Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, September 2017

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for September, 2017.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Daniel Levin, Living (Smeraldina-Rima) Levin is a NYC-based cellist tapping into a wide variety of New Music disciplines, with avant jazz a major component. Living is his second recording of solo improv, a difficult, and by extension, rare avenue of spontaneous expression. The prior disc, 2011’s Inner Landscape, was live, but this LP (in an edition of 300) was captured in studio, and it’s a perfect fit for home listening. Going far beyond standard bowing, he doesn’t create a racket but instead conjures quiet, focused intensity and surprise. It’s just one of four 2017 releases for Levin. A

Trio da Kali & Kronos Quartet, Ladilikan (World Circuit) Trio da Kali consist of vocalist Hawa Kassé Mady Diabate, bass ngoni player Mamadou Kouyaté, and balafon player and musical director Lassana Diabaté; described by World Circuit as a sort of Malian griot supergroup, their playing is exquisite, especially the balafon (a type of xylophone), and the singing is powerful, pretty, and expressive (and occasionally gospel-flavored). With the assistance of Jacob Garchik, who arranged Trio da Kali’s repertoire for this collaboration, Kronos inject elements of surprise and make a splendid thing even better. A

REISSUE PICKS: The Dream Syndicate, The Complete Live at Raji’s (Run Out Groove) The reunion set from this foundational Paisley Underground band is freshly out and more than up to snuff, but this reissue (first time on vinyl for the entire show) is an absolute monster. Captured on the last day of January 1988, this is the Ghost Stories lineup (2/3rds of which are back for the new LP) a little prior to that album’s recording, with the track-list focusing on the first three Syndicate records. The whole band is killing it, and Wynn’s guitar tone is blazing throughout, especially on sides three and four. A

Group Home, Livin’ Proof (Get on Down) The duo of Lil’ Dap and Melachi the Nutcracker were part of the Gang Starr Foundation, which in ’90s hip hop terms is a sure sign of quality. Produced by DJ Premier (with a track a piece by Guru and Big Jaz), this ’95 debut is rhythmically intense yet complex and loaded with samples (in the manner of so much New York hip hop of the era), with the numerous instrumental interludes a highlight, but the MCs are far from overshadowed. Possessing contrasting styles, Lil’ Dap wields a distinctive lisp and Melachi brings the comparatively straightforward firepower. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, August 2017

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for August, 2017. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Nadia Sirota, Tessellatum 2 (Bedroom Community) On occasion, the impulse to combine experimental sounds with visuals (often of a likeminded nature) smacks of a covert attempt to quell boredom. However, when the union is inspired it can be sublime. Such is the case here. Featuring Sirota on violas and Liam Byrne on viola da gamba playing a composition by Donnacha Dennehy, the accompanying animated film by Steven Mertens (available as a download with the LP/ CD) enhances an already full-bodied sonic tableau; think modern classical with elements of drone. Superb. A

Rob Noyes, The Feudal Spirit (Poon Village) A stunning solo 6 and 12-string guitar debut (in an edition of 330 with a Raymond Pettibon cover), aptly tagged as post-Takoma school (Glenn Jones is a vocal proponent) but with broader folk-blues reach (lines of descent have been drawn from John Renbourn, Davey Graham, Wizz Jones, and Michael Chapman) and a level of intensity setting him apart from the ever-increasing contempo fingerpicking hoards. Noyes has a background in loud post-HC rock (e.g. Bloody Gears), but his playing, often aggressive and fast, evinces no traces of the recent covert. A

REISSUE PICKS: Pharoah Sanders, Izipho Zam (My Gifts) (Everland) This sometimes gets tagged as spiritual jazz, and opener “Prince of Peace” (with vocalist Leon Thomas and his ultra-cool yodel) reinforces the observation; more so, the LP was originally on Strata East. But stretches of “Balance” and the 29-minute title track (amidst more yodeling) offer some of the wildest large group free jazz ever recorded. The lineup is wide-ranging, including out-jazz mainstays Sonny Sharrock on guitar and Sirone on bass, but also Sonny Fortune on alto, Howard Johnson on tuba, and Billy Hart on drums. A doozy. A

