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Alternative & Indie - Released December 6, 2019 | Omnivore Recordings

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Rock - Released December 4, 2015 | Light In The Attic - Munster Records

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Rock - Released January 10, 2012 | Omnivore Recordings

Alex Chilton fronted the Box Tops but he never led them. He was a hired hand, picked for his preternaturally soulful voice but, like any red-blooded American teen, he soon bristled against the constraints on his freedom. Chips Moman and Dan Penn masterminded the Box Tops, rarely letting Chilton record his own material, so he did what any rebellious adolescent would do: he sneaked around, cutting material at the fledging Ardent Studios without the knowledge of American Studios, who owned the rights to Chilton's recordings. These contractual issues meant that the recordings Alex made at Ardent in 1969 with Terry Manning were still called "1970" when Ardent released them on CD in 1996 -- it was the year Chilton was released from his American contract -- but this tremendous 2012 reissue adds a more poetic title in Free Again. It's a title that accurately reflects Chilton's frame of mind: he was breaking free of the constraints of the Box Tops, finding his voice as a songwriter and musician, leaving behind the strict blue-eyed soul of his first band without quite ditching soul. He hasn't left behind the light, Baroque psychedelia that marked some of the latter-day Box Tops LPs, either -- there’s a distinctly British undercurrent to the sweeter pop tunes here -- but there are also hints of country and loose-limbed, dirty rock & roll, particularly in a wildly inventive cover of "Jumpin’ Jack Flash" that slows down the groove and turns Keith Richards' riff inside out. In that sense, the music on Free Again is just as much a bridge between the Box Tops and Big Star -- something that's quite clear on the more delicate moments here -- as it is an indication of what he would do after Big Star. Much of this points the way toward the willful, ornery vibe of Like Flies on Sherbert, or the casual R&B crooner of the '80s and beyond, but in 1969, Alex has yet to prize contrariness over craft: he is still writing with passion and, with Manning and the Ardent renegades figuring out just what they could do in the studio, this crackles with invention and spirit. Sure, it's messy, but Alex Chilton always was -- it's also some of his richest and best music, and it's never sounded better than it does on Free Again: The 1970 Sessions. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 22, 2019 | Bar - None Records

In the course of a very eclectic career, Alex Chilton went from singing blue-eyed soul with the Box Tops to British Invasion-influenced pop with Big Star, seriously bent proto-punk in his early solo period, and good and greasy R&B covers after he relocated to New Orleans in the '80s. But one of Chilton's recurring sidelines was his fondness for crooning old standards in a warm, jazz-infused style. His take on "Nature Boy" during the Big Star Third sessions was just the tip of that iceberg, and Chilton would occasionally cite Chet Baker Sings as a favorite album and a serious influence on his vocal style. Chilton cut a fine album of solo acoustic takes on the classic songbook, 1994's Cliches, and in the '90s he recorded several sessions with bassist and producer Ron Miller for his jazz group Medium Cool. Songs from Robin Hood Lane is a collection that brings together cuts from Cliches and highlights from his sessions with Medium Cool (some previously unreleased), and this album is a warm, breezy delight. Chilton's phrasing on these performances is easygoing but from the heart, and his interaction with Miller and his sidemen shows just how much he learned from the great jazz singers of the '50s and '60s. The title Songs from Robin Hood Lane refers to the Memphis neighborhood where Chilton grew up, and many of these songs were on steady rotation on the family's hi-fi set. It's clear Chilton loves these songs, but his delivery speaks to a lot more than nostalgia -- as a gifted songwriter himself, he knew what made a great tune work, and he weaves his voice around the lyrics and melodies with the panache of a seasoned veteran and a star student. On the cuts from Cliches, Chilton's guitar work is simple but full of snap, and reveals another facet of his often-underappreciated instrumental skills. At just under 32 minutes, Songs from Robin Hood Lane is paced like a vintage vocal LP, and if it's a long way from rock & roll, this music speaks to a side of Alex Chilton's musical personality that clearly meant a great deal to him, and this is a low-key gem suitable for dancing and romancing. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 8, 2019 | Bar - None Records

