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97 of 102 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thrilled to have this, but with some disappointment
First off, I can't believe I would ever see a box of Big Star, let alone see it given the usual high standards one has come to expect from Rhino. The packaging is fantastic, combining layout, fonts and design into a seemless, immersive experience. The book that comes with the set is the best I have read so far about the band, surpassing even the 33 1/3 book on "Radio...
Published on September 27, 2009 by Justin Cole

13 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Whom is this for?
After seeing the nearly universally glowing reviews for great music by a great band, what choice did I have but to get this? And yet, and yet....

What we have here is a live disc, most of the two CDs of material from their three 70s LPs, some rarities, and a few alternative mixes replacing the originals. It's too easy to argue that this is a money grab,...
Published on December 4, 2010 by Michael B. Baer

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97 of 102 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thrilled to have this, but with some disappointment, September 27, 2009
This review is from: Keep An Eye On The Sky (Audio CD)
First off, I can't believe I would ever see a box of Big Star, let alone see it given the usual high standards one has come to expect from Rhino. The packaging is fantastic, combining layout, fonts and design into a seemless, immersive experience. The book that comes with the set is the best I have read so far about the band, surpassing even the 33 1/3 book on "Radio City" by a hair. There are a ton of photographs (which was startling, since the same four or five photos of them have been endlessly recycled over the years) and the text is broken down into appropriate sections, including one regarding how they acquired a cult following.

Then there's the music, four discs crammed to capacity with remastered original album tracks, alternate mixes and demos. There's even a whole disc devoted to live tracks. The sound is as pristine as one would expect. No complaints so far.

But then there's the matter of those original albums, as presented here. In lieu of simply having the remastered albums, many of the tracks are alternate mixes or versions, and inserted into the original running order. While I am grateful for these alternates, it seems odd to have them mixed in with original tracks, and in the order they were on the albums.

Even stranger, some of these alternate tracks are then presented in additional alternate versions outside of the running order. And some of the alternate tracks are almost indistinguishable from the original versions. Even worse, some of these tracks only appear in fairly radically different versions--the most notable of which is "Mod Lang" which is here only in a version fouled-up by annoying overdubbed ad libs.

And some of the previously unreleased tracks are a bit misleading. "Manana" is an extended version of the opening of "Jesus Christ". It is nice to have this track, but to label it as something other than the intro to the song seems a bit dishonest.

The live material is good to have, though not crucial The most startling discovery here is "ST 100/6", expanding it from its original one-minute length to almost four, through the interweaving of the song with Rock City's equally brief "The Preacher". That is, indeed, a fascinating new find.

I hate to split hairs over this set, since it is amazing to have this at all, and the packaging and sound are impeccable. Alas, I would have been happiest if the set left the original albums alone, and put all of the bonus material on the offsides.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, September 16, 2009
This review is from: Keep An Eye On The Sky (Audio CD)
The box set we have all been waiting for. I admit I dived in and was not immediately blown away by the early tracks or the remastering or alternate takes on disc one. Then along comes the series of demos with just Alex and his 12 string and the entire project gels and comes into focus. It's all here, and in fuller fidelity. The heart-on-the-sleeve anthemic pop songs, introspective ballads. Popping joy and aching melencholy. Music simply doesn't get any better. This item is worth every dollar you can throw at it. God bless Big Star forever.
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53 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, September 16, 2009
This review is from: Keep An Eye On The Sky (Audio CD)
The best rock'n'roll is created on the margins. It doesn't matter if you sell a dozen or a million records, it's all about heart and soul and guts. The Kingsmen, The Seeds, Television, The Castaways, The Velvets are just as important as any trillion seller you can think of because they felt what they did and they did it very well indeed.

That's a long lead in to say that there is another very imortant box set out this month and it's made by a truly American band. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, Big Stars "Keep An Eye On The Sky" is much more cause for joy than the Beatles boxes. And I daresay that anyone who has been touched by this truly magnificent band would agree with me.

