Recorded during a sort of purgatory in his career, this 1977 set from Alex Chilton reflects the transition from Big Star's collapse into the scrappy punk phase that began (on recording) with his solo debut the following year. Norton, the reissue label who plucked this gem from the archives, makes reference to the set's "crystal clear sound," though it's clear from the opening layers of amp buzz and Chilton's faint, off-mike request for a "Coke and a Canadian whiskey on the rocks" that Live at the Ocean Club is essentially a lightly polished bootleg. Audio quality aside, it's a fascinating and revealing romp through his career up until that point, as he leads a freewheeling power trio through a set of Big Star, Box Tops, and early solo highlights. At the time of this recording, the later-to-be-legendary Sister Lovers album that he and Big Star drummer Jody Stephens recorded in 1974, was still a year away from being released and wasn't even considered to be a proper Big Star album by its creators. What really comes across here is a 27-year-old artist with two failed groups in his wake, revisiting his past while searching for a new direction in a new city. Peppered in between versions of Big Star's classic "September Gurls" and the Box Tops' 1967 hit "The Letter" are future solo recordings like "My Rival" along with a handful of amusing covers like the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and the Seeds' "Can't Seem to Make You Mine." The performances are, at times, fiery, wounded, spirited, and stumbling, as Chilton moves away from the more layered style of his early days to the jagged punk-inspired offerings of his early solo career.
Live at the Ocean Club, NYC 1977
Live at the Ocean Club, NYC 1977 Review
by Timothy Monger