Monday, November 10, 2008

Music Library: BIG!: Big Beat, Big Black, Big Boys, Big Mama Thornton, Big Maybelle, Big Star

Everything's BIG in this post!

The Big Beat - Cross Our Hearts and Demos. My Canuck friend John T sent me these. Pretty decent Everly-ish Americana.

Big Black - "Kerosene" and Songs About Fucking. Phil Freeman used to say something like "every time Steve Albini touches a guitar, he should cut Andy Gill of Gang of Four a royalty check." It's true. Also true: I don't love Big Black as much as I used to.

The Big Boys - The Fat Elvis and The Skinny Elvis. The funky lords of Austin hardcore.

Big Mama Thornton - "Little Red Rooster" and "Hound Dog." Man, this lady could sing. Stop the presses!

Big Maybelle - The Complete OKeh Sessions 1952-1955. One of Mrs. Obscurity's favorite albums, Big Maybelle was a blues & soul shouter with a lot of proto-feminist swagger.

Big Star:

  • #1 Record: It's amazing, all of the different elements that make this one of the best guitar-pop albums of all time. There's Memphis soul, Gram Parsons-like cosmic american music, healthy doses of the Beatles and Kinks in the hooks, and a love of Brit-folk in the acoustic material. I could do without "The India Song," which is the only one on the album that dates the material. Otherwise, it could have been released last week. Killer, killer, killer stuff.
  • Ardent Studio Sessions 1972-73: Rough mixes of tracks from #1 Record and Radio City. Interesting as a bootleg document, but there's nothing on here close to the studio releases.
  • Radio City: Perfection. My old friend John Smith (now in the Dexateens!) once pointed out that there's only one song on the album ("Mod Lang") that fades out rather than coming to a complete stop. This album is like the pyramids: there's no mortar, but you couldn't slide a piece of paper between the stones.
  • Third/Sister Lovers: A different kind of perfection. Radio City is what happens when you shoot for the stars and reach them. Third/Sister Lovers is what happens when you fall down the stairs and accidentally invent a new art movement. This would be on my short list of music to send into space so that aliens will know what humanity is capable of.
  • Big Star Live: Alex Chilton's crazy guitar skills & vocals are on prominent display in this radio broadcast for a Long Island radio station from 1974-ish.
  • Columbia: Live at Missouri University: This is a weird one. Organizers for a music festival in Missouri asked Chilton, almost on a dare, if he'd be willing to re-form Big Star in 1993. He surprised everyone by saying yes. He and drummer Jody Stephens recruited a couple of the Posies and have been playing off-and-on ever since. They've even recorded an album, which we'll get to in a minute.
  • Nobody Can Dance: This is a little out of order. This album has some rehearsal tapes and a show from the early 70s in Memphis. The title comes from an announcement partway through, where people are told that dancing in this park is illegal. This is indicative of Chilton's luck at the time.
  • In Space: An album from 2005 that never should have been released under the Big Star name. It sounds like a lot of Alex Chilton's more recent efforts, which is to say "unengaged." I know Chilton doesn't seem to give a shit about Big Star these days. That's his perogative, but this is the sound of an artist spitting on his best work. Yuck.


Anonymous 11:33 PM, September 11, 2009  

Well, Alex pays no attention at all to blogs,etc. So here goes, in 2008 I saw Big Star play at the Shepherds Bush Empire. The fans ranged from old guys like me to teenagers, obviously already in a band - I don't get it. Guess maybe I do, I loved the music then, I love it now.
When they were getting ready to play some In Space songs, Alex said something like "You may not know or like these songs, but you will in 30 years."

I love the fans. Look for the Big Star box, 4 Cds and 100 page book, (if we enlarged it, it could go on your coffee table) and the Cosmos re-issue, now 2 CDs.

John Fry

Hayden Childs 5:18 PM, September 13, 2009  

Wow, John Fry! I am flat-out honored.

All due respect to Alex Chilton, who is one of the reasons I play guitar, but I don't think he's right about the songs on In Space. I did get to see him play as Big Star with the current line-up, and that was heaven to me.

I later wrote a bit more in-depth about the first two Big Star albums (to help a buddy who was working on a review of the Big Star Box): I'm definitely curious to see how right or wrong you think I am about those songs.

Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by to comment! Your work at Ardent was extraordinary, and man, I'm not being hyperbolic when I thank you for giving the world such a gift.

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