Big Star

Complete Third, Vol. 3: Final Masters

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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

After releasing the superlative Big Star box set Complete Third on CD and digital formats in 2016, Omnivore Recordings opted to make this definitive investigation of Alex Chilton's troubled masterwork available on vinyl in the form of three two-LP sets, each focusing on different facets of the album's production. As the title suggests, Complete Third, Vol. 3: Final Masters is devoted to the 20 completed tracks that have been assembled into various versions as 3rd, Sister Lovers, and Beale Street Green since the album first emerged in the late '70s. As has been the case with each release of the album, since an "official" sequence was never determined by Chilton or producer Jim Dickinson, the personality of the piece has a great deal to do with how the tracks are sorted for release. For this edition, Omnivore has based its sequence on the "Test Pressing" edition that came together when the Ardent Records staff created some white-label pressings of the tracks as they were shopping the album to other labels. This sequence seems designed to highlight the many moods on display here, as this version often leaps from the relatively quiet and contemplative tracks (such as "Stroke It Noel," "Blue Moon," and "O, Dana") to louder, moodier, and more chaotic tunes (respectively "Downs," "Kizza Me," and "Nightime"). If the tone of this sequence often feels abrupt, it also features a batch of brilliant songs, and the audio is outstanding; the remastering for this release is superb, and these recordings have frankly never sounded better. Decades after Chilton and Dickinson conjured this music, 3rd seems to have barely aged a day; this is psychedelic pop for a dark night of the soul, inward-gazing but never solipsistic, and from the roar of "You Can't Have Me" to the final bitter retreat of "Holocaust," Chilton never bared his soul with greater beauty or courage than he did here. If this isn't necessarily the best sequence of Big Star's 3rd to date, Complete Third, Vol. 3: Final Masters is the best sounding and most caring presentation of this music, and even if you own one of the many other releases of this set of songs, the quality and clarity of the audio makes this worthy of your time and attention.

Track Listing - Disc 4

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Big Star Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick