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4.6 out of 5 stars
18
4.6 out of 5 stars
#1 Record
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HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 11 June 2016
If you can't get your grubby paws on the April 2004 'Hybrid SACD' release of "No. 1 Record" and "Radio City" by BIG STAR (2LPs onto 1CD - see separate review) – a stunning audio treat on Stax/Fantasy/Universal SXSA-60025-6 (Barcode 025218732369) that also contains a standard CD layer – then opt for the cheaper and more easily available 2009 Concord Music Group stand-alone CD reissues.

Each carries a very reasonable price tag, half-decent liner notes from uber-fan and Editor of the superb Zig-Zag Magazine KRIS NEEDS (a foldout six-leaf inlay) and best news of all - that same awesome audio done by GEORGE HORN at George Horn Mastering in California. They even sport a relevant bonus track.

If you're a newcomer - you've probably heard of their legend - or clapped your ears on one of their ballads that frequent so many Indie movies as badge of cool (like say Nick Drake or Patti Smith). Musically – it beggars belief even now that BIG STAR famously didn’t fare well at the box office – barely scraping above chart position No. 400 on initial release in 1972 and 1974. Their record company suffered distribution problems (Stax was on the wind-down) and even knowledgeable record stores found it hard to procure copies. Years after its release - it was still something of a hushed collectable. Like so many hard-luck stories of bands that 'should have been huge' - BIG STAR really were the very definition of 'criminally overlooked'. Here are the big details for the CD reissue of their wonderful debut album "No. 1 Record"...

USA released 14 September 2009 – "No. 1 Record" by BIG STAR on Universal/Fantasy/Concord Music Group, Inc. 0888072315730 (Barcode 888072315730) features 2004 Remastering, a Bonus Track and plays out as follows (40:01 minutes).

1. Feel
2. The Ballad Of El Goodo
3. In The Street
4. Thirteen
5. Don't Lie To Me
6. The India Song
7. When My Baby's Beside Me
8. My Life Is Right
9. Give Me Another Chance
10. Try Again
11. Watch The Sunrise
12. St 100/6
Tracks 1 to 12 are their debut album "No. 1 Record" - released June 1972 in the USA on Ardent Records ADS-2803.

BONUS TRACK:
13. In The Street (Single Mix)

NOTE: their second album "Radio City" followed in January 1974 on Ardent ADS-1501 – but neither LP received an original UK vinyl release at the time. However, they were both clumped together as a budget-priced double-album package on Stax SXSP 302 in July 1978 - their first official British release on record. There have been various CD reissues of the albums ever since - most notably by England's Ace Records on their subsidiary label Big Beat and Rhino's superb 2009 American 4CD Box Set "Keep An Eye On The Sky" which features outtakes and alternates from both of these recording sessions.

As I said before in my review of the 2004 'Hybrid SACD' reissue - the big news here is a beautifully sensitive GEORGE HORN remastering that has brought a warmth and delicacy to already gorgeous music.

Lead singer and Guitarist ALEX CHILTON had been in THE BOX TOPS and along with CHRIS BELL (Guitar and Vocals), ANDY HUMMEL (Bass and Vocals) and JODY STEPHENS (Drums) - they wrote all their own songs (mostly Bell-Chilton compositions except "The India Song" by Hummel and "My Life Is Right" by Chris Bell and Thomas Eubanks of 'Rock City') and made a glorious racket.

Back to the audio - the bass, acoustic guitars and sublime harmony vocals on "The Ballad Of El Goodo" for instance are thrilling to hear as is the sweetness of "Thirteen" - surely one of the loveliest Alex Chilton songs. The jangling power-pop guitars of "When My Baby Needs Me" sound fantastic and "Try Again" reminds me of a band I loved called SMITH-PERKINS-SMITH who made only one album (a self-titled debut) in 1972 on Island Records (yet to make its way onto CD) - a sort of CSYN alternative. In fact the musicality on display here brings in mind that other tragic band BADFINGER.

Their record company tried two 45s in the USA - "When My Baby's Beside Me" b/w "In The Street" on Ardent ADA-2902 in August 172 - and a belated "Watch The Sunrise" b/w "Don't Lie To Me" on Ardent ADA-2904 in April 1973 - but neither charted. Songs like "My Life Is Right" are upbeat jangly rockers that straddle Country Rock and Pop - while the ache in "Give Me Another Chance" is just plain beautiful and moving. And to this day both "Thirteen" and "Try Again" make me weak at my ageing knees...

