It was really a big ( and great ) surprise, when I read in a magazine this Spring that Big Star had been in the studio to record a new album; now it has finally been released - the first new studio album for 30 years.
Guitarist, singer and songwriter Alex Chilton was always the key-member of Big Star, but original drummer and occasioanal singer Jody Stephens is also still there. New members are guitarist and singer Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, bass keyboards and vocals.
I was a little anxious that the album would be a big disappointment ( reunion albums often are!!), but having heard the opening track "Dony", written and sung by Chilton, on the internet, my expectations grew. This actually sounded like Big Star. "Dony" is a typical Chilton/Big Star power-rocker with great guitar riffs.
The album continues with Jon Auer's "Lady Sweet", an absolute highlight on the album; a beautiful song with great vocals ( both lead and harmonies ) that evokes memories of "Thirteen" and "Ballad of El Goodo" from the first album.
High standards are kept with Jody Stephens' "Best Chance We've Ever Had" - fine track that really sounds like Big Star.
From here the album becomes slightly more uneven. Stephens contributes another highlight with "February's Quiet" and Stringfellow's Beach Boys inspired "Turn My Back to the Sun" is quite good.
It's not that the songs with Chilton in front are bad; they just sound less like original Big Star. "Mine Exclusively" is a funky/soul number, sounding very much like a 1960's track ("Heat Wave") - great vocals from Chilton. "Love Revolution" is another very different track; a disco/funky/dance type a track, that some will love and others probably will hate. "A Whole New Thing" is a classical Chuck Berry type rocker, and though "Hung Up With Summer" is quite a good song, it sounds somewhat underproduced like a demo.
Too sum things up a little, I would say that first half of the album is mostly great ( occasionally outstanding ) and second half uneven with a few rather weak tracks. So I cannot at all say I'm disappointed, and though this is hardly a new masterpiece, it brings hope for more great Big Star music in the future; it sure sounds like the right chemistry is there within the band.