Over a year and a half after his untimely passing in the spring of 2010, former Box Tops and Big Star frontman Alex Chilton's loss leaves a profound hole in the hearts of power pop lovers everywhere. Leave it to one of our favorite up-and-coming reissue labels, Omnivore Recordings, to memorialize him twice this year - first with a special vinyl reissue of Big Star's Third for Record Store Day, and now with Free Again: The 1970 Sessions, an expansive look at his songwriting work just before Big Star was assembled.
That year, Chilton was 19, and one of the few people that young who could claim having a hand in a No. 1 hit. (His was the yearning voice of The Box Tops' "The Letter," which spent four weeks atop the Billboard charts.) The band had split in February of 1970, having only boasted two original members at the time (Chilton and guitarist Gary Talley). Chilton began pursuing a solo career, writing his own material for the first time and learning guitar by listening to soul sides on Stax (who would distribute works for Ardent Records, including, ultimately, Big Star themselves).
These compositions (bolstered by a few studio covers) might not lack the polish of Big Star's still-monumental debut #1 Record, but they are worth hearing as the first of Chilton's own songwriting work. He was singing other people's songs in The Box Tops, and thus only now coming into his own as a writer. And while a good portion of this work has been released before, save three compositions and two alternate mixes, this is easily the most comprehensive offering of this material.
And Omnivore is offering Free Again: The 1970 Sessions in a few formats: a 20-track CD, a 12-track LP (the first 1,500 of which will be pressed on clear vinyl) and a special, online-exclusive vinyl bundle, 500 copies of which will be made, that features the LP with a bonus 7" single of unreleased track "All We Ever Got from Them Was Pain" and its demo (which is only available on this single). All can be pre-ordered at Omnivore's store for a January 10 release.
Check out the full track list after the jump.
Alex Chilton, Free Again: The 1970 Sessions (Omnivore Recordings, 2012)
- Free Again (Original Mono Mix)
- Come On Honey
- Something Deep Inside
- I Can Dig It
- The EMI Song (Smile for Me)
- All I Really Want is Money
- The Happy Song
- Jumpin' Jack Flash
- Every Day As We Grow Closer/Funky National
- I Wish I Could Meet Elvis
- Just to See You
- All We Ever Got from Them Was Pain *
- Sugar, Sugar/I Got the Feelin'
- Free Again (Stereo Mix with Alternate Vocal)*
- Every Day As We Grow Closer (Original Mono Mix)
- Come On Honey (Original Mono Mix) *
- The EMI Song (Smile for Me) (Original Mono Mix)
- All I Really Want is Money (Original Mono Mix)
- If You Would Marry Me Babe (Demo) *
- It Isn't Always That Easy (Demo) *
* denotes previously unreleased track. Tracks 13-20 are exclusive to CD and digital versions.
It's woth mentioning that most of these tracks were released in 1996 on Ardent Records under the title "1970." In that incarnation, at least, the music was an interesting look at Chilton's evolution between the Box Tops and Big Star, but the results wre wildly inconsistent. It was clear that Chilton really didn't know what direction he wanted to go in. Nevertheless, Alex Chilton and Big Star fans will want to hear this reissue.
Don't you just "love" record companies who force collectors to buy àll formats … Thought we were beyond that kind of immaturity …
I know what you mean. But at least this is an expanded version of an album not readily available. I more resent artists like Elvis Costello and the Rolling Stones, who have now issued some of their "classics" in four different versions in the CD era alone, always sweetening the offer with just a few additions from the vault.
True ... but still ...