Now, going into the history of this band is not something I want to do. Suffice to say it's the stuff of movies and legend. But no matter what tragedy or sadness befell these guys (and the story of Chris Bell, guitarist and songwriter is indeed very sad), the music will always stand. Heart wrenching, exhilarating pop music from the heart and soul of 4 (then 3) guys from Memphis in the early seventies. These discs are filled with classics, even if you never heard them. "Way Out West", "September Girls", "Ballad Of El Goodo" I can't think of a bad one in the bunch. All 3 albums ("#1 Record", "Radio City" and "3rd") are represented in full with the occasional alternate take, all sound the best I've ever heard(and I'm including the original vinyl in this assesment) with "3rd" trouncing the Ryko release. There are amazing Chilton demos here, and you have not lived until you've heard him alone on an acoustic singing "Femme Fatale". And the live disc will knock you out. Excellent fidelity, recorded in '73 with the remaining 3 original members (Chilton, Hummel, Stephens) it proves that they could bring it live just as well as they could in studio.

I've gone on too long here, and instead of going song by song, I've tried to convey they joy that this band has brought me for the past 35 or so years. You can listen to the samples, and, like the best pop songs, 30 seconds is all you need to see how great these tunes are. A friend of mine had some Big Star t shirts made around 1975, just because of band love. It was a cool shirt and I wore mine until it was in tatters. When you're feeling alone, sad, stressed, ready to cry, this music will wrench you, touch you and make you feel more than alive, it will make you feel free. A thousand stars for a band that is finally getting the treatment they deserve after all these many years.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music that never went or will go away, March 19, 2010
Katherine McCarthy "kath e. miller" (Forest Hills, NY United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Keep An Eye On The Sky (Audio CD)
I delayed buying this collection. March 17th is my birthday. It is also the day that Alex Chilton died. Normally all I have to contend with is the St. Patrick's Day Parade in NYC. #2 drinking-by-amateurs-day after New Year's Eve. A good day to stay in. I was truly saddened by Alex Chilton's passing. This boxed set is my birthday gift to myself, and my toast to Alex Chilton.

I bought the vinyl #1/Radio City reissue sometime in the '70's. I knew who Big Star were but when I finally scraped up enough cash the albums were gone from the record stores. Nor were they ever handed in at Free Being, my favorite re-cycled record store. Nobody, if anybody, who bought them ever traded them in. By the early '70's I was living in Manhattan, frequenting the downtown rock scene, I even upgraded my first apartment from one which had a bathtub in the kitchen to one with a proper bathroom. It was on Lexington Avenue, between 34 & 33rd.

One night, coming home from the clubs, I piled into the 1905 built elevator, with the steel door and grid you pulled shut. Alex Chilton & Jon Tiven (famous seminal rock critic & now blues songwriter) shoved into the tiny elevator. I recognized Alex but was too shy to speak. Said hello to Jon. Went up to my apartment. It wasn't until I bought Alex's early 45 rpm single "Shaking the World from 33rd and Lex" that I realized he was not some famous rock star guy, but my neighbor. Message to self, and anyone else: next time you are next to someone who's music, or art, or work, you admire, tell them so. Alex never heard it enough in his lifetime methinks.

If you already own the three Big Star records (which I do, in vinyl, on cassette, on CD) then this box is a treasure trove. Like other reviewers, I suggest you start with what has gone before. This collection of alternate versions, remastered originals, and a classic live 1973 gig (which I own on cassette, along with other Big Star live sets like "Nobody Can Dance" or the one from the college where I forget.) Big Star is the link from mid-sixties greatness - Byrds, Beatles, British Invasion, blue-eyed soul - with '70's glam, singer songerwriter nuances, and the soon-to-be Indie/Alternative bent. Like any art form that is transitional from one era to another there are bound to be originators who fall through the cracks. Think Velvet Underground, New York Dolls, Dictators, Modern Lovers, Television... the list goes on.

I only saw Big Star live once. At Little Steven's Underground Garage Festival in 2004. It was a gluttinous affair - crammed with garage bands from all over the world, as well as originators - Electric Prunes, Nancy Sinatra, Richard and the Young Lions, the Creation, Pretty Things, capped off with the re-invented NY Dolls and Iggy & the Stooges (I'd mention the Strokes - they were there too - but coming in-between David Johansen and Iggy Pop, those two pros virtually pantsed Julian Casablancas and spanked him in front of 15k people.) It was easy to overlook Big Star. Too much sensory overload. They played a great set, filled with classic songs, to an appreciative multi-generational audience who relished the infrequent opportunity to see them perform. (C'mon, parents with kids wearing Dead Boys tee shirts were there. It was a pig-fest of great music. Maybe Lil Steve will get around to that promised DVD someday...)