Jerry Garcia, S/T (ATO) Amir Bar-Lev’s recent film Long Strange Trip is something of a music doc rarity, in that it’s an utter treat for serious Deadheads and more casual fans alike, and it reasserted my love for the band. It also deepened the fresh listen I gave to Garcia’s ’72 solo debut, a record I’ve long dug, but probably never more than right now. Stripped back to just a multi-tasking Jerry, drummer Bill Kreutzmann and some of Robert Hunter’s best lyrics, the first side of this, peaking with the majestic “Sugaree,” is faultless. Some bag on the experimentation opening the flip, but it bothers me not a bit. A

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, August 2017

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for August, 2017.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Ben Frost, “Threshold of Faith” (Mute) When it comes to post-industrial experimental soundscapes, Reykjavik-based Australian-native Frost consistently delivers the goods, and more; in 2013, he directed a musical-stage adaptation of Iain Banks’ novel The Wasp Factory. This EP documents a visit to Steve Albini’s place in Chicago, a meeting that resulted in over two hours of music. The opening title track comes on strong with booming thud-pulse enveloped in electronic haze, but the whole expands into less aggressive, at times even placid terrain. More from these sessions, please. A-

Brian Landrus Orchestra, Generations (BlueLand) Baritone sax/ low woodwind specialist, bandleader and composer Landrus is openly influenced by a wide variety of non-jazz, from Motown to Zep to Michael Jackson to J Dilla, but he’s anything but a pastiche-happy crossover hack. As the baritone chair in the Gil Evans Project, he’s absorbed some big band sensitivity from that endeavor’s namesake and loaded his orchestral debut (after a batch of smaller group outings) with some major names, amongst them vet drummer Billy Hart, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, and harpist Brandee Younger. Utterly non-stale. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Univers Zero, Heresie (Sub Rosa) Intensely dark second LP from a Belgian unit sometimes synopsized as chamber prog and further explained by a connection to Rock in Opposition. The term gothic is also occasionally employed, but don’t get the wrong idea; their inclusion on the Nurse with Wound list should relate the degree of seriousness at work here. The closest prog antecedents are Magma and to a lesser extent Crimson, though with this album they moved even farther afield of rock. This set features the 2010 remix issued by Cuneiform sans the bonus track “Chaos Hermetique.” A

Lejsovka & Freund, Music for Small Ensemble & Computer (MIE Music) The title might suggest the lab-coat-clad sternness of the avant-garde electronic days of yore and its occasional overlap with 20th century classical, but no. Keith Freund describes part of what he’s up to with Linda Lejsovka as “DIY shitty classical” but I’d never be so gauche. The small ensemble action here is modernist but warm, and the computerized elements serve a wide purpose, from varying degrees of enhancement to non-hostile disruption. This 500 count 2LP reissues the prior Mold on Canvas and Lethal Strategies. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, July 2017

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for July, 2017. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Anton Kubikov, Whatness (Kompakt) Some may know Kubikov as half (alongside Maxim Milyutenko) of Russian techno-house act SCSI-9; amongst other output, they released a pair of full-lengths for Kompakt in ’06 and ’08. Kubikov has also contributed to three of the label’s Pop Ambient compilations, and folks attuned to the gist of that series are likely to be pleased by Whatness, as “April” from the 2016 installment gets a reprise here. Where a fair amount of this style displays traces of a dancefloor past, Kubikov strives for and succeeds in attaining a full-on 64-minute ambient landscape. A-

