Black Friday Gold – Record Store Day Gems: Elvis & Woody; Aretha & Joni; John Lee & Tony Joe; Pylon & Wilco

Record Store Day is upon us again and something inspired me to round up the titles that tapped my imagination. It was quite the rabbit hole to jump into. There is a so much good stuff to mention. But let’s start with a couple of legends.

Is there a bigger rock legend than Elvis Presley? Legacy is releasing for the first time on vinyl, Elvis Presley’s American Sound Sessions 1969, which has rare and unreleased outtakes from the King’s historic 1969 sessions at American Sound Studios with producer Chips Moman (including takes of “In the Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds,” and ““True Love Travels On A Gravel Road.”

Getting reissued for the first time in 50 years is the classic Chuck Berry Live In London (Elemental Music), which contains 10 tracks recorded live in London in 1965 and another four from a 1964 Chicago session. Justin Time Records is putting out John Lee Hooker’s Black Night Is Falling Live at The Rising Sun Celebrity Jazz Club (Collector’s Edition) is a 1977 recording that includes  a previously unreleased 17-minute jam of “Rock Steady”

Also from 1977 is the late, great Leon Redbone live recording Strings And Jokes, Live in Bremen 1977 (Made In Germany), and Live In Japan, a Runaways concert album that was released in several countries but not America. From 1978 comes Sid Lives! (Jungle Records), containing 39 Vicious tracks recorded at among his handful of final shows (Sept. 28 & 30, 1978); notable too is that Sid Vicious’ backing band included New York Dolls‘ late rhythm section of Arthur Kane and Jerry Nolan

Real Gone Music is releasing the rare Tony Joe White live album That On The Road Look Live, previously available only as a limited edition Rhino Handmade CD. Originally recorded in 1971, it contains a 10+ minute version of Tony Joe’s signature tune, “Polk Salad Annie.” Ian and Sylvia’s Lost Tapes (Stoney Plain Records) shares recently discovered recordings done before a live studio audience and the 2 LP collection features their signature tune, “Four Strong Winds,” as well as renditions of “Crying Time,” “Starting All Over Again,” “and “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” Jerry Garcia Band’s GarciaLive Volume One: March 1st, 1980 Capitol Theatre – the first-ever LP release of the first installment in the Garcialive Series – is a 5-CD set of their March 3, 1980 Capitol Theatre show.

Garcia co-founded New Riders of the Purple Sage but he was back with the Dead by the time the New Riders played New York City’s Academy of Music on Nov. 23, 1972. Omnivore Recordings is releasing this concert for the first time commercially as a Thanksgiving In New York City. The 3-LP RSD release comes out nearly 47 years to the day from when the show happened. More country-fried live jams can be enjoyed with Marshall Tucker Band’s New Year’s In New Orleans: Roll Up ’78 And Light Up ’79. Southern rock titan’s New Year’s Eve party was presented as a radio simulcast then and now makes its LP & CD debut on Ramblin’ Records.

Omnivore also has a new Woody Guthrie 10” EP I Don’t Like The Way This World’s A-Treatin’ Me with Side A holding Guthrie’s demo of this 1952 tune along with a version featuring Wilco’s accompaniment. The B Side has two versions of Guthrie’s “Beech Haven Ain’t My Home” (aka “Old Man Trump”) – one featuring Ani DiFranco and Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine), and another by Jonny Irion’s band U.S. Elevator (Irion is the husband and musical partner of Woody’s granddaughter Sarah Lee Guthrie).

Omnivore also has a new Alex Chilton EP, My Rival. This 5-track (although there are only 4 songs) set, including “My Rival,” which was later re-done for Like Flies On Sherbert. Oh, by the way, these 1975 sessions were helmed by Chris Bell, Chilton’s Big Star co-star, and represents their final collaboration together. Chilton shows up too on the odd pairing of William Shatner and The Cramps on the 12” vinyl Garbageman (Demented Punk). It features three versions of Shatner doing the Cramps’ “Garbageman (including two previously unreleased renditions) also with the Cramps version (which was produced by Chilton) and the Cramps’ “Human Fly.”

Yep Roc has a trio of cool one-off singles. The label is saluting the 40th anniversary of Nick Lowe’s “Cruel To Be Kind” with a green 7” that has the Lowe & Wilco 2012 live version on the B-side. The latest selection in their Squeeze cover series, Swindles, finds Todd Rundgren covering “Bang Bang” from the band’s self-titled debut. Lenny Kaye meanwhile, teams up with the Fleshtones for a 7” that has two versions of the ‘Tones’ tune “Lost on Xandu.”