Anyway. I always thought I'd get the chance again to see Big Star live. They periodically surfaced. They were due to play SxSW this weekend. But not to be. Goodbye, Alex. This is the saddest rock & roll passing since December 8, 1980. It's a day or two since my birthday, St. Patrick's Day, but I'm toasting it to you and the great music you made throughout my lifetime. I still have the Box Tops first album in my record closet. "Cry Like A Baby" and "The Letter" were two of my favorites in High School. RIP. I'm blasting your tunes til the neighbors bang on my walls.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning!, September 21, 2009
Karen L. Kilpatrick "cmyKK" (huntsville, al United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Keep An Eye On The Sky (Audio CD)
Simply a great set, beautifully packaged with informative notes and stories, and sounds fantastic. Finally, a more of less complete set from this terribly underrated band.

To the customer above who was underwhelmed by the set, they are missing the point. The superior sound quality ALONE makes the set a worthwhile addition to your music collection. And the ephemera in the book and package make this one a delight.

"Keep An Eye On The Sky" collects all of the best of Big Star, plus a more than generous helping of the demos and alternate mixes that give yet another view of something most music fans know little about. The final disc contains a distillation of the 3 sets Big Star performed in Memphis for a rock writer's convention...long-rumored to have been recorded.

Of particular interest is the selection of Alex Chilton solo demos for all three released Big Star records. Chilton's voice is in fine form here, and could've conceivably been released in this form originally!

As for the packaging, the slipcover closely resembles a 1/4" tape box, and the photos inside the beautifully-designed book have been largely unseen. Great photography by Bill Eggleston abounds, as well as shots from original Big Star producer and Ardent owner John Fry make this set a priceless document for even the casual Big Star fan.

Rhino's done it again. Great, great work on a body of work that still moves musicians and fans 35 years after it was recorded. And another example of the stunning rock'n'roll that continues to emanate from Memphis, Tennessee.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning and deserved box set for a band that should been Big Stars, September 27, 2009
Mark Blevins (Lindside, WV United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Keep An Eye On The Sky (Audio CD)
If you're thinking of buying this, one would assume you already have either heard Big Star or own some of the music. Yes, there is quite a bit of duplication on this set with already available copies of their three albums. The remastering is terrific on this set. The sound is much punchier and fuller to my ears on # 1 Record and Radio City than the 1992 Rykodisc release. The box chronicles the before, during and after of Big Star's tumultuous career. For the dedicated fan this box is the last word on Big Star, containing a wonderful live set, alternate versions of classics as well as some unreleased cuts. For the neophyte this box might be a little tough going, so the individual releases are the obvious first choice.

It begins with early cuts by Chris Bell and one solo cut by Alex Chilton after leaving the Box Tops. Then we go straight to #1 Record, Chris Bell's towering achievement. It's interesting to hear the alternate mixes of these; engineer John Fry brings out something different with many of these alternate mixes. Sometimes the mixes are quite different from the released versions, but in a few cases it's difficult to find any difference.

The second disc is made up of Big Star's greatest (for me, anyway) achievement Radio City. This album comes on a little rougher than its predecessor, more rocking, but still filled with gorgeous harmonies and snappy guitar work. The end of disc two is where the box set rates five stars for me. Track 19 and 20 are the A and B side of Chris Bell's solo single after leaving Big Star. The music is heartbreaking and wonderful, especially if you've never had the chance to hear it. The final six tracks are solo Chilton demos for Third/Sister Lovers. These demos are nothing short of a revelation. Where even big Big Star fans may not appreciate the weirdness of Third, these solo demos are transcendent.

The third disc continues with more Third demos and then features nearly the entire Third/Sister Lovers album in its entirety. I never was a big fan of this, but the demos certainly give it a different sheen. Chilton was apparently working through some difficult emotions in song and the music is appropriately difficult to listen to at times.

