Record Store Day Most Wanted Exclusives: Taylor Swift, Pearl Jam, More

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The checkout lines for Record Store Day might move more swiftly than usual this year, due to the likely numbers of customers who will be buying one exclusive album and one exclusive alone — Taylor Swift’s “Folklore: The Long Pond Sessions,” the most massively coveted item RSD has seen or ever might see. And listen, we’ll be picking it up, too… if supplies last. (The title has been pressed in quantities of 75,000 for the U.S. and 115,000 for the world — about four times as many as any previous RSD title. Will those be enough to last on shelves for even a day? We’ll find out.)

But slow down, Swifties. There are 300 other new releases where that one came from, and this is a chance to indulge some other retail-therapy whims or make some new discoveries. Yes, there are hundreds of middle-aged guys outside in line behind you who weren’t motivated to get up quite so early, and why should they be the only ones who get to enjoy newly minted LPs from the Cure, Arooj Aftab, Nas, Orville Peck, Charlie Parker or the Pixies on a Saturday night? There’s more to life than hoarding Taylor Swift, and it is hoarding absolutely everything that has a “limited edition” sticker slapped on it, with no prejudice as to the genre, level of obscurity or how long the artist has been dead.

Among the 300 exclusives, there are far more winners than duds, but here are 25 specifically that (in most cases) we were able to preview and vouch for as worth your time, money and hunting skills — including rarities from Elton John and Wilco, live albums from Pearl Jam, the Black Keys, Stevie Nicks, Billy Joel, Bill Evans and Nas, previously unreleased studio sessions from Beach House, Chet Baker, Amythyst Kiah and the team of Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, and more.

(For the full list of 300 exclusive RSD titles, click here. Find your nearest participating stores here.)

Taylor Swift, “Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions” (75,000 copies, 2x grey vinyl)

No one really knows if upping the U.S. quantities on a Swift RSD release from the 10,000 manufactured for last year’s “The Lakes” single to 75,000 will lower the level of hysteria or just heighten it. One thing heightening the must-have factor is that this is the first album in the Swift canon that hasn’t been made available for purchase in any other format — no CDs, no digital downloads, no standard vinyl release — and although it’s been available to stream for ages, that won’t stand in the way of a fan’s pride of ownership. Also, it’s just an outstanding piece of long-form work, which saw Swift and collaborators Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff meeting up after the pandemic died down to play the “Folklore” songs they’d worked on remotely as live in-studio partners — as seen in the Disney+ special to which this is a soundtrack. The high level of artistry and indie-skirting mellowness makes “Long Pond” a Swift album that RSD customers from a more typical year might be just as into as the invading newcomers. May the worthiest “Mirrorball” lovers prevail.

Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, “The Sound Emporium EP” (11,750 copies, black vinyl)

Last year, Swift was the official Record Store Day Ambassador. For 2023, two filled those shoes, in the form of husband-and-wife artists Isbell and Shires, who have appeared on each other’s records and been in each other’s bands before, but never shared equal billing on a release until now. Now that they’ve compounded the collective or individual interest in them with an HBO documentary that made a lot of newbie fans fall in love with them, it’s a good thing this four-song joint EP was pressed in fairly substantial quantities. Both musicians participate in each other’s songs in a big, satisfying way. The mostly acoustic in-studio set begins with two new and original numbers: Shires’ “Old Habits,” which features a scorching electric guitar solo from Isbell, followed by his “Hired Gun,” which, in turn, is marked by her lively fiddling. The latter track has a lot of distinctly post-pandemic lyrics — “I’m a lucky one / I didn’t die in the spring” — with a nod to “Uncle John” (Prine) in the hereafter. Then we get an Isbell remake of Drive-by Truckers’ “Tour of Duty” and Shires singing a cover of Richard Thompson’s “Beeswing,” which has some tricky guitar picking that they’ve acknowledged Isbell once tried to court her with, when they were courting. While you’re picking this up, also be sure to look for a Shires solo EP coming out concurrently (scroll further down for more on that).

Pearl Jam, “Give Way” (15,500 copies, 2x black vinyl; 4000 copies on CD)

If you don’t have a turntable but do still have your CD player, Record Store Day does have a few digital exclusives for you, too, if not as many as one might hope. Foremost among them is the first-time semi-wide release of this 25-year-old Pearl Jam concert, available for RSD in both vinyl and CD formats — although they pressed almost four times as many copies of the double-LP as the compact disc, so it may be the CD that ends up being the most collectible. The story goes that the March 1998 show in Melbourne that was recorded was supposed to be released later that year as a promotional companion to a home video release, but it never came out apart from “an extremely limited amount surfacing over the years,” according to their reps. It’s a keeper; although Pearl Jam manages to find something to pull from the vaults for almost every Record Store Day, they’ve been holding out on fans with this one.

Elton John, “Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the the Piano Player” (4000 copies, 2x splatter vinyl)

Elton loves him some Record Store Day, and this marks another instance of him releasing some previously unheard material as part of an album package that may or may not ever see the light again in any subsequent releases. It’s a two-record set with the kind of splatter design where no two copies look alike that you might expect to see in a Third Man Records pressing. The first disc contains the original 50-year-old album, and the second introduces an equal amount of demos that are almost all previously unreleased, including a few for songs that didn’t make this particular album (“Hi-Heel Sneakers,” “Skyline Pigeon,” “Jack Rabbit”). All the studio extras are high-quality (aside from maybe a “Daniel” where the vocals were apparently un-mic-ed). There don’t appear to be any imminent plans to put out a 50th anniversary “Don’t Shoot” boxed set, so this could be the only chance for serious fans to obtain these worthy bonus tracks, at least for a while.

Various artists, “Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era (1964-1968) [50th Anniversary Box]” (6000 copies, 5x black vinyl)

There are a lot of classic rock fans — or aficionados of obscure classic rock, if that’s not an oxymoron — that will be looking for this boxed set as the first thing they do when they get in the store. The pressing quantity is high for an item that retails for around $100, so the supply should meet the demand for a while, though you may well have to hit more than one shop. You’ll be glad you did: This probably counts as one of the most essential Record Store Day releases ever, for rock history buffs. If you’re not familiar with the original “Nuggets” release from 50 years ago, it was a collection that evinced nostalgia for something that had transpired only about five or six years before: the intersection of garage-rock and psychedelia. There was a plan to follow that 1973 comp with a two-LP “Vol. II” — it never came out, but it’s included here, at last. And so is a fifth disc (!) of songs that had been considered for either collection but didn’t make the cut. The expanded set is curated now, as it was in ’73, by the great Lenny Kaye, of Patti Smith Group and other fame. He and fellow history buffs Jac Holzman and Bill Inglot have contributed liner notes to a 16-page booklet that accompanies the individually jacketed slide-out LP jackets-within-a-jacket. A “Nuggets” neophyte will know a few of the tracks (“I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night),” “Pushin’ Too Hard”), but what a voyage of discovery this is. “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” said the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, and man, we do.

Tori Amos,Little Earthquakes – The B-Sides” (10,000 copies, black vinyl)

How on fire was Amos in the early ’90s, that when she was cutting her first post-Y Kant Tori Read album, she recorded songs like “Sugar” and “Mary” that someone — be it her or the powers-that-be — thought weren’t essential enough to make the cut? It’s hard to think of many classic albums that had a better set of B-sides than this one. They were collected together previously once, as part of an expanded deluxe CD edition in 2015, but siphoning them off into an independent LP release was a wise, almost inevitable idea. (It would have been nice if they’d included her cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” also a B-side from that cycle, but the album does feel more of a whole with just her original songs.)

Amythyst Kiah, “Pensive Pop” (2500 copies, black vinyl)

How good a song was Tori Amos’ “Sugar”? Good enough that it pops up, improbably after 30 years, on two Record Store Day releases this year — Amos’ own, as mentioned above, but also this four-song EP of covers from the estimable Kiah. She’s been rocking some of these songs on tour, and shows a lot of savvy in her picks, from Green Day’s “Hitchin’ a Ride” to one of Katy Perry’s most unexpectedly stealth-mature songs, “Chained to the Rhythm.” Three of the covers are fairly loud or high-energy, but a quieter closing take on Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” really delivers the lamentable goods.

Chet Baker, “Chet” (6525 copies, black vinyl)

Chet Baker, Blue Room: The 1979 Vara Studio Sessions In Holland” (3000 copies, 2x black vinyl)

If you’re a Baker buff, there’s some serious competition for your RSD dollar; you’d be wise to pull out the credit card to procure both — one of which is a letter-perfect reissue of a classic, the other of which is a beyond-stellar late-period studio recording you won’t believe went unissued for almost 45 years. Craft’s mono reissue of “Chet” — said to be the first time it’s gotten a new vinyl edition since 1959 — is stunning, from the dead-quiet wax to a tip-on cover that so accurately reproduces the original, Craft didn’t put its own name anywhere on the packaging and relegated the bar code to a shrink-wrap sticker. Kevin Gray did the all-analog mastering… Meanwhile, “Blue Room” proves that the trumpet great still had it, 20 years later, with a crispness that makes it seem impossible these tapes sat around for the discovering so long. Archival producer Zev Feldman has rounded out the package with the deeply elaborate liner notes you’re used to seeing in his Resonance releases, though it’s one of Feldman’s inaugural releases on his new Jazz Detective imprint. Long may he gumshoe.

The Black Keys, “Live at Beachland Tavern March 31, 2002” (5000 copies, tangerine vinyl)

A lot of other live albums that appear on Record Store Day are culled from larger boxed sets or have some sort of other CD or digital edition coming out. But here’s one that is previously unheard and doesn’t seem to have any other version coming out for now, so Keys fans will flock to it. And here’s the novelty: it was the soon to be world-conquering duo’s very first show, ever. How good were the Akronites, right out of the gate? We can’t say yet — we weren’t able to preview this particular title — but we’ll find out along with everyone else on Saturday, joining the handful of people who were there on that fateful night in Cleveland 21 years ago.

Amanda Shires, “Live at Columbia Studio A” (2700 copies, pink vinyl)

Shires is already well-represented with the aforementioned “Sound Emporium,” which she splits with fellow ambassador Isbell. But she has this other live-in-studio session all to herself — on the spine, anyway, as she is joined by Isbell and Maren Morris on the session. This four-song EP includes re-recordings of four numbers from her excellent 2021 solo album, “Take It Like a Man,” which got a second look for the purposes of stand-alone music videos and, now, this issue. The arrangements aren’t too stripped-down — the song “Take It Like a Man” still has a string section, even in this setting — but you may find a bit more live punch at play. Bonus points for a poster that makes further use of the cover-image catsuit and a download card, something that used to be more of a staple of vinyl releases but now is rarely included.

Wilco, “Crosseyed Strangers: An Alternate Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” (4500 copies, black vinyl)

One of the growing trends for Record Store Day in recent years is “alternate” version of classic albums, usually pulling alternate takes or demos from deluxe boxed sets to put together a different-universe version using the original LP’s running order. Wilco has done that with “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” but with a difference — most of the tracks aren’t from the recent expansive “YHF” box. A couple of these alternate versions are solo Jeff Tweedy versions, a few are alternate studio takes, and a couple are from a 2002 concert, but most enticingly, four of the cuts are live versions from an April 2022 concert in New York that was promoting the boxed set. “If you ever wondered what a time-traveling-enabled alternate version of ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ would sound like, here’s your chance!” Tweedy wrote when this was first released on CD last fall … as a bonus CD bundled with an issue of the British magazine Uncut. This LP debut of the set is a bit more ceremonious than that.

Nas, “Made You Look: God’s Son Live 2002” (6000 copies, black vinyl)

Hip-hop hasn’t always gotten its RSD due, but instant-sellout releases for some of the genre’s top names in recent years have proven the audience is there. Expect a healthy turnout for the physical-media debut of a hometown NYC show from 2002 at Webster Hall, as filmed for DVD and previously available for repeat listens only in streaming form.

Dolly Parton, “The Monument Singles Collection 1964-1968” (5500 copies, black vinyl)

It’s hard to remember that Parton spent several years releasing mostly unsuccessful singles at the outset of her career, even before she landed her first minor hit with “Dumb Blonde,” seemingly relegated to a career as Porter Wagoner’s foil for a while. It’s also hard to believe that early stuff has never been properly anthologized until now. Not available as a collection on CD or any other format, “The Monument Singles Collection” finally rectifies that by collecting all these initial 45s from the original mono master tapes, with savvy liner notes on the inner sleeve from country historian Holly George-Warren. What’s surprising is how Parton was seemingly initially positioned as more of a teen pop queen… even if she was still an adolescent when her first singles came out; she sounds almost like a more chipmunky Brenda Lee, or a one-woman girl group, before she settles into a true country groove right around the start of Side 2.