Christmas can seem like the bigger holiday than Thanksgiving over Thanksgiving weekend, so not surprisingly there are plenty of RSD Xmas releases. The Monkees’ Christmas Party Plus (Rhino) contains two 7″ singles on color vinyl (one red and the other, of course, green), housed in a gatefold sleeve. One single is “Unwrap You At Christmas (Radio Mix)”/ “Unwrap You At Christmas” – Andy Partridge (featured vocal by Holly Partridge) and the other is “Riu Chiu (Original TV Version)”/ “Christmas Is My Time Of Year (1976 Mix).” Peter Holsapple Combo’s 7” single Christmas Must Be Tonight (Omnivore) presents a cover of The Band’s “Christmas Must Be Tonight” and the Holsapple original “Felt Like Summer (Looked Like Christmas).” JD McPherson has a new 7” of two Christmas songs – “Red Bows For A Blue Girl” / “Holly, Carol, Candy and Joy” – the former is a new original and the latter is a B-Side from his 2018 New West holiday album Socks. The Regrettes has a holiday-ish single of their song “Holiday-ish” that features Dylan Minnette (the B-side is the demo version).

Sundazed Records is putting out Merry Christmas From King Records (on red vinyl); this 1959 album showcases the Cincinnati label’s eclectic roster, and marks its first-ever reissue. Squirrel Nut Zippers’ eclectic 1998 holiday album, Christmas Caravan, is being reissued (and the band is doing their holiday tour again as well).

Sony Legacy’s Merry Christmas and Happy New Year is a Jimi Hendrix 12” picture disc featuring 1969 recordings of a holiday medley of “Little Drummer Boy,” “Silent Night” and “Auld Lang Syne,” along with “Three Little Bears,” a playful 1968 Electric Ladyland outtake. It’ll come on a picture disc with album artwork on one side and a photo of Jimi dressed as Santa Claus on the other. Velvert Turner has been acknowledged as a Hendrix protégé, and you can hear that on the Velvert Turner Group’s long-out-of-print 1972 self-titled debut that ORG has a Record Store Day release. More Hendrix (although not RSD) news is a limited edition Hendrix live collection, Songs For Groovy Children that presents all four of the sets he performed New Year’s Eve 1969 and New Year’s Day 1970 at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East with his new band (Billy Cox on bass and Electric Flag cofounder Buddy Miles on drums).

A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the classic Christmas TV specials, and Record Store Day has a pretty special Charlie Brown Christmas release – a “Blind Box” 3” single, which could be one of four Vince Guaraldi Trio recordings: “Christmastime is Here,” “Linus and Lucy,” “Skating,” or “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing.” Cartoon music fans should also note that the 1995 Saturday Morning Cartoon’s Greatest Hits compilation is a RSD double album release. The set includes such covers as The Ramones doing “Spider-Man,” Matthew Sweet singing “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?,” and Liz Phair collaborating with Material Issue on “The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana).”

The soundtrack for Robert Rodriguez’s breakout film, Desperado is debuting on vinyl (Real Gone Music). The 2-CD set features tracks by Los Lobos, Dire Straits, Link Wray, Carlos Santana, and the Latin Playboys (a Lobos side project). New West Records is debuting a vinyl version of Richard Thompson’s The Cold Blue – Original Motion Picture Score, a 19-track soundtrack Thompson wrote and arrange for the acclaimed filmmaker Erik Nelson’s documentary that is based off of footage of actual WWII Air Force missions that the legendary Hollywood director William Wyler shot in 1943 for his film The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress.

Modern Harmonic salutes the 20th anniversary of  More Oar – A Tribute To The Skip Spence Album, with its first-ever vinyl version. Participants include Robert Plant, Tom Waits, Beck, Robyn Hitchcock, and Jay Farrar & The Sir Omaha Quintet. Especially for this release is a “skeletal recording” of “Little Hands” by The Flaming Lips that was originally intended as a collaboration with Plant. Verve is putting out the star-studded Joni 75 A Joni Mitchell Birthday Celebration on LP. Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Chaka Khan, Diana Krall, Kris Kristofferson, and James Taylor are a few of the performers.

