If you notice a faraway look in Uncle Pete’s eyes this Thanksgiving when you ask him to please pass the gravy boat, he might be daydreaming about that rare vintage John Coltrane LP he’s been seeking for years. Or how about your niece Meghan, with the pink hair? She’s mindlessly picking at her food while checking her smartphone to see what time her favorite indie record store opens tomorrow so she can snag a good place in line. For fans and collectors of vinyl records, the day after Thanksgiving can be sweeter than pumpkin pie with whipped cream.
Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the holiday season, and it’s also Record Store Day, the second of 2018. Though Record Store Day in April is higher profile and features various special new vinyl releases, limited editions, and in-store events, the November event is a great chance to find your local indie record shop stocked up to the rafters with vinyl treasures – some old, some fresh off the presses.
Phil Wilcox, record store manager at Boston-based Tres Gatos, says he counts on the sales from the two Record Store Days to finance the rest of the year. “We definitely count on Record Store Days to keep us going the rest of the year,” he says.
According to Nielsen, vinyl LP sales experienced more than a 19 percent increase over 2017 during the first half of this year. Vinyl sales now make up more than 18 percent of sales of physical albums in the United States, which is a 5 percent increase from last year. If there are boffo sales on Record Store Day on Nov. 23, that’s bound to push those 2018 numbers higher still.
So if you’re interested in scoring some gifts on Record Store Day for yourself or music-loving friends on your holiday shopping list, here are a few new releases bound to stir excitement.
Giles Martin, music producer, engineer, and son of fabled Beatles producer George Martin, has remixed the group’s 1968 self-titled double LP known as the “White Album.” An expanded special edition includes charming acoustic demos of 27 songs. Some have previously been available on bootlegs and the Beatles’ own “Anthology” box set, but this is the first time all 27 will be heard. Nineteen previously made the final cut. The special edition also includes 50 session takes, shedding new light on the Fab Four’s recording process and prowess. It’s the most anticipated vinyl release of the year.
Meanwhile, Yoko Ono has spearheaded “Imagine: The Ultimate Collection” just in time for Record Store Day and holiday gift-giving. One box iteration comes with two vinyl discs, which include a new stereo mix as well as alternate takes. Another box version holds four CDs and two Blu-ray discs, including a remix of the 1971 John Lennon solo album as well as song demos, alternate takes, studio jams, interviews, and video. In addition, for each song there’s the “Evolution” mix, which is an audio montage tracking how the song went from demo to its recorded version, bringing together rehearsals, drafts, and conversations from the studio with thoughts from Lennon and Ono. Lennon was creatively on fire in 1971, and you’ll find the evidence right here.
But to play any of these treasures, you’ll need to dust off and hook up the old turntable, right? Riding merrily along in the wake of vinyl’s resurgence are new turntable makers like U-Turn Audio. Three Massachusetts Millennials started a Kickstarter campaign for an Orbit Turntable in 2012, which led to the creation of U-Turn Audio. They found during college that the models they wanted were too pricey and the less expensive ones didn’t meet their auditory needs. So they decided to design and build their own, starting at $179. U-Turn co-founder Ben Carter told the Monitor, “Sure, gear is cool, but it’s all about the music. That’s what we’re all here for.”
U-Turn shipped its 50,000th turntable this July, 10 times as many as they had originally estimated.
Mainstream audio companies like Denon and Audio-Technica are reconfiguring their turntables with modern capabilities like Bluetooth. In addition, some are paired with built-in amplifiers and modern, powered (or “active”) speakers, eliminating the need for a separate amplifier.
So this Thanksgiving, if you can’t stop imagining your dinner plate spinning round and round at 33 r.p.m., head out the next morning to your local record shop and get your just deserts.