FLOOD’s Guide to Record Store Day Black Friday 2023: Joni Mitchell, Nas, The Flaming Lips, and More

Q4’s moody sister to the annual April celebration of all-things-physical-music-media arrives on November 24.

FLOOD’s Guide to Record Store Day Black Friday 2023: Joni Mitchell, Nas, The Flaming Lips, and More

Q4’s moody sister to the annual April celebration of all-things-physical-music-media arrives on November 24.

Words: A.D. Amorosi

November 22, 2023

My first favorite day of any year is April’s annual Record Store Day at participating brick-and-mortar shops. My second favorite day of any year is RSD’s moody-sister Black Friday event in November. Then comes my birthday. That’s right, readers. I actually love both Record Store Days so much that I celebrate it more deeply and passionately than I do the day my mother bore me. Deal with that

Plus, one of the nicest things about the RSD Black Friday event is that there are so many more vintage hip-hop and jazz rarities to choose from, along with many more psychedelic-era jewels, than during April’s event. The 33 titles outlined below are only the tip of the iceberg.

Nas, I Am…The Autobiography (Legacy)
Here’s an example of RSD righting a wrong and returning to its bootleg roots: In 1999, hip-hop lyrical heavyweight Nas had conceived his next album, I Am…, into a conceptual double-LP street opera. That is until many of its best tracks—“Fetus (Belly Button Window),” “Project Windows,” “Poppa Was a Player”—leaked. And though many of the songs came out on later Nas albums, the concept of the single LP didn’t quite gel. Now, for RSDBF, the forever-beloved bootleg is all in one place along with several hardcore unreleased Nas classics-to-be.

Dr. Dre, The Chronic [30 Year Anniversary Edition] (Aftermath/Interscope)
Along with being the sinsemilla-scented solo album that put the ex-N.W.A. member on the way to billionaire status, Dre’s Chronic—with a heavy assist from Snoop Dogg—all but defined what laidback, Cali-cool, lowrider hip-hop should be in the hands of the masters. And that this 30th anniversary edition is solely available in an era-appropriate special CD long box package with collectible rolling papers included—boom.

War, The World Is a Ghetto [50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition] (Avenue/Rhino)
Speaking of lowrider Cali-cool multiculturalism, War was the fusion-funk ensemble that created that vibe. And, for its trouble, War wound up with the top-selling record in the US for the year of its release: 1973. Together, with the halting Latino-laced R&B of “Cisco Kid” and the groovy title track, this special, multi-colored vinyl release dissects those key songs with alternate versions and additional re-imaginings. 

Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels, The Last Roundup: Live from the Bijou Cafe in Philadelphia March 16th, 1973 (Amoeba)
The late songwriter legend Gram Parsons made his bones bringing ragged country music traditionalism to Californian psychedelic honky-tonk pop such as The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers in the mid to late 1960s—if you have Americana in your heart, a twang in your soul, and a pedal steel player in your band, you got it from Gram Parsons. In 1973, Gram brought the yawning country-rock sounds of his debut solo album, GP, to club-owner-turned-international-restaurant-magnate Stephen Starr’s intimate Philly live music and comedy space, the Bijou Café, for one of the last dates Parsons shared with his Fallen Angels band and background singer Emmylou Harris. The recorded evidence of that never-before-released concert comes from their three-night stand at the Bijou. Word has it that Parsons’ pedal steel player Neil Flanz thought that the Fallen Angels sounded best on night three and requested a copy of the soundboard recording. Flanz saved the cassette and now, 50 years since that showcase, songs such as “Love Hurts” come hauntingly alive.

Prince, Gett Off! [12-inch Single] (Legacy)
If you happened to work for the record business in 1991…wait, how are you still alive from all the coke? Seriously, Prince dropped a one-sided promo 12-inch for his rough, funky “Gett Off” to introduce his post-Revolution ensemble, the New Power Generation. The “damn near 10 min” mix dropped on Prince’s 33rd birthday with only 1,500 copies available—until now.