Tunabunny, PCP Presents Alice In Wonderland Jr (HHBTM) Too many bands make a hasty retreat for safe climes after stepping out onto an experimental plateau, but in a sweet twist, Athens, GA vets Tunabunny appear fully comfortable extending the sonic ventures undertaken on their prior effort Kingdom Technology. Extending and honing; this new one is 28 tracks totaling nearly 75 minutes, and while it surely has its share of tangents, the overall cohesion raises the intensity. Plus, many of the songs hit the level of the strongest stuff on Genius Fatigue; by a nose, this feels like the band’s best full-length. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Fairport Convention, Liege and Lief (A&M) I can’t imagine it’d be that difficult to find a clean-playing used copy of this for a moderate amount of dough, but then again, it’s a stone classic and I’m not letting go of my copy any time soon. I’m not parting way with the group’s three prior efforts either, but to these ears this is not just Fairport at their peak, it’s arguably Brit folk-rock’s shining moment. The turn away from US influence toward homegrown traditions is in full flower, as is Sandy Denny’s voice. “Maddy Groves” and “Medley: The Lark in the Morning” slay me every time. A+

Link Wray, S/T (Future Days) Any reissue of this classic is cause for cheers. Released in ’71, the contents of this comeback (which kicked-off a cool four-LP run) apparently received a lowkey response from Wray’s fanbase, but that’s because he wasn’t into peddling variations on his (admittedly classic) early instrumental rock singles. Instead, this stripped-down mix of roots, recorded by his bro Vernon and Steve Verroca in Vernon’s Accokeek, MD Shack Three Track, predates Americana by a long stretch and through comfort with assorted styles (importantly, including blues) betters most of it. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, July 2017

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for July, 2017.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: James Ilgenfritz, Origami Cosmos (Infrequent Seams) Double bassist, improviser, and composer Ilgenfritz has a loaded résumé; recordings include a disc of Anthony Braxton compositions for Infrequent Seams and an opera inspired by William Burroughs for Con D’or, the label of Hüsker Dü’s Grant Hart. This set gathers four pieces by Ilgenfritz’s fellow New Yorkers Annie Gosfield, Miya Masaoka, JG Thirlwell, and Elliott Sharp, all written with his formidable skills on the bass in mind. The results are consistently gripping but ordered so that Sharp’s “Aletheia” delivers the closing jaw-dropper. A

Aruán Ortiz, Cub(an)ism (Intakt) Hidden Voices, the 2016 disc by Ortiz’ trio (featuring bassist Eric Revis and drummer Gerald Cleaver) is a sweet bit of business, but this helping of solo piano is even more worthwhile, in part for how it blends and intertwines modernity and tradition. Based upon four tracks from his ’96 debut Impresión Tropical, he’s made a considerable progression. 20 years ago, Ortiz’s fleet hands engaged with melody and the expectations of a solo piano record much more directly; here, abstraction is a constant and thoroughly satisfying thread. The use of quiet and space is striking. A

REISSUE PICKS: Lynn Castle, Rose Colored Corner (Light in the Attic) Of all the artists snagged in the ill-fated web of Lee Hazlewood’s LHI label, Castle just might be the most talented. There are hints of this in her ’67 single for the venture, “The Lady Barber” (indeed, clipping male wigs was her vocation) b/w the track titling this collection, but it’s the ten previously unreleased songs here, cut solo with Jack Nitzsche at the console, that illuminate Castle’s talent as a singer-songwriter. Had she made a pro recording with Nitzsche or another sympathetic producer, the results could’ve blown some minds. A-

Billy Stoner, S/T (Team Love) Fans of ’70s outlaw country should check out this rescued item, recorded in Longview Farm in N. Brookfield, MA 37 years ago but left in the can until now. The outlaw descriptor runs quite deep; Stoner’s musical sensibility was shaped in Austin, where he began serving time in federal prison for a marijuana bust shortly after this LP was cut, and across its nine songs the man and a crack band (namely Arlo Guthrie’s backing group Shenandoah and singer Jemima James) combine honky-tonk with touches of rock, folk, and Texas singer-songwriter verve to accomplished effect. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, June 2017

