(5 out of 5)
The two albums that Big Star released in the early ’70s have attained a mythical quality that borders on the talismanic; virtually every alternative pop band of the last 30 years – from R.E.M. to Wilco – has drawn influence both musical and philosophical from these discs. It probably didn’t hurt that, for years, #1 RECORD and RADIO CITY were impossible to find, given the collective yawn of indifference that greeted their initial release in 1972 and 1974. Though the albums were reissued during a renaissance of interest in the group in the early ’90s, the middling sound quality of those CD versions neutered Big Star’s soaring and muscular power-pop. But with this remastered collection, these two albums are finally widely available in a form that does them justice. The full strength of crunchy anthems like “In the Street” (yes, the song from THAT 70S SHOW) and “She’s A Mover” finally come across like soulful, full-bodied rock songs, and the group’s more ethereal and gentle moments – “Morpha Too,” “Thirteen” – glisten with an expansive and elegant sheen. Even longtime aficionados of Big Star will find new things to love in signature songs like “September Gurls” and “What’s Going Ahn.” Sadly, the bonus cuts here – two single mixes – are possibly the least interesting of all the band’s unreleased material, but such a minor quibble does nothing to detract from the strength of the absolutely essential material on the rest of the set.