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Big Star
Playlist: The Very Best of Big Star

Zoo/Legacy

Over the span of 98 tracks, the 2009 box set, Keep an Eye on the Sky, encapsulated the pre-history and glory days of one of the biggest cult bands ever. The four discs picked from Big Star’s first three albums plus solo tunes by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell. Altogether, they made a strong argument for the praiseworthy view of the group and treated listeners to unending wave after wave of pioneering power pop.

Now, with Playlist: The Very Best of Big Star the band’s career has been condensed to include that 1970s era, its ‘90s resurgence and return to the studio.

The 14-track compilation features previously-issued numbers including album cuts and a 1993 “reunion” gig that featured original members Chilton and Jody Stephens with Jonathan Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies rounding out the lineup.

Beloved tracks are here (“Life is White” and “Feel”), while a 1974 rehearsal version of “September Gurls” shows that there was still beauty to be heard even when a song wasn’t wrapped up in the full production. Similarly, the seven live numbers, which include “In the Street” and “The Ballad of El Goodo,” understandably display a grittiness that’s missing on the original versions yet the songs still hold up more than 30 years later.

“A Whole New Thing” from the 2005 album In Space sounds more like it could have been off a Chilton solo record than an addition to the band’s power pop canon, but it’s no way an embarrassment to its legacy.

There’s nothing here that devoted fans don’t already have. And it’s likely they’d focus on the band’s studio magnificence rather than including so many live tracks in order to highlight Big Star’s significance. For the uninitiated, Playlist offers an instant historical lesson that’s in praise of timeless melodies and harmonies.

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