Cal Tjader, Catch the Groove: Live at The Penthouse (1963-1967) (Jazz Detective)
The coolest-ever vibraphonist with the coolest-ever name had long been responsible for making his usually chilly instrument the hottest sound around before he got to Seattle’s iconic Penthouse club. If you could imagine a cocktail’s ice cubes put to heart-melting melody and warmly funky rhythm, that’s Cal. And together with Latin percussionist Armando Peraza and bassist Monk Montgomery, this trio was sweet rhythm personified with tracks such as “Morning of the Carnival” all but defining their overall vibe across their four-year tenure.

The Doors, Live in Bakersfield (Rhino/Elektra)
Rhino continues their deep dive into poet/howler Jim Morrison and company’s rich, rare live catalog with this never-before-released date. What’s most interesting about Bakersfield, and many of The Doors’ 1970 live shows, is that they had no fucks left to give, and proved as much by turning their usual material—from “Love Me Two Times” to medleys such as “Mystery Train”/“Away in India”/“Crossroads”—into blaring, mantra-like ragas tinged with improvisational free-blues riffs.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Mindsets (Legacy)
This is not the first time that a recent or brand-new album is out for RSD, but it’s certainly the boldest. Jett and her Blackhearts are the last of a dying snot-nosed punk-metallic breed, and Mindsets offers not only headbanging, distortion-heavy beauties such as “If You’re Blue,” but matches the original release, track-for-track, with its even-more-blazing live versions. Attitude for days on this one.

Buckcherry, Time Bomb (Real Gone)
Just for the sake of snotty unity with Jett: Buckcherry, everyone’s favorite early-aughts rawk-out soundtrack. Singer Josh Todd and the first-gen Cherry Buckers hotwire stuff like “Slit My Wrists,” “Whiskey in the Morning,” and “Porno Star” in a way that made Mötley Crüe seem lame in comparison. Instant hangover.

Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark Demos (Rhino)
Adding to the wealth of vault-pulling that Rhino has executed in Joni Mitchell’s name so far (and the archival label hasn’t even gotten to her most experimental works, such as Hejira and Mingus) is the never-before-heard demos from the album that broke her as a pop phenom. Not only does this mean raw sketches of hits such as “Help Me” and “Raised on Robbery,” but a naïve and elongated “Piano Suite” with versions of “Down to You” wrapped lovingly around “Court and Spark” and “Car on a Hill.”

Bo Diddley, I’m a Man: Chess Masters, 1955-1958 (Third Man)
If it rocks with a beating rhythm and a snarling fuzztone guitar, Bo Diddley got there first, plain and simple. That makes Diddley’s complete Chess studios recordings from the late ’50s rock-biblical chapter and verse. Along with having multiple crisply crackling versions of “Little Girl,” “She’s Fine, She’s Mine,” and “Pretty Thing” in one place, its four 150-gram vinyl LPs are colored in silver flake.

Chet Baker Trio, Chet’s Choice (Elemental Music/Criss Cross Jazz)
A battered genius in exile by the 1970s, cottony-soft trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker continued onwards and heavenly upwards in the Netherlands with the help of Criss Cross label boss Gerry Teekens and some sonically empathetic sidemen. One of the most epic solo recordings of his later years, this new version of Chet’s Choice sings with a handful of alternate takes of signature Baker cuts such as “How Deep Is the Ocean?” and “My Foolish Heart.”

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) [45th Anniversary Deluxe Edition] (Rhino)
In the early 1980s, the avatar of avant-garde blues, character actor–like vocalist Captain Beefheart, took advantage of the burgeoning post-punk school of art rock (Pere Ubu, Devo) and beat the young competition at their own game with the vividly angular and boldly brassy Shiny Beast—and on a major label yet. For its 40th anniversary, look to rare non-Bat instrumentals (“Suction Prints”) and happily gut-shot roughshod demos of “Tropical Hot Dog Night” and “Candle Mambo.” Not for the faint of heart.

