With Record Store Day (RSD) upon us, it’s the perfect time to reflect. Just a few years ago, the death knell for physical music products had been sounded—resulting in the decimation of long-standing and iconic record stores such Tower Records, and the proliferation of compressed software files to fill the void. For diehard music fans and collectors, it was a sad time.
Now, while the state of things hasn’t completely turned around, it’s definitely looking up. Here in California, new record stores are popping up left and right, and vinyl is a major feature in most of them. To capitalize on the upturn in sales, record labels large and small are following suit with vinyl components for most all-new releases, which is a major step in the right direction.
This installment features several new releases specifically for RSD, plus a few other things you need to know about as you visit your favorite vinyl hot spot for Record Store Day this week.
Ace Frehley’s first solo in five years benefitted from an extra bit of hype due to its release being in close proximity to KISS’s controversial induction to the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame. But in spite of all the drama, hurt feelings and letdowns associated with that mess, Space Invader doesn’t disappoint. Reminiscent of Ace’s 1978 solo outing, songs like the title track and “Gimme A Feelin’” are packed with big riffs, cool licks and solidly crafted hooks. This double LP comes in 180-gram vinyl with a gatefold cover that highlights the killer artwork. (eOne)
Greatest Hits Live
This release is a double picture-disc reissue of a prior comp showcasing Ace’s live work with Megaforce Records. Songs like “Rip It Out,” “NY Groove” and KISS’s “Cold Gin” sound slightly sloppy compared to the studio versions, but that’s always been part of Ace’s charm; his ragged proficiency coming through loud and clear here. The killer packaging is no slouch either. (Megaforce)
I’m Off Me ‘Ead
This recent repress of the highly coveted I’m Off Me ‘Ead reissue is one of the stranger releases on this month’s list. Afflicted Man was the brainchild of UK DIY musician Steve Hall, who released this album back in early ‘80s. Its hazy, subdued blues-punk sounds are unlike anything you’ve ever heard. And upon repeated listening, it becomes hypnotic and infectious. What makes it even cooler is that the good folks at Permanent Records unearthed the elusive man himself to get his involvement on the reissue, so it’s truly a special release. (Permanent Records)
One of the most hyped flicks of 2013 gets a sweet double-vinyl issue on thick red and blue wax. For fans of ‘70s album rock and disco, there’s a wide swathe of styles and genres, ranging from the twisted and insanely innovative “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer to the heavy, theatrical “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings, along with David Bowie’s bluesy glam anthem “The Jean Genie.” The result is a broad range of weighty tracks that sound slick on 150-gram wax. (Sony)
For hardcore Beatles fans, the supply of music to noodle over is virtually endless. Way back in the day, the many of the UK albums were released in both mono and stereo, often including different mixes and nuances. What’s great about these reissues is that they are mastered from the actual analog source tapes, and not digital masters that were culled from those tapes earlier on. As part of its meticulous reissue campaign of the past few years, EMI has reissued the original mono LPs in all their glory; even down to the UK-style album covers.
