Record Store Day 2021 has Philly written all over it with a few surprising musical connections.
With the pandemic’s social distancing and masks still a lingering thing and the Delta variant creeping up, it is probably a good thing that Record Store Day – the annual Spring fling dedicated to independent record sellers and stores and the vinyl (and, now cassette and CD) – is still being held in shorter, smaller batch gulps called Drops. Both the owners of South Street’s Repo Records and the Philly Rittenhouse area’s Long in the Tooth Records told me that throughout 2020’s Record Store Day Drops, as well as June 2021’s Drop, everything was just a little more manageable.
So shop already.
With that, Record Store Day’s Summer shot is Saturday, July 17 – bright and early, don’t snooze – topped with amazing rarities of which several happen to have deep, abiding Philly connections.
The pride of the University of the Arts, Christian McBride, is a fresh face to Record Store Day, and jumps in, feet and bass-playing hands first with the vinyl version of Out Here (Mack Avenue) and his trio.
The warm, cool, bass-playing, all-encompassing compositional pride of Philadelphia cream cheese-y jams with a peppery edge, McBride, finds his 2013 Grammy-nominated acoustic jazz package (with stalwart trio collaborators (pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr.) spliced onto two hard vinyl albums for Record Store Day. Oddly enough, in re-listening to the 2013 anew, Out Here is not so much out there, out there, than it is right here and now, reveling as it does in straight-ahead jazz traditionalism with inventive, bright, bold instrumental strokes, some churchy, gospel-enhanced blues (“Ham Hocks and Cabbage,” “Hallelujah Time”), some bar-band R and B (“Who’s Making Love”), some deep swing (“Cherokee”), and a spirited, dramatic take on “My Favorite Things” that is equal parts Coltrane and Rogers and Hammerstein. Very Philadelphia, this.
The Record Store Drop on Shaun Cassidy, Wasp (Curb) may seem weird all the way around, but stick with me for its Philly connection.
Teen dream David Cassidy’s dreamboat younger brother, Shaun, must have grown restless making twee-pop singles for the Tiger Beat crowd by the time of the 80s. With that, he called Upper Darby’s Todd Rundgren – producer of Meat Loaf, Patti Smith, XTC, and more – to produce a very very New Wave (and hence dated, but still cool) sound for Shaun, including a robo-rocking take on glam anthems such as David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” and Ian Hunter’s “Once Bitten Twice Shy.” Creepy clawing stuff, but gorgeous to behold, Wasp is worth hunting down beyond its period piece quaintness.
Aretha Franklin’s Oh Me Oh My: Aretha Live In Philly, 1972 (Atlantic/Rhino) is the clear and present holy grail when it comes to Record Store Day and Philly.
As part of the everything Aretha revival in 2021 that comes courtesy a cinematic biopic (Respect with Oscar-winning vocalist Jennifer Hudson,), a cable television biography (with Cynthia Erivo), and a career-long retrospective box set from Rhino, this never before released 1972 recording of an off-beat concert at the National Association Of Television and Radio Announcers Convention in Philadelphia (why don’t we have those here anymore?), came fresh off the heels of her activist album classic, Young Gifted and Black and highlights that very recording’s Franklin-penned rough soul classics such as “Rock Steady” and the celestial “Day Dreaming”. Along with a rousing take on “Respect,” Philly fans will get access to two grooving medleys in “I Never Loved A Man (The Way That I Love You) / I Say a Little Prayer” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water / We’ve Only Just Begun” the whole Philly package comes decked out in orange and yellow double vinyl.