Big Star

big star-wlirBig Star
Live on WLIR
Omnivore Recordings
by David Chiu

(photo by Omnivore Recordings)

In the context of Big Star’s history and discography, Live on WLIR, now reissued by Omnivore Recordings, is an important archival document. Recorded and broadcasted 45 years ago on the popular Long Island, New York modern rock radio station, this particular Big Star performance occurred between the release of the group’s then-new second album Radio City and work on the now-legendary Third album that would happen in late 1974. Now led by singer-guitarist Alex Chilton and featuring John Lightman on bass (who replaced original founder Andy Hummel ), Big Star played what was essentially a “greatest hits” drawing the key tracks from the debut record #1 Record and its follow-up Radio City: among them “Don’t Lie to Me,” “September Gurls,” “The Ballad of El Goodo,” “In the Street,” “Thirteen,” and “Back of a Car.” Unique to this set is the band’s acoustic and faithful cover of Loudon Wainwright III’s stark and melancholy “Motel Blues,” providing another insight into Chilton’s eclectic musical tastes. The band’s overall performance for that particular session sounded gloriously raw, ragged and energetic, in contrast to the painstakingly-crafted studio versions of the songs. And in his interview with station DJ Jim Cameron between numbers, Chilton perfectly summed up the fortunes of the band then and now—that the critical acclaim of Big Star’s didn’t necessarily translate into sales. With new liner notes by Robert Gordon and Rich Tupica, Live on WLIR is of vital historical importance of the band still at its creative and musical peak about to enter a transitional period in its career.

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