Radio City (CD reissue)

Big Star

Stax/Concord Music Group, 2014

http://www.bigstarband.com

REVIEW BY: David Bowling

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/14/2014

Big Star’s 1972 debut album, #1 Record, was one of the defining albums of its era. The problem was that hardly anyone bought the album. Group co-founder Chris Bell became disenchanted with the lack of commercial success and left the band. Alex Chilton, along with bassist Andy Hummel and drummer Jody Stephens, forged ahead and managed to create an album almost as good despite the loss of Bell. That album, 1974’s nbtc__dv_250 Radio City, has now been reissued.

Radio City was a little edgier lyrically and also found Chilton incorporating some British pop elements into the mix. The harmonies remain intact, but it is Chilton’s guitar play that makes a difference. Now the sole guitar player, he proved that he was an upper echelon musician. His prowess is particularly demonstrated on “O My Soul.”

Tracks such as “Mod Lang,” “What’s Goin Ahn,” and “She’s A Mover”  contain some of the better lyrics of Chilton’s career and when you combine them with bouncy melodies, it adds up to a good foundation for the album.

Bassist Andy Hummel’s contributions on the band’s first two albums have often been overlooked. He provides the vocal for his own composition “Way Out West.” He was also a key to the group’s harmonies, which is very apparent on “What’s Goin’ Ahn.”

As with the reissue of their debut album, #1 Record, the sound quality has been greatly enhanced to the point where it has a very modern feel. The liner notes are again are by Mike Mills of R.E.M., which provides a hint of Big Star’s lasting influence on American music.

Radio City continued the band’s development of the power pop sound, pushing them in some new directions. It may not have the consistency and cohesion of their first release, but it remains an excellent album four plus decades after its release.

Rating: B+

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© 2014 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Stax/Concord Music Group, and is used for informational purposes only.