watch Band will be pleased. This release comes in either “Potion Pink” or black vinyl with an insert. (Permanent Records)
Resuscitation of the Year single
As the second single from the band’s Dead Language album, “Resuscitation of the Year” is both heavy and hooky, with an infectious chorus that balances out its hardcore riffs and pummeling beats. The flipside “Fangs” is more of a straightforward punk rocker, with sneering vocals and driving riffs, sprinkled with killer harmonies and unbridled attitude. (Fat Wreck Chords)
Live at Max’s Kansas City, Vol. 1 & 2
Out of the ashes of the New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers took the burgeoning punk scene by storm with its feral and unhinged take on vintage rock ‘n’ roll. Unfortunately, the band would only record on album, the classic L.A.M.F. (1977), but did release a live album in 1979. And that’s what we get here…but wait, there’s more.
Since the original live album sold well, the label requested a follow-up, but in true Heartbreakers fashion, the band’s reunion show fell apart and only half of it was usable, at least to its label at the time. Thus, Live at Max’s Kansas City, Vol. 2 wouldn’t surface until 1995, on CD only, until now. This new release collects both volumes, in a stealth package that includes a plush gatefold sleeve, an insert with liner notes from Thunders biographer Nina Antonia, and two splatter-covered discs—just in time for RSD. (Jungle)
Purple Haze/Freedom single
This little 7” features two mammoth live tracks performed by Hendrix at the Atlanta Pop Festival in 1970. Mixed by Hendrix’s original studio partner Eddie Kramer, the axe man sounds raw and alive, especially on this slick, double A-side single. (Sony Legacy)
Immortal Randy Rhoads: The Tribute Album
While tribute albums can often be a dicey proposition, this one’s a worthwhile listen for fans of Rhoads and rock guitar in general. Featuring 11 tracks culled mostly from the first two Ozzy Osbourne albums, the album includes players from all over the spectrum, focusing heavily on guitarists like Tom Morello, George Lynch, Gus G, Brad Gillis and others.
One particular standout is “Crazy Train” with Serj Tankian on vocals and Tom Morello on guitar. Morello’s solo interpretation is an intergalactic collage of laser-cut notes and twisted harmonies that adds a new facet to the song entirely, which probably would’ve made a guitar fan like Rhoads proud. This 2-LP set comes on white vinyl with a gatefold sleeve. (UDR)
Fans of dirty ‘70s hard rock need look no further than Killer Boogie. Sure, it’s nothing new and is as trendy as all hell right now, but this Italian power trio packs more world-weary authenticity into its fuzzy grooves than most, as evidenced on the ballsy, busy riffs of Detroit, which comes available in both white/multi-color splatter or transparent orange variations. (Heavy Psych Sounds)
Manic Street Preachers
The Holy Bible 20
The Manic Street Preachers are truly a band without a home. Not in the literal sense, but stylistically for sure. Hitting the scene at the dawn of the ‘90s, the UK band played a heady brew of The Clash meets Guns N’ Roses with liberal use of political and pop-culture references—both lyrically and with its colorful visual sense. The Holy Bible (1994) was its crowning achievement, steeped in dark imagery and angular guitars. The critically acclaimed album would also set the tone for a dark phase in the band’s career, with the disappearance of core member Richie James soon following. Now, you can relive all the angst in this exclusive RSD picture disc, which features the album’s original mix. (Sony Legacy)
In The Beginning
The blues and jazz players of yore were in some ways, the original punk rockers. Ripped off by their contemporaries and held back by racism and poverty, their mainstream acceptance was often thin, leaving the legacy to be furthered by spare recordings and word of mouth. Guitarist Wes Montgomery was one of a few to forge past the adversity and embark upon a consistent recording career. In The Beginning features loads of previously unreleased tracks laid down between 1949-1958, at the height of segregation, when players like Wes had to enter clubs through the back door. You can hear some this in his fluid playing, which touches on both angst and hope. This mammoth 3-LP set comes in a plush, hand-numbered box and thick 180-gram vinyl, with liner-note contributions from Pete Townshend. (Resonance)
Shades of God
