Thursday, March 18, 2010

Alex Chilton in the Studio: Ten Essential Albums

The forty plus year career of Alex Chilton produced some of the most distinctive, brilliant and sometime frustrating music of the rock era. Sifting through his back catalogue is not the easiest thing to do, although the recent Big Star box-set Keep an Eye on the Sky provides an absolute perfect and essential starting point. Here, in order, are my ten favorite Chilton related albums that I am presenting as a tribute to one of the most truly talented and necessary artists of our time.

1. Radio City: Big Star's astonishing second L.P. is, simply put, one of the most perfect Rock n' Roll albums ever recorded. Mostly recorded after co-founder Chris Bell had left the band, the album represents Chilton at his purest and most brilliant. A genius work that rivals any rock masterpiece you care to mention.

2. 3rd Sister Lovers: The savage and haunting final Big Star album still sounds like nothing else ever recorded. An increasingly fractured Chilton sounds close to falling apart on certain tracks but he remains oddly triumphant throughout. A beautifully bruised and unforgettable experience in any version you can track down.

3. #1 Record: The first Big Star album remains one of the great debut L.P.s, on par with works like Elvis Presley, Are You Experienced, The Velvet Underground and Nico and Marquee Moon.

4. Bach's Bottom: A narcotic fuelled mess of an album that uses its flaws to its advantage. Chilton can be heard asking for a pain pill at one point and the scattered album makes the listener feel like a fly on the wall at a particularly wild and dysfunctional party.

5. Dimension: The final album from The Box-Tops is one of their most interesting. "Soul Deep" is particularly special as is their version of "I Shall Be Released", which must have been what Chilton was thinking in this period.

6. Like Flies on Sherbet: Chilton's most controversial moment on vinyl is an audio ten car pile-up that still stands as one of the oddest statements ever put down on vinyl. It also influenced a whole generation of noise-makers from The Birthday Party to The Swans.

7. 1970: The disjointed but fascinating connecting piece between The Box-Tops and Big Star finds Chilton foreshadowing his more frustrating solo releases from the eighties and beyond like Cliches and A Man Called Destruction.

8. Feudalist Tarts/No Sex: Chilton takes a high dive into the shallow end with this infuriating collection that is as hard to listen to as it is as hard to shake.

9. Cry Like a Baby: Another of The Box-Tops L.P. that features enough gorgeous soul, including the title track, to get past its compromised production.

10. Loose Shoes Tight Pussy: Some great and chaotic guitar work is a highlight to this record, a collection that is among the best of his late period solo albums.


Jacob Shoaf said...

I crawled out from under my rock today and listened to Big Star for the first time ever (#1 Record, to be specific). Quite enjoyable. It will get some respins.

Also, I failed to mention it at the time, but I dug the Saturday Night Fever opening shots entry. That movie's underappreciated.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Jacob,
Hope you dive into more Chilton and I appreciate the comments on the Fever post. Thanks again!

Paul said...

Interesting list - much as I love Chilton I haven't managed to listen to Bach's Bottom more than once! From what his widow's said since his death (very little but what there is is intriguing) he himself preferred his work as producer, for the Cramps and the Gories among others, to his work as a performer. Beneath that enormous arrogance there seems to have been a greater than usual helping of dissatisfaction with his considerable talents. He's going to be sadly missed.