The fourth disc is a live recording at a bar in Memphis circa January 1973, after the release of #1 Record. The band plays fabulously; the only thing that isn't on the live recording are some of the backing harmonies, but Chilton and the rest of the band sound terrific, proving they could prove it all night on the stage as well as in the studio. Ironically the sound is great on this recording because the audience was indifferent; the notes indicate a crowd mike was used, and the crowd was impatiently waiting for Archie Bell and the Drells.

Topping it all off is the usual Rhino extravagance: a huge 100 page book packed with photos and a bio on the original cult rock band. The packaging mimics a large 45 sleeve and the CDs are housed in a sturdy fold out case/sleeve that pictures each band member. The book alone is worth quite a chunk of change, but when you add the live disc along with the Third/Sister Lovers demos and the other unreleased tracks, this is a gold mine for Big Star fans or fans of intelligent rock music. It might not be the best way to get acquainted with the band, but if you choose to go this route, you'll keep coming back to this set. Highly recommended.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They were this close to being called The Sweden Kreme, September 21, 2009
E.I.E.I. Owen (Philadelphia, Pa United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Keep An Eye On The Sky (Audio CD)
To tell the story of Big Star one has to look at the history of Ardent Studios in Memphis Tennessee. Owner and founder John Fry started a recording studio that prided itself on professionalism and quality work, which was an ethic he passed down to those who worked for the company. He even came up with the novel idea of letting artists engineer and work their own sessions if they took his audio engineering course. This led to a total freedom unheard of in the recoding industry at the time. It also saved John Fry the occasional 3am phone calls involving someone not hooking up a piece of equipment properly.

One of those musicians was a young Chris Bell and once graduating from Fry University, he was unstoppable in the studio and the result of years of tinkering ended up being Big Star's first album.

The box set puts all the available material that Big Star recorded over their too brief career starting with one of Chris Bell's first forays into recording called "Psychedelic Stuff" as well as tracks by Icewater and Rock City. There are also tracks for a proposed solo Alex Chilton who had recently left the Box Tops.

The first disc also contains the tracks from the first album with some in alternate mixes and demos. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of outtakes from this era of the group because Chris Bell erased the sessions reels in a fit of depression because the album was not a success.

The second disc contains everything that is available from "Radio City" with demos, alternate mixes, and rehearsal takes. There are also some solo tracks from Chris Bell.

The third disc opens the dark night of the soul that would eventually become Big Star's third and final album with demos, alternate takes, and studio chatter.

The fourth disc is really a revelation. It was recorded in 1973 and features the "Radio City" line up live at the Lafayette's Music Room, which really shows just how good a live band Big Star was.

Some of thee tracks on this set are repeated from "Thank You Friends: The Ardent Records Story" on Big Beat which focuses more on the other artists and history of the label but is just as important as this set.

As a bonus on the last disc there is a video for "Thirteen" featuring very brief film of the original line up rehearsing and recording at Ardent. This footage was shot by Chris Bell and Andy Hummel during the sessions for "#1 Record" and is the only footage of Chris Bell with the band.

The set also features a nice and detailed book on the band and the atmosphere that exited at Ardent at that time and the sound quality is an improvement over the previous CD release. Although the SACD version of "#1 Record/Radio City" would trump anything on this set due to the format. If you are a fan of Big Star then this is the best way to immerse yourself in their greatness.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bigger Star, January 18, 2010
This review is from: Keep An Eye On The Sky (Audio CD)
Finally, the long-awaited Big Star box, with four CDs containing 98 songs, 52 of them unreleased. The set is named after a lyric from "Stroke It Noel", a song from their their third studio release, and contains album tracks, demos, alternate mixes/lyrics/versions, as well as a full live concert from January 1973 (with the band performing as a three-piece soon after founding member Chris Bell had left the band out of frustration over their first album's poor distribution and lousy sales). The first three discs include the songs of and follow the three studio albums in sequence, including tracks from those albums, along with other material from the same timeframe; the fourth CD is the live concert in its entirety. In one form or another, the set includes all of the 43 songs from their three studio releases, so it's a good document to have just for that, not to mention the live set and the demos and alternate mixes of some of their most memorable songs ("Back Of A Car", "The Ballad Of El Goodo", "In The Street", "The India Song", "O My Soul", "She's A Mover" and "Try Again" each appear three times). The fourth disc includes a promotional video for the song "Thirteen", billed as the only existing video document of the band in action, which is a grainy home movie that looks like it was captured on a standard Super 8 home video recorder from the time. The video has a lot of cheezy establishing shots, like kids walking home from school, a jet taking off, and images of the guys in the studio. Of particular interest are the images of Chris Bell, who died in a car crash in 1978. The video, set to a different song ("Thank You Friends") can be seen here.