Paradise Lost is a band that transcends scenes and trends, creating their own brand of “thinking man’s metal.” Widely seen as innovators in both the death and gothic metal genres, the band released the slightly ethereal Shades of God in 1992, introducing a slightly more melodic and refined sound, which now sounds extra good on high-end, double clear vinyl along with expanded artwork, courtesy of svelte NYC label The End Records. (The End)
In spite of their clinical-sounding moniker, Rectal Hygienics play a particularly grimy form of slow-churned, sludge rock, complete with Neanderthal riffage, earth-shattering drums and walls of feedback. Not for the faint of heart—or those prone to stomach upset — Ultimate Purity comes in a limited edition of just 500 copies and includes a fold-out poster. (Permanent Records)
As mentioned in my recent review of this new album, I was blown away by how inspired, cohesive and badass it is—in spite of the fact that it took 37 years to release! The first-wave UK punk combo has reached a creative apex and won’t be doing any nostalgia tours anytime soon. Now you can experience Zero the way it was meant to sound—on a thick slab of shiny wax. (Metropolis)
Rock ‘n’ Roll is a Beautiful Thing
Rock ‘n’ Roll is a Beautiful Thing is a compilation commemorating LA indie label Alive Naturalsound’s 20 anniversary. With close ties to the legendary Bomp Records, the label has been cranking out a wide assortment of garage, punk, power pop and more, as evidenced on this killer comp. Here you’ll find a wide swathe of bands and styles, with unreleased tracks, cover versions and new tunes from the likes of superstars The Black Keys, to glam revivalists Prima Donna, power pop icon Paul Collins, garage/punk heroes The Bloodhounds and many more, all on double colored vinyl. (Alive Naturalsound)
As the Scorpions begin to wind down a 40-year career, it’s only fitting to reissue this, it’s best album for RSD. Released in 1976, Virgin Killer saw the band move away from overly long, mystical songs in favor of a more upbeat hard rock direction that would eventually lead to mega-stardom in the ‘80s. This shift in direction would eventually lead to the exit of axe man extraordinaire Uli Jon Roth, who wanted to maintain the hazy aura that the band had cultivated.
In spite of the musical differences, Roth’s playing is absolute perfection here, especially on tracks like “Catch Your Train” and “Backstage Queen.” Predating the guitar shredders of the ‘80s by several years, Roth’s work on this album was truly ahead of its time, both ultra-fast and melodic at once. This fantastic reissue comes remastered and numbered, courtesy of the vinyl experts at Audio Fidelity. The package includes a 180-gram virgin vinyl disc, plus a glossy gatefold sleeve. (Audio Fidelity)
UK fresh-face Nadine Shah is one of the more unique performers to come along in a while. With a deep, sultry voice and somber style, the singer has more in common with the likes of Peter Murphy and Nick Cave then Adele or Katie Perry. And that’s not a bad thing. But, upcoming album Fast Food is not all raining days and Mondays, it’s got a fair amount of sprite hooks that pair well with the melancholy moods. While the Fast Food vinyl is not out yet, you can get a hold of the single “Fool,” which comes pressed on limited-edition heart-shaped vinyl. (Apollo Records)
Originally released in 1987, Cuba has remained a cult favorite for fans of the band’s ragged alternative country sounds. In reality, there’s a good deal of rock ‘n’ roll to be found on this disc, especially in numbers like “Tennessee Fire” and “She Lives Up the Street,” but the addition of violins and tasteful acoustic ballads make it a well-rounded collection. (Dualtone Music)
World on Fire
Although this one came out a little before the holidays, I wanted to give it a quick nod, for its excellent packaging and even better price. While I slightly prefer the music on Slash’s previous offering, World on Fire is a solid and consistent hard rock offering, loaded with busy Slash riffs and licks. The massive set list (17 songs in all) fit nicely on two high-quality vinyl slabs, which come complete in an ultra-thick gatefold cover and slipcase, all for about 20 bucks or less. (Dik Hayd Records)
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Fans of vintage and offbeat soundtracks need look no further than Mondo. Each soundtrack (new and reissued) expands upon the original, adding the label’s unique spin to the artwork and its high-quality vinyl rendering. Three recent releases are standouts for their sound and packaging.
