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Historix Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Prix are a legendary lost band, a power pop supergroup of sorts that fell into the cracks between album rock and the emerging new wave in the mid-'70s. Fronted by Jon Tiven, the band was a studio-based project featuring other Memphis popsters, including singer/songwriter Tommy Hoehn and bassist Rick Clark, and featuring contributions and productions by former Big Star co-leader Chris Bell. Despite several attempts, Prix never landed a major-label deal and only issued an EP during their existence, which became a collectors item, while the group's meager recordings grew into popular underground items in the pop underground circuit over the next few decades. The group's entire recorded output was finally released on CD in 2002 as AirMail's cleverly titled compilation Historix. Given Prix's pedigree, which includes Tiven's production for Alex Chilton's first post-Big Star album, Bach's Bottom, it should come as no great surprise that their 11 completed tracks -- all of the material they developed in Memphis, plus audition tapes they cut for CBS -- bears a great similarity to Big Star, particularly the music on Radio City but with a sweet melancholy undercurrent reminiscent of Bell's work on #1 Record. There are also traces of other power pop icons like Badfinger, the Stories, and the Raspberries scattered throughout the songs, plus Prix could also touch on both the hazy, narcotic undertow of Big Star's third album (the swirling "Zero") and be as recklessly rocking as Bach's Bottom, as evidenced by their version of that album's "Take Me Home and Make Me Like It," which is better than Alex's. In fact, the most impressive thing about Prix is how they worked very familiar territory yet wound up with a distinctive feel of their own -- they were a harder-rocking band than most power pop groups, yet they were also tight, tuneful, and muscular songwriters, which turned out to be a dynamite combination. Prix didn't last long, but they did wind up with 11 sparkling, diamond-hard pop gems that will prove to be irresistible to power pop fanatics, even if the sound quality is murky and muddy (but that low fidelity just reinforces the feeling that this is unearthed treasure). This CD may be hard to track down, but for any fan of '70s power pop, it's surely worth the search.

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