Shirley Scott, “Queen Talk: Live at The Left Bank (2000 copies, 2x black vinyl)

Sonny Stitt, “Boppin’ in Baltimore” (1800 copies, 2x black vinyl)

Walter Bishop, Jr., “Bish at the Bank: Live in Baltimore” (2000 copies, 2x black vinyl)

Are there any two words in the English language that sound sweeter together than “hard-” and “bop”? Maybe, but you’d be hard-pressed to think so as you listen to any of these three fantastic archival jazz releases that are arriving as a joint effort of the aforementioned “jazz detective” Zev Feldman and Reel to Real Recordings’ Cory Weed. Jazz organist Shirley Scott, sax legend Sonny Stitt and piano great Walter Bishop Jr. may not be the household names to the non-cognoscenti 2023 mainstream that Bill Evans or Chet Baker are (to name two other masters whose sessions Feldman is resurrecting this RSD), yet they’re no less deserving for these kind of elaborate packages and rediscovery by a new generation of vinyl hounds. All three albums come from the previously unreleased archives of the Left Bank Jazz Society, a Baltimore organization that produced concerts in the 1960s and early ’70s, which you’ll wish you could time-travel back to and become a card-carrying member. Really, any one of these three double-LPs might contend as the jazz archival release of the year on its own, but if I had to pick just one, I’d go with Scott’s “Queen Talk,” so named because she was known in her heyday as the Queen of the B-3. It’s hard not to acquire a belated rooting interest in a woman who established her prowess in a man’s world starting in the late ’50s, but this 1972 ballroom performance doesn’t need any extra points for representation when you’ve got her joined by one of the best sax players of all time, George Coleman, and greatest drummers, Bobby Durham, for some of the most exciting ensemble playing you will have ever heard. The 12-and-a-half minute opener, John Coltrane’s “Impressions,” is so fast and furious that you can’t believe these superheroes had anything to leave on the table for the rest of this blowout performance.

Beach House, “Become” (8000 copies, clear vinyl)

Some bands, having left five studio tracks on the cutting room floor after their latest album, would tag those on a few weeks into the digital run and call it a deluxe edition. And maybe Beach House will get around to that eventually. But they’re our kind of band by having made a separate release out of those severed songs just for the purposes of a Record Store Day exclusive. We didn’t get a preview of this release, but fans can make up their own minds whether “American Daughter,” “Devil’s Pool,” “Holiday House,” “Black Magic” and “Become” should have made the cut for the “Once Twice Melody” album or if they comprise a fine stand-alone on their own.

Billy Joel, Live At The Great American Music Hall – 1975” (6700 copies, black vinyl)

Stevie Nicks, “Bella Donna Live 1981” (10,000 copies, 3x black vinyl)

If you missed the recent joint stadium headlining dates by these two, here’s a chance to recreate ’em on your turntable, kind of. These are two examples of live album that were previously squeezed into a boxed set, now made available as independent titles for the first time. In the case of Nicks, her Dec. 1981 performance at L.A.’s Fox Wilshire Theatre — needless to say, that would count as an underplay now — was part of a 2016 deluxe CD edition of her first solo album, and includes material from that as well as what she’d done with Fleetwood Mac to date. More than 40 years later, her solo performances still include a lot of this material, of course. Not so with Joel, whose archival live release feels much more like a trip to a different era, in which early deep tracks abound and he has a relaxed, conversational relationship with the audience at a San Francisco hall that became impossible within a few years. Spots in the show where he does his impressions of Elton John, Joe Cocker and Leon Russell also reflect the more casual nature of the performances with his first touring band, which was nearing the end of its tenure here.

Miles Davis, “Turnaround: Unreleased Rare Vinyl from On The Corner” (5700 copies, blue vinyl)

When Davis made a serious turn from bop into funk in the early ’70s, it went over well with the Fillmore West crowd, but less so with his core audience, which felt kind of blue at his purportedly having deserted them for a younger and hepper crowd. (No one shouted “Judas,” apparently, but they might as well have.) Now, the material from that period sounds not all that shocking and very contemporaneous — except, maybe, for the fact that he’s playing his trumpet through a wah-wah pedal. This collection is but a sample of the unreleased material that first went public in an “On the Corner”-era boxed set, but it’s going to be just the right sampling for the average fan.

