By DAN MACINTOSH
Live at Lafayette’s Music Room was recorded at a Big Star hometown gig in Memphis. During the set, they cover The Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Hot Burrito #2,” which was mixed in with their regular repertoire.
Ironically, at the same Alex Chilton and band were establishing the foundations of power-pop, Gram Parsons was also pioneering country-rock. Both men were ahead of their time. Both were also severely underappreciated during their prime. This surprising cover is merely one of many reasons why this release is of special interest.
It’s unlikely the audience for this Big Star show came to hear Chilton wear a metaphorical cowboy hat, however. Instead, the driving reason (one hopes) these rock fans attended this show – and the primary factor in why Big Star music is still revered by alternative rock fans today –is because of the group’s timelessly wonderful songs.
Whether they were expressing unusual – unusual, at least, for a rock band – vulnerability with “Way Out West,” or revving up the guitar riffs with “When My Baby’s Beside Me” and “In the Street,” these immediately melodic and lyrically relatable songs continue to offer a goldmine of discovery to new listeners – even now, so long after the act’s active years.
With that said, though, it’s is fascinating to hear how much Big Star was in touch with their musical contemporaries. The British Invasion call-and-response groove of The Kinks’ “Come on Now” is good fun because many consider Big Star to be a kind of American cousin to The Kinks and the Beatles. Elsewhere. the band adds an extra helping of Memphis soul to Todd Rundgren’s “Slut.” Only T. Rex’s “Baby Strange,” with its herky-jerky rhythm, sounds to be just out of Big Star’s sonic wheelhouse.
‘Thirteen’ is Sincere in a Folksy Manner
The album’s highlight is a lovely, acoustic version of “Thirteen.” It is pretty, sincere and moving in a gentle, folksy manner. It’s the sort of moment that may make you wish you were there in person to see and hear Chilton perform it back in 1973.
The show features songs from Big Star’s debut, #1 Record, and selections that would eventually appear on the forthcoming release, Radio City. This album also includes a radio interview with the band. It’s filled with standard questions typical DJs and journalists ask bands, but nothing we might want to know about a folk hero like Chilton now, in retrospect.
This 20-song live set won’t replace those pivotal Big Star studio albums, but it makes for a fine addition to your collection. But oh, to have been a fly on the wall for this one!