It might seem counterintuitive to move to New Orleans, a city where folks go to party hard, if you want to get sober and restart your life, but Alex Chilton was a guy who stubbornly did things his own way. After going from success to failure to dissolution in his birthplace of Memphis, Chilton pulled up stakes and settled in New Orleans in the early '80s. There, he put down the bottle, worked a variety of odd jobs as he took a long look at himself, and watched as he went from forgotten man to a cult hero as R.E.M. and the Replacements dropped his name and the Bangles covered "September Gurls." In 1985, Chilton returned to music, but he set aside the sound of his previous work in favor of a lean, stripped-down style that filtered the rolling R&B of his new hometown through scrappy guitar leads and a "first thought equals best thought" philosophy of record-making. More than a few fans of Chilton's masterful work with Big Star were thoroughly puzzled with such '80s comeback efforts as Feudalist Tarts and High Priest -- especially his emphasis on covers rather than original songs -- but in retrospect that music represented Chilton making a clean break from his past and finding a new avenue of creativity that championed spontaneity and living in the moment. Chilton's music of the '80s also gave him a platform for the sly wit that had previously lurked in the background of his music, and originals like "Lost My Job," "Underclass," and "No Sex" were funny but deeply cutting at the same time. From Memphis to New Orleans compiles 15 tracks from Chilton's '80s releases, and it's a strong, entertaining summation of this sometimes misunderstood stage of his career. If this isn't a complete picture of that era, it does pull together most of the highlights from the EPs Feudalist Tarts (1985), No Sex (1986), and Blacklist (1989), as well as the album High Priest (1987), and the material is consistent enough in approach and production that it flows together very well. Chilton's angular and inventive guitar work is consistently the best thing about these tracks, as well as his playful, casually committed vocals; and while the backings are straightforward, the players give their performances a strong Southern personality and generate a groove that favors the material (especially drummer Doug Garrison). Given that most of this material has been out of print for some time, From Memphis to New Orleans is a very welcome release for Chilton fans, and it's an intelligently complied tribute to an artist in the midst of rediscovering himself. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 6, 2010 | Last Call Records

In most cases, adding in an unrelated EP, a second unrelated three-song EP, and a couple of random live tracks to an artist's album would make for a disorganized and confusing set, but Alex Chilton's 1979 album Like Flies on Sherbert was already a chaotic mess by most people's standards in the first place, so adding in the Feudalist Tarts EP from 1985 and the three songs from 1986's No Sex 12" EP from 1986 plus live versions of "The Letter" and "No Sex" simply expands the chaos to something closer to epic proportions. In retrospect, Flies isn't quite the car wreck it once appeared to be, and this two-disc package from Last Call has a strange coherence to it, full of loose, ragged deconstructive noise experiments, gutbucket R&B, and deliberately torpedoed pop and country songs. All of this is a far cry from the impressive power pop of Big Star, to be sure, but Flies and its various trailing EPs still seem to have a sense of purpose, even if that sense may have only been clear to Chilton. If love of Chilton's Big Star work brings you to this, well, be prepared to be shocked, but give it all a second listen. Songs like "My Rival" and its mirror cousin, "Like Flies on Sherbert," have fascinatingly bristling junkyard exteriors that mask a powerfully inverted pop sense, while tracks like "Boogie Shoes" and "Lost My Job" have a refreshing country-R&B shuffle feel, and "No Sex" may well be the most direct and honest song about sex in the postmodern world ever recorded. None of this is pop music trying to get over -- which is what one is used to -- but is instead pop music trying to get away from any perceived boundaries. What photo best captures the look and feel of the aftermath of a huge blowout party, one that is clear, in focus, and perfectly posed, or one that is blurred at the edges, tilted off axis, and has no obvious center point? The party's over, Chilton seems to be saying, and I don't have to look pretty anymore. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 22, 2010 | Razor & Tie

