Album Reviews

Alex Chilton – Electricity By Candlelight: NYC 2/13/97 (Bar None)

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Alex Chilton Electricity by CandlelightThere’s something fitting about this bootleg being an official Alex Chilton release. The story behind it is befitting of Chilton: the cult singer/songwriter was set to play the old Knitting Factory in Manhattan when the lights went out. Undeterred, Chilton grabbed an acoustic guitar and treated the gathered crowd to a set of whatever songs he could remember. The result is something tossed off, messy, unfocused, and an utter delight, just the way that Chilton probably would have wanted it if he were still here.

Over the course of the set (which Chilton continuously claims to want to end, only to keep extending it further), the former Box Top and Big Star man covers just about every form of written popular song under the sun. Opening with the honky-tonk classic “Last Bouquet,” Chilton jumps to Frank Loesser’s “Let’s Get Lost” to the classic Hank Williams number “Lovesick Blues” over the course of minutes. If any other artist tried this, it would reek of self-indulgence, but Chilton has the crowd in the palm of his hand as he covers the breadth of his musical knowledge and theirs (one loud request for the novelty hit “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” is thankfully honored).

Everything about Electricity By Candlelight‘s sound screams “bootleg,” but a set this bizarre and this much fun deserves to be heard by more than Chilton obsessives. The album gets to the heart of what made Chilton such an engaging musician on record and in person.

– Kevin Korber

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