Big Star is revered by dozens of bands, including The Replacements (who wrote a song called "Alex Chilton" for the band's main singer/songwriter/guitarist), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Petty's nasal vocal delivery clearly apes Chilton's), the Bangles, and many others. Alex Chilton came to the group with some experience, having been the singer for the Box Tops (check out a great video of the band irreverently playing for the cameras to a recording of their #1 hit "The Letter" - Chilton, in those days, had more of a bluesy, raspy John Fogerty/Rod Stewart/Eric Burden delivery). I have the first two Big Star albums already, so a lot of the material is familiar to me, but I had never heard the third album, which turns out to be very different from the jangly power pop of the first two records as it is a combination of acoustic guitars and strings(!), as well as other odd sounds. The set also includes several ex-Big Star contributions from the various members, including three solo songs by Chris Bell (one pre-band inclusion called "Psychedelic Stuff" from 1969) as well as his "I am the Cosmos" single from 1975 and its b-side; there is also one song from his Icewater project, and two from his Rock City project. The set also includes an Alex Chilton solo song from 1969. The collection has 17 demos of 16 songs ("Big Black Car" gets two demos), which are often just Alex Chilton solo on the guitar; these versions are almost always superior to the produced songs, as the voice is clearer in the mix - in fact, a CD release of just these songs would be a treasure on its own, as it is probably the best "solo" work that Alex Chilton has ever done. The live album is also interesting, perhaps more interesting than any other live material I've heard - partly because of its rarity, but also because of how tight the band were. The recording quality is great, and the murmur of voices in the bar as the audience waits for headlining act Archie Bell & the Drells (who?) to hit the stage; Chilton's dejected announcement that the Drells will be up next is in itself heartbreaking.

The box is about the size of a 45-inch single slip cover, and comes with a folding box to hold the four CDs, as well as a superb booklet that is full of pictures of the band and comes with a warm foreword from John Fry, who owns Ardent Records where the band recorded and was one of their biggest supporters - the fifth Big Star, if you will. At 100 pages, this is probably one of the more generous box set booklets around, and it contains three well-written essays by rock critics Robert Gordon, Bob Mehr and Alex Palao. Interesting to see these handsome young men, somewhat dandified and tidily-dressed with their jackets and shirts buttoned at the cuffs and leather shoes, and big mops of shoulder-length hair. Not very rock `n' roll, not very hippy, but very Big Star. One minor complaint - there are no lyric sheets, making it harder to make sense of what changes there are "The Ballad of El Goodo", which comes in the original version and one with alternate lyrics, but considering that there are over 80 songs on this set it would have made the package much thicker and expensive (and I'm not really one to pore over lyric sheets anyway; actually, if you really need them they are readily available online).

The opening song of the set is "Psychedelic Stuff", a mish-mash of Beatles-esque motifs (including back-tracked stuff) with some vocals, showing off Chris Bell's studio craftsmanship, as well as the superb capabilities of Ardent Records. "All I See Is You" by Bell's IceWater, could be a Beatles song, especially "Dig A Pony" with its "All I want is you" lyric (he repeats this theme endlessly, by the way). Chilton's "Every Day As We Grow Closer" sounds more like a Big Star song, with the addition of some cheezy keyboards. Ditto for "Try Again" by Bell's Rock City, with its country guitar sounds; Big Star did the song on their first album and in their live set, making this is the only proto-Big Star song to appear on a Big Star album. The early Chris Bell version is a bit different, but not overly so.