You can grab these individually, or get the set, which includes a hardcover book along with Please Please Me, With The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, Beatles For Sale, Help!, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, The White Album, the triple-LP, Mono Masters. (EMI)
Nothing Has Changed
Here we go again, with yet another David Bowie compilation. But this one’s a little different. First off, it culls music from 1964-2014, so we get a fairly even sampling from a 50-year career, with all the usual tracks you’d expect, plus new music in the form of “Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime),” which sees the main man teamed up with his old partner in crime, producer Tony Visconti. While the high-quality vinyl sounds warm and expansive, it would’ve been nice to have gotten a taste of all the rare and unreleased tracks the CD versions come with. Either way, it’s a nice addition to any vinyl collection. (Sony)
“Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)” Single
Created exclusively for RSD, this single comes in a limited edition 10” vinyl with another new track, “’Tis a Pity She Was a Whore.” “Sue” is jazzy and disjointed, with a noir-ish feel that evokes the similarly bleak aura of his work for David Lynch’s Lost Highway film a while back. (Sony)
Coheed and Cambria
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth
For fans of the new prog it doesn’t get much better than In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth, the third installment of Coheed’s epic Amory Wars concept album trilogy. This plush, remastered reissue is presented in its entirety on three thick LPs in a gatefold sleeve. (Sony)
While it may not be quite in quite the same league as Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline is one of those creepy quasi-kids films that typically end up faring better with death rockers and mall-goths than avid Disney Channel watchers. With original music by French composer Bruno Coulais, and bits from They Might Be Giants, the sounds range from dream-like tones of The Children’s Choir of Nice to heavy symphonic blasts. The packaging is fantastic, its thick sleeve and randomly inserted swirl vinyl being standouts. (Mondo)
Ronnie James Dio
This Is Your Life
One of the biggest voices and nicest guys in heavy metal gets the posthumous tribute of a lifetime with This Is Your Life. This double LP features 13 Dio-related tracks performed by such heavies as Metallica, Motörhead, Corey Taylor, Scorpions, Anthrax, Halestorm and others, so we get a nice cross-section of classic and contemporary metal. Cover songs range from Dio’s stints in Rainbow and Sabbath to his solo band. And, it all comes on slick red vinyl. (Rhino)
Game of Thrones
Season 1, Soundtrack
As one of the great series of our times, GoF deserves an impossibly heavy soundtrack. And that’s what we get here, sonic highlights of the first season jam-packed onto two thick vinyl slabs. Ramin Djawadi’s compositions range from ambient to eerie, to frenetically unhinged, and this 180-gram package does it due justice. While guitars may not be at the forefront, fans of experimental or symphonic metal would do well to check this one out. (Varèse Sarabande)
Hear My Music
Hendrix fans are most certainly salivating over this release. Originally released on Dagger quite records some time ago, Hear My Music is a fully authorized bootleg of unreleased Hendrix jams that showcase the raw synergy between the man and his axe. Check out twisted tracks “Jam 292,” “Trash Man” and “Gypsy Blood”—all sounding strong on 200-gram audiophile vinyl. (Sony)
Years before Oasis and Blur, Manchester’s Inspiral Carpets created a bit of a stir in the UK and beyond with their bouncy, post-punk pop. After reforming a couple times since the mid ‘90s, the band has just issued its first full-length in 20 years, including the single “Spitfire,” plus the gritty garage opus “Let You Down” that features a cameo by weathered punk poet John Cooper Clarke. (Cherry Red)
Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas
Detroit native Jessica Hernandez and her Deltas have a knack for fusing vintage girl-group aesthetics with punky swagger for a sound all their own. On Secret Evil, we get treated to a volatile cocktail of styles ranging from swampy blues to raucous rock ‘n’ roll, country, jazz and even little carnival cabaret. Picture a newly sober Amy Winehouse backed by slick guitars and thick harmonies and you get the idea. Check out the strident “Sorry I Stole Your Man” for a taste. (Instant Records)
Redeemer of Souls
When I reviewed this album a few months back upon its release, I have to admit I was skeptical. But miraculously, the mighty Priest pulled it off, in spite of the absence of core member KK Downing. The brooding single “March of the Damned” being a clear statement of intent. This vinyl edition comes on two LPs with a foil-backed cover that highlights the killer artwork. (Epic)