BIG STAR were always a little bit special and hold a cult status to this day that grows with the passing of time - like NICK DRAKE, JUDEE SILL or JOHN MARTYN.

"...Won't you tell your Dad...get off my back...tell him what we said about 'paint it black'..." - Chilton sang on the beautiful acoustic adolescence song "Thirteen".

You and me kid against the world...
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on 15 May 2017
This album is amazing. I can't believe I am only just getting around to listening to this now after all these years. I've heard the rumours and they are ALL true. I can hear how so many other acts have been influenced by this album....Teenage Fanclub immediately spring to mind. Alex Chilton and Co were true geniuses - it's such a shame they never fully received the fame and recognition they deserved and it's made all the more poignant now that drummer Jody Stephens is the sole surviving member of this original line-up. Do your ears a favour and buy this album. It is a MUST HAVE for anyone who likes music from this or any other era in the history of rock.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 19 March 2010
The news of the unexpected death of Alex Chilton at the age of 59 in New Orleans this week has just filtered through. Many people will be crushed by this. Already MGMT have dedicated their London show to him and REM are planning a tribute concert at SXSW. Big Star are the ultimate cult band and this in itself is a source of shame since they deserve a wider and massive audience. On three incredible records they can lay claim to greatness. Last years brilliant compilation box set "Keep an eye on the sky" set out in all its glory the titanic work of Alex Chilton and Chris Bell on classics such as "September Gurls" "The ballad of El Goodo" and "Thirteen". Bands like the Replacements, REM, Whiskeytown and Teenage Fanclub could not have existed without them. Big Star's own song has written his obituary -

"Take care, please, take care
This sounds a bit like goodbye
In a way it is I guess
As I leave your side
I've taken the air
Take care, please, take care"

Big Star - Take Care (Third/Sister Lovers)

Godspeed Alex
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 27 May 2015
I owe Classic Rock magazine a big thank you. I'd never heard of this lot, other than Alex Chilton, guitarist, singer, songwriter for this great band, and that was down to a track on a Replacements album 'Pleased To Meet Me'. In the June edition of the magazine there was an article about the band and how they had been a major influence on bands such as REM and The Replacements back in the eighties. Now for me the eighties was a nadir for rock music, so much over produced rubbish, but in amongst all that pap were bands such as REM, The Replacements and The Long Ryders, bands that held the flame for more honest, real music. Any band that influenced those bands had to be worth checking out, and so I did.

All I can say is 'Wow!!! Where have you been all my life?'. This, to quote from 'Jerry Maguire', had me at Hello, its wonderful pop rock songs are just so catchy that spontaneous outbreaks of dancing are obligatory. There is clearly a Beatles influence in there, but who wasn't influenced by the Fab Four in the late sixties and early seventies. But there is plenty more here than just trying to sound like the sixties favourite scousers, the opening to The India Song sounds as if it is outtake from a Jethro Tull album, and then all of a sudden once the song gets going it sounds like a hippy anthem from the Haight Ashbury days of San Fransisco. 'When My Baby's Beside Me' could be straight from The Buffalo Springfield, and as another reviewer has pointed out, 'Thirteen' is one of the most achingly beautiful love songs you are ever likely to hear. All those people who try, without success, to convince me Gary Barlow is a great writer of love songs should listen to this to hear what a great love song is, its simplicity strikes you immediately, just two acoustic guitars and a voice, no over production, no false emotion in the singing, it gets you every time.

A quick word about the sound, I've no idea what previous edition of this album sounded like, but this really does sound good. The acoustic guitars just ring out as if they are there right in front of you, all the instruments nicely separated, a real pleasure to listen to.

That this band never made it is one of the many big mysteries in the history of rock and pop music, especially when you think of some of the dross that has hit the big time over the years. And this is not merely a view that is informed by my own musical preferences, there are many bands that I love who never hit the big time, but I can hear why they would not appeal to many people, this though is catchy as hell pop rock of the highest order. Of course they were not helped by being signed to an off shoot of Stax Records who knew how to promote Soul artists but had no idea how to promote this kind of music. They also weren't helped by the fact that the two main songwriters couldn't get on.

If you would like to help correct this mistake from the annals of rock then take a listen to this wonderful album, your ears and your soul will thank you I assure you. Oh and one last thing, Classic Rock magazine, Thank You!!!!!!
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on 14 February 2015
Q. Is there another love song as great as Big Star's 'Thirteen'?

