Friday, November 25, 2011

Big Star 5: Columbia

Thanks largely to Rykodisc—and the rest of the world catching up—Big Star was suddenly a big deal. Just in time to ride the nostalgic wave, some enterprising organizers of a college “springfest” in Missouri managed to convince the touring Alex Chilton to bring drummer Jody Stephens in for a gig, supplemented by two of the Posies, who were one of the grunge era’s most devout Big Star disciples. Released within six months of this “reunion show”, which took place in the afternoon and in a tent, Columbia is nearly as sloppy as the other live album, but the energy coming from the Posies (who likely knew the songs backwards and forwards) makes for one hot recording.
It’s hard to tell which guitar is which, since both go awry at one point or another, but Jody is positively solid behind his kit, as well as on the two songs he sings. The Posies handle some of the tougher vocals, along with a reverent “I Am The Cosmos” in honor of Chris. A couple of songs from Third add variety, as do a couple of standby covers from the old days, T.Rex’s “Baby Strange” and Todd Rundgren’s “Slut”. Still, the focus is on the most rockin’, toe-tappin’ crowd-pleasers. This was not the time or place to drag Alex through “Big Black Car”.
Alex would continue to release the occasional quirky solo album, and reunite with the Box Tops a few times. Jody Stephens went back to managing Ardent Studios and playing the occasional session for the likes of Matthew Sweet (signed to the same label that released Columbia) and Golden Smog. And from time to time, they’d call the guys from the Posies and play a few shows as Big Star. (One of these, from October 1994, was professionally filmed, recorded, and vaulted for 20 years. Captured at the end of a tour, Live In Memphis is a better-performed version of the Missouri show, with the addition of “Jesus Christ”, “The Girl From Ipanema”, and even “Big Black Car”.)
So although it wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime event, Columbia made for a neat souvenir. But it didn’t present the entire show, as evidenced by the photo of the set list inside the packaging. Dumber still, BMG Special Products put out a CD with five of the released tracks as part of their “Extended Versions” bargain bin series. When Record Store Day became a thing, some bright bulb decided to press the complete concert on vinyl as Complete Columbia, as well as make it available for streaming. Now fans whose parents hadn’t even met at time of the show could truly hear it all, from the stumble through “Thirteen” to the ramshackle encores of “Jeepster”, “Kansas City” and “Duke Of Earl”.

Big Star Columbia: Live At Missouri University 4/25/93 (1993)—
2016 Complete Columbia vinyl reissue: same as 1993, plus 7 extra tracks
Big Star Live In Memphis (2014)—3

1 comment:

  1. I find Columbia surprisingly enjoyable. Generally I don't like later day reunions, but Columbia is at least as good as any of the other live Big Star recordings I've heard.