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Showing posts from March, 2010

Alex Chilton “Live In Anvers” (2004)

The last Alex Chilton solo title released during his lifetime was Live In Anvers, which was released in France in 2004 and in the U.S. in 2005. Live In Anvers captures Chilton during a January 2004 concert at De Nachten in Belgium. Backed by a trio of musicians from that region, Chilton performs two songs from his distant past (“Bangkok” and Big Star’s “In The Street”), four covers from his last two studio albums, and six other cover songs, spanning such genres as jazz, r&b, classical, and Italian pop. (“Ah Ti Ta Ti Ta Ta” is better known as “Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta” by Ernie K-Doe). Chilton is in fine form throughout, especially when you consider that he only had one rehearsal session with his pick-up band. The tone is generally mellow, and Chilton sounds quite comfortable performing in such spontaneous fashion. Particularly effective are Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Hook Me Up”, Chilton’s own “Bangkok” (which he tells the audience is a song he created when he was “a drunken hooligan” in th…

Alex Chilton's '90's solo albums

Continuing our focus on the late Alex Chilton’s obscure and rare solo recordings, we now turn our attention to the three solo albums that Chilton recorded in the ‘90’s. Those albums are Clichés (1994), A Man Called Destruction (1995), and Set (2000). (Chilton also released an album called 1970 -- which was recorded that year -- during the '90's. A review of that album is here).

Clichés is a collection of 12 gentle acoustic numbers performed in the studio by Chilton alone. (Although it has been reported that the album was recorded in a single evening, Chilton was quoted as saying that it actually took a number of sessions). Eleven of them are covers of old songs originating from the 1920’s through 1950’s, from such performers as Nina Simone, Nat King Cole, Chet Baker, and Ray Charles. There’s also a brief instrumental based on Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Gavotte”. Chilton does well with all of the selections, and seems more focused on his singing and playing than he had in many a m…

Alex Chilton - "High Priest" (1987) and "Black List" (1989)

Continuing our focus on the late Alex Chilton’s obscure and rare solo recordings, we now turn our attention to the 1987 album High Priest and the 1989 EP Black List.

After releasing two EPs in as many years in the mid-‘80’s, Chilton continued his creative momentum with a full-length album in 1987. High Priest was an impressively eclectic set, venturing into such diverse genres as r&b (“Take It Off”, Lowell Fulsom’s “Make A Little Love”), jazz (“Forbidden Love”), old-fashioned pop (the King/Goffin composition “Let Me Get Close To You”), rockabilly (“Dalai Lama”, the Bill Justis instrumental “Raunchy”), Delta blues (“Trouble Don’t Last”), and gospel (“Come By Here”). Somehow, the whole thing has a surprising consistency, possibly an unexpected benefit of Chilton’s no-frills production. Chilton’s choice of covers on this album is also surprising, not only because he does a seemingly respectful rendition of “Volaré”, but also because he covers a song by his old Box Tops mentor Dan Penn…

Alex Chilton - "Feudalist Tarts" (1985)

Continuing our focus on the late Alex Chilton’s obscure and rare solo recordings, we now turn our attention to the 1985 EP Feudalist Tarts and the 1986 EP No Sex. Both of these EPs marked a welcome return to work, and return to relevance, for this talented musician.

In the early ‘80’s, Chilton moved from Memphis to New Orleans, and took an interest in that city’s jazz-oriented music scene. After a six-year absence from studio recording, Chilton reappeared revitalized on the six-song EP Feudalist Tarts in 1985. Gone were the sloppy devil-may-care tendencies of Bach’s Bottom and Like Flies On Sherbert. The older and wiser Alex Chilton showed remarkable restraint on these six jazz-influenced numbers, crooning confidently and playing rockabilly-style guitar amid tasteful horn arrangements. Although it was clear that Chilton had mellowed out considerably, the song “Lost My Job” showed just enough attitude to prove that he hadn’t lost his edge.

In fact, that edge manifested itself with a veng…

Alex Chilton - "Like Flies On Sherbert" (1979)

Continuing our focus on the late Alex Chilton’s obscure and rare solo albums, we now turn our attention to Like Flies on Sherbert, which turned out to be Chilton’s first full-length solo release in 1979. Chilton had a hard time getting his early solo work distributed, and this album turned out to be no exception. Like Flies On Sherbert was first released on a Memphis label called Peabody in 1979. Reportedly, only 500 copies of this first edition were printed. The following year, the album was re-released on the British label Aura, with one different track and different track sequencing. This edition supposedly used the wrong master tapes and had inferior sound quality.

Still, “sound quality” only makes so much difference in this case, because Like Flies On Sherbert is a colossal mess in any form. Everything about the album is technically inept: the singing, instrumentation, production (by Jim Dickinson), recording – everything! At the beginnings of many tracks, it sounds like a start …

Alex Chilton's "Bach's Bottom" recordings

I was saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Alex Chilton last week. The former lead singer of the Box Tops and Big Star died on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 from an apparent heart attack at the age of 59. Chilton was scheduled to perform at the SXSW Festival with the revamped Big Star lineup. That evening turned into a tribute by various artists to Chilton and Big Star.

There probably isn’t much for me to say about the band Big Star that hasn’t already been said during the past seven days. However, I can refer you to my earlier posts about Big Star’s history, their 2005 studio album, and my web page about Chilton’s solo album 1970.

I want to use this blog to talk about Chilton’s obscure and mostly rare solo albums. With this post, I’ll start with Chilton’s 1975 recording which eventually came to be released under the title Bach’s Bottom.

In 1975, shortly after the demise of Big Star, Chilton attempted to record a solo album with producer Jon Tiven, whose main claim to fame at that time…