Recorded in 1975 and 1976, shortly after Big Star broke up during the fractious, drug-addled sessions for their final album, the songs on Bach's Bottom were similarly left stranded at the time, although four of them did eventually show up on the 1977 Ork Records EP Singer Not the Song. Released well after the sessions, Bach's Bottom (a punning title on Chilton's first band) is a mess. As a mess, it's a less-glorious mess than Sister Lovers, which manages to sound spooky and haunted and decadent and rocking as often as not; these 15 songs mostly just sound like drunken, sneering rambles. (All three versions of the lumbering jam "Take Me Home and Make Me Like It" sound like they're on the verge of total collapse, and not in a good way.) On the other hand, that actually fits songs like "Free Again," the most obviously Big Star-like tune here, and the storming cover of the Seeds' "Can't Seem to Make You Mine," so parts of the album actually work. And of course, it has "Bangkok," possibly Chilton's finest post-Big Star single, so it's close to necessary just for that. But Bach's Bottom is strictly for the hardcore Chilton fan, as it's one of his most willfully difficult and impenetrable records. © Stewart Mason /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 25, 2017 | Omnivore Recordings

Booklet
In 1995 the legend of Alex Chilton was ailing… With auto-destructive behaviours and unpredictable attitudes the former leader of Box Tops and most importantly Big Star spent the end of his career, and of his life (he died in 2010 at the age of 59) bewildering his fans and going from amazing to anecdotal in a snap… In that year of 1995 Chilton decided to mend the famous Ardent Studios in his native Memphis – where the Big Star saga took place – and the label to go with, to record Man Called Destruction. An album split in six original compositions and six covers (Jimmy Reed, Jan & Dean, Adriano Celentano, and even the amusing What's Your Sign Girl? by the obscure Danny Pearson) with a boiling brass section. The result is a beautiful patchwork mixing rock garage, slightly cheesy pop, jazz and rhythm’n’blues. Thanks to the excellent Omnivore Recordings label, A Man Called Destruction resurfaces in a re-mastered version with, the cherry on the cake, seven bonus tracks! And while these of course don’t come close to the Big Star’s masterpieces, or even to Like Flies On Sherbert (Chilton’s best solo opus, released in 1979), it’s hard to hide our delight in the front of a jukebox like this one, in which we’ll happily insert a quarter! © MD/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 8, 2017 | Bar - None Records

Alex Chilton disappeared from view after the debacle of Like Flies on Sherbert. This comeback EP, released after a five-year album silence, is a fine and rootsy delight worthy of its artist's reputation. Many of the songs on this platter contain prominent brass and saxophone backing textures; the horn section gets a chance to shine in its own right on the jazzy shuffle number "Stuff" and takes full advantage of it. "Lost My Job" is a raw blues selection featuring enjoyable Dylanesque harmonica touches. "Paradise" is an appealing, forthright 1950s-style crooning number. There are three successful covers here as well, including a smooth version of the Carla Thomas hit "B-A-B-Y" and a solidly funky rendition of Slim Harpo's blues selection "Tee Ni Nee Ni Noo." The latter affords Chilton some excellent solo opportunities for harmonica and guitar, all of which are executed in attractively gritty fashion; at the end of this number, there is an especially nice interplay section between the trumpet, saxophone, and harmonica. Chilton's singing is reserved at times, but always eloquent. Production and sound quality are fine here. This release is well worth hearing. © David Cleary /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 8, 2017 | Bar - None Records

1987's High Priest was Alex Chilton's first full-length studio album since the fascinatingly disastrous Like Flies on Sherbert in 1979. While it certainly wasn't the return to pure-pop form some fans were hoping for from the former leader of Big Star, it at least showed Chilton to be in firm command of his faculties again, and fronting a solid band of Memphis/New Orleans studio heavyweights. High Priest boasted only four original songs from Chilton, the best being the mildly sleazy "Thing for You" (though the just-plain-weird "Dalai Lama" has a certain perverse charm), but he dug up a handful of worthwhile covers, including the good-and-greasy "Make a Little Love" and a fine, obscure Carole King number, "Let Me Get Close to You." While Chilton's vocals betray a certain inscrutable irony, he's in fine voice throughout, and his wildly underrated guitar work is very much in evidence. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 19, 2017 | Munster

