December 10, 2016
From the New York Times, Pop Music Gifts, All Bundled Up, November 24, 2016:
BIG STAR: ‘COMPLETE THIRD’ Omnivore; three CDs; $49.98; MP3, $19.99
It could have been even messier. Big Star’s Third was the bewildering and later beloved (particularly by indie-rockers) album recorded in 1974 by the songwriter Alex Chilton at a druggie, drunken, experimental extreme. Radiant melodies grappled with clutter and noise; longing and reverence collided with snark and despair. Rightly considered uncommercial, it wasn’t released until 1978, and its assorted versions have no definite sequence or even an official title. “Complete Third” joins the album’s 20 final masters with Mr. Chilton’s gleaming, open solo demos for the songs, along with out-on-a-limb mixes by its producer, Jim Dickinson, and more straightforward mixes by the engineer John Fry. It reveals the choices behind a ramshackle landmark.
NRBQ: ‘HIGH NOON: A 50-YEAR RETROSPECTIVE’ Omnivore; five CDs, $56.99
A good-time spirit runs through the music of NRBQ, which stands for New Rhythm and Blues Quartet (initially Quintet) but has never been bound to R&B or any other genre. Started in 1966 with home recordings—there’s one in this collection—NRBQ is rooted in a 1950s of rockabilly, blues, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Thelonious Monk and Sun Ra, along with a 1960s of early Beatles and Beach Boys. Their songs hold chromatic twists and wry wordplay, packed into smiley three-minute bundles. High Noon combines a best-of with many rarities, suiting a band that’s both crafty and casual.