Largely lacking co-leader Chris Bell, Big Star's second album also lacked something of the pop sweetness (especially the harmonies) of #1 Record. What it possessed was Alex Chilton's urgency (sometimes desperation) on songs that made his case as a genuine rock & roll eccentric. If #1 Record had a certain pop perfection that brought everything together, Radio City was the sound of everything falling apart, which proved at least as compelling.
First-to-CD reissue of Big Star's 1972 first album. Expected to come housed in a mini-LP type cardboard sleeve. The problem with coming in late on an artwork lauded as "influential" is that you've probably encountered the work it influenced first, so its truly innovative qualities are lost. Thus, if you are hearing Big Star's debut album for the first time decades after its release (as, inevitably, most people must), you may be reminded of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers or R.E.M., who came after – that is, if you don't think of the Byrds and the Beatles circa 1965. What was remarkable about #1 Record in 1972 was that nobody except Big Star (and maybe Badfinger and the Raspberries) wanted to sound like this – simple, light pop with sweet harmonies and jangly guitars.
By all rights, the album that came to be known as Big Star's Third should have been a disaster. It was written and recorded in 1975, when Alex Chilton's brilliant but tragically overlooked band had all but broken up. As Chilton pondered his next move, he was drinking and drugging at a furious pace while writing a handful of striking tunes that were often beautiful but also reflected his bitterness and frustration with his career (and the music business in general). Production of the album wasn't completed so much as it simply stopped, and none of the major figures involved ever decided on a proper sequence for the finished songs, or even a title. (The album was also known as Sister Lovers and Beale Street Green at various times.) And yet, Third has won a passionate and richly deserved cult following over the years, drawn in by the emotional roller coaster ride of the songs, informed by equal parts love, loss, rage, fear, hope, and defeat.