Big Star's Third

Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live... And More

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There's something truly paradoxical about the notion of a handful of very talented and well-intentioned musicians putting tremendous effort into re-creating an often sloppy and purposefully shambolic studio performance for a crowd of adoring fans. The final album from Big Star's original incarnation, 3rd (later released as Third and Sister Lovers) is a masterpiece that rose from near-disastrous circumstances. It was recorded as the band was falling apart, leader Alex Chilton was diving headfirst into drug and alcohol abuse, and he was deliberately sabotaging his own creative process, though often with fascinating results. In 2010, to honor Chilton after his passing, dB's founder and Chilton superfan Chris Stamey organized a concert in which a number of musicians who were influenced by Big Star re-created the difficult third album at a special concert in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. After staging several similar concerts in the United States, Europe, and the U.K., Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live... And More documents one of the tribute events for posterity. For this show, recorded in Glendale, California in April 2016, the participants included Stamey, Mike Mills of R.E.M., Mitch Easter of Let's Active, Jeff Tweedy and Pat Sansone of Wilco, Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of the Posies (and the reunion lineup of Big Star), Robyn Hitchcock, Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo, Skylar Gudasz, Benmont Tench of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, and Jody Stephens, the final surviving member of the original Big Star lineup, among others. The first half of the show is devoted to songs from Big Star's first two albums, 1972's #1 Record and 1974's Radio City, while the second half dives deep into the Third album. Disc one generally fares better, if only because the material is more straightforward, and while the performances follow the original arrangements closely, the tunes better lend themselves to a lively performance in front of a pumped-up crowd. Disc two is devoted to 15 songs from the Third sessions, and though the arrangements cleverly mimic the sound and feel of the 1975 recordings (with the Kronos Quartet handling Carl Marsh's string charts), taking music that was fashioned during a dark night of the soul and giving it life on-stage is a very tricky thing, which these performances unwittingly prove. This album is clearly the work of people who deeply love Alex Chilton's music and want to do it justice, and there are plenty of moving individual performances in this set. But taken together, this is no substitute for the original Big Star recordings (and the participants would probably be the first to concur). There's some lovely and heartfelt music on Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live... And More, and this is a splendid endorsement of the band's enduring body of work. But as long as Big Star's albums are still in print, this album is in the truest sense unnecessary, even when it's beautiful.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:22
2 2:49
3 2:54
4 2:28
5 3:01
6 3:09
7 3:23
8 1:46
9 3:25
10 4:25
11 4:10
12 3:55
blue highlight denotes track pick