Collector’s Corner

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Too Good To Last

16 SEP 13 DAVID SHANNON

The list is long of musical acts with limited recordings but widespread fandom. Jeff Buckley made only one album, as did Lauryn Hill, the Sex Pistols, and the Germs. The founding members of Big Star -- Alex Chilton and Chris Bell -- made two studio albums during their 1970s heyday (and Chilton went on to make two more as Big Star without Bell), and for all intents and purposes these first two, both available as #1 Record/Radio City, are the most representative of the band's pop sensibilities and knack for writing what should have been a string of hits.

Released on Fantasy, the two-records-as-one offer an appropriate combination that gives those unfamiliar with the band a feel for its best material in a single package. #1 Record/Radio City shows the potency of Chilton and Bell as a songwriting duo with all the creativity of Lennon and McCartney, Becker and Fagan, Gilmour and Waters, and other famous rock songwriting teams, but with a unique capacity for intense, glittering pop and rock that should have made them far more successful than they were.

Distribution issues with Stax hampered sales of #1 Record, and an eventual distribution deal between Stax and Columbia still failed to give the debut album and the following Radio City the airplay they deserved, despite excellent reviews for both albums. This unfortunate circumstance eventually conferred on the band something of an underground status among later listeners. I remember hearing the records for the first time in the '90s and wondering how they had escaped my attention until that point. Although Bell and Chilton have both passed away and didn't initially receive the credit they deserved for making two of the best rock records of the '70s, this dual release chronicles their most productive and powerful time as songwriters and musicians. It's a must have in any rock fan's collection.