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Big Star - In Space (LP)

Big Star - In Space (LP)

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Genre: rock
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title:  In Space
Company: Rykodisc
Catalog: 4635 01151 7
Year: 2005
Country/State: Memphis, Tennessee
Grade (cover/record): NM / NM
Comments: gatefold sleeve
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6266
Price: $50.00

Twelve years after Alex Chilton resurrected Big Star with original drummer Jody Stephens and former Posies members Jon Auer (guitar) and Kim Stringfellow (bass), the reformed band finally ventured into a studio to record new material. As you can tell from my comments on the earlier Big Star catalog, I'm a massive fan so I was truly excited, if somewhat skitterish when it came to hearing 2005's "In Space".  Part of that trepidation stemmed from the fact most reunions/comebacks are disappointments, plus anyone whose ever heard Alex Chilton's solo catalog knows how erratic his post-Big Star catalog has been. Yeah there were some great performances in there, but there were also some major stinkers in the pile. So my initial feelings were of disappointment. Fair, or not, I kept comparing the album to past glories. After the passage of a couple of years, having adjusting my expectations to a more realistic level, and having listened to this album a couple of dozen times, I'll tell you the album wasn't half bad (or perhaps a better description is that the album is half good). I own the vinyl version and it basically breaks down into side one is excellent, while side two is erratic and nowhere near as impressive. The end result was a curious mixture of Big Star-styled numbers ( (''Dony'), power-pop ('Best Chance'), and studio throwaways ('Do You Wanna Make It').
- With a mixture of rough hewn pop moves and some glistening harmony vocals, 'Dony' came close to capturing some of the old magic. rating: **** stars
- Opening up with some tasty jangle rock guitar, 'Lady Sweet' offered up one of the album's most mainstream and commercial numbers, but to my ears the results sounded more like a Matthew Sweet outtake than a classic Big Star composition. 'Course I'm a big Matthew sweet fan, so that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. rating: **** stars
- Sporting a wonderful melody and a fantastic guitar hook, 'Best Chance' came very close to channeling the old Big Star charm. Hard to believe this one didn't attract some radio attention. rating: **** stars
- 'Turn My back On the Sun' was a breezy pop number that borrowed heavily from 1960s sunshine pop bands and The Beach Boys. A great track and one of my favorite performances ... rating: **** stars
- 'Love Revolution' came off as an unsuccessful attempt to channel 1960s soul a-la Archie Bell and the Drells (think 'Tighten' Up'). Unfortunately there wasn't much to the song (the title track repeated over and over and over and some mildly funky horns) and about the best you could say was that it was pleasant .... imagine a sub-par Tears for Fears track. rating: *** stars
- A pretty, folk-rock number with some glistening guitar, 'February's Quiet' didn't make a great impression on me at first, but has become one of my favorite performances. Another one that reminds me of prime Matthew Sweet. rating: **** stars
- Side two started with another album highlight - a bouncy cover of The Olympics 'Mine Exclusively'. The band nailed that '60s feel perfectly and the result was straight up fun rock and roll. rating: **** stars
- Eight songs in and the album finally stumbles across it's first disappointment - the plodding and forgettable 'A Whole New Thing'. This one just never kicked into gear and sounded like an outtake from a Chilton solo album. rating: ** stars
- The lone instrumental, 'Aria, Largo' remains a complete puzzle to me. Imagine a bunch of high school kids trying to mimic an early 1970s Focus song and you'll get a feel for this weird effort. It was almost as if Chilton and company were trying to prove they were musically incompetent. rating: ** stars
- 'Hung Up with Summer' was another track that took awhile to grow on me. Initially it never seemed to catchy fire, but over time I've come to appreciate it's pseudo-acid tinged feel (and Stringfellow's cool lead guitar). rating: *** stars
- 'Do You Wanna Make It' was another Chilton throwaway. Nice guitar segments, but the rest of it was thoroughly forgettable. rating: ** stars
- 'Makeover' sounded like an in-studio jam rather than a fully formed song. There may have been a song in this mess somewhere, but I'm not sure where it was. rating: ** stars

It certainly wasn't the place to start exploring the Big Star catalog and clearly wasn't the ultimate Big Star album, but it had more than enough highlights to make it worth checking out and the fact remains that's all she wrote. Chilton's gone and there aren't going to be any more Big Star studio sets to compare it against. Enjoy what he left behind.

"In Space" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Dony (John Auger - Ken Stringfellow - Alex Chilton - Jody Stephens) - 2:45
2.) Lady Sweet (John Auger - Ken Stringfellow - Alex Chilton - Jody Stephens) - 3:41
3.) Best Chance (John Auger - Ken Stringfellow - Alex Chilton - Jody Stephens) - 3:04
4.) Turn My Back On the Sun (John Auger - Ken Stringfellow - Alex Chilton - Jody Stephens) - 2:38
5.) Love Revolution (John Auger - Ken Stringfellow - Alex Chilton - Jody Stephens) - 5:51
6.) February's Quiet (John Auger - Ken Stringfellow - Alex Chilton - Jody Stephens) - 2:45

(side 2)
1.) Mine Exclusively (Sherlie Matthews) - 2:322.) A Whole New Thing (John Auger - Ken Stringfellow - Alex Chilton - Jody Stephens) - 3:53
3.) Aria, Largo (instrumental) (Muffat) - 2:31
4.) Hung Up with Summer (John Auger - Ken Stringfellow - Alex Chilton - Jody Stephens) - 3:03
5.) Do You Wanna Make It (John Auger - Ken Stringfellow - Alex Chilton - Jody Stephens) - 2:46
6.) Makeover (John Auger - Ken Stringfellow - Alex Chilton - Jody Stephens) - 3:42
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