January: John Prine’s John Prine
First up, our Essentials track will feature the self-titled debut album from big-hearted storyteller and deeply beloved country singer-songwriter John Prine.
“No way somebody this young can be writing so heavy,” Kris Kristofferson, who is partially credited for discovering Prine, once said. “John Prine is so good, we may have to break his thumbs.” But we all know that probably wouldn’t have stopped Prine; songs came out of him like breath. In fact, he wrote many of the songs that appear on the album not for the world to hear, but to pass the time as a young, unknown USPS worker on his daily delivery route. He began playing regular gigs at a small Chicago club and garnering regional accolades, but when he caught his break after a friend convinced Kristofferson and Paul Anka to come see him play, he was quickly signed to Atlantic. John Prine was recorded just a handful of months after in 1971 at American Sound Studio in Memphis (except “Paradise,” which was recorded in New York), produced by the esteemed Arif Mardin, and released the same year.
“Anyone who could possibly turn their nose up at any John Prine record is suffering from a case of severe tiny grinch heart, and is certainly no friend of mine — but this is especially true of his debut. In that respect alone, the John Prine record is a no-brainer for our Essentials track, but it also feels notable and special that we can kick off what will be — with any luck — a year of hope and optimism with tribute to a beautiful soul and creator that we lost this past year to COVID,” said VMP Senior Editor Amileah Sutliff. “His debut is Prine at some of his rawest songwriting, and holds some of his most time-honored classics. It’s absurd how much humanity that young man could pack into just a handful of chords, some humble melodies, and the lyrical products of his own wandering mind.”
Our reissue of John Prine as was pressed all-analog (AAA) with lacquers cut from the original analog tapes by Ryan Smith, Sterling Sound on 180g Orange Marble Vinyl. The package includes an original liner notes + photo booklet, as well as an exclusive art print.
You can read the liner notes digitally here.
February: The Strokes’ Room On Fire
Next up, our Essentials track will feature The Strokes’ 2003 sophomore album Room on Fire. The follow-up to their smash hit debut Is This It, our selection of Room on Fire presents the New York City rock quintet that ruled the aughts in an undersung, albeit peak moment.
“As a former teenage Strokes obsessive, us doing Room on Fire was a dream come true for me personally; they were the first band I felt like I could call my own, in a way,” said VMP Editorial Director Andrew Winistorfer.
“When we were talking about doing Room on Fire for Essentials, it kept coming back to this record being really underrated both at the time, and in retrospect; people didn’t know what to expect after Is This It and it was like they were prepared to throw the “Sophomore Slump” tag around, but with the benefit of hindsight, this is one of the best rock albums of the ’00s! It’s got hooks for days, the band sounds like a street gang made manifest via power chords, and it has like 8-9 songs that will make you lose your mind if they come on at the right time at the right party. Our edition celebrates an album that deserves another look, and a reconsideration of its greatness — the very purpose of VMP as a company.”
Our exclusive pressing of Room on Fire is on 180g "Meet Me in the Bathroom Tile"-color vinyl, pressed from lacquers cut by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound and plated at QRP. The package features a tip-on jacket with gold foil stamping on the yellow/gold of the jacket cover with a printed inner sleeve and an exclusive art print by Cynthia Alfonso.
March: Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of Day
Capping off the winter and ushering us into spring, we’ve got Kid Cudi’s 2009 debut LP Man on the Moon: The End of Day. While it may only be remembered by some for the once-inescapable hits like “Pursuit of Happiness” and “Day ’n’ Night,” a dozen-year-later retrospective view of the album proves it an ambitious mammoth of a concept album.
After gaining momentum as a creator and collaborator on gargantuan cultural artifacts of the aughts, most namely the previous year’s 808s and Heartbreaks and his own mixtape A Kid Named Cudi, all eyes were on Cudi’s major label debut. Man on the Moon: The End of Day delivered the first in his Man on the Moon trilogy, and a hip-hop album that muddied the sonic lines between hip-hop, new wave, electronic, and a handful of other genres in a way the mainstream had yet to see.
“I wish I could’ve recorded a video of the meeting in which Man on the Moon was announced as a ROTM internally to VMP. There was a lot of collective youthful glee on the video grid of our staff’s faces, and despite the record’s fairly constant state of solemn, emo turmoil, I think that’s really indicative of the way people feel about this record when they look back,” said Sutliff. “It ubiquitously speaks to, and was present during, a very specific time in lots of people’s lives: in many cases youth, which, to be fair, is typically filled with a lot of solemn, emo turmoil. Blend that nostalgic melodrama and enthusiasm with the fact that I’m certain we’ve never done a record like this for Essentials, and you’ve got yourself a ROTM.”
VMP’s March essentials feature is pressed on exclusive 2LP "The End of Day / A New Beginning" Galaxy Vinyl, from lacquers cut by Barry Grint at Alchemy Mastering at AIR. The package features a gatefold tip-on jacket with black poly-lined sleeves and an exclusive art print by the Eisner Award-winning artist who created the original album art, Bill Sienkiewicz.