Various Artists, Light in the Attic & Friends Presents (Light in the Attic)
Light in the Attic is legendary for focusing on re-releasing whole catalogs of iconic musicians and composers, from Willie Nelson and Lee Hazlewood to YMO electro god Haruomi Hosono, funk queen Betty Davis, and freak-folk icon Karen Dalton. So what if LITA threw a karaoke party, asking their favorite friends to interpret their best? You’d get Vashti Bunyan and Devendra Banhart’s swarming all over “How Could You Let Me Go,” Iggy Pop doing his Iggy-est across “If I’m in Luck I Might Get Picked Up,” Ethan and daughter Maya Hawke covering Willie, Roedelius nailing the sound of Mali’s Tinariwen, and Mac DeMarco praying over the ghostly tones of Hosono.

Schoolly D, Schoolly D (Get on Down)
In the mid-1980s, West Philly hip-hop artist and gangster-rap fire-starter Schoolly D was (and remained so throughout his career) the polar opposite of his nice-guy Overbrook-area neighbors, the Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff. Playing punk rock menace to Will Smith’s sing-song rhyme guy, Schoolly’s 1985 debut was a hip-hop first: a verité lyrical look at the crime, grime, and drugs happening on his block. Along with the raw, honest portrayal of street life in the mid-’80s, Schoolly and his co-producer DJ Red Alert made the sound of a Schoolly D record an ominous and booming one—all cheap, thundering drum machines, distant echo, and a ratty voice pulsating through instant classics such as “P.S.K.,” “What Does It Mean?,” and “Gucci Time.” For his first-ever RSD release, Schoolly D’s Black Friday gift comes in an exclusive color vinyl pressing.

The Flaming Lips, Live at The Paradise Lounge, Boston Oct. 27, 2002 (Warners)
Of course this live, glowering take on Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is decked out in similarly fleshy vinyl. Recorded live in a tiny, sweaty Boston club, Wayne Coyne and his band sound less oxygenated and flighty on F-Lips classics “Do You Realize??” and “Fight Test,” while still bringing their mean, psychotic, best to Pink Floyd’s “Lucifer Sam” and Beck’s “The Golden Age.” 

Gil Evans & Ten, Gil Evans & Ten (Mono Edition/Craft)
The producer/arranger who helped take Miles Davis into the spacey stratosphere only made his own leader debut in 1957 with this long player for Prestige Records. The rich complexity of an 11-piece ensemble, a handful of wiry vocalists, and Evans’ own still-life piano overtures turn his composition, “Jambangle,” into the jazz version of the Rubik’s Cube. Oh, and in mono, yet.

13th Floor Elevators, Bull of the Woods (Culture Factory USA)
By 1968, guitarist, vocalist, and psychedelic godhead Roky Erickson and the rest of his messy rocking Texans were not in the best sonic shape. To that end, Bull of the Woods, their third and final studio album, was neither as mystically experimental or as wonderfully warped as its predecessors. That said, “Never Another” and “Rose and the Thorn” are alluring and mystical despite their sloppiness, and set much of the roughhoused pace for Erickson’s punk-rock solo career.

Beast Coast, Escape From New York (Legacy)
This is one of those collections that you can’t believe didn’t come together sooner. Brooklyn’s Beast Coast superstar collective—highlighted by Joey Bada$$ along with the members of Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies, and The Underachievers—released their shockingly sweetly melodic lost classic in 2019 before moving to greener pastures. Along with rediscovering the fluidly funky likes of “Snow in the Stadium” and “Coast/Clear,” this RSDBF edition features two translucent orange LPs and a Beast Coast decal.