Prior to the release of Muswell Hillbillies in 1971, The Kinks had made a comeback of sorts with the massively successful Lola. But instead of recycling the formula for success, leader Ray Davies created an aural snapshot of his childhood with the ambitious Muswell Hillbillies, incorporating roots music, Vaudeville and country into the mix. The result was an insightful piece of work that stretched the boundaries of British pop and rock. Unfortunately, the public didn’t buy it, but it has remained a fan favorite to the few who actually got where it was coming from. This 2-LP edition comes complete in thick 180-gram vinyl, with bonus tracks. (Sony)
Wispy French electronic band M83 has cultivated a manic following over the years, so fans are undoubtedly rejoicing over the plush vinyl reissues of its first three albums. After years of languishing out of print, M83 (2001), Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts (2004), and Before the Dawn Heals Us (2005) are now available in deluxe vinyl reissues, all sounding warm and reflective on high-quality wax. (Mute)
We’ve had punk pop and power pop for decades, so on that level, Masked Intruder is not anything super new. But this group of masked malcontents takes things a step further, almost into boy-band territory with its wispy harmonies and melancholy tales of unrequited love. Somehow, I don’t think that tag would even bother this bunch; as they seem just fine cranking out the pop-infused numbers, as evidenced on this, their sophomore effort. While it may not have quite the zing of the first album, songs like “Crime Spree” and “Locked Up and Lonely” are pop perfection and this vinyl release is the perfect place to hear them. (Fat Wreck Chords)
The first time I heard Megadeth’s “Peace Sells” as a kid, I was instantly perplexed. The ungodly racket that oozed from my speakers was like nothing I’d ever heard. Dave Mustaine’s strange metal rapping, the loud, piercing guitars and idiosyncratic lyrics were mind-blowing, leaving an indelible impression on one young lad—who to this day, is still partially traumatized.
You, too, can hear the magic of “Peace Sells,” along with the band’s other early major label albums on killer picture disc reissues, pressed on heavy vinyl and remastered by Mustaine himself. The collection includes: Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, So Far, So Good…So What!, Rust In Peace, Countdown To Extinction and Youthanasia. For my money, nothing compares to the first LP, or that odd little eponymous track that remains Mustaine’s most compelling piece of work. (UMe)
One Nation Under Nothing
Long-standing SoCal punks are back with a vengeance on this, their 13th release. The good folks at Dr. Strange Records have pressed just a 100 of these little nuggets on black vinyl with a wider release coming on fiery orange wax. For the uninitiated, Narcoleptic Youth is all about strong musicianship, sardonic lyrics and a traditional, straightforward approach to punk that comes across as refreshing as it is familiar. Check out tracks “Babydoll Parade” and “Recharge.” (Doctor Strange)
Bathtub Love Killings
For those of us who miss the insidiously infectious garage-goth sounds of The Black Belles, your séances and prayers have been answered. Lead vixen Olivia Jean takes the Belles’ signature dirges and refines them somewhat, adding a little ‘60s pop flair and new wave to the mix. And, it works a charm, especially on eerie pop songs like “Mistakes” and the piano-driven “Merry Widow.” The Russ Meyer-esque cover shot is also a treat, especially on the full-size sleeve of this posh vinyl version. (Third Man Records)
Memoirs Of A Madman
Few musicians have reaped the face time that Ozzy Osbourne has over the past decade or so. In some circles, that would spell the end of a credible musician’s career. But the Oz remains unscathed, even reuniting with his former Sabbath colleagues last year for a triumphant new album and tour.
Memoirs Of A Madman pulls tracks from all phases of Ozzy’s solo career, ranging from his early—and best—bits with Randy Rhodes (“Crazy Train,” Mr. Crowley”) to the mid-period stuff (“Bark At the Moon,” “No More Tears”), and a few later tracks, including the clowny “Changes” duet with daughter Kelly. Even if you’ve already got some of this stuff, the remastered sound and deluxe packaging do make for a nice package, so fans should be pleased. (Sony)
Wendy O. Williams & Plasmatics
10 Years Of Revolutionary Rock & Roll
If you read the rock papers, you’ll often see descriptors like “revolutionary” or “seminal,” as a way to make the subject matter sound more interesting. Per that, while you rarely see anything about Wendy O. Williams or her band The Plasmatics in the press, the aforementioned adjectives are absolutely justified. The band not only took punk to its shock-rocking peak during the late ‘70s, it set the bar high for songwriting and presentation.