A. 'No'.

Seriously; take the greatest love song you ever knew and stand it next to 'Thirteen'; unless it is 'Birthday Song' by The Fall, it will be dust. And you won't be able to stop playing 'Thirteen' on repeat. This song is so good that you can listen to it on mp3 and it sounds better than if you play it on original-pressing, virgin vinyl that's been cleaned on a £600 record-cleaner and is spinning on a state of the art air -cushioned turntable through a humungously powered valve-amp. This is a fact! :-) What it would be to hear it on crackly MW radio under the bed covers when you were fourteen with no ability to tape-record it and only Woolworths as your local record stockist! ...

Big Star did write and perform a bunch of other great songs; many of them are on this album. But they didn't have to.
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on 28 November 2009
I bought this album on the premise that it was regarded as an unsung classic. Well, it almost is. The opening 3 tracks are totally blinding. Upbeat, punchy and perfectly crafted heavy rock. The riffs come thick and fast, the vocals and harmonies are perfect in every way... but then towards the end of the album the songs take on a somewhat link acoustic feel. Had Big Star stuck with an upbeat album with a couple of the better acoustic tracks this would have been a classic... but sadly there are one too many fillers for good measure. The other song that seems incongruous is the India Song: a psychedelic pastiche perhaps inspired by the time the Beatles spent there in the late '60s. I would definitely recommend this album but I wouldn't say it is a classic.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 1 October 2009
A million column inches in the press, a biography and, apparently a film in the making have all been devoted to the Big Star story in the thirty-odd years since they first released a note of music. Of such things are musical legends made, I guess, but when you get down to it, the truth is in the sound they made. Of their three albums, I reckon this, their debut album, is probably the best; main writers Alex Chilton and Chris Bell seem to have a unity of purpose, and the magnificence of the music is there for all to hear. In terms of melodic appeal, song structure, and the brilliance of the production values, this record is in a field of its own. Successive remastering has done much to reveal the layers of double-tracked guitars, richness of the vocal harmony work, and how very well-produced it was in the first place. #1 Record is almost impossibly perfect, and is as fresh and invigorating as it was when first released.
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on 8 January 2010
Memphis-based Big Star are a band that sold a relatively small number of records when together but who have subsequently become recognised as a seminal act and major influence on bands such as R.E.M., The Replacements and Teenage Fanclub.

Recently the subject of a lavish 4CD Rhino box set (Keep an Eye on the Sky the best entry points to their work will always be the first two albums - reissued by Concord as separate CDs for the first time with a bonus track apiece.

The albums originally made it onto CD in 1990 as a "2 on 1" by the pioneering Big Beat label. Recorded at the legendary Ardent Studios, with a vibrant and sparkling production by John Fry, they always sounded terrific, but the new remastering certainly seems to have added an extra clarity - as a result the sound is crisp and fresh and makes these the definitive versions to pick up.

Although they fitted onto a single CD, the albums actually work best as individual titles. On 1972's "#1 Record" they were a four-piece, with the song writing dominated by the Alex Chilton / Chris Bell partnership. Bell would leave the band before the release of 1974's "Radio City" (where most tracks were written solely by Chilton) and sadly didn't live to see the band he'd started get its due recognition as he was killed in a car crash in 1978.

As Kris Needs rightly states in the sleeve notes, Big Star are usually summed up as "power pop pioneers" but this really doesn't do them justice. Their sound is quite hard to pin down, but they were clearly inspired by The Beatles and had a very different style to most bands in an era that was dominated by Led Zeppelin and progressive rock. It's hard to argue with Needs' "great pop songs, bolstered by Memphis soul spirit" description.

"#1 Record" is a mixture of ballads (notably `The Ballad Of El Goodo' and the gorgeous `Thirteen') and fiery pop-rock (`When My Baby's Beside Me', `Don't Lie To Me' and `In The Street' - the single mix of the latter is included here as a bonus). Other notable influences that can be heard in their output include The Band, The Byrds and Badfinger.

Despite some encouraging press, Stax's distribution system failed to get enough product to the shops and, even after Stax signed a deal with Columbia, the band got lost and the album stalled. With Bell gone, Alex Chilton, bassist Andy Hummel and drummer Jody Stephens then regrouped to record "Radio City".
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on 4 March 2015
How did this group miss when they came out?!! Somebody screwed up! This group (along with Judee Sill) are my biggest Spotify-never-knew-about-them discoveries.
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on 15 May 2015
Always risky buying an album that has been feted by the critics as much as this was but for once it lived up to expectations.
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