Posts Tagged ‘Jody Stephens’

Big Star - In Space OV-338

October 25th marks the release of the latest in Omnivore’s ongoing Big Star series: an expanded reissue of the band’s 2005 album “In Space”. In four short years, Big Star created three cult classic albums. Their legend grew over the years, and in 1993 – nearly two decades after disbanding – Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens collaborated with The Posies’ Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow for a one-off performance.

This led to a well-received tour, which led to years of concert performances. A decade later, they surprised everybody with a new studio album, 2005’s In Space. The well-received 12-song set included ten new originals and two covers and was recorded in the fabled Ardent Studios, where Big Star began. The album was originally released on Ryko and received a limited vinyl run on DBK Works. Now, the album will return to vinyl on translucent blue wax and will be expanded on CD to the tune of six bonus tracks. Among them are five unissued demos and alternate mixes, plus the 2003 reunion track “Hot Thing,” previously available on the out-of-print Ryko comp, Big Star Story. The packaging will include notes from Supermegabot’s Jeff Rougvie, formerly of Ryko A&R, plus recollections from Jon Auer, Ken Stringfellow, Jody Stephens, engineer Adam Hill, and co-producer Jeff Powell (who also cut the new vinyl edition).

Released in 2005, Big Star’s reunion album In Space has been ignored by some fans, and derided by others. Now some 14 years on, Omnivore Recordings has decided to bring this album back into the spotlight for a much needed reappraisal.

In order to really get a handle on this album, I think it’s important to understand the context. After the group’s implosion in 1974 following the chaotic sessions that would eventually be released as the group’s third and final album, the group’s only two remaining members Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens would part ways. While each would remain involved in music, there seemed little hope that in spite of the cult that had begun to sprung up around the music of Big Star that a reunion would ever happen. That all changed in 1993.

Sporadic reunion gigs followed over the ensuing years. But, other than a one-off track, “Hot Thing,” that the lineup cut for a somewhat ill-fated tribute album, Big Star, Small World, in 1997 (eventually the track ended up making it’s debut on the out-of-print Ryko compilation Big Star Story when the company behind the tribute went belly up), at any rate no one expected a new album. So when the notoriously contrarian Chilton suggested the group record some new songs, I can imagine everyone including his bandmates were somewhat shocked.

Convening in Memphis at the legendary Ardent Studios where Big Star recorded their 1970’s recordings; the plan was to write and record a song a day. At the end of the day, In Space featured 12 tracks (10 originals and 2 covers) with songwriting contributions from all members. I remember there was an almost immediate feeling of disappointment upon the albums’ release. Stringfellow later recalled: “The album was released in 2005 and a year later we found ourselves on the main stage of Primavera Sound, a prestigious music festival in Barcelona. Some 10,000 people in the crowd. Before we played ‘Hung Up on Summer’ Alex addressed the crowd: ‘Here’s a song from our latest album . . . you know, it totally bombed— just like the other ones! But don’t worry . . . 30 years from now you’ll be saying it’s the greatest thing ever!’”

In retrospect, I think perhaps we, as fans of the group might have been a bit harsh. Is it a record that scales to the heights that any of the first three Big Star albums do? The short answer is unfortunately, no. But that doesn’t mean the album doesn’t have some nice moments that do a great job of honoring the group’s prior work while pushing the group into some new sonic territory. In Space is a seriously frontloaded album with its first four tracks representing the best the album has to offer. Kicking off with “Dony,” a tune that boasts a crisp autumnal twin guitar groove with Chilton’s vocal delivery a sort of professor hulk amalgamation of all of his various personas from blue-eyed soul crooner, to lounge lizard to reluctant power pop icon.  “Lady Sweet,” drizzles a little bit of daisy glaze on the proceedings that recall some of Radio City‘s hazier moments, “Best Chance,” is classic Jody Stephens power pop optimism in the same mode as Big Star’s 3rd standout “For You.”  While “Turn My Back on the Sun,” is a pitch perfect Beach Boys pastiche. Which makes perfect sense given Chilton’s affection for America’s band, and Big Star 2.0’s penchant for covering “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” live.

