File under, “inside the head of a Record Store Day consumer.”
Since 2014, it’s been like clockwork. Twice a year I download the Record Store Day (RSD) upcoming titles list and circle at least a half dozen special releases I’m interested in, and then end up picking up two or three others on impulse. Usually, they include a previously-unreleased live album, something from the studio that had been unearthed from the vaults, one jazz or blues record, and at least one pricey boxed set.
This past Black Friday didn’t disappoint since a bunch of my favorite artists showed up on the RSD list in those categories. On November 25, it took trips to two Manhattan stores, Rock and Soul and Village Revival Records, but I managed to get everything on my RSD Black Friday wish list. Analyzing how I settled on each pick is interesting to me, and I’m sure all RSD consumers have their reasons why they bought what they purchased. And honestly, I still haven’t listened to everything I acquired on Record Store Day over the past few years. So many records, so little time. Here’s a deep dive into the latest records spinning on my Pro-Ject turntable, and why.
Eric Burdon & War – The Complete Vinyl Collection (Rhino):
I’ll start with this pricey boxed set. I still have the first album, Eric Burdon Declares War, on original vinyl, the one with the massive hit “Spill the Wine” that I distinctly remember hearing on the school bus radio in 1970 while we were on a field trip. The expression on the teacher/chaperone’s face, as Burdon relays what clearly sounded like an LSD trip with a woman he met, is forever embedded in my brain. The double-LP Black Man’s Burdon is the band’s second release, which I still have on a double CD. In the early 1980s, I swiped the original vinyl from a roommate, but felt guilty and gave it back to him a few years later. War’s third album, Love is All Around, a collection of outtakes released four years after they broke up, was part of my original vinyl collection that I stupidly sold in 2010.
Despite the $99.99 price tag, for the boxed set, re-hearing this music brought me back to my affinity for all things Burdon, who I met in 2015 at a gig.
The first time I visited London was in 1983. I found an inexpensive hotel off Kings Road in Chelsea, and remember getting checked in by a very pregnant woman. As it turned out, she gave birth the next day. But with 24 hours rest, she was back at the front desk the following day.
Her Cockney husband, who also worked at the hotel, took a liking to me. About 10 to 15 years older, the hotel manager was impressed by my encyclopedic knowledge of British rock from the 1960s and 1970s. He told me how he and his mates’’ favorite band was The Animals, who were working class like them, even though the group hailed from Newcastle in North England. The hotel manager and his mates used to crash concerts all over London when the Animals played at local colleges.
He didn’t have to twist my arm to sell me on the Animals. At the time, I cherished my battered vinyl copies of Animalization (which Abkco earlier this year re-released and re-mastered along with three other of their classic albums) and The Best of the Animals.
The London hotel anecdote rushed back to me nearly a quarter-century later as I was sitting in 2008 at the majestic Royal Albert Hall in Kensington, my first concert at the famed hall, to see Eric Burdon and War, which had only one other original member, keyboardist Lonnie Jordan. War warmed up the audience with a 45-minute set of their own including some of their hits, like “The War Is A Ghetto” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends.”
Burdon made a grand entrance down a flight of stairs from right of the stage to the accompaniment of “Spill the Wine,” which he transformed from the hippie-inspired acid trip in Mexico to a field in London’s Hyde Park, which was literally across the street from the majestic concert venue. He was in fine voice.
Repertoire-wise, with the exception of a reggae treatment of the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun,” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” the rest of the setlist was entirely comprised of the War collaborations with Burdon, including a blistering cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.” Between 1969 and 1971, Burdon and War invented a Latin-tinged funk-soul sound that was all their own, an amalgamation of talent that blended perfectly. The liner notes thankfully filled in the blanks on the partnership’s genesis.
Yeah, the boxed set might be a tad overpriced, but I don’t mind; it was exactly what I wanted to hear.
Iggy Pop – Après (Culture Factory)
This album fulfilled my need for a lost classic that has received a new lease on life, despite initially being rejected by Virgin Records. Recorded in 2010 and 2011, this album was originally released only in France in 2012. Iggy had already put two French songs on 2009’s Preliminaires. More than half of Après features his rich baritone on French ballads like Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose,” that are a far cry from the yesteryear proto-punk of The Stooges.
