Sunday, April 17, 2011

#1 Record - Big Star

#1 Record
Big Star
Ardent  ADS 2803

This is the debut album by Big Star, one of the best debuts in rock history in my opinion.  The back cover photo was taken at Alex Chilton's parents' home in Memphis, the city that was also home to Ardent Records where this album was recorded.  This is a reissue by the Concord Music Group which acquired the Stax catalog (which distributed Ardent) when they bought Fantasy Records.  Given that original copies of this are rare and pricey, this is definitely worthwhile for most vinyl junkies.  Concord is a quality jazz label and they have done an excellent job on this reissue even reproducing the Ardent inner record label.  The pressing is first rate, the art is nice and the sleeve is sturdy cardboard.  Plus it is very reasonably priced, a bargain by today's standards.  Of course if there was any justice in rock history, it would be Jackson Browne and the Eagles albums that were impossible to find and original pressings of this would be as common as "Tapestry" at garage sales and flea markets.  If rock history was fair, the songwriting team of Bell/Chilton would be as famous as Lennon and McCartney or Jagger/Richards.  At least Alex Chilton lived long enough to become a cult hero, poor Chris Bell died in obscurity just prior to the resurrection of Big Star by the New Wave power poppers that finally helped give them their due.  My two favorite rock genres are psychedelic and power pop and when it comes to the latter this is basically nirvana.  Actually merely describing this as power pop, is misleading.  There is plenty of what is commonly recognized as power pop in terrific songs like "Feel," "Don't Lie To Me," "In The Street" and "When My Baby's Beside Me" all of which are better than just about anything you would have heard on AM radio in 1972 and should have been hit singles.  However there are also sensitive ballads like the beautiful "Thirteen," "Give Me Another Chance," "Watch The Sunrise" and "The Ballad of El Goodo" as well as the inspirational "My Life Is Right" and "Try Again" which sound like outtakes from "All Things Must Pass" only with more humility and better singing and then there is Andy Hummel's oddball "The India Song" which reminds me of Donovan.  With the release of the recent Big Star box set (awesome and highly recommended) and the quality reissues of their first two albums, this hard luck group is finally garnering the respect and recognition that they've always deserved.  If you've never heard this wonderful record, you owe it to yourself to buy it.  It is a true classic, better than 99 percent of anything you will hear on classic rock radio or any other radio for that matter.  It is a timeless record that I expect will be appealing to serious rock fans for generations to come.  Recommended for Nick Lowe fans who wish he wasn't such a smart ass.

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