After those first four tracks (which would have made a killer EP on their own, mind you), let’s just say your results will vary based on your level of fandom and affection for some of Chilton’s more subversive impulses such as the disco romp, “Love Revolution,” or quirky covers of The Olympics’ “Mine Exclusively” and French baroque composer Georg Muffat’s “Aria, Largo.” While the jam oriented album closer “Makeover,” is a bit of a half-baked commentary on consumerism.

In some ways, it was impossible for Big Star to ever make an album equal to that untouchable trio of 1970’s releases. Those were different times, after all. The guys who recorded In Space were different people in some cases literally, and other cases metaphorically. That doesn’t diminish some of the great music you might discover on here if you open your mind, and adjust your expectations a bit.  It’s still Big Star, and although no one knew it at the time, this was their last time to shine.

Buy the album via Omnivore Recordings.

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After FIVE solid years of painstaking research and hard work, Rich Tupica’s epic tome on the deep end of the BIG STAR story is ready.

THERE WAS A LIGHT is an oral history containing new and archival interviews with those closest to Chris Bell and the Big Star circle: their friends, family, former bandmates—even some fans, exes, classmates and co-workers.

The varied cast of voices, many from the band’s hometown of Memphis, comprises all the members of Big Star, including: Chris Bell, the iconic Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens. In the following decades after its 1975 breakup, the obscure group somehow reached and inspired some of rock’s most important bands, including R.E.M., the Replacements, Yo La Tengo, Teenage Fanclub, Beck, and Wilco.

With Chris Bell at the center of the Big Star universe, this book carefully reveals the production of Big Star’s masterful 1972 debut LP, #1 Record, for Ardent/Stax Records. Despite stellar reviews in music magazines, the record saw abysmal sales. Soon after, toxic personality conflicts and turmoil tore Big Star apart while Bell battled drug abuse and clinical depression.

There Was A Light then delves into Big Star’s second and third albums, while recounting Bell’s second act as a struggling solo musician and devout born-again Christian. During several trips to Europe, he ambitiously recorded songs and pitched to record labels—even crossing paths with Paul McCartney. From this productive era arose Bell’s lone solo album, the posthumously released I Am the Cosmos LP—his swan song and masterpiece.

There Was A Light details the pop culture phenomenon that made Big Star legends and divulges how its staunch fanbase saved the band from obscurity.

Memphis power pop cult hero and Big Star contemporary Van Duren is the subject of the new documentary “Waiting”, and Omnivore has the companion CD soundtrack!  Featuring Van Duren favorites and previously unreleased tracks (including one recorded live at Ardent Studios in 1981 and one with Big Star’s Jody Stephens from 1975), the soundtrack boasts new liner notes from the artist.  All tracks are original masters (no re-recordings).  Look for Waiting – The Van Duren Story is out today on vinyl

“I’m not one of those people who dwells on the past very much” isn’t the first thing you expect to hear from a man whose 1978 debut album is at the center of a new documentary. “That was the strange part to me, to celebrate something that happened 40 years ago,” says Van Duren about Are You Serious?, the record that commands the undying affection of ’70s power pop obsessives, but has otherwise slipped between history’s cracks. Wade Jackson and Greg Carey’s film Waiting: The Van Duren Storyand its soundtrack album, however, aim to right that wrong.

In the first half of the ’70s, Duren was one of the most promising talents on the Memphis rock scene, along with power pop compatriots Big Star. He was even invited by Big Star drummer Jody Stephens to audition for the band after singer/guitarist Chris Bell’s departure, though the match was somewhat star-crossed. “It was a disaster,” Duren rather less diplomatically recalls. “I wasn’t a lead guitar player. Jody thought my vocal abilities and songwriting would really help the band in the direction he wanted to go. Meanwhile, they were cutting [dark, offbeat album] 3rd, which obviously had nothing to do with anything that I’d ever jump in on.”