But it works, especially for someone who’s now 75 years old. Other tracks include covers of the Beatles’ “Michelle,” Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’,” and other tunes written by Cole Porter and Serge Gainsbourg or popularized by Frank Sinatra – all performed in the same matter-of-fact delivery. Almost as much fun as the music are the exquisite drawings that adorn the fold-out poster/lyric sheet.
Big Bill Broonzy – Live in Amsterdam 1953 (Rockbeat/Liberation Hall)
I did not know much about this legendary bluesman other than that he composed “Key to the Highway,” popularized by Eric Clapton. Then, nearly three years ago I was asked by ORG Music to write liner notes for an RSD 2020 release of a Broonzy live performance recorded in 1957 in Nottingham, England. Broonzy had been recording since the late 1920s.
Broonzy’s relevance in the age of Black Lives Matter is epitomized by his 1953 live performance of “Black, Brown and White,” included on this Black Friday release, which he wrote and recorded in 1945 about racism in America:
“Tell me brother, what you gonna do ‘bout the old Jim Crow/Now if you is white/you is alright/If you in brown/Stick around/But if you’s black/ hmm hmm brother/git back, git back.”
No US label would put out the record for another six years, because of its obvious message. By the early 1950s, Broonzy realized his musical talent was more appreciated in Europe, where he finally could earn a living from playing his brand of country blues as a performer instead of taking on odd jobs like being a janitor. Broonzy’s affable personality shines through the entire solo acoustic set.
Mose Allison – Live in 1978 (Liberation Hall)
Filling my jazz quota this time around: I’ve loved Mose’s droll lyric delivery and rolling piano stylings since I first heard him in the 1980s. I have a few other live albums of his, as well as most of his original studio output (it’s a huge catalog). I met him once in the late 1980s after a gig and he graciously signed my LP of Middle Class White Boy, a studio album that was released in 1982 that I thankfully had held onto. This RSD release contains a few of his best-known tunes, including “Your Mind Is On Vacation” (and your mouth is working overtime!), Allison at his most sardonic.
Allison died in 2016. Unbeknownst to me, he lived most of his life a few miles away from me in Smithtown, New York, when I was a teenager.
Bryan Ferry – Taxi (BMG)
I have this on CD somewhere (no clue where it is) and Taxi, released in 1993, one of his better albums of cover versions, with selections and arrangements well-suited for his unique voice, such as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” and the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties.”
Jonathan Richman – Jonathan Sings (Omnivore)
One of his best post-Modern Lovers albums, this record, originally released in 1983, falls into the category of “I stupidly sold it with my original collection,” and I’ve never seen it on CD. Its must-hear centerpiece is “The Neighbors,” whose protagonist is in denial that he’s not far away from committing adultery.
Duran Duran – Live at Hammersmith ’82 (Rhino)
This was a mostly-impulse pickup I bought for the encore of Steve Harley’s “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)” because I interviewed the songwriter in the early 1980s and wanted to hear what Duran Duran would do with the huge UK hit. I always thought Duran Duran were one of the best 1980s bands, and I have two of their best early studio albums on vinyl. By the time of this gig, they had chalked up a bunch of hits like “Hungry Like A Wolf” and “Save A Prayer.”
Joe Strummer – Live at Music Millennium (Dark Horse)
This in-store 1999 acoustic performance by Joe Strummer was recorded at Music Millennium, my friend Terry Currier’s famous record store in Portland, Oregon. The former leader of The Clash would pass away three years later at 50.
This RSD combo of a DVD plus CD release contains a full-length documentary about the Max's Kansas City Manhattan nightclub scene of the 1960s and 1970s.
Although I attended a half-dozen gigs at rival club CBGB towards the end of Max’s heyday, the only time I set inside of Max’s was when I met a college friend for an after-work drink in 1981, when it was about to close. The film covers the history of the place, including its being a mid-1960s hangout for Andy Warhol’s Factory crew, and the Velvet Underground becoming the house band during a 1970 summer residency. Soon thereafter, bands were regularly booked.
Regulars telling the club’s history include Copper contributor Jay Jay French, and Jimi LaLumia, a friend of mine. Some back-room revelations in the documentary: David Bowie took staging ideas from Jayne County. George Harrison once gave a ruby to the woman he was going to go home among the many sitting at the table, recalls Alice Cooper, who often made the Max’s scene before his band broke huge. Another revelation in the film is the club’s second owner counterfeited money, resulting in Max's demise.