Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Big Star - Big Star Story (2003)

I never participated in the multitude of the recent tributes to the late Alex Chilton because I wasn't familiar with the music of his post-Box Tops band, Big Star. I've always known about this hallowed group but somehow I never found an opportunity to listen to their music, until now.

While shopping in my favorite used CD store two weeks ago, armed only with the information that for decades Chilton and his band were crowned the kings of power pop by a loyal cult following, I decided it was time to take the plunge and make a purchase. There were several choices available. I could have bought a double disc repackaging of #1 Record / Radio City, (1972 and 1974 respectively) their first two LPs, or Big Star Live, but I settled for a compilation called Big Star Story.

Research has indicated that fans view Story as a poorly assembled retrospective. First, not every track is a Big Star song. Both "I Am the Cosmos" and "You and Your Sister" are from a solo album recorded by Chilton's band mate, the late Chris Bell. Unfortunately, there is no discussion about why these particular numbers were included in the package and if you aren't already familiar with Bell's songs you'll have to dig deep into the disc's confusing liner notes to discover what they are. Devotees also complained about too many live songs, too many alternate versions, and even the track sequencing. None of this is explained in the liner notes. Because this disc is not a "best of" collection the general consensus is that I would have been better served by purchasing the re-released version of their first two records.

However, as a Big Star virgin this collection is my only frame of reference. The quartet's vocals sound like an amalgam of Revolver era Beatles, The Byrds, and early Who. Their loud electric guitars rock yet never lose sight of the melody. There is no jamming and soloing is kept to a minimum. Big Star is about the songs, not the musicianship, and in their case it's the perfect way to be.

Here is more on Big Star from writer Tom Moon.

Chilton's signature song, "September Gurls," from Radio City is the ultimate representation of what this cool little band was all about. If you are not familiar with Big Star please allow them to introduce themselves now.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review Charlie. With Alex Chilton's recent death I was hearing a lot about Big Star as well.

    I'll have to check them out sometime.