Nevertheless, Duren seemingly never left Stephens’s mind. “When Big Star was kind of crumbling, he reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to do something,” remembers Duren. At Memphis’ legendary Ardent Studios, the pair cut demos of several Duren tunes. With famous admirers like Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham in his corner, Duren eventually cut a deal with a tiny label out of Connecticut and released his debut, Are You Serious?, in 1978.

The record introduced a man with a plaintive voice and an unerring knack for the almighty hook. The stomping riffs of “Chemical Fire,” the yearning piano balladry of “Waiting,” and the McCartney/Rundgren vibe of the pumping pop-rocker “Grow Yourself Up” reveal an artist already fully matured in his mid-20s, bouncing off the same basic musical touchstones as his Big Star buddies but processing his influences in an utterly personal way. Though it earned some great reviews, it pretty much sank into obscurity, and when the follow-up album was scuttled in 1980 due to acrimonious label relations, Duren’s promising career seemed to flame out.

“It was a very dark situation and it was very tough to get through that,” says Duren. At that point, he pretty much dropped below the radar of the wider world. Some three and a half decades later, Sydney singer/songwriter Wade Jackson and his friend Greg Carey discovered Are You Serious? by accident. “It was everything I love about music,” says Jackson. “I was completely hooked; within a week, that was all I was listening to. I heard Big Star in there, I heard Todd Rundgren, and McCartney of course, I also heard that Emitt Rhodes thing, and I just felt like it was exactly what I was looking for. And the delivery of the vocal, I think, is so genuine. There’s something about the desperate delivery that I love. It’s very real, in my opinion.”

Jackson and Carey were so flabbergasted they decided they had to tell Duren’s story in a documentary despite having zero film experience, learning as they went. “Being so naïve about how it all works is probably what got me through it,” Jackson says.

But Duren’s been burned enough to operate from a place of caution when people approach him about his music. “Every now and then people reach out to me on social media,” he says, “and I’m pretty wary of it because many times it doesn’t go well, for whatever reason.” Consequently, he remained guarded when first-time filmmakers Jackson and Carey first emailed him from Australia. “It took a couple of months for Van to want to chat with us on the phone,” confirms Jackson. Over time, though, the well-intentioned Aussies earned Duren’s trust, and came to Memphis to meet him.

They eventually learned that while Duren never earned national attention, he never quit recording and performing. In the ’80s he formed Good Question, earning regional renown. “We started in August of ’82 and the band ran for 17 years,” Duren says. They released two albums and had a local hit with “Jane.” “Good Question almost immediately became one of the most popular live bands around here,” Duren remembers. “We worked all the time. It was the first time in my entire career I worked enough to actually go in the black.”

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After the band’s breakup in 1999, Duren kept working, releasing duo albums with fellow Memphian power pop hero Tommy Hoehn, as well as subsequent solo records and collaborations with others. “It was a real shock, to be honest,” says Jackson about learning of Duren’s post-’70s output. “It was great to hear that he’d never given up on writing tracks and releasing albums. We like to call it the music disease—once you’re struck with it, it’s there to stay.”

Hidden in plain sight, Duren paradoxically wasn’t even well-known enough to really be considered a cult hero. “In my experience,” he explains, “if you can rise to the level of what they call ‘obscure,’ then that’s some level of success. You do it because you feel compelled to do it, and it’s not because you’re trying to please anybody else.”

Jackson and Carey’s film is a compassionate portrait of Duren’s rocky road through the music business, and even the buzz over its first few festival appearances has already brought Duren more attention than he’s had in decades. Equally important is the release of the soundtrack album, containing early Duren gems, Good Question material, and even one of those Duren/Stephens demos.

Boutique reissue label Omnivore, renowned for its Big Star-related releases, turned out to be the perfect home for Duren’s music. “They did such a wonderful job,” Duren enthuses. “The mastering on that soundtrack album is phenomenal. Never in my wildest dreams would I think that those recordings would sound like that.”

Jackson and Carey helped facilitate not only the soundtrack’s release, but a publishing deal for Duren with Australia’s Native Tongue Publishing, as well. “It’s excellent for Greg and I,” says Jackson, “because we were so heads-down in this project we’d sometimes go, ‘Is the music as good as we think, or are we going crazy?’ Having a great label like Omnivore and a great publishing company like Native Tongue get behind it [we feel like], ‘Yeah, we’ve done the right thing.’”

