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New Big Star CD


rockerreds

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Yes, I got it the other day. The key to enjoying it (or not) depends on your expectations. If you're expecting the second coming of "#1 Record", or "Radio City", you'll be disappointed with about half of the new CD. If you really liked their 3rd CD, "Sister Lovers", you'll probably also be let down. About half of the songs (including the first 4) fit into the tuneful, melodic power pop mold of their first 2 albums. Starting with the 5th song, "Love Revolution," things start getting a bit weird. It's Alex C.'s homage to 70's disco/funk, although, thankfully, with no throbbing bass or drum machine. The majority of the songs on the 2nd half of the CD appear to have been written on the fly in the studio, while the band was jamming - several hard rockers of the 3 chord variety with seemingly improvised lyrics. In other words, the 2nd half is kind of like one of Chilton's quirkier solo albums. A disappointment to me, considering the level of songwriting talent in that band. With the addition of the 2 Posies (Auer, Stringfellow), I was also expecting more vocal harmonies - and there isn't too much, once you get past the first half of the CD. On the other hand, I suspect they had a lot of fun making this album, and I think a lot of it will translate better in a live setting. I listed to it 3 times, and I'm still not too crazy about it as a whole.

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I just recently purchased the "#1 Record/ Radio City" after reading so many great posts on this website. Other than September Gurls What's the big deal" Raspberries are far better and for that matter so are Cars,Blondie,Ramones,Records,Shoes,Dwight Twilley Band, Badfinger,Knack,Dictators etc. I just don't get it and I'm trying to.

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Tommy - I guess the only answer is the hackneyed cliche - different strokes for different folks. Of your list, for example, I much prefer the Raspberries, Ramones, Shoes, Twilley, Badfinger, and Dictators over Big Star, but have never understood the fuss over the Cars, Blondie, Records or especially the Knack...and I'm in my 50's and remember all of these bands quite well from their first records. It all comes down to personal taste....the record either does it for you or it doesn't.

I personally loved the first Big Star LP, having heard Alex Chilton only in the context of the Boxtops...and I preferred Chris Bell's songs on that LP to Alex's. By Radio City, Bell had departed (to die in a car crash shortly after that), leaving Chilton in charge...and I actually like that LP better than their first one. Now, I never much cared for the third one, which was initially universally panned, then re-discovered later and declared an underrated masterpiece. To me, it just sounded like a lot of drunken and/or drug-addled nonsense at the time. Chilton's solo LPs over the years varied wildly in quality. The band's newest CD, 30 years later, is, to me, a disappointment, especially in light of adding Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer of the Posies (to me, the only Seattle band in the 90's that could really sing) to replace Andy Hummel and Bell. I've seen this lineup 3 times over the past 7-8 years, and they've always been excellent live. Oh well.....

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IMHO there isn't much power to the original Big Star tunes but there's certainly plenty of pop, and you really can't go wrong with "September Gurls." Cheap Trick's version of "In The Street" is more akin to what we think of as power pop these days than the actual Big Star recording. The original's fairly whimpy, but the tune's all there -- Cheap Trick just revved it up a few notches. One thing I did notice when spinning the discs recently is that the guitar playing sounds pretty sophisticated and modern. There's a little White Stripes feel to 'em, even though they predate Jack White's birth!

Bernie

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Bernie - Alex Chilton is an incredibly good and underrated guitarist. At various live solo shows over the years, I've seen him do the occasional jazz instrumental just to confuse the crowd. I kind of chuckle at your references to "pretty sophisticated and modern" in one sentence and the White Stripes in the next sentence, though. If anyone's interested in seeing where Jack White & co. (whom I affectionately refer to as "The White Hypes".....and I also referred to them in a review one time as a "retarded Led Zeppelin") got a lot of their ideas from, check out the Flat Duo Jets....Dexter Romweber started out as a classical pianist, then somehow evolved into a primitive guitarist and singer. He and his drummer Crow were doing the 2 piece R&R thing for 15 years before anyone heard of Jack White....only they concentrated more on Link Wray and 50's rockabilly music instead of blues and Dolly Parton. (Dexter's put out 2 great solo CDs in the past 3 years as well.)

Lastly, I think a lot of Big Star's "wimpiness" can be attributed to their production. I suspect this may be one of the reasons that their records may not have aged all that well compared to those of some of their contemporarires. Neither the original band nor this latest incarnation are wimpy live.

