Did Any Band Ever Make Two Better Albums Back to Back?
Manjushri | New Haven | 03/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After reading about "the greatest band I've never heard of" in Rolling Stone, I decided to check out Big Star's first two albums. The verdict: this band should have ruled the world. Today, while the music of many of their early 70's contemporaries sounds cheesy and dated, Big Star's sounds are absolutely timeless.
Let's talk about "Numer 1 Record." For pure groove, "Feel" rivals Led Zep. "The India Song" is a retro, hippie-dippie slice of the Byrds, while "Watch the Sunrise" is as good of a George Harrison song as George Harrison ever wrote. "Thirteen," is simply one of the purest, most innocent love songs I've ever heard. Yet none of these are my favorite track on the album; that honor goes to the inspired "Ballad of El Goodo." As a lyricist, Alex Chilton will never be mistaken for Leonard Cohen; on "Numer 1 Record" he sometimes tends to fall into the "mad/sad/glad" school of writing, but it simply doesn't matter. His voice is sweet and soulful and gorgeously wounded, and the hooks and harmonies are pure joy.
And "Radio City" is better. This album isn't as consistent as "Number 1," but the variety is even more pronounced and the high moments are simply other-worldly. This album is sortable by sections. The first two tracks "O My Soul" and "Life is White" are a complete departure from "Number 1," and echo the Mephis boogie-woogie of Chilton's roots. "Way Out West" is a brilliant nod to the best of 50's style pop ballad writting - innocence yet lined with desperation - with the ringing guitars of the 60's Brit. bands folded in. "You Get What You Deserve" is a complete one off; it sounds like it was a Steely Dan song written long before Steely Dan was even thought ot. On "What's Going Ahn," "Mod Lang," and "Back of a Car," indie rock springs fully formed out of the side of Alex Chilton's head. After hearing these tracks I could absolutely see why Rolling Stone said bands like the Replacements and Pavement would have been unimaginable without Big Star. By the time "She's a Mover" rolls around the album has built to almost unbelievable heights. This song sounds like a prime cut off of "Rubber Soul" or "Revolver." The icing on the cake is "September Gurls." The Replacements once wrote an awesome song titled "Alex Chilton." The chours goes "I'm in love/ I'm in love/ I'm just in love with that song." My thoughts exactly.
Simply put, this is some of the best pop-music ever. Chilton was on the level of Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson. The fact that Big Star remains so unknown almost makes it sweeter. I never thought I would be able to hear pop songs this good for the first time again."
Good Music, No Strings Attached
Quentin Tarantino Fan | nowhere | 08/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While scouring reviews for this album (in a different version), I read somebody classifying two different ways to listen to Big Star: As what they are, or a band that's so great and important that, if you don't like it, your obviously musically retarded and can't appreciate good music. And they certainly were important. Big Star was a major influence on a___load of artists like R.E.M. , The Replacements, Tom Petty, Cheap Trick, and more. With all that in your mind, which road should you take (alright, that's the stupidest question I've ever asked).
Well, take the first one. Music snobs will tell you that this band is the best, but that kind of hampers the experience. When hype comes and bites you, your probably under quite a bit of pressure to come to their conlusions. Besides, concentrating on the musical influence would probably just diminish the real impact of the music, and how great the music is on it own (if it's great). So, with mindset one in mind (actually, I never really gave two _______ about who they influenced when listening to Big Star), that was the one I chose when listening to the music of this band.
For individual reviews of each album, see Radio City and #1 Record, and you'll know why I wrote about each album separately.
Did I, once deciding on whether or not these guys are good (Oh, it was SO hard, ha ha ha!), look to see their mark? You got me. But the bands that I give a damn about, the ones that are influenced by Big Star, really don't sound too much like them. Who am I kidding, those bands really sound a lot different from Big Star. Which is a testament that Big Star really is a good group. Namely, they don't sound like a weak, prototype for the bands that influenced them. And no group can do their songs like Big Star, every single group has done a pretty awful job at covering their music, save for Cheap Trick. Example, take Wilco's cover of Thirteen. They just had to slaughter it with sappy strings, and who was singing? Sounded AWFUL. Proof that many bands can't pull off songs like this, ever. Indeed, no matter what, Big Star will never be replaced, or never be imitated (the bands influenced by them stand out and don't sound like knock offs of the band).
Really, when you pretty much get two albums remastered, well, to me it goes to a five star average, and since that you get both albums for the price of one, it really makes the deal even sweeter. So yeah, get it.
A Great Disc Just Got Even Better
Scott Riback | Wallkill, NY USA | 07/08/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I will not go on as to how exceptional the two albums on this CD are; there is already much comment to their praise on Amazon. I will say that if you are not familiar with Big Star, and you are a fan of The Beatles or any of the musically inspired music of the 70's, you will absolutely love these guys. I have both the original vinyls and CD of this release and if you own a SACD player this is a must have. Positively brilliant!"
William R. Nicholas | Mahwah, NJ USA | 01/31/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I needed help, bad. I got this Big Star disc after reading so many great things about this band: the inventors of power pop, working at Stax. The guy from the Box Tops. Beatlesque. Cassic Depression album.
Now if you are me, a hard core music guy, the question is not if you buy such a band. The question is, how many small children do you steer clear of driving to the CD shop.(You still had those when I got this in 1994) Reading all the seemingly unconnected discripters of Big Star was the hook: what the hell could this music SOUND like?
And without becoming a baby killer, I got the CD home and played. I liked it, but I didn't really get it: it sounded like good old rock and roll, but what was the fuss? The Byrds, the Beatles, Badfinger and the Rasbaries had all done stuff like this. So I put the CD on my ever growing "get back to pile" and through the end of Ciinton up until Obama was sworn in, it sat--with lots and lots of company.
Then when the pile caved in, this popped into my hand, and I played it, and low and behold, got it. Going back to mid-60s pop as a musical source in 1972, when Yes and King Crimson ruled rock, was quite an amazing move.
But it was not just that. By the time Big Star came 'round, rock was a much louder and more dirty beast than it was when the Beatles and Byrds and Hollies were kings, and Big Star shows this in aces. The guitars are louder, the voices have a grit to tame for 1965 AM but just right for 1972 FM--FM never picked up the guantlet, but if they had wanted, Big Star would have sat beautifully next to Ziggy Stardust and T-Rex's "Jeepster."
But it was more still: what kept Big Star from being just the Rasberries or Badfinger was that they were not just using "pop" as music for sinlges, but overarching concept. They were taking songs that threaded together for albums, and talking about their lives: drugs, depression, and teenage love as irony, not top 40. Add to this a more amplified rock world--that the Beatles helped create--and yes, you have a whole new type of music.
Some call it power pop. I call it the power OF pop.