The film’s sold-out premiere at the Indie Memphis Film Festival on November 3rd, 2018—complete with a five-minute standing ovation at the end—was a full-circle moment for Duren. “It was really heartwarming and very surprising to me,” he says. “After the showing we walked across to a different theater where we had set up for a live performance, and we did about a 45-minute set of songs from the film with a band, including my son on drums.”

Full theatrical releases for both Australia and the U.S. are in the works for the film. Duren’s future plans include recording new songs and taking his live show to audiences beyond his hometown. “I’m very grateful to Wade and Greg for finding me,” admits the once-wary songsmith, “because I wasn’t looking for this, I didn’t seek it out. That made it very pure to me, very honest. I’m grateful for that more than anything. Meanwhile, forward. There’s more to come, absolutely.”

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Matthew Sweets Essential 90s Albums Artist-Approved Expanded Edition 180-Gram Vinyl Double LPs!

You definately need these Artist-Approved 180-gram vinyl double LP reissues*. Loaded with extra tracks 100% Analog Re-mastered from THE ORIGINAL MASTER TAPES by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. Packaged in “Old-Style” tip-on deluxe gatefold jackets printed by Stoughton featuring faithfully restored original album art!

“Altered Beast” is available in late August. “Girlfriend” and “Son of Altered Beast” are shipping in late autumn 2018. 100% Fun available now! ,*Son of Altered Beast is a single not double LP. All fully artist-Approved Expanded Editions. Intervention Records and Matthew Sweet are proud to introduce an amazing NEW Artist-Approved reissue series, Matthew Sweet 1991-1995!

In 2018 Intervention is releasing 2-LP Expanded Editions of Sweet’s 90’s power-pop classic Trilogy, Girlfriend, Altered Beast and 100% Fun, plus the Son of Altered Beast 7-song EP, which appears on vinyl for the very first time!

Each Expanded Edition double-LP set of the three classic studio albums is loaded with extra tracks. So many of these songs are either appearing on vinyl for the very first time or seeing official release for the very first time. And for Sweet completists, these LPs are the most extensive collection of extra tracks compiled and packaged with the studio albums the songs were recorded for!

The original 15-song repertoires for Girlfriend and Altered Beast are for the first time spread across three LPs sides for maximum sound quality and the ability to PLAY LOUD!

The jacket art for Matthew Sweet 1991-1995 has been faithfully restored by IR’s art director Tom Vadakan. The three Expanded Editions feature beautiful “Old Style” gatefolds printed onto heavy blanks and film laminated by the wizards at Stoughton Printing. Son of Altered Beast features a single-pocket “Old Style” GATEFOLD jacket by Stoughton as well.

With the wind in his sails stirred up by the success of his previous album Girlfriend, Matthew Sweet did what any young musician in his position would have with the follow up: he went for broke. He wrote more daring arrangements that brought in a country element to his power pop attack, dove deeper lyrically and, most importantly, roped in a bunch of his musical idols to join in the fun. The liner notes for Altered Beast read like a who’s who of the pop and post-punk universe with regular collaborators Ivan Julian and Richard Lloyd joined by Big Star’s Jody Stephens, Mick Fleetwood, pianist Nicky Hopkins and Elvis Costello’s drummer Pete Thomas.

Their collective work has never sounded better than it does on this remastered vinyl pressing from the ever-reliable Intervention Records. The album is wisely stretched out to a double LP, with the fourth side taken up by a batch of studio outtakes, some previously unavailable here in the States. They flesh out the story nicely, with even more of Sweet’s ‘70s rock acumen and ‘80s punk playfulness coming to the fore. It all sounds more remarkable than ever thanks to the work of mastering engineer Ryan K. Smith. Every song sounds like it is bursting out of its seams and ready to flatten a major metropolis.