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Interesting...the SLATE review is essentially what I posted earlier, about "In Space" being about half of a decent Big Star album, with the other half sounding like it was thrown together on the spot in the studio. Per the SLATE review, that's exactly what they did. I didn't really detect any cynical intent on the band's part, however...I just assumed it was Alex Chilton being himself!

Maybe it's just a coincidence, and maybe it isn't....but I talked several years ago with Robert Gordon at a bookstore in Washington, DC, about his then-recently published book, "It Came From Memphis", which mentions Chilton quite a bit. I asked him about Chilton's sobriety (he was a well-known lush when he was in Big Star), and Gordon mentioned that Alex had given up drinking completely about 10-12 years before. I mentioned that his music appeared to go rapidly downhill about that time, prompting Robert G. to comment - "that's funny, but I think you're onto something!" This COULD be Chilton's problem now - perhaps he needs to take up drinking again to make great music! (NOTE: Not unlike one Eric Clapton, who, IMO, made his best music while being a raging junkie.....and starting making easy listening pap once he cleaned up his act...)

A shame.....

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I made the comment that Big Star's records perhaps haven't aged well, based on one simple fact - that several younger friends and acquaintances of mine had the exact same reaction as Tommy T. -namely, "what's the big deal?"....something that didn't happen when I turned them onto the Shoes, Twilley, the Raspberries and other bands of that type. Big Star's first 2 LPs, and especially the 3rd, don't have the immediate impact on first listening that some of the ones I just mentioned had. Now, that's not to say that if they go back and listen 5-6 more times, they won't "get it"....or, as in the case of one female friend of mine, that they won't appreciate Alex & co. immediately upon seeing them live. (That's also not to say that these folks wouldn't have gotten it had they grown up with these records, as I did, and obviously Pierson did.)

Regarding Chilton's guitar sound, it was basically his strat or ES-225 straight thru an old Fender amp, with little or no processing or effects added. Compare that with the Shoes, for example, whose guitar sound was all processed (AND hard to replicate live). The mid-to-late 70's was the heyday of smaller and smaller amps coming out with master volume and gain controls, making it much easier to overdrive and dirty up the sound without resorting to ungodly volume levels (as one had to do in the late 60's).

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Ditto ...Dont see much merit in Big Star...Septemer Girls is sooooooo overated...Their songs actually sound like demos (to me)...There was a time that I would chase ay album from any band that any reviewer mentioned the word Raspberries/Badfinger/Beatles in their review...Needless to say, I have a closet full of useless pedestrian LP's that are unlistenable...BUT, I recently unearthed my copy of Van Duren, and since I respect the members of this boards opinion, I will listen to it...In all these years, I dont think I ever played it...There was a time that I would go to used record stores and buy any album whwere the band had one word catchy type power pop names...The Pop, Sneakers,Squeeze, etc. and very few of them pan out...So when you guys recommend something, I will take a relisten to it...(Except for anything Marv backs)...

Total Haves=Raspberries,Badfinger,Pezband,Twilley,Gilder,Cheap Trick,Joan Jett,T-Rex,Hudson Brothers,Rick Sprigfield

Partial Halves=Artful Dodger,Off Broadway,Shoes,20/20,Tommy Hoehn

Half off=Big Star

I,m sure there are many more that I am forgetting, but thats a start...

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I agree...it's the old chocolate/vanilla argument. I bought Radio City at Woolco in 1975 for 33 cents and just loved it. The CD is always near my changer. True, the records aren't as polished as most of the other bands that are being kicked around in this thread, but most of the songs, IMO, are incredibly good. Jody Stephens' drumming is great...kind of reminds me of Jim. I wasn't a huge fan of #1 Record or Third. Rolling Stone just gave the new Big Star CD a good review...3-1/2 stars.

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Please forgive for going off topic but it is a real pleasure to listen to the Boxtops' "Best Of" CD-"Soul Deep" which may be inconsistent--but like listening to a young Stevie Winwood in Spencer Davis- or hearing a young Michael Jackson in The Jackson 5 it contains a teenage Alex Chilton on the well-known- big hits-as well as on "Sweet Cream Ladies" and "Soul Deep (a marvelous pop confection which could have been a Grassroots hit)sing with a soulful conviction that belies his age.

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