Bill Evans, “Treasures: Solo, Trio & Orchestra In Denmark 1965-1969” (4000 copies, 3x black vinyl)

No charges of betraying true jazz for the counterculture here — Evans was in classic form with these late ’60s performances. Once again, producer Zev Feldman has sniffed out more previously unreleased Evans than it’s possible to believe went unmined for all these decades; this “Treasures” release marks the 10th album he’s done with the master pianist’s estate. It’s unlike its predecessors in representing Evans in three very different formats, as the title indicates — arguably the top man, ever, in his field, on his own or with a crowd. As usual with Feldman-produced archival jazz releases, the liner notes include practically a book’s worth of contextual information.

Travis, “The Invisible Band Live” (2500 copies, 2x clear vinyl)

Midlake, “Live At Roundhouse” (1800 copies, 2x translucent red and orange vinyl)

Two superior examples of live albums that are only being made available on vinyl, and only for RSD (for now, at least). Travis celebrated the 20th anniversary of “Invisible Band” by playing the album back last year at a hometown show in Glasgow, and although we tend to never say never when it comes to the ultimate exclusivity of Record Store Day releases, the promo for the album promises this is the only time this set will be released. The quantities aren’t that high, so this one should have a short life on shelves. Meanwhile, Midlake has not been around for 20 years, of course, but on this career-surveying set, they sound like they’ve been around for 50+ — they’re so in touch with a kind of moody rock timelessness that you can easily close your eyes and imagine Bill Graham is in the wings, putting them on between Santana and Ten Years After.

John Lennon, “Gimme Some Truth” (500 copies, 9x 10” white vinyl)

Paul McCartney, “Red Rose Speedway” (5000 copies, black vinyl)

These two releases may be for Beatles collectors only… but how much of the world does that not entail. The Lennon box is a bit controversial, to put it mildly, due to its $375 list-price tag, but the 500-copy scarcity means it won’t have any trouble attracting finders, since most stores will be lucky to land even one copy for their customers. It duplicates the content of a boxed set of contemporary mixes that came out under Yoko Ono’s supervision a few years ago, but in the form of nine 10-inch EPs that include four tracks each. McCartney’s 1973 album is pressed in 10 times the quantity of the Lennon release, and although it doesn’t add anything fresh to his canon, fans will be happy to have a 50th anniversary addition to the catalog of half-speed master LPs he’s been putting out sequentially.

Not enough for you? Here, in brief, are a few more to look out for in your brick-and-mortar travels.

The 1975, “Live With the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra” (2500 copies, 2x vinyl; 2000 copies, CD)

Kind of a ridiculously low number of copies for a band this big. Let the would-be buyer beware.

Arooj Aftab, “Live in London” (2500 copies, opaque red vinyl)

A June 2022 live set from the best new artist Grammy nominee.

Bluey [TV Series], “Dance Model” (1500 copies, picture disc)

The soundtrack for the kids’ series may not appeal to the core RSD demographic, but even going into RSD, this title has picked up a rep as one of the items that will be hardest to find in stores.

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, “I’m Going To Do What I Wanna Do: Live At My Father’s Place 1978” (5000 copies, black vinyl)

A concert set previously only available about 20 years ago as a limited-edition, long-out-of-print Rhino Handmade CD.

The Cure, “Show (2023 Remaster)” (10,000 copies, 2x picture disc vinyl)

The Cure’s series of picture discs continues as a regular facet of almost every Record Store Day. Some purists wish these titles would come out on black vinyl instead of as picture discs, yet many of those who’ve picked up these Cure items in the past say the sound quality is just as good.

The Grateful Dead, “Boston Garden, Boston, MA 5/7/77 (Live)” (9000 copies, 5x black vinyl)

Dead and DMB multi-LP live albums are a regular staple of both RSD and RSD Black Friday events, although Dave Matthews seems to have dropped out of the race for now. This Dead show has a particularly good reputation.

Husker Du, “Tonite Longhorn” (5000 copies, 2x black vinyl)

Twenty-eight tracks of live recordings from when it truly was a new day rising for the band, well before their SST heyday, in 1979-80.

Ivy, “Apartment Life Demos” (quantity not revealed)

More opportunity to celebrate the late, great Adam Schlesinger, with a slew of his “other” band’s 1997 demos “with all of the sneezes and giggles preserved.”

Norah Jones, “Little Broken Hearts: Live At Allaire Studios” (2500 copies, white vinyl)

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of her 2012 “Little Broken Hearts” album, Jones went into the studio to record a live-in-studio version of the record with her current touring band. It’s ultimately earmarked for a deluxe CD edition of that 10-year-old album that’s coming out in June, but here’s a chance to get a two-month jump on it.

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