 

'GO TO SCHOOL'

The Lemon Twigs‘ most ambitious project yet, Go To School is a concept album about a chimpanzee named Shane who is adopted by childless aspiring musicians and raised as a human. Written, Recorded, Produced and Mixed By Brian and Michael D’Addario in their Long Island home studio, the album features Todd Rundgren and their mother Susan Hall’s vocals as Shane’s adopted parents, as well as Jody Stephens of Big Star on drums, Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood providing backing vocals and a host of string and horn players, some of which taught the Brian and Michael in school.

The Lemon Twigs new album is their most ambitious project to date: their second album, Go To School , released on 24th August 2018 .  A musical conceived by brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario, the 15-track opus was written, recorded, produced and mixed by the pair at their home in Long Island.

Go To School tells the heartbreaking coming-of-age story of Shane, a pure of heart chimpanzee raised as a human boy as he comes to terms with the obstacles of life.  Todd Rundgren and the D’Addario’s mother Susan Hall play Shane’s parents.  The album features contributions from Jody Stephens (Big Star) and their father Ronnie D’Addario.  The album drops on August 24th, and follows the breakout success of their technicolour debut full length ‘Do Hollywood’.

The album is dazzling in its ambition, not least because the Lemon Twigs are in earnest. Go to School seems at first to have a lot in common with the music of Sparks, which features another pair of brothers. Ron and Russell Mael also have a theatrical streak and an impressive command of musical sounds and styles, along with a propensity for sardonic lyrics and a deadpan delivery. The D’Addarios, by contrast, seem genuinely interested in sussing out the motives of their characters, and they work to make them more than caricatures. That is, for an operetta where no one questions why the protagonist is a chimpanzee passing for human and attending high school. Anyway, the bully, Shane, his parents: they’re complicated people, and the D’Addarios are sympathetic storytellers. True, it’s a batshit crazy story, but the Lemon Twigs make it compelling, highly tuneful and undoubtedly more memorable than an album of indie-pop songs would have been

The material will be previewed at a select batch of fan only shows, Referring to the contents of the record Brian and Michael D’Addario hint: “Something now, then, big, small, bleak, and hopeful. All in under an hour.”

‘If You Give Enough’ from The Lemon Twigs‘ new album, ‘Go To School’, out on 24th August.

Big Star, the Great Forgotten American Band, Is Bigger Than Ever

Big Star—one of the great and greatly underappreciated American bands of the 20th century, once merely a cult loved band, but now their fame has grown into something closer to a full-blown religion . Interest in the work of the Memphis group has rippled steadily outward since the relatively quiet days when their two studio albums—1972’s No#1 Record and 1974’s Radio City both hailed by critics

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The albums led to a combined release in 1978 by a U.K. imprint to the desires of hungry music fans overseas. In the decades since, word of the band’s genius has filtered its way through bands like R.E.M., Teenage Fanclub and The Replacements, who loudly trumpeted the group.

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A growing reissue market also embraced the band and its unique blend of British psych, Southern rock and radio pop, leading founding members Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens to reunite under the Big Star name in 1993. Two decades later, the Big Star reissue market is something of a cottage industry, and it’s never had a better year than 2017. Fueled by the vinyl revival, the complexities of licensing deals and some buzz stirred up by the 2010 deaths of Alex Chilton and founding member Andy Hummel, record store shelves are now groaning under the weight of fresh reissues.

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We’ve seen the release of the second and third volumes of the Omnivore Recordings’ comprehensive Complete Third series, which gathers all existing work surrounding the group’s aborted 1975 album, Third; a cassette boxed set of the group’s first three albums, issued by Burger Records; “Thank You Friends: Big Star’s Third…Live”, a three-CD set featuring a live recording of Big Star’s Third, Chris Stamey’s all-star tribute to the band, and a documentary about the project; Big Star’s Third Live at the Alex Theatre, Glendale, CA, a limited-edition vinyl release of the live material from that aforementioned set; The Best of Big Star, a single-disc compilation culled from their studio work; an expanded reissue of Chilton’s 1995 album A Man Called Destruction; Take Me Home and Make Me Like It, a vinyl release from Spanish label Munster Records pulling together solo sessions Chilton recorded in 1975; Looking Forward, a CD compilation of Chris Bell’s pre-Big Star work; a deluxe reissue of Bell’s abandoned solo album I Am the Cosmos; The Complete Chris Bell, a vinyl boxed set featuring Looking Forward and the expanded Cosmos material as well as a rare interview with the artist from 1975.

