Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Music Review: Big Star - #1 Record/ Radio City
With all of the cult fervor surrounding Big Star, it becomes difficult at times to sort out the music from the legend.
In 1987, The Replacements released the tribute song “Alex Chilton,” on their last great record, Pleased To Meet Me. Cheap Trick covered the classic “In The Street,” which went on to great notoriety as the theme to the program That ‘70’s Show. The Posies basically abandoned their career recently to join a revamped version of the band.
All of this fuss for a band who sold maybe 100 copies of their albums originally. Fantasy has combined the first two Big Star records onto one CD, and it is the place to go if you have always been curious about them.
Actually, this set was originally released in 1992, with no extra tracks and the same liner notes as this re-issue. That release obviously spurred a lot of interest in the group in the Nineties. There are two extras in this version, the single mixes of both “In The Street,” and “O My Soul.”
While those are nice to have, the original recordings work just fine. #1 Record came out in 1972, and Radio Citycame out in 1973. Both contained 12 tracks upon original release. Of the two, I’m a little partial to the debut.
Listening to #1 Recordwith fresh ears, I was surprised at the number of ballads on it. Of these, “Thirteen” and “Watch The Sunrise” are stand-outs. For me, the rockers are what really make the record work. Songs like the opening cut “Feel,” “Don’t Lie To Me,” and the aforementioned “In The Street” still sound as fresh as ever.
Chris Bell left the band following #1 Record, so Radio City was recorded as a three piece. Some claim that the quality of the band was unfazed by Bell’s departure. I disagree, although Radio City is still very good, the loss of a key member did affect them.
Radio City does contain Big Star’s all time greatest song “September Gurls” though, so how bad can it be? Actually there are a number of excellent tunes here, including “O My Soul,” “Back Of A Car,” and the ballad “Way Out West.” The final song on the original record, the solo acoustic “I’m In Love With A Girl” sounds like nothing else Big Star did up to that point, and is exquisite.
Rhino has a four CD Big Star box set slated for release in September, filled with tons of alternate and live versions of these songs. For hardcore fans, it sounds great. But for those who are just wondering what all the hoopla is about, this 26 track disc is the perfect introduction.