Another Record Store Day has come and gone. And anyone witnessing the near-chaos at Madison shops on the third Saturday in April -- at the opening bell and later throughout the day -- can't help but conclude that vinyl's resurgence continues to pick up more adherents at a rapid pace.
Along with a good percentage of new releases being issued on vinyl these days, there's also a near-dizzying array of reissues flooding the market from labels big and small, both trustworthy and sketchy as hell. It's not just classic chestnuts being newly roasted either; alongside fancy-pants reissues of The Beatles and Jim Hendrix, '90s titles have been gradually making debuts outside the digital realm. Here are some recent pickups.
Miles Davis: 'Round About Midnight
Most Miles Davis fans know his Columbia-era albums have been remastered and reissued by both Sony and audiophile marques seemingly a zillion times over the last couple decades. Even finding at least some version of most titles on LP still isn't a particularly difficult challenge, since they generally stayed in print over the years. That being said, finding an original pressing in great condition isn't easy. And the sound quality of the various releases after the original pressings can leave something to be desired. Rechanneled stereo was the longtime norm for some titles originally only mixed to mono, and Columbia's penchant for wearing out their tapes didn't help, either.
Currently, through, something special is brewing over at Sony's Legacy arm. Beginning with last fall's Black Friday mini-Record Store Day, Davis' early Columbia efforts have been reappearing on heavyweight vinyl, with the proper mono mixes, and cut by respected engineer Kevin Gray. Heck, they even replicate the original catalog numbers. One would expect this combination to equal good results, but so far these releases have actually exceeded my expectations: On direct comparison, the two 2013 Record Store Day releases I picked up ('Round About Midnight and Milestones) are both improvements sonically on the "six-eye" Columbia '50s pressings in my stacks. That's somewhat of a surprise, as the originals are no slouch behind the 50-plus years worth of wear.
Great sound and perfect-playing pressings are an unbeatable combination, so I'll probably be unable to resist picking up most of the rest of these discs when I see them. The initial Record Store Day releases are numbered/limited, but it appears they are all going to stay in print as regular, un-numbered releases as well. Sony/Legacy CL 949, 2013)
Superdrag: Regretfully Yours
Knoxville, Tennessee natives Superdrag are probably best remembered by most for their mid-1990s MTV and radio hit "Sucked Out." That song was included on their debut full-length, Regretfully Yours, an excellent slab of rock 'n roll that's somewhat of an outlier for the time it came out. It was likely too poppy for the era's grunge fans, too hard-edged for some power pop fans, and not hard enough for the punkers. Ahh, the dangers of just being a good rock band of nearly any generation since the genre's complete fragmentation after the '60s ... but I digress.
Superdrag may have not had another mainstream hit after "Sucked Out," but their critically lauded subsequent releases gained them a very dedicated underground following of folks who probably ignored that hit in the first place. Regretfully Yours was released by Elektra on CD and cassette only in 1996, and for 2013 made a vinyl debut courtesy of Side One Dummy Records. The album is an excellent starting point for listeners who haven't heard the group, but I have to say I'd recommend the vinyl only for folks who are already fans and really want this on LP.
Unfortunately, it doesn't sound anywhere near as good as the CD version; I have to assume they just took the CD master and dumped it on LP without a proper re-mastering, as the notes credit the original mastering engineer. That's a shame, because Regretfully Yours is an album that should kick on vinyl, and otherwise this is a very well-produced package (according to the sleeve, the manufacturing end was actually handled by Rhino). Superdrag continues to be sporadically active; main songwriter John Davis currently performs solo and in the punk supergroup Epic Ditch (who released their 36-Hour EP last year.) (Side One Dummy , 2013)
Terry Manning and the Wild Ones: Border Town Rock 'n Roll 1963
Well, well, well, what's this? The seventh volume of Norton's El Paso Rock series slipped out sort of quietly in 2012, and I ended up buying it blind after randomly stumbling on it. Is it going to be an essential hear for 99 percent of music listeners, including most who will know Manning's name as a producer/engineer or from his involvement in the Big Star story? No. Is it going to be entertaining for the rest of us? Oh yes.
Recorded October 12, 1963, right before The Beatles popped the balloons of frat rock and the teener brigade, this is an endearing snapshot of some teenage friends getting their repertoire down on tape -- shambolically -- before one of them (Manning) decamped for Memphis. One member of the band is missing, and the entire backing consists of Manning's live acoustic guitar and an overdubbed electric, a cobbled together drum kit and extra percussion and vocals. They careen through a set of covers, with some big hits -- a couple Chuck Berrys, "Hey Baby," "Bony Maronie," "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" -- but also through quite a few less well-known tunes, including both sides of a local Texas record by Joe Richie.
It's all sloppy and heartfelt in a proto-garage band manner. Manning yelping through The Impalas' doo-wop hit "Sorry" alone is worth the price of admission. Prophetically, the album concludes with a snippet of "The Dog" by Rufus Thomas, an artist Manning would shortly be working with in the studio at Stax in Memphis. For those paying close attention this is not technically a reissue; it just took 49 years (!) for these performances to emerge. Norton Recordst, ED-374, 2012)