For a long time, there wasn’t any Big Star at all, and now there is, Cheryl Pawelski of Omnivore Recordings. “I believe strongly that the way you preserve music is to get it back out into the culture. Isn’ that good? Do you want it to be over?”

Incredibly, there’s more. On the docket for 2018 is a vinyl release of the 1973 live recording previously only available as part of the 2009 boxed set Keep Your Eye on the Sky, and there are rumors of a reissue of Alex Chilton’s 1979 album, Like Flies on Sherbert.

It’s a head-spinning amount of music to keep up with, especially for fans who were only recently introduced to the band. It can feel like sticking your mouth underneath the never-ending flow of a chocolate fountain, where the delights can give way to bloat. Naturally, the folks behind many of the above releases beg to disagree, to the point that Cheryl Pawelski, co-founder of Omnivore Recordings, the label behind Complete Third, Destruction and all the Bell releases out in 2017, sounds downright incredulous at the suggestion that it’s too much of a good thing.

As a fan, I most certainly don’t. All of the above releases are the kind of deep dives that I adore amid the current reissue craze. It’s opening doors into Big Star’s working relationship and creativity that I could never get when I was a budding music obsessive poring over my copy of “Third/Sister Lovers” that Rykodisc first issued on CD in 1992.

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Take, for example, “I Am the Cosmos”. While the material on this album was recorded in the ‘70s, it wasn’t pulled together for commercial release until Rykodisc got the rights to do so in 1992. The album was brought out by Rhino Records again in 2009 with a bonus disc of material, but issued in limited numbers through their mail-order only imprint,

Five years later, the label put out a mass-market version of the same two-CD set. Three years later, after leaving Rhino, Pawelski brought the album to Omnivore to once again re-release it on CD and now in the boxed set.

So how did the release dates for all of this music happen to land in one 12-month stretch? The process actually began about a decade ago, when Rhino started looking for the material that would make up Keep Your Eye on the Sky, much of it stored in the archives of the Memphis recording studio Ardent.

Big Star literally had the keys to the studio,” says Bob Mehr, music critic for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis. “For them, the studio was a laboratory and a playground and a place to experiment. Relative to their output, there’s actually a lot more material than meets the eye. So all the stuff that ended up on [Keep Your Eye on the Sky], all the unreleased material and alternate takes of Third and live recordings, that was what kicked things off. Now you’re seeing the results of that, but it’s been in the making for a long time.”

Another factor is that Pawelski, who helped shepherd Keep Your Eye on the Sky and the 2009 Bell reissue into existence, did all that work before leaving her post as Senior VP at Rhino. So when she started up Omnivore, she was able to strike new licensing deals with Ardent and its owners Jody Stephens and producer John Fry. The wrinkle here is that those agreements didn’t include the material found on #1 Record and Radio City. The rights to those songs originally belonged to Stax Records, which helped release the first two Big Star albums, and were purchased—along with the catalog of famed R&B stars like King Curtis and Shirley Thomas—by Concord Music Group. That’s the label behind this year’s Best of Big Star compilation and the Big Star’s Third live set.

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There will always be a supply of new listeners ready to swoon over the band’s dark poetry, gritty guitar work and the winsome vocals of Chilton, Bell, Hummel and Stephens.

Every year, there’s more record buyers who get into Big Star because it has a certain level of hipness. This band isn’t a nostalgia act. While there’s a big romantic myth attached to it, the music doesn’t age. It stays hip and it stays valid for new audiences.”