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Rock - Released October 8, 2013 | Bar - None Records

When Alex Chilton (he of the unparalleled power pop songwriting majesty of Big Star and his own catalog of incredible solo material) was playing a two-set gig at N.Y.C.'s Knitting Factory on a February night in 1997, the power unexpectedly went out after the first set and most of the crowd went home. Some stragglers hung around in the darkness, bummed to only get a partial show and taking their time in exiting. Before too long, Chilton re-emerged with a borrowed acoustic guitar to play a few songs for the remaining crowd, with an off-the-cuff, unamplified performance to make up for the evening being cut short, and one that longtime fan Jeff Vargon captured on a hand-held cassette recorder. All of this brings us to the 2013 release of Electricity by Candlelight, the proper release of the audio from that incredibly intimate, one-of-a-kind set. The sound quality is bootleg at best, even in professionally mastered form. Were this a run-of-the-mill set, the sound alone would push this release into the "completists only" category, as vocals are muddy and sometimes drowned out by the giggling and caterwauling of the audience. There's something transcendent about this particular document, however, as one of rock's more celebrated songwriters plays through a set completely free of his own songs, opting to roll through standards like "Girl from Ipanema," country singalongs, and covers of personal favorites by Joni Mitchell and Johnny Cash. Chilton sounds at first like he's trying to placate disappointed fans with a few numbers, saying he'll "just play one more" after the fourth or fifth tune, but then something turns and he continues to play on for more than an hour, taking audience requests, cracking jokes, and eventually being joined midway through by drummer Richard Dworkin on tastefully restrained snare and hi-hat. You get the sense that he's remembering how fun it can be to try things out, stumbling through "If I Had a Hammer," playing half of FM country semi-novelty tune "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" to the delight of one particularly rowdy fan, or giving a chilling reading of Loudon Wainwright's desperate "Motel Blues," seemingly more for himself than his listeners. The set peaks with a trio of Brian Wilson tunes including versions of "Surfer Girl" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" that gleam with a touching vulnerability. Chilton is exposing himself as a religiously devoted fan of all the music he's playing, which takes on a new context when he's playing it for devoted fans of his own music. Somewhere between slumber party and rock & roll church service, Electricity by Candlelight captures a truly special moment in the life of one of American music's most valuable songwriters, and gives a warm and welcoming window into his own inspirations. © Fred Thomas /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 2, 2017 | Bar - None Records

Any Alex Chilton fan who's disappointed in a set of R&B and pop covers just hasn't been paying attention to his career. Ever since his comeback in the mid-'80s, Chilton has relied on covers -- from 1985's Feudalist Tarts EP on, new songs have been at a premium, and often felt like covers anyway. Maybe that's why he decided to ditch the originals for his 2000 album Set (charmingly titled Loose Shoes and Tight Pussy in every country outside of America). Set is pitched somewhere between the pop-standards album Clichés and A Man Called Destruction, boasting the feel of Destruction and its penchant for R&B, yet with a handful of traditional pop tunes. With the exception of "There Will Never Be Another You," these are read as instrumentals, but the end result is the same: It's a little ragged, it meanders, and it's listenable only to those already firmly within the cult. Set really isn't that bad, especially when its judged by Chilton's solo standards, but it isn't that good, either. In his favor, Chilton's song selections are pretty interesting: There are a handful of well-known songs ("Lipstick Traces," "Oogum Boogum," plus the standards), but he's also found some good lesser-known songs, like "Hook Me Up," "Never Found a Girl," and "You's a Viper." The problem is, he sounds like he just can't be bothered. It's not that these recordings are raw -- the production is unvarnished, but the performance is professional as can be -- it's that they're lazy. Some members of his cult find that endearing, while other listeners (and not just Big Star diehards) will tire of it after a couple of songs. It's no better or no worse than its predecessors; it simply offers more of the same. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 10, 2012 | Omnivore Recordings

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 18, 2015 | Munster

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 14, 2018 | Bar - None Records

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Rock - Released June 1, 2015 | Norton Records

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Rock - Released January 23, 2019 | Bar - None Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 14, 2018 | Bar - None Records