In addition to the proto-Big Star songs, disc one has all of the original songs of the first release, the optimistically-titled "#1 Record" (although in some cases the original song is left off in deference to the "alternate mix"). The album is one of the best debuts ever, full of fantastic songwriting, great guitar work and wonderful vocal harmonies - some critics call it "power pop" - with frantic rockers like "Feel", wailing, Petty-esque thumpers like "In The Street", trippy, experimental songs like the wonderful "The India Song" (one of only two that bassist Andy Hummel composed; the other is the similarly-themed, but inferior, "Way Out West"), as well as gorgeous, aching songs like "Thirteen" (which has been covered by artists such as Elliott Smith, Evan Dando, Garbage, Mary Lou Lord, Wilco and others) or "Watch The Sunrise." It also has several demos for songs that would appear on the second album, "Radio City." But there are also several other previously-unissued nuggets. Chris Bell's Beatles-esque "The Preacher" is briefly excerpted here, as are two other songs that were intended for the first album, namely "Gone With The Light" and "Motel Blues", a Loudon Wainright III cover (there is also a demo for this song). The former, played solo by Alex Chilton, is an acoustic ballad, sad, folksy somewhat Celtic-sounding acoustic ballad with a multi-tracked harmony voices that very much sounds like an extension of "Try Again", while the latter starts off with some engineer PA voice and gets into a sad story about being a rock `n' roll star on the road. The disc also has "I Got Kinda Lost," a Chris Bell demo that didn't appear on any Big Star studio album, but makes a re-appearance here when it is performed live on disc four. It's a punchy, simple spooky song with very repetitive verses. Disc one has the most varied songwriting credits (as with the live tracks of disc four, of course, which on its 20 tracks sources 10 from the first album, which only had 12 songs to begin with), while two and three are largely represented by Alex Chilton; it has only one cover tune. Four of the album's songs are drumless, as is the unused song "Gone With The Light." With the alternate versions, it's hard to tell the difference, but "In The Street" definitely has a different pre-intro, and "The India Song" is a bit faster (it is therefore also 14 seconds shorter). One of the oddities of disc one is "Country Morn", which is an alternate version of "Watch The Sunrise", with Chris Bell's lyrics and vocals. The first disc also has a demo for "Back Of A Car", which was a track on "Radio City," the second release which is the focus of the second CD.

Disc two starts off with three demos, the 12 songs of the band's second studio album, "Radio City", as well as alternative mixes, alternate versions, a rehearsal version, Chris Bell's "I Am The Cosmos" single with its b-side "You And Your Sister", and is rounded out by six more demos for one song that appears on "Radio City" as well as five songs that appear on "3rd", including one for The Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale." "There Is A Life" is the only previously-unheard song on this disc, it is by Chris Bell but sung by Alex Chilton in this demo form and it sounds very much like a Gram Parsons song. Since Bell left the band after the first release (where he had made songwriting contributions to every song except "The India Song"), this is only one of three ex-"#1 Record" Bell contributions to the box (if you include "Country Morn", which is a bizarre alternate version of "Watch The Sunrise"). But despite Chris Bell's absence, "Radio City" is a fantastic follow-up, with great rockers like "O My Soul" and "Mod Lang," mid-level moody pieces like "Back Of A Car" and "Daisy Glaze", as well as the band's most famous song "September Gurls." It also has my favourite Big Star song, the achingly beautiful "What's Going Ahn." Sure, there are a few shambling, experimental clunkers like "You Get What You Deserve", "She's A Mover" and "Life Is White"; The alternate version of "Mod Lang" has a pretty funky intro with studio chat, it's a nutty rocker already and this makes it even nuttier. The alternate version for "O My Soul", however, is a much longer number, and has a very different - longer and less sophisticated - intro (1:29, compared with 0:47 for the album version). Chris Bell's "I Am The Cosmos" is a short song, starting out with the broad chords you'd expect from a Big Star song, but the whiny vocals are extra-squeezed and multi-tracked, the "yeah, yeah, yeah"s extra-languid. Great George Harrison solo right in the middle of it. Despite the whininess - not to mention the grandiose title - it is still some how tight and appealing. The b-side "You And Your Sister" is a simple, plaintive ditty with guitar, voice and bass, that appeals to the listener "All I want to do is to spend some time with you/So I can hold you, hold you" (to match the a-side's pleading "I'd really like to see you again"), that later also develops its touches of orchestration and studio freakout. And that, besides a handful of Big Star songs, was Chris Bell.