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for June, 2017. Part one for June is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Dominique Eade and Ran Blake, Town and Country (Sunnyside) Pianist Blake excels at one-on-one interaction with vocalists, e.g. his indispensable ’62 LP with Jeanne Lee. Here, he engages in dialogue with brilliant chance-taker Eade on a wide variety of songs, from standards to folk to two selections by Walter Schumann for Charles Laughton’s noir masterpiece The Night of the Hunter to Nelson Riddle’s theme to Route 66. “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” sounds like Anita O’Day flipped for Bob back in ’65 and decided to transform the song with the assistance of…Ran Blake. How cool. A

V/A, Typical Girls Volume 2 (Emotional Response) This continues the admirable international focus of the first set and with no drop off in quality. Beginning with jagged art-racket-rant by Aussies Bent and swiftly and sweetly shifting gears into the charging melodic punk of Oakland’s Midnite Snaxxx, there’s also edgy wavy stuff (Madrid’s Juanita y Los Feos, California’s Cold Beat), stomp-throttle (Cali’s Neighborhood Brats), more art-squall (Oakland’s Naked Lights), solid post-punk (Berlin’s Levitations), and more including Aussies Suss Cunts (see below) and UK vets Skinny Girl Diet. A remedy for power imbalance. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Tony Conrad, Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain (Superior Viaduct) Some know Conrad through his connection to The Velvet Underground, others are familiar with his work with Krautrockers Faust, and abstract film nuts might be hip to The Flicker. This 2LP/ 2CD set, consisting of one remarkable 88-minute piece featuring Conrad on violin, Rhys Chatham on the Long String Drone (a homemade instrument of wood, metal, bass strings, an electric pickup, tape and rubber bands), and Laurie Spiegel on bass, now sits at the top of this too often overlooked avant-gardist’s already potent discography. A+

Game Theory, 2 Steps from the Middle Ages (Omnivore) It’s common for the final album in a band’s reissue cycle to be one for the die-hards, but across their ’82-’90 existence Game Theory never put out a bad record. More to the point, once Scott Miller and company attained greatness the albums largely maintained that standard. Because this is a somewhat streamlined affair compared to Lolita Nation, I’ve heard some put it down, but listening to it in 2017, I have no fucking clue what those people are talking about. Listen up and get a grip; this is guitar pop for the ages. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, June 2017

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for June, 2017. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: CHEER-ACCIDENT, Putting Off Death (Cuneiform) This Chicago avant-prog unit (led by multi-instrumentalist-composers Jeff Libersher and Thymme Jones) has been active for over 30 years, with their first record coming out in 1986; something like 20 albums later, they exhibit not a trace of fatigue. Instrumental dexterity is certainly on display, but honest-to-goodness songs are showcased over musical athleticism; the early portion of 11-minute-plus opener “Language Is,” is aptly described as pop inclined (think Robert Wyatt). Note for vinyl-loving Cuneiform fans: this one’s on wax. A-

Stutter Steps, “Floored EP” (Blue Arrow) Ben Harrison’s second release and debut for Blue Arrow is a 6-song EP with a stunningly perfect guitar-pop title track as the opener. It’s veteran stuff; Harrison has collaborated with Dean Wareham (who his voice favors just a bit), and is a curator of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Stutter Steps have been described as combining Flying Nun with the Go-Betweens, and that continues here in “Dim,” which starts out like the former and subtly transitions into latter. If none of the subsequent tracks quite match the highs of “Floored,” the whole is still a peach. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Doc Watson, Live in Chicago March 1964: Vol. One (Rockbeat) For decades, Doc Watson served as an invaluable vessel of the USA’s wide-ranging folk essence. Plainspoken but lacking in any phony “aw-shucks” vibes, his ability to bring casual audiences a dose of the real stuff is essentially unequaled, and he influenced generations of players. This just under an hour-long set was captured shortly after Watson cut his self-titled masterpiece for Vanguard, but there is little overlap in these 18 songs. The guitar and banjo picking, the singing, and the conversation are exceptional. A

