It’s that time of year again! Record Store Day! During this Saturday in April, I spent my morning and early afternoon at independent record stores in Queens and Brooklyn. I had my list of exclusive releases in mind and looked forward to purchasing as many as possible.
However, Record Store Day is also all about adaptability. Much of the wax I wanted to buy came in limited quantities. Sure, 4,000 copies sounds like a lot, but when spread out across the planet? It leaves an element of luck to the day’s proceedings.
I woke up at 6:30, was out of the house a little after 7 a.m. and got on line outside the first of five record stores I visited. The result? Unfortunately, I didn’t get any of the vinyls on top of my wish list. No luck with U2, David Bowie, Sara and Tegan, Iggy Pop or Filthy Friends. But there were still plenty of purchases that let me walk away happy!
My morning started outside Hi-Fi Records in Astoria. I made it by 7:15 for an 8 a.m. opening. There was already a decent, but manageable line outside. Dodging the rain in a small apartment entryway, I made my way inside. Since Hi-Fi Records is a pretty small store, the staff put all the RSD releases behind the register. Every customer went up and asked for what they wanted, with varying success. Be prepared if you come here! I ran through my list, going to my lower priorities before finding a match.
The first item I bought was Long Distance Call: Europe 1982 by R.L. Burnside. A blues guitarist in the tradition of John Lee Hooker, Burnside played part-time for most of his career, only gaining prominence in his 60s.The record is raw in a good way, with only his voice and his acoustic guitar. It sounds played live to tape, with no overdubs or touch-ups. “Ramblin’ On My Mind” and “Walkin’ Blues” are particularly great, with strong and simple licks.
Packaged in a simple sleeve, the vinyl itself is charcoaled, a mix of black and grey. It’s a very cool design and looks even better spinning on a turntable.
As I looked at the 7-inch records on the counter, I snagged Sharon Jones & E. L. Fields Gospel Wonders – Heaven Bound b/w Key To The Kingdom. This wax contains the very first Gospel Funk recording by the late Sharon Jones, recorded in the late ’70s. Even among a choir of voices, Jones’ power and poise stands out on these passionate hymns. Plus, the sleeve is a very cool, custom jacket that expands to a picture frame with an easel back. The artwork is Sharon Jones’ high school portrait, with the other side of the photo featuring her with the Gospel Wonders. If you’re wondering where such an incredible performance got her start, it’s right here.
Academy Records Annex
Next up, I drove to the Academy Records Annex in Greenpoint. This store definitely felt more casual about Record Store Day than many other stores. There were a handful of people on line outside for their 10 a.m. opening, along with free coffee and donuts. With their high shelves, Academy stacked the wall with this year’s releases, keeping singles and compilations in boxes at the front. While waiting to get to the RSD section, I snagged myself an original test pressing for radio of U2’s “The Fly” (my favorite song) for $5.
Once I made it to the front, I picked up Blade Runner by electronic composer Vangelis. This picture disc features the famous poster of the film on the front and the glittering landscape on the back. It’s the first time the soundtrack is available on vinyl. This score helped set the model for ambient or electronic soundtracks that followed. Do you like Stranger Things? Its theme may not exist if not for this release. It’s perfect for lying back, closing your eyes and losing yourself in its chilly ambience.
My intended next stop was Rough Trade Records in Williamsburg. The store had opened hours earlier, so my hope was the line had dissipated. Nope! It still stretched around the block. Rather than take my chances with the uber-popular spot, I headed to the smaller Earwax Records a few blocks away. And just my luck, no line! I walked in and read through a list of all the releases they had. Again, not much I was interested in, with one exception. I grabbed a copy of The Cure’s Greatest Hits Acoustic.
The tracklisting runs the gamut of the band’s best songs. “Boys Don’t Cry,” “A Forest,” “Just Like Heaven,” “Lovesong,” “Friday I’m In Love” and more are here, sounding as vital as ever, even in these stripped back arrangements. The songs lose none of their power, melancholy or majesty when played acoustically. This gatefold sleeve release comes with two discs, both featuring images of Robert Smith, who also remastered the record.
While I did make one more stop at Captured Records back in Greenpoint, they didn’t have much I wanted to buy for Record Store Day. But the store was well-stocked with other releases, making it a place to return to soon. With that, I called it a day. I got a good haul, found a few new stores to visit regularly and heard some cool new music. You can’t ask for a better success at Record Store Day than that.
Well….maybe I’ll try a couple more stores today…you never know what you’ll find!