It’s pretty easy to put off holiday shopping until the last minute.
And if you’re looking around for the vinyl hound in your life, you are gambling if you think you can just pick any random record from the wonky vinyl section at Barnes & Noble and expect them not to return it to you the very next day.
The trick is you want to wow them, hit ’em with something unexpected that they might have sitting in a shopping cart on Discogs or set aside at their local mom-and-pop for that impulsive urge to splurge. And if you don’t know what they might have in the queue, a cursory look at what they are listening to on Bandcamp or Spotify will give you a great idea of what you might want to get for them.
Here are 10 choices that might wow the wax fan in your life if you’re in search of a last-minute vinyl gift this holiday season.
Charles Mingus, A Modern Jazz Symposium of Music and Poetry (New Land Records)
One of the more overlooked titles in his discography, 1957’s A Modern Jazz Symposium of Music and Poetry stands as one of the most creative missives in the career of jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus. Working with an A-list band featuring Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Shafi Hadi (tenor and alto sax), Bill Hardman and Clarence Shaw on trumpet, drummer Dannie Richmond and pianists Horace Parlan and Bob Hammer, you can feel the essence of late ‘50s New York City in these compositions. This definitive edition of Symposium is expanded to include four bonus tracks from the original sessions and housed in a gatefold sleeve featuring rare photographs and a note from Mr. Hammer.
Buy A Modern Symposium of Music and Poetry on vinyl here.
Echo & the Bunnymen, Evergreen 25th Anniversary Edition (London)
After 1990’s Reverberation with an altered lineup, original Bunnymen Ian McCullouch, Will Sergeant and Les Pattinson reunited to release the excellent Evergreen in 1997. Lighter and brighter than their seminal ‘80s output, this pop treasure is ripe for rediscovery thanks to this 25th Anniversary edition which finds the album released on vinyl for the very first time. The CD version of Evergreen comes with a bonus disc containing B-sides and BBC sessions, which includes live versions of “Lips Like Sugar” and “The Killing Moon.”
Mike Baggetta/Mike Watt/Jim Keltner, Everywhen We Go (Big Ego)
Experimental jazz guitarist Mike Baggetta reconvenes with his dream rhythm section of Mike Watt of Minutemen/fIREHOSE on bass and renowned Beatles session drummer Jim Keltner on the improvised creation Everywhen We Go. Similar to its 2019 predecessor Wall of Flowers, the trio’s second album together was largely cut in a single session and serves as some of the best conversations you’ll hear between three instruments on wax this year.
Various Artists, Bound For Hell: On the Sunset Strip (Numero Group)
Though more known for their work in soul, jazz, and indie rock, Chicago’s Numero Group reissue label dives deep into the early 80s L.A. glam metal scene with this 21-song collection that’s essentially a Sunset Strip spin on Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets in the best possible way. In addition to songs from Armored Saint, Lizzy Borden, Black ‘N Blue, and Rough Cutt (with Jake E. Lee on guitar!), you’ll have a blast discovering the sounds of lesser-known artists like Leather Angel, Reddi Kilowatt, Max Havoc, and Romeo. Guiding your listening journey is a 144-page color book featuring expert liner notes from our SPIN contributor Katherine Turman.
Buy Bound for Hell: On the Sunset Strip on vinyl here.
R.E.M., Chronic Town (I.R.S./UMe)
After decades of being exclusive to 1987’s Dead Letter Office compilation, the EP that introduced R.E.M. to a wider audience is finally getting its own reissue 40 years later. Why it wasn’t amended with bonus material is a bit perplexing, but it won’t matter after you experience the renewed fidelity of such early band classics as “1,000,000,” “Gardening at Night” and “Wolves, Lower,” not to mention extensive liner notes from producer Mitch Easter.
Buy Chronic Town on vinyl here.
Jack Kerouac, Poetry for the Beat Generation (Real Gone Music)
Jack Kerouac was born 100 years ago, and in honor of the Beat icon’s centennial Real Gone has made available his ultra-rare spoken word album featuring comedic legend Steve Allen on piano. Poetry for the Beat Generation was cut in one take as Allen’s underrated dexterity on the keys jubilantly elevates Kerouac’s prose that rolls off his tongue as easily as it flows from his pen. This version is pressed on milky clear vinyl.
Sault, 11 (Forever Living Originals)
Mysterious English future soul outfit Sault is nothing if not altruistic. And perhaps the biggest measure of their good faith is that they recently posted five new albums available to fans free online for five days. But if there was one from the batch to grab on vinyl, 11 is alive with this energy that seems to bring together your favorite moments by Soul II Soul, Horace Andy and Sade to create something entirely worth hearing on a turntable.
OVENS, OVENS (Tankcrimes)
Few artists can navigate the slipstream between pop and hardcore like San Francisco’s Tony Molina. OVENS was first released in 2009 and hasn’t been available since its initial CD run. But now, the 44-song double album is available on vinyl and you can experience the hypothetical notion of how Pinkerton could have sounded if it was recorded more like Bee Thousand.
The Doors, Paris Blues (Rhino)
The piece de resistance for Doors completists has always been “Paris Blues,” which was recorded for either The Soft Parade or L.A. Woman, and thought to have been lost forever. But the late Ray Manzerek had a copy, albeit taped over in some parts thanks to his son Pablo. Thanks to the miracle of digital editing, however, the song finally exists and serves as the title track to a new collection of blues-rooted Doors rarities released this past Black Friday Record Store Day. Also included here are two live tracks from Jim Morrison and Robby Krieger’s performance at a benefit for author Norman Mailer’s campaign to become mayor of Los Angeles in 1969, as well as four blistering cuts in collaboration with blues giant Albert King.
Vince Guaraldi, A Charlie Brown Christmas: Deluxe Edition (Craft Recordings)
Every household alive with the holiday spirit should have a copy of the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas playing merrily on the old Victrola. This latest edition expands the new stereo mix of original LP to include a second record featuring 13 previously unreleased session outtakes culled from the four-CD super deluxe edition of the piano jazz masterpiece that’s the epitome of yuletide cool.