I was familiar with Alex Chilton's recordings with The Box Tops long before I got around to hearing Big Star. The Box Tops made four albums, the last two, 'Non Stop' and 'Dimensions' being quite impressive. Those records, however, were largely Chilton and some session musicians playing covers and outside material. Big Star were entirely self-sufficient, giving their music an extra edge.
It's straight guitar pop, though there is a substantial acoustic element on the first set. It doesn't sound quite so unusual now, but in its time, 1972/3, it went against the grain. This brand of music moreover isn't as commercially successful as might be expected; usually it isn't extreme enough for most 'serious' rock lovers nor is it instant enough for singles buyers. The Records, who made the wonderful 'Shades In Bed' in the late 1970s, and who sounded fairly similar, found this.
Though there is a Beatles influence, the ringing 'Revolver' style guitar lines being one obvious clue, the music reminds me of several other bands at different times, some contemporary, most belonging to the future. Some of the lead vocals sound like Roger McGuinn, some of the arrangements like The Byrds. And yet, the superb 'The Ballad of El Goodo' sounds both like The Byrds and The Jayhawks at different points. Beatles proteges Badfinger also bear a frequent resemblance, the tender, 'Give Me Another Chance' even sounding like a Pete Ham track.
With Chris Bell missing from the second album, the music has more of Chilton's personality on it. 'O My Soul' is the sort of title you'd associate with The Box Tops. Its pounding momentum sets the tone for a more aggressive yet compatible approach. Not a track is wasted, but 'September Gurls' is the highlight. This CD represents great value at over seventy minutes of crisp, beautifully-crafted pop.