Record Time is Paste’s monthly column that takes a glimpse into the wide array of new vinyl releases that are currently flooding record stores around the world. Rather than run down every fresh bit of wax in the marketplace, we’ll home in on special editions, reissues and unusual titles that come across our desk with an interest in discussing both the music and how it is pressed and presented. This month’s edition comes to you the day before the first Record Store Day drop of 2021 and features a handful of the special releases in stores tomorrow, as well as some other exciting recent vinyl titles out now.
Precious Bryant: Fool Me Good/The Truth (Terminus/Mempho)
Atlanta’s Terminus Records is spending a good chunk of 2021 dipping into its back catalog to produce vinyl reissues of some of the imprint’s finer releases. That includes the first-ever wax editions of 2002’s Fool Me Good and 2004’s The Truth, two albums by blues artist Precious Bryant. Rarely recorded in her lifetime, Bryant went into the studio for Terminus when she was already in her 60s, and the weight of her lived experience and the many years that she had been playing this material comes through in every moment of these two collections. My predilection for early blues has me leaning toward Fool Me Good (out tomorrow for the June RSD Drop) as it features nothing more than Bryant’s warm, tremulous voice and her tremendous guitar picking. But I’m not immune to the charms of The Truth, on which she is joined by a rhythm section that doesn’t dare overplay or overpower Bryant. They just nudge her a little further forward into the spotlight and let her talent take over from there.
Danny Barnes: Dirt on the Angel/Danny Barnes and Thee Old Codgers: Things I Done Wrong (Terminus/Mempho)
Two more gems from Terminus making their vinyl bow this year are these albums from NW roots music mainstay Danny Barnes. Both are fantastic showcases of Barnes’ many talents. 2001’s Things I Done Wrong, produced by Wayne Horvitz and featuring the short-lived ensemble Thee Old Codgers, gamely swings from Presidents of the USA-style alt-pop to uncut bluegrass to ragged folk and back again. 2003’s Dirt on the Angel (out tomorrow in a lovely colored vinyl edition) dares to go even further out. Joined by master guitarist Bill Frisell and pianist Chuck Leavell, Barnes brings in some moody blues cuts along with a rambling take on The Faces’ “Ooh La La” and an appropriately goofy version of Beck’s breakout hit “Loser.” Barnes is a grinder that should, by all rights, be a household name. His time may well come, so make sure you have these records on your shelf when that day arrives.
Celia Cruz & Willie Colón: Celia Y Willie (Craft Recordings/Vaya)
Craft Recordings continues its dip into the archives of Fania Records, the Latin music label started in 1963, with this 40th anniversary Record Store Day release of the second collaboration between Cuban singer Celia Cruz and salsa legend Willie Colón. While the latter’s trumpet and chorus vocals are present throughout, he wisely stays out of the way when Cruz takes the lead. She sounds spectacular here. With three decades of recording and performing under her belt, Cruz still approaches every song like she’s still seeking out her big break, giving them a touch of sensuality, playfulness, pleading or, on the thoughtful “Latinos en Estados Unidos,” politically-fueled fieriness. This record has been out of print on vinyl since 1982, and its return to wider circulation this weekend should be a major motivo de celebración for the world’s record collectors.
Col. Bruce Hampton: Arkansas (Terminus/Mempho)
A single album can’t really contain the wide-ranging music visions of the late Col. Bruce Hampton. The Tennessee artist was a former member of the Hampton Grease Band, collaborated with Frank Zappa, helped start the H.O.R.D.E. Fest and dabbled in every musical style under the sun, short of hip-hop and classical. Originally released in 1987, Arkansas does as good a job as any record to try and capture Hampton’s Beefheartian take on Americana. It’s a messy and spirited barrage that, according to collaborator Lincoln Metcalf’s note in this reissue, came from Hampton’s “‘in the moment, after dinner’ method of music making.” A song like “Zumpano’s Retreat” begins with a chorus of chants and mouth noises before settling into a Weather Report-like electric jazz that’s constantly interrupted by scat singing and rude horn noises. And that’s before it devolves into a riot of guitar shredding. In the broadband era, wild outsider art like this is easier than ever to stumble upon, so let’s spend this Record Store Day Drop celebrating a time when weirdos like Hampton were making albums like Arkansas for the serious heads.
Harold Land: Westward Bound (Reel to Real)
Though not as celebrated as his tenor saxophonist peers, Harold Land quietly put together a varied career during his 72 years on this planet. Initially gaining recognition for his work with Clifford Brown and Max Roach’s quintet in the ’50s, Land went on to record with Blue Mitchell, Bill Evans, Bobby Hutcherson and many more. This double LP set finds Land leading a few ensembles, which, at various times, included drummer Philly Joe Jones and pianist Hampton Hawes, during a run of ’60s dates at The Penthouse in Seattle, Washington. The changing face of these groups allows Land to play in a mixture of musical modes. With Jones and pianist John Houston, the saxophonist puts a playfully swinging stamp on “Autumn Leaves” and leans hard into the sassy Jones’ composition “Beau-ty.” And Land lets his bop roots show on the opening trio of tunes, from 1962, as he bounces off of trumpeter Carmell Jones. This RSD set is one of a handful of recent releases to be culled from an apparent treasure trove of recordings from The Penthouse. Can’t wait to hear what they dig out next.
O.A.R.: Stories of a Stranger (Craft Recordings)
Another album making its vinyl debut for the June RSD Drop is the fifth full-length from jam band adjacent reggae-infused rockers O.A.R. Originally released in 2005, this collection is chock-a-block with guests: former Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison, who also served as producer; former Tom Waits sideman Joe Gore; Grammy-winning songwriter Glen Ballard; P-Funk alum Bernie Worrell; and saxophonist Lenny Pickett. In other words, this Maryland band left nothing to chance on this album, polishing it until it had the perfect commercial gleam. The result? A spot in the top 50 of the Billboard Album Charts and a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden in 2005. This first vinyl edition is treated with appropriate care, with the lacquers cut at 45 RPM by Fantasy Studios engineers George Horn and Anne-Marie Suenram and pressed onto some lovely sky blue wax. The former was done to help beef up the bass tones and midrange, and the latter simply because it looks damn great on the turntable.
Wire: PF456 Deluxe (pinkflag)
The final days of the original lineup of post-punk mainstays Wire are documented on this lavish package from the band’s in-house label. Using rehearsal tapes and jam sessions recorded in preparation for a tour in 2000, founding members Colin Newman and Bruce Gilbert stitched together driving, abrasive sounds that emphasized the group’s love of brittle guitar tones and a growing influence of electronic dance music. What came out of those sessions were two EPs, followed up by an album (2003’s Send) that took a chunk of that same material and added some extra tunes. A previous effort to release it all on vinyl on PF456 Redux forced Newman to cut down the songs dramatically. This double 10”/single 7” release finally offers up all the unedited music from those reunion sessions and includes a booklet explaining all of the above in more detail—as well as tracking the end of Gilbert’s association with Wire—through interviews with the four members of the group and tons of photographic evidence.