Read my reviews of Big Star albums:
1972: #1 Record (8/10)
This record deserves its reputation as one of the great early power pop records. At a time when virtually nobody (at least in the US) was making music like this, they wrote an excellent set of songs, performed and arranged them well, and nobody cared.
But how great this record is likely depends upon how much you love power pop. If you do, I’m sure you’ll feel like this is a masterpiece.
1974: Radio City (8/10)
This is another fine power pop record from Big Star, with a just a titch more emphasis on the power than the pop, this time. (Presumably due to the departure of one of their members.)
I don’t listen to these records enough to know which of the first two I prefer, which is a problem when I sit down to try to definitely review this one. Because, the thing is, power pop is definitely not my thing. I appreciate and like Big Star more than other bands like this due to their warts and their idiosyncrasies but, at the end of the day, I prefer different music. I know #1 Record was first, so there’s part of me that wants to rate it higher. But I think, if memory serves, that I like this one more. (I think, but, I’m not sure.) I know I liked the third one the most, but between these two…well, I guess I should have listened to #1 Record again.
Anyway, this is very well done. If power pop is really your thing, you probably think of it as one of the best records of the 1970s. As a fan of music that is basically the polar opposite of power pop, I can say that I respect it: I respect the songs, I respect the idiosyncrasy and the warts and I do enjoy listening to it enough, after all of these years. But I will never regard it as a masterpiece.
1978: Third [Sister Lovers] (9/10)
I’m not a Big Star obsessive so I am the wrong person to opine about whether or not this record is actually a Big Star record, a Chilton solo album or a record by a new band different from Big Star. History says it’s a Big Star record whatever Chilton thinks.
I should also point out that the version I have of this record is not the version released in 1978. There are numerous versions of it and I’ve never actually bothered to look at the 1978 track sequence and tried to recreate it with the super deluxe whatever version I have, which contains most of the music recorded in 1974.
Big Star is a band I respect more than like; I am not a big power pop fan – I prefer my music to have a little more weirdness to it – but I get that what they did was important and they were very, very good at it.
So this record is much more my kind of thing; it’s a glorious mess with ragged and professional parts clashing and a general sense of falling apart that has rarely been captured better on record. (The quality of the session musicians arguably makes it much more accessible than it might of been.)
And I get that this particular record has been rather hugely influential on a certain type of songwriter, who wants to write catchy songs but doesn’t want them to be happy.
I do feel like the record, because it is a failed record, has come to exist a little too large in the critical world. It’s not quite as good as it’s made out to be and its reputation has a lot to do with the career of the band and Chilton, as much as it does to do with the actual record.
Still, if you are going to listen to a power pop record from the 1970s, this is the one you should listen to.
2005: In Space (???)
Like so many other bands, I have not listened to Big Star’s reunion album. Read my reviews of albums released in 2005.