Big Star – Third/Sister Lovers (1978)

AllMusic Review: A shambling wreck of an album, Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers ranks among the most harrowing experiences in pop music; impassioned, erratic, and stark, it’s the slow, sinking sound of a band falling apart. Recorded with their label, Stax, poised on the verge of bankruptcy, the album finds Alex Chilton at the end of his rope, sabotaging his own music long before it can ever reach the wrecking crew of poor distribution, indifferent marketing, and disinterested pop radio. His songs are haphazardly brilliant, a head-on collision between inspiration and frustration, and the album is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, each song smacking of utter defeat and desperation. The result is either one of the most vividly emotional experiences in pop music or a completely wasted opportunity. While the truth probably lies somewhere in between, there’s no denying Third’s magnetic pull — it’s like an undertow. Originally appearing under the name 3rd on PVC Records in 1978, Rykodisc’s 1992 release is the initially definitive edition of this unfinished masterpiece, its 19 tracks most closely approximating the original planned running order while restoring the music’s intended impact. In addition to unearthing a blistering cover of the Kinks’ “Till the End of the Day” and a haunting rendition of Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy,” it also appends the disturbing “Dream Lover,” which distills the album’s messiest themes into less than four minutes of psychic torment. — Jason Ankeny

Track Listing

Side A

  1. “Stroke It Noel”
  2. “Downs”
  3. “Femme Fatale” (Lou Reed)
  4. “Thank You Friends”
  5. “Holocaust”
  6. “Jesus Christ”
  7. “Blue Moon”

Side B

  1. “Kizza Me”
  2. “Sometimes” [working title of “For You”]
  3. “O, Dana”
  4. “Nighttime”
  5. “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” (Dave Williams)
  6. “Kanga Roo”
  7. “Take Care”

 

Schill Score: 7/10

 

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Big Star – #1 Record (1972)

AllMusic Review: The problem with coming in late on an artwork lauded as “influential” is that you’ve probably encountered the work it influenced first, so its truly innovative qualities are lost. Thus, if you are hearing Big Star’s debut album for the first time decades after its release (as, inevitably, most people must), you may be reminded of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers or R.E.M., who came after — that is, if you don’t think of the Byrds and the Beatles circa 1965. What was remarkable about #1 Record in 1972 was that nobody except Big Star (and maybe Badfinger and the Raspberries) wanted to sound like this — simple, light pop with sweet harmonies and jangly guitars. Since then, dozens of bands have rediscovered those pleasures. But in a way, that’s an advantage because, whatever freshness is lost across the years, Big Star’s craft is only confirmed. These are sturdy songs, feelingly performed, and once you get beyond the style to the content, you’ll still be impressed. — William Ruhlmann

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. “Feel” Bell 3:34
2. “The Ballad of El Goodo” Chilton 4:21
3. “In the Street” Bell 2:55
4. “Thirteen” Chilton 2:34
5. “Don’t Lie to Me” Bell 3:07
6. “The India Song” Hummel 2:20
Total length: 18:51
Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. “When My Baby’s Beside Me” Chilton 3:22
2. “My Life Is Right” Bell 3:07
3. “Give Me Another Chance” Chilton 3:26
4. “Try Again” Bell 3:31
5. “Watch the Sunrise” Chilton 3:45
6. “ST 100/6” Bell and Chilton 1:01
Total length: 18:12

 

Schill Score:  7/10

 

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