Faces, Had Me a Real Good Time... with Faces! In Session & Live at the BBC 1971-1973 (Rhino)
Rock and roll at its lustiest and most shambolic—that was Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood’s Faces with drummer Kenny Jones and the late-greats Ronnie Lane and Ian McLagan on bass and keyboards, respectively. Oddly enough, Faces never made it into the RSD stakes, so this release is even more magical. The Replacements of their time sound as if they’re ducking for apples in a barrel of bourbon on ferocious rockers such as “Oh Lord, I’m Browned Off,” a raging “I Know I’m Losing You,” and the weird stumblebum takes of McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain,” and Bobby Womack’s “It’s All Over Now.” Plus, the whole in-the-red mess is crammed onto one 140-gram Orange Crush vinyl LP.

Bill Evans, Tales: Live in Copenhagen (1964) (Elemental)
Few artists have benefitted as much from Record Store Day as has pianist Bill Evans. Though originally considered a Dave Brubeck on steroids, multiple live and studio sessions such as this have shown off a more prismatic vision of the late, great piano genius, including his math-rock-like leanings and his more primitive emotional grasp on improvisation. This never-before-released recording featuring bassist Chuck Israels and drummer Larry Bunker at Radiohuset and TVBYEN studios features different takes on his classic “Sweet and Lovely,” the sole version of “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” and his interpretation of Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight.”

Linkin Park, Lost Demos (Warner)
The pastoral tones of translucent sea-blue vinyl absolutely clash with the dusky crunkness of the threadbare demos for Linkin Park’s 2003’s epically glum Meteora. Perhaps that’s the point: adding blue sugar to the spikey muscularity and maudlin black medicine of 14 of Mike Shinoda and the late Chester Bennington’s most wrenching compositions.

Justin Townes Earle, Live at Grimey’s (Vagrant) + Yuma (Bloodshot)
It goes without saying that post-Americana songwriter Justin Townes Earle died too soon. While the latter gold vinyl re-release of his tour-only EP aptly captures the most haunting and hunting lyrical qualities of “The Ghost of Virginia” and “A Desolate Angels Blues,” the Vagrant label’s 2014 live recording from Nashville’s Grimey’s record shop sounds pretty crusty when it comes to hearing Earle take on “When the One You Love Loses Faith” and “Single Mothers.” The real highlight of the live set, though, is “Someone Will Pay”—listen to that in the dark, light a candle, and pour a tall glass of good bourbon.

Wes Montgomery with Wynton Kelly Trio, Maximum Swing: The Unissued 1965 Half Note Recordings (Resonance)
Modern jazz guitar playing, smooth and caramelly, always starts with the fluid-fingered Wes Montgomery—one of the six-strings’ most inventive influencers. To celebrate his centennial, Resonance found some of the most wildly aggressive, innovative, post-bop sounds of his career bumped up against pianist Wynton Kelly, recorded during their 1965 dates at New York’s Half Note. Across three riveting rhythm-filled albums, Montgomery and Kelly bounce off the other like rubber on tile across “Cherokee,” “Birks Works,” “Star Eyes,” and more. You can feel the innovation through the sweatiest live moments of Maximum Swing.

Various Artists, Black Jazz Records – The Complete Singles (Real Gone)
Long before the still-new Jazz Is Dead label devoted itself to recording new music from free-funk and -jazz legends of the early ’60s such as Doug Carn, Jean Carn, and Walter Bishop Jr., the Black Jazz label released those same artists’ music, often on 45s. Of course, 7-inch singles such as Gene Russell’s prismatic “Black Orchid,” Rudolph Johnson’s rolling “Mr. TJ,” and Carn’s moody “Moon Child” became collectors’ items. And, of course, the Real Gone label pushed 15 Black Jazz singles onto two tawny orange-with-black-swirl vinyl albums for RSDBF.

Little Feat, Live at Manchester Free Trade Hall 1977 (Rhino)
Though Record Store Day only recently discovered the loping funk and slow-oozing soul of the late Lowell George’s Little Feet, Rhino has been making up for lost time with several seasons of tack-sharp live albums that appear like old-fashioned bootlegs. This time, the Southern-fried Angeleno outfit are caught in sticky, slippery, syrupy mode in the UK with their classic lineup (anything where George is joined by Paul Barrere and Bill Payne is “classic”) running through “All That You Dream,” “Time Loves a Hero,” and a jaunty “Dixie Chicken.”

