by David Chiu
For a generation in the last 20 years or so, the power pop music of Big Star’s first two albums, #1 Record (1972) and Radio City (1973), was available as a two-fer collection on CD– but not as separate records as they were originally released. That was until now with both records now reissued individually and newly remastered with their original cover art and new liner notes by R.E.M.’s Mike Mills. But whatever the format, the magic of #1 Record and Radio City still lingers even if those records weren’t appreciated in their own time, which only adds to the mythology of the band. #1 Record introduced the public to the genius songwriting partnership of Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, however brief it was, with its blend of bouncy energetic rockers (“When My Baby’s Beside Me,” “In the Street,” “Don’t Lie to Me”) and midtempo numbers (“The Ballad of El Goodo” and the devastating ballad “Thirteen”). Even with Bell’s departure, the band solidiered on and further perfected its Beatles-meets-Memphis soul attack through Radio City, where it’s basically one can’t miss track after another: “O My Soul,” “Mod Lang,” “Back of a Car” and the immortal “September Gurls.” Along with the dark Third/Sister Lovers, #1 Record and Radio City make up one of the most essential and greatest albums in rock — an accomplishment few bands who weren’t appreciated in their time achieve.