Big Star- Radio City, cherry red & white split vinyl, Ltd to 500 Pieces, Out 2/16

Big Star have the tagline of “cult band” following them wherever they go. It’s tragic considering their world conquering ambitions – embedded in their album titles like #1 Record-and how they wanted to be the first and final word on Beatlesque pop. The challenge with Radio City was to see if guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Alex Chilton could prove he could carry on without songwriting foil Chris Bell, who left after the commercial failure of #1 Record. The relief with hearing Radio City is how Chilton not only rose to the occasion but arguably superseded #1 Record in the process. It’s a looser, sparser affair in parts yet his (and the rest of his bandmates’) grasp on melody and songwriting hadn’t regressed: the track sequence “You Get What You Deserve” to “Morpha Too” has some of Big Star’s best pop writing on record.

Chilton had his best ballad yet in the chiming “September Gurls,” with its guitar arpeggios straight from the Byrds’ songbook while the drums push it along with a peppy stride. It’s an approach that’s been tried many a time by imitator bands looking for some of Big Star’s magic but none seem to have nailed that idyllic yet angsty feeling that Chilton does here.

An exclusive version of Big Star’s classic second album ‘Radio City’! After Chris Bell’s departure, Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel dug in to produce this urtext of power pop, with alternate universe hits like “September Gurls” and “Back of a Car”.

‘Radio City’ is pressed on Cherry Red and White Split Vinyl in a limited edition of 500 pieces.

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THOSE PRETTY WRONGS  have a new 7″ single titled “Lucky Guy” b/w “Fool Of myself”  This is Jody Stephens of Big Star w/ Luther Russell (who recorded The Relationship single)!!! Magical new tunes from original Big Star member Jody Stephens.

Those Pretty Wrongs is the self-titled debut album of Jody Stephens & Luther Russell’s new project. Stephens, who is best known as the drummer for seminal power pop group Big Star has been good friends with Russell since the 1990s, but this is their first collaboration in musical form. With a distinctly acoustic sound that definitely feels like it embraces both traditional pop and more modern indie music, Those Pretty Wrongs is an album that feels well intentioned, but is still rather routine and unoriginal.

Despite the fact that this is an album that feels stuck in a time warp between the 1970s and the 1990s, Those Pretty Wrongs is overall a triumph for Stephens and Russell. The artistry and craftsmanship of the lyrics and songwriting brings up memories of Elliot Smith and James Taylor. In addition, the hooks are simple, but well fabricated. Tracks like “Lucky Guy” and “I’m For Love” discuss topics as diverse as life as a carny to classic Ava Gardner movies. It’s also noteworthy that, despite being veteran musicians, this album is being released on Burger Records, best known for signing burgeoning indie and punk artists in the “college rock” scene.

Those Pretty Wrongs: <i>Those Pretty Wrongs</i> Review

Another interesting point to ponder is that Jody Stephens does a majority of the vocal work on this album. This is a first for Stephens, as he has never sung lead vocals before on any of his previous albums. For someone who is 63 years old, Stephens sounds extraordinarily youthful on these songs, holding his own on every track.

Despite the fact that this is Jody Stephens’ project, if you were expecting a power pop album in the vein of Big Star, you’re in for a surprise. Instead, Luther Russell paints vivid acoustic soundscapes that feel like something from the bygone hippie era. While much of this album might seem old fashioned, it’s a great LP that reflects the traditions of past acoustic music. Although this album may be derivative at points, overall it’s a solid win for these two veteran musicians. The overlying mantra on the album can be heard as early as the first track: “It’s ok to be ordinary.” And despite some caveats, this album proves that that statement can be true in modern pop-rock music.

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Big Star's Jody Stephens Starts New Band Those Pretty Wrongs, Shares

Original Big Star drummer Jody Stephens has a new single and a new band called Those Pretty Wrongs.

It’s a duo Jody Stephens and Luther Russell of the Freewheelers. To be released on May 13th, they’ll release their debut and self titled album via Ardent/Burger Records. Listen to the album’s opening track “Ordinary” above.

Those Pretty Wrongs was recorded to 2″ tape at Ardent Recording Studios in Memphis. They recorded using some of Big Star’s old gear (including Stephens’ drum kit and the late Chris Bell’s guitars). The album also  features the previous single  “Lucky Guy,” which was released as a single last year.

Lead single from Those Pretty Wrongs debut album, out May 13th on Ardent Music

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