ESG, Step Off (Fire) I recall the nervousness some felt over the long-delayed return of this rightfully legendary minimalist funk unit, but this sweetly concise 7-song effort brought the goods. Having deeply impacted post-punk, hip-hop, and later, the dance-punk surge that was still transpiring as this set originally emerged via Soul Jazz, ESG (stands for Emerald, Sapphire and Gold) played on Step Off like it was their debut and they were an unknown band from Bronx. This is indeed body-moving stuff, but with an attention to instrumental heft that’s always reminded me of another trio, namely the Minutemen. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, May 2017

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for May, 2017. Part one can be found here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Grandpa’s Ghost, The Carnage Queen (Transduction) Pocahontas, IL’s Grandpa’s Ghost have been active since the ’90s, garnering beaucoup accolades and a too-small following, which is to be expected when roots and experimentation intersect. Impossible to imagine without the precedent of Neil Young in and outside of Crazy Horse, but boy howdy do they transcend that template on this 2LP (+ bonus digital set Country of Piss). “I Am a Specimen” is a highlight of raucous out-rock leading into “Come Here, Come Here,” which hits like a midwestern Lungfish crossed with Peter Jefferies. A

Jason Rigby, One (Fresh Sound) Inside-outside trios are a personal favorite, and this disc, which features Rigby on tenor and soprano sax with Cameron Brown on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums, maintains a consistently high standard. Evenly split between strong Rigby originals and a diversity of borrowed material, the decision to tackle “You Are Too Beautiful” was inspired by Coltrane and Rollins; Rigby’s playing combines elements of both but isn’t the slightest bit derivative. His soprano is a pleasure, and so’s his going it alone on “Embraceable You.” Brown and Cleaver reinforce their heavyweight reps. A-

REISSUE PICKS: OST, Blue Velvet (Varèse Sarabande) David Lynch’s ’86 cult behemoth is eminently quotable (“yes, that’s a human ear, alright.” “I’LL FUCK ANYTHING THAT MOVES!”), so I’m guessing there was temptation to pull a Tarantino and expand the reissue with dialogue snippets. If so, then kudos for resisting the urge, as Angelo Badalamenti’s classically orchestral score deserves to be front and center. The sound effects suite is also cool, as is “Honky Tonk Part 1,” “Love Letters,” Julee Cruise singing “Mysteries of Love,” and of course, the candy-colored clown they call the sandman. A

Swans, The Great Annihilator + Drainland (Young God) By ’94 Swans were solidly back on sure footing, but upon Annihilator’s initial release, I can distinctly recall being struck by its power, cohesiveness, and maturity. Michael Gira has recently professed displeasure with the original mix, but I was never so bummed; nonetheless, this remastering from the original tapes does strike the ear as fuller, and folks lacking this set on vinyl (which is most people, I’m guessing) can scoop it up now with Gira’s signature and get a bonus download of the man’s rather nifty ’95 solo joint Drainland. ‘tis a good ‘un! A- / A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores, May 2017

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for May, 2017. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Jaimie Branch, Fly or Die (International Anthem) Long active on the Chicago scene and recently busy in NYC, Branch is a skilled trumpeter. She’s recorded quite a bit over the last decade, but this, to employ jazz parlance, is her debut as leader. The core group consists of trumpet, cello, bass and drums with guest spots for guitar and two cornets. In line with the Chicago tradition, there’s a lack of spotlight hogging, but the collectivity is unique; “theme 001” and “theme nothing” brandish wicked cello-driven grooves, and when Branch does let loose, the sound is imaginative and energetic. A-

