R2D4 2022: Death-Defying Tunes

So, what's this all about? Most of you already know—after all, we've been doing it since 1991, and it's one of our most popular features. But if you're new to Stereophile, here it is: Originally, the light-hearted conceit was, these are the records you'd be willing to lay down your life for. (This foie gras is to die for!) But, let's be real: That ain't gonna happen, or so I hope.

My favorite formulation was laid down by music critic John Swenson in March 2021 in a My Back Pages essay. He called them death-row discs: These are the records that, at the end of your life, you'd want—you'd need—to hear one last time. Maybe these records—and that desire—would even keep you alive a little longer. If that weren't so depressing, and if R2D4 wasn't already so well-known, I might consider changing the name of the feature.

There aren't many rules—just a couple. First, you must not have selected a record previously for R2D4. You only live once (unless you are a cat, or James Bond), so you cannot choose the same record twice.

If you've been doing this for as long as some of our writers have, this isn't an easy rule to follow. It's easy to lose track, and after a while, your personal R2D4 list grows long.

There's an exception even to that rule, sort of: While you're not allowed to choose exactly the same record twice, you can choose a new reissue of a previous choice. More than one reviewer took advantage of this exception this year to name the new Analogue Productions reissue of a certain record with initials KoB.

The only other rule is that the record must not be unobtainium. It must be possible to obtain it, even if it requires significant bodily or monetary sacrifice and/or serious determination.

I admit that my enforcement of this rule is lax. My heart isn't really in it. This year, Michael Fremer nominated one LP that is obtainable—it technically qualifies—but only if you're willing to commit a crime—I'm considering it—or transfer large sums into someone else's PayPal or Venmo account. With his typical insight and wit, Mikey noted in an email to me, "If it really has to be 'reasonably obtainable,' maybe the feature name should be changed to 'Records to Be Inconvenienced For.'" That's not what we're after here.

So, without further ado, here it is: Records to Die For, 2022.—Jim Austin

Anton's picture

The new Kind of Blue gives me hope that those other Classics records pressings may see light of day.

They even did some Led Zep pressings...that would be kind of fun!

Glotz's picture

Also - "Records to be Inconvenienced for"... LOL, good one Mikey!

MFK's picture

Wonderful to see them make this list. First time that I remember. There is a large catalogue with last year's Dragnet being the latest entry. A very good record and the current version of the band is a hot live act.

Herb Reichert's picture

I am listening to Chancha Vía Circuito: Bienaventuranza now and I am so happy to have discovered this new road to travel.

This is my kind of music and I never knew it existed.

happy new year too


Jon Iverson's picture
Here are a couple direct links to dozens more albums:


Shika Shika

funambulistic's picture

Those are wonderful - thank you!

KEFLS50W's picture

Ghost Song - Cécile McLorin Salvant

Anything by Charles Bradley (RIP)