This cool little 11” picture disc contains five tracks including Plasmatics classics “Butcher Baby” and “Master Plan,” along with an insightful DVD documentary on the band.
Different Thinking People
Post-punk ‘80s antiheroes Psyclones created a noisy art/pop/industrial/punk racket back in the day, with a couple releases on the legendary Subterranean Records. This recent comp pulls all of their unreleased stuff into one highly limited collection on thick black vinyl. For fans of Chrome and early Devo, this one’s a killer. (Permanent Records)
Last Chance to Dance
As the replacement for the seemingly irreplaceable Dee Dee Ramone, CJ was a positive force in the Ramones, helping to resurrect a band that was rapidly losing its bite. Now, in the spirit of his former combo, Last Chance to Dance comes packed with buzz-saw guitars, bountiful hooks and just enough melancholy to make ex-mentor Joey Ramone proud. Stand-outs include the lead single “Understand Me?,” the seafaring “Carry Me Away,” and the lovelorn power pop of “’Til the End.” (Fat Wreck Chords)
Like its quirky cousin Coraline above, ParaNorman is another one of those “kids” films that resonates more with the grown-up orphans and outcasts than it does with the younger set. This release showcases the melancholy tones of composer John Brion, who pays tribute to ‘80s slasher films with scores titled “Zombie Attacks In The Eighties,” “The Dead Shall Be Raised” while still keeping things sprite and upbeat. This limited release comes with several possible options featuring different vinyl colors and designs. (Mondo)
The Last King of England
The Last King of England is actually Carta musician Sacha Galvagna, who created this strange little LP on his laptop. What ensues is an eerie collection of ambient, psychedelic numbers that recall The Cure, Pink Floyd and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Fans of ‘80s alternative and shoegazer rock will find a kindred spirit in Mr. Galvagna’s misty tones and dissonant soundscapes, making for a hypnotic ride through and through. This release comes complete on 180-gram vinyl with a free download. (Saint Marie)
For certain sects of Trekkies and Sci-Fi fans, the original 1982 film TRON carries a lot of weight for its innovative narrative and effects. This new soundtrack release pays tribute to the film, with two gorgeous translucent blue slabs of 180-gram wax and an expanded gatefold jacket with loads of pics from the cult flick. The sound is just as impressive, with a mix of atmospherics and pop, courtesy of electronic musician Wendy Carlos, with a very slight touch of Journey, which isn’t really needed, but probably helped sales at the time. It all comes remastered in crisp hi-def, which is what the Audio Fidelity label does best. (Audio Fidelity)
Kill the King
For those of you not in the know, WAMI is an acronym for “White Appice Mendoza Iggy.” This super group of sorts features journeyman vocalist Doogie White, who’s done stints with Michael Schenker, Tank and Yngwie Malmsteen, drum vet Vinny Appice of Sabbath/Dio fame, Marco Mendoza who’s dutifully performed bass duties for the likes of Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy, and teenage wunderkind axe-master Iggy Gwadera, who does well to keep up with the old dogs.
While Kill the King doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it does provide some solid melodic metal à la Dio, Rainbow and late-‘80s era Black Sabbath. And for that, it works, especially on tracks “Young Blood” and “Get Out of My Way.” (Metal Mind)
For the hip-hop set, this 10″ die-cut picture disc of Wu-Tang single C.R.E.AM. is a real treat. While the group was considered edgy for its time, there were definitely shades of old school in its eerie, vintage grooves, as evidenced here. Cut in the shape of the band’s pervasive logo, this single commemorates the groundbreaking 1994 release in high style. (Sony)
For questions, comments or something you’d like to see, send me a note at Retrohead77@yahoo.com. Cheers, JK.
Check out more Record Store Day releases at the official RSD site.