Penguin Cafe, The Imperfect Sea (Erased Tapes) Formed in ’72 by Simon Jeffes, most of Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s output emerged in the ’80s and was often associated with New Age, though it’s more accurately categorized as chamber-pop with a minimalist bent. The Imperfect Sea is not that Penguin Cafe Orchestra, as Jeffes passed in ’97, but is instead a continuation of sorts by his son Arthur, and one that exceeds expectations. Fully utilizing chamber instrumentation, Sea registers as less of a World Music offshoot than the Orchestra, but the mood is still sunny. During “Ricercar,” sunnier even. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Flat Duo Jets, Wild Wild Love (Daniel 13) For recent converts to the gospel according to Dex Romweber looking to get acquainted with the man’s early work, this is an absolute score, rounding up the Jets’ self-titled 1990 LP, a second disc of outtakes, and the long-elusive ’84 cassette-only mini-album (In Stereo), which makes its vinyl debut here via 10-inch. Alongside drummer Chris “Crow” Smith, Romweber dished an enticing strain of rockabilly that was as knowledgeable of Southern pop’s long history as it was roots potent. This blend has kept their stuff as delicious as fresh-picked produce. A-

V/A, Max’s Kansas City: 1976 & Beyond (Jungle) This expands (near-ridiculously, especially on the 2CD) a 1976 slab many have belittled or downright dismissed over the decades. This isn’t exactly a misapprehension; those who love Wayne County (I love Wayne County) might beg to differ, but the distance between Suicide and Ubu and the rest of the original slab’s lineup is, shall we say, significant. This reish drops Ubu but adds so much material (from weak to surprisingly spiff) that County’s opening Max’s trib registers not as hyperbole but as the legit documentation of a club-dwelling way of life. B+

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, April 2017

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued wax presently in stores for April, 2017. Part one can be found here, and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Sarah Davachi, All My Circles Run (Students of Decay) Davachi is a drone-minimalist, her early stuff dubbed onto cassette and more recent output issued on vinyl. Previously, she’s combined the acoustic and electronic, but the synths get put aside here for a focus on a single organic instrument on each of the set’s five tracks. “For Strings” offers exquisite drone, “For Voice” is avant-classically eerie, and “Chanter” interweaves patterns of prepared piano, while “For Organ” and “For Piano” double-down on the drone to outstanding result. All this and an album jacket in B&W widescreen. A

V/A, Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third, Live…and More (Concord Bicycle) Cut on April 27 of last year, this star-studded affair, with Jeff Tweedy, Robyn Hitchcock, Jessica Pratt, Kronos Quartet, Mike Mills, Chris Stamey, Mitch Easter, and Ira Kaplan only a portion of the talent assembled, is a splendid tribute to one of rock’s greatest albums. Filling two CDs and a DVD, this isn’t an act of docile mimicry; chronology gets tossed aside as a bunch of non-Third Big Star material and even Chris Bell’s “I Am the Cosmos” is performed. Instead, this collective salutation transforms its subject, and the love is palpable. A-

REISSUE PICKS: Big Star, Complete Third: Vol. 3: Final Masters (Omnivore) Per the label, this is “every released master recording from every officially released version of Third,” presented for Record Store Day in a slipcase edition designed to hold the previous two vinyl installments (the whole thing came out on CD last autumn). If you’ve purchased Vol. 1 and 2, here’s your place to put ‘em, but if the masters are all you think you need, Vol. 3 is getting a non-slipcase issue later in 2017. However, as Thank You, Friends attests, Third really is a multifaceted, unceasingly giving beauty, so buy wisely. A+

V/A, Really Rock ‘Em Right: Sun Records Curated by Record Store Day, Volume 4 (ORG) This is one of our global vinyl holiday’s shrewder ideas, mainly because it could roll into the double digits without a drop-off in quality. This edition is especially well-assembled, mixing established Sun giants (Howlin’ Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins) with less celebrated figures (Big Memphis Ma Rainey, Lou Sargent, Billy Love, Frank Frost) as prime R&B (Ike Turner & His Kings of Rhythm, James Cotton) and uncut rockabilly (Warren Smith) shoot the value meter into the red zone. All this and Roy Orbison, too. A

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