Alex Chilton – Free Again: The “1970” Sessions

January 01, 1970

(Ominvore Recordings)

 

www.ominvorerecordings.com

 

Recorded during the final throes of his tenure with the Box
Tops and during a period of uncertain transition and general discouragement, 1970 proved to be a seminal record that
attracted little notice at the time but would later prove a bearer of
auspicious circumstance. Generally dissatisfied with the manipulative
proposition that the Box Tops had become and anxious to explore his own
ambitions, he convinced Terry Manning, a producer, engineer and songwriter in
his own right – as well as one of the hired hands behind the Box Tops’ studio
success – to help him etch out some of the material he had written on his own.

 

The result was a generally hodgepodge effort recorded
primarily as an exploratory set and to establish Chilton as a solo artist
beyond his Box Tops ties. Much of what resulted still seemed governed by his
former band’s MO, given rote rock retreads like “Come on Honey,” “Something
Deep Inside” and an enthusiastic if unambitious cover of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
Likewise, a frayed and unfortunate take on the Archies’ “Sugar Sugar,” melded
with James Brown’s “I Got the Feeling'” in a pseudo funky style, would suggest
that Chilton’s stash of individual ideas had quickly run dry.

 

Fortunately, on this reissue (which boasts detailed liner
notes from journalist Bob Mehr) he redeems himself by delving into country rock
noir, applying breezy steel guitar to the better songs like the tellingly
titled “Free Again” and “The Happy Song,” both of which echo the communal
Laurel Canyon sound of the early Eagles, Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band and
the New Riders of the Purple Sage. That impression is generally reinforced with
this reissue, where an added batch of alternative mixes offer extra opportunity
to give several songs a second listen. Archivists may be most enticed by a pair
of recently unearthed demos – the pleasant piano pop of “If You Would Marry Me
Babe” and the soothing acoustic strum of “It Isn’t Always That Easy” which,
ironically, turn out to be two of the reconfigured album’s more promising
entries.

 

It would be tempting to suggest that 1970 would portend the emergence of Big Star and subsequent solo
offerings, but that summation would also prove untrue. Big Star was more than
the sum of its parts, and as evidenced here, Chilton was only just beginning to
mine his.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Free
Again,” “It Isn’t Always That Easy,” “The Happy Song” LEE ZIMMERMAN

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