Disc three, which contains the band's third release, entitled "3rd", has the 19 songs that were on "3rd" (15 originals and four covers - The Velvet Underground, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Kinks, and eden ahmez), three unused songs, as well as five demos. Again, the beautiful and tenderly voiced Alex Chilton demos are usually more interesting than the songs, in particular "Thank You Friends", which includes jazzy background singers on the studio version that clutter up the production. "Take Care", which is practically a lullaby, opens with violins that smother Alex Chilton and his beautiful melodies. "Nighttime", the studio track, starts off very much like the acoustic demo, but adds in tambourine, slide guitar, and eventually those inescapable strings. The better album cuts are the ones that have the least orchestration; these include the rockin' "Kizza Me", the sorrowful "Big Black Car", and the four covers. Disc three has the most cover versions of any of the studio discs: Big Star's take on "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" (rockin!), The Kinks' "`Till The End Of The Day" (also rockin!!), The Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale" (Alex Chilton does a good job stepping into the Nico role here, its a lovely version), and a very nice "Nature Boy". Among the unused songs, "Manana" is a mere snippet that sounds like it was meant to be played at a turn-of-the-20th-century puppet show (I can understand why it was unused - it doesn't sound one bit like Big Star, and is quite annoying to boot), while "Lovely Day" is just that - lovely. "Woke up in the middle of the day/Sun streaming in/No one there to take my time away." The demo is great, the "finished" version is still okay although the guitar and the voice are further back in the mix, and there is harmonizing and drums - and then the string section comes in, sawing away. Yuck. Many of the other songs on "3rd" tend to be shamboling, experimental, and acoustic ballads that are textured with strings. But it also has some of the best tracks, in particular demos for "Blue Moon" and "What's Going Ahn."

The final disc contains the 20 tracks of Big Star's January 1973 Lafayette's Music Room live concert opening up for Archie Dell and the Drells in the band's hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. On the set list are 10 of the songs from "#1 Record", which had just been released (left off are the rockin' opening number "Feel" and the ballad "Give Me Another Chance"), four from the not-yet-released "Radio City", four covers (Gram Parsons' "Hot Burrito #2', T. Rex's "Baby Strange", Todd Rundgren's "Slut" and the Kinks' "Come On Now"), as well as two songs that have never appeared on a studo album, "I Got Kinda Lost" and "There Was A Light." The songs are tight and rockin', if a bit shamboling, especially the Gram Parson's track. Near the end of the set, the band plays a version of "ST 100/6' that is nearly four minutes long - the album and alternate mix are about one minute long - playing stripped-down guitar parts marching languidly through the four lines of the song's only verse and adding a vocal bridge (or a second verse, depending how you look at it), before starting an impromptu guitar jam, and another two verses of four lines (in true pop song tradition, the fourth is, of course, a repeat of the first), and some sort of a crazy Motown drum shakeout and then another solo. So this is what the whole song was supposed to sound like! "Thank you, Archie Dell and the Drells are next. Good night" are the last sounds you hear on the project. Finis.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Cult Band of All Time, October 11, 2009
Rubinoosnut (Canberra, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Keep An Eye On The Sky (Audio CD)
With the Velvet Underground Big Star have to be the greatest cult band of all time. The music made under the Big Star banner is timeless and underappreciated.

There are four discs in this box and they are roughtly (1) pre Big Star and #1 Record and outakes (2) Radio City and outtakes (3) Sister Lovers/Third album and outtakes and (4) a live disc from gigs played in Memphis by the three piece band in 1973.

The sound on this boxset is superb. This is probably due to the input from John Fry the genius engineer and owner of Ardent Records. I love the sound of the acoustic guitars on "Watch the Sunrise" and I suspect that this is due to John Fry's amazing engineering.