Soul fans should seek out Atlantic Records’ Aretha Franklin: The Atlantic Singles Collection 1968 (a box set of her four singles from that year – which includes “Think”) and UMe’s James Brown – Live at Home: The After Show (spotlighting the after-show set from the 1969 live recording that was used for Live at Home With His Bad Self). UMe’s Motown Rare & Unreleased is a 12 song LP on special color vinyl and all tracks on vinyl for the first time. There are songs by Motown stars like Diana Ross & the Supremes, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Temptations, and the previously unreleased Jackson 5 song, “Let’s Have A Party.”

The term “music legend” has a couple meanings when it comes to Robert Johnson – there is his legendary talent and the mysterious legends surrounding his life. The bluesman only recorded a few tunes and Traffic Entertainment has put two of them – “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Walkin’ Blues” – on a 78 RPM microgroove record done up in a lovely reproduction of the Vocalion sleeve (and there are detailed liner notes). Blind Willie Johnson preceded Robert in the blues music scene. In the late twenties, he was one of the top gospel-blues artists. Traffic is giving Blind Willie the same RSD treatment with a 78 RPM microgroove record (this one wrapped in a Columbia sleeve) featuring two 1927 recordings: “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground” and “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” Taste the blues guitar magic of Freddie King on The Mojo! King Rarities & Obscurities (Modern Harmonic) that showcases 14 originally unissued alternate takes and rarities (all making their first-ever appearance on LP) that he recorded for King Records (no relation).

Speaking of rarities, BMG is putting out some archival Hank Williams. The 1940 Recordings is a 7” featuring homemade recordings of “Freight Train Blues,” “New San Antonio Rose,” ” St. Louis Blues” and “Greenback Dollar.” Country fans should also note that Third Man’s Sweet Dreams: The Complete Decca Masters 1960-1963, a sweet set of all of Patsy Cline’s Decca Studio masters and more – and it’ll be available on pink, purple and yellow pastel vinyl. The songwriter behind Cline’s hit, “Crazy,” a young man named Willie Nelson has a RSD single a-sided by a Ride Me Back Home out-take “Sometimes Even I Can Get Too High” and b-sided by his Merle Haggard collab. “It’s All Going To Pot” (I smell a theme here).

A trio of outré 1969 works are being recognized on Record Store Day. With Illuminations, folkie Buffy Sainte-Marie went electronic by using an early synthesizer to record what has been called the first totally quadraphonic electronic vocal album. Craft Recordings is putting it out on 180-gram opaque yellow vinyl. Dr. John’s sophomore effort, Babylon, is a wild affair that Mac Rebennack himself described as sounding “as if Hieronymus Bosch had cut an album.” Get On Down has done a repeated splatter-colored design to celebrate the album being back on vinyl after 40 year out of print. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Frank Zappa’s solo outing Hot Rats, UMe has done a 10” picture disc single of Zappa’s fabled “Peaches En Regalia” paired with “Little Umbrella”; each side has separate mixes of the songs.

Fellow rock iconoclast Lou Reed is saluted by Rhino with the first-ever vinyl release of Reed’s 2003’s album, The Raven, an Edgar Allen Poe-based concept album whose guest vocalists included Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, Steve Buscemi and Willem Dafoe. Two of the more avant-garde American “New Wave” bands of the late 70s are represented at Record Store Day. Athens, Georgia’s Pylon will salute the 40th anniversary of their ground-shaking first single “Cool”/“Dub” that New West Records will have as a limited edition, translucent red single. In the early 1980s, Warner Brothers’ Music Show was a project that supplied radio stations with exclusive recordings of a band. Rhino’s 16-track Devo Live album was recorded at San Francisco’s Warfield Theater in 1980 and was part of the Music Show series but now gets a full public release.

They Might Be Giants have mined a subversive pop sensibility over the years. They are reissuing their 1987 Don’t Let’s Start EP on striking neon green vinyl to toast its 33 1/3 anniversary (or something like that). Their breakout hit is backed by “We’re the Replacements,” “When It Rains It Snows” and “The Famous Polka.” TMBG’s John Linnell’s first and only solo album is 1999’s conceptual opus State Songs, which spotlights 16 different states on its 16 tracks. Craft Recording honors its 20th anniversary by premiering it on vinyl.

I could go on as I am sure I have overlooked some terrific titles, but I have long over-stayed my welcome – as well as spent more time on this that I had anticipated. Happy Thanksgiving

About Michael Berick

I am a longtime writer, and lover, of music and pop culture. I have written for Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, Cleveland Scene and more places (that I wouldn't take up more of your time mentioning now).
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