Record Store Day is the one day of the year when over 200 independent record shops all across the UK come together to celebrate their unique culture. For its upcoming 11th iteration (Saturday 21st April), Rag’n’Bone Man has been selected as UK ambassador for the event that’s become something of a second Christmas for self-professed record nerds.
With a similar fandom to any new iPhone release, collectors of all musical genres will be lining the streets from the early AM, hoping to cop one of the many collector’s items produced in limited numbers exclusively for the celebratory event. We’ve picked out some of our favourite releases from this year’s list – which includes a number of exciting 70’s reissues that bare close association to the current state of dance music.
With the evolution of selectors like Jeremy Underground and Floating Points, each of whom share a deep knowledge of music and enviable record collections, there’s a growing feeling for dance music with more soul. The consequent wave of reissues has imbued a re-appreciation for forgotten classics, persuading a new generation of collectors to step back into a musical period that would come to play a major role in defining club culture. The interspersion of contemporary electronic music has segued between funk, soul, disco, rare-groove and all manner of dusty record shop digs that will again feature heavily across this summer’s festival highlights. Think Jayda G, MCDE and Hunee as further examples of those renowned as the ultimate feel-good selectors. They’re playing old records, each with a timeless ability to induce emotions or simply make you want to move your body.
We picked out five records in keeping with that notion and dissected the elements that make them ideal releases for RSD 2018:
The Undisputed Truth: You + Me = Love / Sandman
First up on the turntables is an RSD exclusive with two seminal cuts from Norman Whitfield’s standout project. As a songwriter and producer, Norman was renowned for his part in defining the Motown sound coming out of 1960’s Detroit, writing for the likes of soul sensation Marvin Gaye and The Temptations. But it was in 1975 that Norman made his solo move to launch Whitfield Records, poaching The Undisputed Truth for the new label’s first release with a reassembled group including a new female lead singer in Taka Boom, Chaka Khan’s sister who features on this record.
The A-side revisits one of the label’s most prolific outputs, reaching number 5 in the US dance charts and the group’s only record to also chart on UK airwaves. Its commercial success is unsurprising given that the track embodies the archetypal sound of 70’s funk come early disco. A prominent bass guitar cuts through an uptempo four-four drum sequence, providing the foundation for the big diva vocals of Taka to combine with rising strings and crashes that bring this record to a series of scintillating crescendos, before unleashing a sax solo fit for whipping 1976 discotheques into a frenzy.
On the flip side you get ‘Sandman’, a selection from the group’s final 1979 album also on Whitfield’s label. A breezy funk & soul number deserving of its own release as a 12” single now for the first time. It boasts subtle qualities that’ve seen it sampled across a number of later house productions, including the male lead that moves between infectiously laid back (“close your eyes and you can go, anywhere you want to see”) and a strong vocal chorus comparable to Marvin Gaye. In short, here you get two tracks of soulful funk & disco that give us a brief but mighty synopsis of Detroit’s musical legacy across one 12”.
Original Release Dates: 1976(A) / 1979(B)
Boz Scaggs – Lowdown / Jojo / What Can I Say
Next up we celebrate an artist whose career has been extensive if not always acclaimed. From performing with the Steve Miller Band in the 1960s, to operating nightclubs and fermenting wine in the present day, Boz Scaggs’ short run of individual success musically comes toward the latter end of the 1970s. Thankfully this RSD release hones in on that period of ascendancy.
The record opens with the first ever 12” pressing of one of the standout tracks from Silk Degrees, Boz Scaggs’ best loved production. ‘Lowdown’ was something of an accidental success; initially a slow burner from the album’s tepid reception, it was only after a self-starting DJ picked out the track that it started to garner widespread radio play. On the back of this airtime, the single charted at number three on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and sold over one million copies, giving Scaggs his commercial breakthrough. Best described as elementary disco with a pop-rock flavour, it’s earned itself a place amongst the discerning Moodymann’s record bag, a recognition almost as formidable as the million record sales.
Borrowing again from Silk Degrees, this reissue includes ‘What Can I Say’. A record with a similar feel to ‘Lowdown’ when Boz kicks off the first verse, arranged around a pop chorus of grand piano and female backing vocals. Rounded off with ‘Jojo’, released in 1980 and included here as an apt culmination of the Boz Scaggs sound, that of an artist who moved with the musical landscape of 60’s and 70’s America from blues and pop-rock through funk & soul, peaking alongside the crossover period of New York’s emerging disco scene.
Original Release Dates: 1976(A) / 1980(B)
Cheryl Lynn – You Saved My Day / Got To Be Real
It’d be ill advised to entertain this next reissue until you’re able to cancel all plans and hit the disco. From the peak period of female American soul singers capitalising on the sound, Cheryl Lynn joins the likes of Donna Summer and Diana Ross as a household name to have put their powerful falsetto vocals to a hoard of timeless disco classics. Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, the A Side is an extremely rare 12” version of ‘You Saved My Day’. With copies of the original changing hands for anywhere up to £200, this is another RSD reissue essential for bringing affordable copies of sought after recordings to collectors, or even introducing newcomers to wax.
‘To Be Real’ is selected for the B Side, a dance anthem completing the pick of the bunch for those digging out hip-swinging ammunition come April 21st. Lynn’s first and most successful single broke at number one on the R&B charts, prompting the album that also gave us the A Side above. Recorded using session musicians that would later form the beloved Toto, with signature high vocals counterbalancing a thumping bassline that gives it the prerequisite bounce of any feel-good disco classic. 10/10 must have.
Original Release Dates: 1978(A) / 1978(B)
William DeVaughn – Be Thankful For What You Got
Hold up. We might be dropping the tempo but we’re ramping up the feels on this one. If there’s a smooth soul reissue this year that’s more fitting on the cusp of summer then please send it in our direction. Recorded with members of Philadelphia Soul group MFSB, ‘Be Thankful For What You Got’ was a message for the masses forty-five years ago and it still rings true today. Dampened organs, effortless guitar riffs and high rhythmic congas combine for an uplifting seven minute run out of infectious soul music. The repeated vocal hook “Diamond in the back, Sun roof top, Diggin’ the scene with a gangsta lean” give it an urban personality sampled by the likes of N.W.A, Massive Attack and Ludacris, plus reimagined into a reggae version by Donovan Caress. Without these associations you have to feel that we’d still be talking about a timeless record, they only serve as testaments to the impact of this summertime hit that’s been remastered and repackaged on exclusive white vinyl for Record Store Day…”Gangster White Walls,” indeed…
Original Release Date: 1973
Holland-Dozier feat Lamont Dozier – Why Can’t We Be Lovers
This is the track for the end of the night and/or the sleepy Sunday morning after. A 45th anniversary reissue on Invictus Records that would’ve been fit for some of its contemporaries, it’s a delectably charming soul record that compares to the releases we’ve come to expect from Melodies International, Athens of The North or a second edition of Jeremy Underground’s ‘Beauty’ compilation. Dreamy strings and an incredibly warm and inviting sax solo, deeply romantic verses and orchestration that rises and falls with the passion of the vocals. This one’s an ode to falling in love on the dance floor. Lights up, slow dance. Catch it on beautiful blue 7″ vinyl before they fly off the shelves…
Original Release Date: 1973
Beyond these five highlights there’s also a whole inventory of funky numbers exclusive to RSD that are equally worth a check. So whether you’ve stolen your dad’s collection, have a new-found penchant for digging through record stores or have never even stepped foot inside these alien wax metropolis’, our best recommendation has to be getting into your local dealership on the 21st of this month, getting your fingers dusty and seeing what this vinyl thing is all about.