Artist: Various Artists
Album: Thank You Friends: Big Star’s Third Live...And More
Label: Concord Bicycle Music
Release Date: 4/21/2017
It’s almost ironic that Big Star is finally getting the belated kudos they so deserve. While their first two albums never had the benefit of extensive distribution or the wider recognition that comes with having a hit record, in retrospect they’re recognized as one of the more important bands of the early ‘70s. A group that help formulate a power pop template that’s acknowledged as essential to so many of the bands that followed, they came and went with barely a whimper other than a few shout-outs from a handful of knowing pundits. The fact that their third album — aptly titled Big Star’s Third (also known as Sister Lovers) — was initially shelved and then released belatedly, long after Big Star had called it a day, only adds to the irony.
Fortunately, over the past four decades, Big Star has regained their prominence. The group was resurrected with Posies members Ken Stringfellow and Ken Auer filling in for departed members Chris Bell, Alex Chilton and Andy Hummel, all of whom passed away far too soon, joining drummer Jody Stephens to sustain the name and the legacy. Happily now, they aren’t alone. When a who’s who of the current rock community — among them, members of REM, Semisonic, Yo La Tengo, Wilco, Let’s Active, the dBs and others — rallied around the idea of paying tribute to this seminal outfit, it turned into a traveling roadshow that celebrated both Big Star’s Third and the songs that filled out their first two classic albums as well.
The result is one of the most remarkable musical extravaganzas ever produced, one that fills out two CDs and a DVD while putting both the music and the band’s A list cast front and center. To their credit, the participants opt not to take liberties with the songs, but rather take classic tracks like “September Gurls,” “In the Street,” “The Ballad of El Gordo” and “Feel” and replay them with the earnestness and enthusiasm that Big Star originally intended. That makes this a celebratory experience and an essential acquisition as well.