#1 Record (CD reissue)

Big Star

Stax / Concord Music Group, 2014


REVIEW BY: David Bowling


If ever a band deserved commercial success, it was Big Star. Instead, they were regulated to existing as critical darlings and recognized for being highly influential as one of the originators of the power pop sound.

Alex Chilton of Box Tops fame (guitar and vocals), Chris Bell (guitar and vocals), Andy Hummer (bass and vocals) and Jody Stephens (drums) formed Big Star during the early 1970s. They released their first album my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 #1 Record in 1972. The release was listed among Rolling Stone’s Greatest 500 Albums Of All Time and has now been reissued.

#1 Record was the brainchild of Chilton and Bell. In the recording studio, Chilton would use a one take approach for the guitar and vocal tracks. He would then hand them over to Bell, who added the textures, polished them with overdubs, and then put together the harmonies. It all added up to an album that influenced power pop bands and their descendants for the next three decades.

“Thirteen” is just about the perfect pop song, and Rolling Stone ranked it among the 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. The acoustic ballad is different from a lot of their up-tempo material, but its delicate nature makes it a standout.

“In The Street” has a slower tempo than the version that appeared as the theme song of That 70’s Show. The signature guitars, the tight harmonies, and the smooth delivery combine to give it layers of textures. “My Life Is Right” and “Don’t Lie To Me” fuse pop and rock, while “Watch The Sunrise” is a return to a simpler approach.

I have heard this album on CD and vinyl in the past and the sound quality here is a huge upgrade.  Each instrument is distinct and the vocal harmonies leap out of the speakers. You can even hear the guitarist’s hands move over the instrument on the acoustic numbers. In addition, this release features new liner notes by Mike Mills of R.E.M.

Bell quickly became disenchanted with the album’s lack of success and left the band. He died in a car crash in 1978 at the age of 27. Chilton remained the center of Big Star until his death in 2010. Their brief time together resulted in one of the brilliant, if underappreciated, albums of its era.

Rating: A-

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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.