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In Space

3.9 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 27, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Influential `70s power pop group Big Star return with 1st album in over 30 years. Original band members Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens got together with Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer (of The Posies) to produce their most ambitious recording to date. Ryko. 2005.

If a band releases a pair of the most brilliant slabs of Revolver-cum-Fifth Dimension power pop in successive years, and no one is around to hear them, do they make a sound? If the answer were yes, perhaps this record--marketed as Big Star’s "first studio album in 30 years"--would be receiving more fanfare. Unfortunately, both #1 Record (1972) and Radio City (1973)--subsequently reissued together on one disc--went virtually undetectable, save for the hundreds of bands who cite them as influences and the thousands of fans who discovered them long after the Memphis band had disintegrated. Starring two of the four original members (including the unpredictable Alex Chilton) with two members of the Posies in tow, In Space is far from a Big Star record, though it does feature some of Chilton’s most catchy work in 15 years: "February’s Quiet" mimics Matthew Sweet, "Mine Exclusively" comes straight out of Stax, and "Best Chance We’ve Ever Had" is as close to the original band as we’re going to get. If you’ve been waiting patiently for this one, it will fit in your collection. But if you’re starting from scratch, go back three decades and catch up. --Scott Holter
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 27, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Rykodisc
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,668 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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If you expect this record to be of a piece with Number One Record or Radio City, you will no doubt be disappointed. Those records (and Third/Sister Lovers) were of a time and place, and the circumstances surrounding them cannot be replicated.

Chilton and Stephens have been performing as Big Star with Auer and Stringfellow of the Posies since 1993, and making a new record was a wholly logical idea for the band. And it IS a band; most of the songs are credited to the four of them; Auer and Stephens share lead vocal chores with Chilton. I think I'd describe the album as sounding like jangly solo Chilton, which makes sense. There are some pure power pop tunes-- these cluster toward the begining-- that are evocative of the Big Star sound, but also sound contemporary, and if this was a brand new band you could as easily say they were influenced by the Posies.

There are several songs that would be right at home on a Chilton solo record; "Love Exclusively" is a funkier, jauntier take on something like "Thing for You." "A Whole New Thing" would not be out of place alongside his cover of "Little GTO" or his original "Jailbait." Overall the record is tauter and more jangly and catchy than Chilton's solo work, and more ragged and R'n'B-inflected than classic Big Star.

One thing that seems to jump out from what once would have been grooves: this is four guys having fun together. And fun is generally infectious. Don't know about you, but I'm a big fan of fun.

All of this is to help you triangulate the sound, and to help you to form-- or really, dissolve-- expectations. Because free of baggage and taken on its own terms, In Space is a sheer dance-party-fun romp. Nothing more-- and nothing less. Play it loud and invite the neighbors over.
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Format: Audio CD
I'm a little surprised to see so much wringing of hands over "In Space" not being like the old Big Star.

First of all, the three `70s Big Star albums were really different from each other. I wasn't aware of the group until 1980, but I'm pretty confident there was wailing enough when Third didn't sound like Radio City, Radio City didn't sound like #1 Record, and #1 Record didn't sound like "The Letter."

That said, are people listening to "Lady Sweet" disappointed? That is one gorgeous piece of record-making by my ears (I'd rate it the second best track of 2005 after Sufjan Stevens's "Chicago"), and right in the Big Star style. Unquestionably worth the purchase price by itself. To gripe that Jon Auer sings lead rather than Alex is more or less to recapitulate the not-taking-quality-at-face-value problem that left the other Big Star albums selling five thousand copies in the day.

And the great shame is that this album should be loved all the more for its context. I find "Dony" great at face value, but it's the more refreshing as a signifier for authentic studio work by a combo doing real takes, not (to quote Henry Rollins from the Shatner album) "quantized, pitch-corrected, and overly inspected" like every other demo project on up in the world today. We should adore the jagged rudeness of Alex's guitar. You can't go down to Best Buy and get that.

Finally, we're all so terribly offended at the R&B content, the tongue-in-cheek disco piece, etc; is that a pleasant attitude?
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Format: Audio CD
Don't look for this reunion CD to reach the legendary heights of Big Star's three classic 70's albums, although it has some fun and very enjoyable moments for die-hard fans. To their credit Big Star have tried to duplicate the quirky sonics of those original Ardent Studio productions (wide separation of instruments, doubled vocals, hard compression) and most of the performances have a loose, raw yet conformable feel similar to "Radio City" and Alex's best solo albums.

The biggest problem with this CD is the inconsistent songwriting, which ranges from great to just plain lousy. Jon & Ken have tried hard to integrate their own sound into Big Star, but their own contributions wind up sounding just like Posies tracks due to their smooth harmony vocals and sophisticated lyrics. It's always a wonderful pleasure to hear them, but these songs just don't quite sound like Big Star. Still the tracks they star on like the gorgeous "Lady Sweet" are a real treat.

And just like Alex's solo albums, the guy can be brilliant, a blast, or totally embarrassing like a drunk Karaoke singer at your local beer joint. "Dony" winds up the closest to the original Big Star feel and sound. "February's Quiet" is a breezy sweet pop tune, and "Mine Exclusively" (originally done by the Olympics in 1966) is a great Box-Toppy upbeat track with a tough Alex vocal with fun counterpoint vocals and airtight drumming from Jody Stephens.

Had Big Star stayed focused on creating tight 3 minute Power Pop songs this CD would have been a lot better. But the rest is just knocked-off filler. "Do You Wanna Make It" is just another Chilton mock-soul number with some nice guitar soloing that saves it from being a dud.
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