CD Review of #1 Record/Radio City by Big Star
Big Star: #1 Record/Radio City
Recommended if you like
Shoes, Dwight Twilley, Matthew Sweet
Label
Concord/Fantasy/Ardent
Big Star:
#1 Record/Radio City

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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L
ong known as a clearinghouse for some of the least interesting acts on the modern jazz market, the Concord label has undergone something of a renaissance over the last few years, gobbling up the rights to the Stax and Fantasy catalogs and mounting ambitious (and long overdue) campaigns to bring the labels’ classic – and often out of print – titles back to life. In many cases, these reissues have filled senseless voids in the marketplace, either by blowing the dust off long-dormant masters or simply making long-lost albums available for purchase – but as any hardcore music buyer knows, reissue fever can make a label delirious pretty quickly, and with this freshly remastered re-release of the #1 Record/Radio City two-fer that first came out in 1992, Concord seems to have succumbed to the sickness.

The music, of course, remains every bit as unimpeachable as it was when these albums were first released way back in 1972 and ’73; their 24 tracks represent one of the best opening one-two punches of any band in the rock era, and over 30 years later, it’s easy to trace their influence on countless power pop outfits that followed. At least in terms of sound, anyway – most acts go their entire careers without stringing together a series of songs as stellar as "Feel," "The Ballad of El Goodo," "In the Street," "Thirteen," and "Don’t Lie to Me," and Big Star did it in the first five tracks of their first album. Heard back to back, #1 Record and Radio City are 73 of the quickest minutes any pop music fan is likely to spend.

Here’s the thing, though: After languishing out of print for years, these albums were brought back in 1992, and they’ve remained available ever since; in fact, this latest edition – which tacks on the single mixes for "In the Street" and "O My Soul" as bonus tracks – exists alongside the ’92 two-fer, which is being sold for $5 more at Amazon. On one hand, it’s hard to begrudge Concord its decision to give the Big Star catalog any kind of attention, and George Horn’s remastering job does add quite a bit of brightness to both albums. On the other hand, though, the bonus material is a joke, and in light of Rhino’s plans to release a Big Star box later this year, it’s hard not to regard this reissue as something between crass and unnecessary.

Still, the important thing here is the music – and if you don’t own these albums, or you’ve ever had a problem with the softness in the mastering job of the ’92 reissue, or felt an urgent need to listen to a pair of Big Star single mixes, then this will be $9.99 well spent. If, on the other hand, you’re expecting a truly noticeable upgrade or expansion, or looking for something you haven’t heard before, you’re better off waiting for the box, due September 15.

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