Record Store Day is fast becoming one of my favorite days of the year. It's really hard to beat. Labels release tons of new material, much of it published for the first time in any form. I've learned that it's good to shop early, as much of it sells out. Unfortunately though, Wyatt had Ultimate practice until about 2:30. So we didn't make to Northampton until about 4:00. At that point, much of it was in fact sold out. Oh well.
There are two record stores in Northampton,MA. Newbury Comics is a New England chain with 28 stores. It's a cool place that sells LOTS of vinyl, as well as comics, CDs and a ton of pop culture paraphernalia. Turn It Up Records is a Northampton based indie store. The two stores happen to be right across the street from each other. So it's easy to go back and forth and compare. Ordinarily Newbury Comics has a much better new vinyl selection. But Record Store Day changes everything.
First stop, Turn It Up. The first thing to catch my eye is The Best of Townes Van Zandt. It's a two record set on 180 gram tiger's eye (whatever that means) colored vinyl. I love Townes. He was an amazing songwriter. As Steve Earl famously said, "Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that." The album has sixteen great songs, including my favorites, To Live Is to Fly, For The Sake of the Song and Pancho and Lefty. It was selling for $26, which seemed reasonable. But it didn't have anything on it that isn't otherwise available or that I hadn't already heard.
Another album that piqued my interest was Elvis Presley, The International Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, August 23, 1969. (Wow, what I long title. Couldn't they called it Elvis, Live in Vegas, Again) Never in my life, have I have ever bought anything by Elvis Presley. But I do hold him in high regard. I had recently watched a documentary on Elvis and learned that he made a big comeback in 1969. He was rejuvenated and healthy. So maybe this would be good. With all the electronic and computer generated music I hear now, some good old fashioned rock and roll might sound great. It's a two record set and was selling for $26. Wyatt was also eyeing this.
Over in the blues section was an album by the great New Orleans singer Johnny Adams, Heart and Soul. It's so cool that record store day not only has special releases by the biggest acts in the world, but also relatively little known artists like Johnny Adams. I used to listen to him quite a bit about thirty years ago or so when I was first really getting into the blues. He played a lot with guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington, whom I really really liked. Adams had been enjoying a renassaince of sorts on Rounder Records. This album though, is a compliation of his early material from the 60's. Stuff that I don't think I've ever heard. The album is on transparent blue vinyl and they were only pressing 1000. It was selling for $22. None of the songs on the album were technically previously unavailable. But it's pretty hard to find pre 1980's Johnny Adams.
Lastly, I looked at Good Old Boys Live, Drink Up & Go Home. The Good Old Boys were a bluegrass band that included Jerry Garcia on Banjo. The album was $35. I ruled this out pretty quickly. If Jerry didn't sing on the album then, to me, it would probably just sound like any old bluegrass band. I'm not really feeling bluegrass these days and it was the most expensive of all the albums I had looked at. So . . .
Wyatt meanwhile was over at Newbury Comics. Apparently, about half of Newbury's record store day albums were sold out. So I guess we missed alot. There wasn't much there that interested me, except the Presley album and the Townes Van Zandt album, and they were charging more than at Turn It Up.
The one album that I did take a close look at was an EP of alternative versions from Van Morrison's masterpiece Astral Weeks. Now I may be discrediting myself permanently as any sort of music critic by admitting this, but while I absolutely LOVE 1960's an 1970's Van Morrison, Astral Weeks is defintely NOT my favorite. Ok, now that I got that off my chest . . . So the EP had four songs and was selling for $17. That seemed like a bit much, but for me the biggest deterant is that I already had those four songs on my phone. So . . .
Meanwhile Wyatt was keying in on two albums. Elton John, Live From Moscow was recorded in May of 1979. It's a stripped down set with just Elton John and percussionist Ray Cooper. It's a double album that included many of his early hits as well as covers like Get Back and Back in The USSR. I also took a close look at this. For me though, it was recorded a little too late. I prefer Elton's EARLY EARLY stuff, not his mid early stuff. His best stuff was pre Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. His live album 11/17/70 recorded live at WABC (later WPLJ) studios in New York is awesome. It totally rocks. But this album, recorded nine years later, included what to me is his lesser (albeit much more popular) material.
Wyatt also took a look at Greta Van Fleet's Grammy award winning From the Fires. FTF is actually an EP, and apparently had not been available on vinyl. Greta Van Fleet, for those who don't know them is a young hard rocking band from Michigan that is very remeniscent of Zeppelin and Rush. Really this album sounds so much like Zeppelin and it's really good. Their follow-up sounds so much like Rush, and it's well . . . Anyway, in this age of rap, electronica, and country, to me it's a breath of fresh air to hear actual new hard rock. Wyatt took a look at this, but wasn't too high on it, because he already has it on his phone and he found it hard to believe that this grammy award winning album wouldn't eventually be on vinyl anyway.
Ok, so the whole trip really didn't take too long. Perhaps that's because we go there so late. I had put an hour and a half on the parking meter and we got back in plenty of time. To my delight, Wyatt chose the Elvis album. I was seriously thinking about getting it so that freed me up to get the Johnny Adam's album. It's a little surprising that we ended up with two albums of materials from the 60's. As of now, we haven't listened to either. Fingers crossed !