While lots of the outtakes and demos turn up on the excellent "Thank You Friends - Ardent Story" discs they gain context from being with other Big Star tracks. Alex's acoustic demos for the Third album are fantastic.

The live album is the best Big Star live album available. It is the only album to feature, Alex, Jody and Andy. The sound is excellent for a live recording from the time and the set list and playing exciting. I have been collecting Big Star for years and only ever dreamt of a live album like this.

Congratulations Rhino on an marvellous box set. Well done.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Essential Release., January 10, 2010
This review is from: Keep An Eye On The Sky (Audio CD)
This box has what most Big Star fans have dreamed about for many years. It contains virtually everything you could want. The three original albums are here in remastered form, and the music sounds nothing less than fantastic - incredibly nice and clear sounding acoustic guitars for instance.

The songs from the three original albums are in some cases in alternative mixes. In most cases this is very apparent and most listeners probably won't notice. The original track listings has not been kept strictly ( is there one for "Sister Lovers"?) - which is actually very refreshing.

Connoisseurs of Big fans will, of course, be well acquainted with the three original albums, and will therefore be particularly interested in what has been included of outtakes, demos, etc. - and there really is a lot to get here.

From the time before Big Star there is a nice number with Chris Bell's group Icewater, "All I See Is You" - sounds like Big Star and very Beatles-inspired. Another early project was called Bell Rock City, judged from the short excerpt which has been included here, which sounds very exciting. The whole album was released in 2003, but is hard to find today.

Also a nice song from Alex Chilton's original unreleased first album. "Every Day As We Grow Closer" - great track.

Particularly interesting on the first CD is the outtake from # 1 Record "Gone With the Light" written and sung by Chris Bell. This number could and should have been included on the original album. "Country Morning" is another very fine recording - more or less "Watch the Sunrise" with other lyrics. Interesting to hear a different lyrics for the "Ballad of El Goodo" - fortunately, Rhino to also include the original version too. Both versions sound incredibly impressive.

Bell left the group as we know soon after the release of the first album, but he was stiil with the band in the beginning of the creation of the first songs intended for the second album. Two tracks that never made it to "Radio City" were Chris Bell's "Got Kinda Lost" and "There Was a Light" - these two are ;especially the latter, a revelation. This song could well have deserved a place on the album - great that it now finally has been released. The song is here sung by Chilton, unlike the version that was on Chris Bell solo release "I Am the Cosmos" - the sound of this "new" version is, by the way, much better.

Bell's only solo release in his own lifetime was the single "I Am the Cosmos" / "You and Your Sister" - both tracks are here - also in remastered form - both numbers can almost be regarded as Big Star tracks - "Cosmos" has been on the live repertoire several times, and Chilton's delicate harmony voice on "You and Your Sister" makes song sound like a # 1 Record tune.

There are probably not true outtakes for the third album "Sister Lovers", which as mentioned, can be found in several versions with different numbers and varying tracklistings. The fine "Lovely Day" is the closest you get an outtake. The song is the same melody as "Stroke it Noel", but a completely different recording - and a great one, too.

Most of the third albums' songs are found here in Alex Chilton's acoustic demo versions. These very fine recordings are really among the highlights of this boxset. The slightly loose approach to the music you sense on some of the numbers on the "3rd" you won't feel not here - on the contrary, Chilton appears a serious and purposeful singer and songwriter.

CD 4 contains a very exciting live recording from 1973 - a shame that Bell had left the group at this time. Exciting to hear the repertoire, which consists of most of # 1 Record, but also has tracks from the not yet recorded "Radio City". Also interesting "There Was a Light" and "Got Kinda Lost" from the time between the two albums are there. Flying Burrito Brothers' "Hot Burrito # 2" is almost impossible to recognize and the song sounds like a Big Star track. Cover versions of T. Rex 's "Baby Strange", Todd Rundgren's "Connect" and the Kinks' "Come On Now" are interesting without being especially noteworthy.

With the set follows the fine book with many interesting details of the group's history and their recordings; many fine photos and not least a nice video for "Thirteen" with live footage of the 4 original members.

A truly essential release.
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Keep An Eye On The Sky
Keep An Eye On The Sky by Big Star (Audio CD - 2009)
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