After Alex Chilton passed (causing me to discover Big Star for the first time), I bought all three LP’s and listened to them in reverse chronological order for no particular reason. I just received my copy of their first effort, #1 Record from 1972.
After hearing all three LP’s I would suggest #1 Record as the most interesting, the least acidic, and the most generally accessible of the lot. You can clearly hear the 1970’s in these recordings, from the reverb to the vocal doubling, it is undoubtedly born of the period. By far my favorite tracks are The Ballad of El Goodo (pure, simple pop) and Give Me Another Chance, a horribly sad song with a beautiful chorus. Much of this record features wonderful vocal harmonies, great chord voicings and rich arpeggios.
#1 Record also features the song In The Street, which was later covered by Cheap Trick as the theme for That 70’s Show. Cheap Trick’s version is altogether in another league in terms of arrangement, power, hook delivery, and lead vocal impact.
#1 Record seems to hold just a taste of 1960’s innocence, a little of The Byrds woven into the dark songs. The next two Big Star LP’s were just too cutting, too un-pop, too raw for my taste. The songs on #1 Record are pop songs with life, maybe plodding at times, but it seems the band’s evolution got derailed somehow after the first LP.
The last song on side one (The India Song) sums it up lyrically:
“I’d like to go to India, live in a big white house in the forest, drink gin & tonics, play a grand piano, read a few books, far away from what saddens my heart.”
If you want to experience a powerfully creative record that wears real pain on its sleeve and features some pretty songs, great singing and from an era without computer generated anything…Try Big Star #1 Record. The reissue LP I just bought was excellent.