The vampire film A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night does not feature a traditional film score. Instead, it’s got a clutch of eclectic tracks—ranging from alternative to traditional ethnic Iranian music— from artists such as White Lies, Kiosk and Federale, to create a noir-ish aura that sets the tone for the film, produced by Elijah Wood. The 2-LP set comes in an ominous die-cut cover with thick colored vinyl.
BoxTrolls may seem like a kid’s film on the surface, but this soundtrack has a curiously dark undercurrent bubbling just beneath. If taken on its own merits, Dario Marianelli’s eerie score would imply something far more insidious than a clever children’s story, which makes it all the more offbeat and intriguing. In the tradition of Tim Burton’s work, this is one of those records you slap on the turntable and just let ride, taking in the myriad of sounds, moods and nuances. This limited vinyl release comes in a gatefold sleeve with all-new artwork and a couple different vinyl-color choices.
For fans of extreme horror, gore and exploitation films, Cannibal Holocaust is the absolute Holy Grail. Infamous for its graphic onscreen violence—that includes clips of real animal cruelty—the Italian film is still shocking to this day to say the least. The soundtrack by Riz Ortolani provides a bizarre backdrop for the proceedings, which is both surprisingly sappy—almost easy listening in its soft tones—and funky. The album comes complete in a deluxe gatefold sleeve with amazing artwork, and pressed on 180-gram “Green Inferno” vinyl.
Fun in Space
Even as the third most popular musician in Queen, drummer and vocalist Roger Taylor refused to be neatly tucked away in the background behind band mates Freddie Mercury and Brian May. A multi-instrumentalist and accomplished singer in his own right, Taylor had a lot more to do with the Queen sound than he often gets credit for. Per that, he released a pair of flashy solo albums during the early ‘80s (Fun In Space, 1981 and Strange Frontier, 1984), each now reissued in their full glory on clear and red vinyl respectively, plus high-quality artwork that replicates the original releases. (Omnivore)
Grifters/Who’s Got the Herb single
When it comes to the punk/ska/funk/rock trend of the ‘90s, 311 were damn near the top of the heap. Cranking out infectious jams that still sound timely, the band gets its due on this 7-inch single in white vinyl, featuring unreleased versions, the B-side being a Bad Brains classic. (Sony Legacy)
The Moon Leads
The Moon Leads by Florida sludge merchants Thunderclap is jam-packed with slow, methodical riffs embellished with angry Gene Simmons-esque vocals (think “God of Thunder” with a deathly hangover). The grainy vinyl tones serve to enhance the madness on this 3-track 12-incher, which comes in a minimalistic black sleeve with a download code. (Heavily Seasoned Records)
I’m Not the Man I Thought I’d Be
Recalling ‘80s hardcore, Western Addiction is one of the current leading lights in the impressive Fat Wreck Chords stable. This 3-track, 7-inch comes in a thick picture sleeve and features a demo of the spirited “Clatter and Hiss,” which will appear on the band’s full-length to follow later on this year. (Fat Wreck Chords)
Symphony for the Devil
For the metallically inclined vinyl fan, this reissue is tops. Symphony for the Devil, the band’s third album (2001) has been virtually impossible to find on vinyl but now can be yours, with a glossy gatefold sleeve and dual clear-vinyl discs. For fans of thrashy black- and death-influenced metal, this one’s a keeper. (The End)
Spookshow International Live
A constant showstopper on RSD, Mr. Zombie’s recent live opus Spookshow International Live, comes packaged in an ultra-cool double picture disc set. Picture discs are not generally known for superior sound quality, so this release is probably best geared towards diehards and Zombie completists. But, it does feature a spirited set (19 tracks in all), and some cool photos, making it a nice addition to any collection. (Universal)
For questions, comments or something you’d like to see, get in touch at Retrohead77@yahoo.com. Cheers, JK