Keep an Eye on the Sky - Rhino 2009
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.