Souls of Mischief, 93 ’Til Infinity (The Remixes) (Legacy)
Conscious and jazzy, the Oakland rap ensemble (A-Plus, Opio, Phesto, Tajai) stemming from the wise, proactive hip-hop collective Hieroglyphics made one of the genre’s smartest debuts through Jive Records—home of Kool Moe Dee, Whodini, and other pop-rap heroes. Then again, in that era of hardcore and gangsta rap on the chart, Souls of Mischief was always gentler and easier on the ear. So, too, is this winding, two-album re-imagining of the 1993 classic. 

David J, Tracks From the Attic (Independent Project Records)
This is one of RSDBF’s most intriguing multi-disc packages: The bassist behind Bauhaus and Love & Rockets was not only forever a songwriting partner in those famous goth and post-goth ensembles, J.’s solo albums have long burst at the seams with folksy, psychedelic, even Beatles-esque melodicism. What the three albums of Tracks From the Attack do (handsomely hand-letterpress-printed with numbered perforated inserts—as one can expect from the IPR label) is tuck into J.’s wildly diverse bag of home-recorded demos made between 1984 and 2004 with only the singer and his acoustic guitar. The most dynamic thing that stands out regarding these recordings is how witty a lyricist J. is when you sweep away the goth cobwebs.

Ahmad Jamal, Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1968 (Jazz Detective/Elemental)
Jazz Detective only just started its run with unsung jazz compositional lion Ahmad Jamal, and with 1966-68 ends its specular run of intuitive improvisation workouts between pianist Jamal, bassist Jamil Nasser, and drummer Frank Gant. What’s best about the package is that Jamal himself lived long enough to contribute his vivid reminiscences to label founder/producer Zev Feldman’s in-depth liner notes. This one reads as great as it sounds.

Los Lobos, Kiko [30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition] (Slash/Rhino)
When high school friends guitarist David Hidalgo and drummer Louie Pérez decided they might like to be a band, they never realized how weird each other’s tastes were beyond traditional Mexican music like cumbia, boleros, and norteños—to say nothing of Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, and brown-eyed soul. As Los Lobos, they didn’t realize just how weird they could sound, either, until they got to producer Mitchell Froom and the gates of Kiko. Nightmarishly atmospheric and filled with more quirks, kinks, and skronk than Tom Waits’ Island label period, Kiko is Los Lobos’ masterpiece. Not only is its original release spread across two albums for maximum fidelity, but there’s also a full album of unreleased jams, “blues riffing,” and outtakes of “Two Janes,” “Rio De Tenampa,” and more. 

Various Artists, Jazz Dispensary: At the Movies (Craft)
At the Movies sees Jazz Dispensary reaching into the funkiest-ever film songs and cinematic soul—on purple marble vinyl, yet. That film director, rapper, and composer Melvin Van Peebles appears for the legendary likes of “Saturday Night” and “Sweetback’s Theme” is no surprise—Van Peebles all but made Black independent cinema mega. That organ trio genius Charles Earland’s swirling psychedelic “Incense of Essence” and Isaac Hayes’ sweeping soul jam “Joe Bell” are included in At the Movies? Buy two of these. You’re going to wear one copy out.

Various Artists, Written in Their Soul – The Hits: The Stax Songwriter Demos (Craft)
The very greatest of Stax label hits such as “Woman to Woman” and “If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me)” weren’t penned by the legendary musicians and singers who made them famous, but rather Eddie Floyd  (“6345789 (Soulsville, USA),” “I’ll Always Have Faith in You”), Mack Rice (“Respect Yourself”), and other illustrious songwriters toiling in the shadows. This RSDBF collection puts it all in one place. Valuable for crate diggers and Southern soul fanatics alike.