Big Star proved themselves one of the leading new American bands working in the mid-Sixties pop and rock vein with the release of their debut LP in 1972. Despite the loss of key composer and guitarist Chris Bell, and a few other disturbing musical developments, their second album, Radio City, proves they were no mere flash in the pantheon of one-shot burned-out artists. Radio City features plenty of shimmering pop delights such as "Way Out West" and "Back of a Car." Sometimes they sound like the Byrds, sometimes like the early Who, but usually like their own indescribable selves. "September Gurls" is a virtually perfect pop number. They may not be as tight or as immediately mesmerizing this time out (the opening tune, "O My Soul," is a foreboding, sprawling funk affair), but Radio City is one of the most high-spirited, thoroughly enjoyable recent releases.
- Ken Barnes, Rolling Stone, 4/11/74.
- Jon Tiven, Circus Raves, 4/74.
Brilliant, addictive, definitely semi-popular, and all Alex Chilton -- Chris Bell, his folkie counterpart, just couldn't take it any more. Boosters claim this is just what the AM has been waiting for, but the only pop coup I hear is a reminder of how spare, slew, and sprung the Beatles '65 were, which is a coup because they weren't. The harmonies sound like the lead sheets are upside down and backwards, the guitar solos sound like screwball readymade pastiches, and the lyrics sound like love is strange, though maybe that's just the context. Can an album be catchy and twisted at the same time? A
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Big Star were Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens. It was assumed after the demise of the Box Tops that lead singer Chilton, owner of one of the great rock-and-roll voices, would go on to further glories. Alas, the vocalist on such classics as "The Letter," "Cry Like a Baby" and "Soul Deep" never had another hit. However, the Bangles resurrected "September Gurls" on their 1986 breakthrough Different Light.
This was the second of three Big Star albums. It was distributed by Stax but not issued at the time in Britain. The third effort was never released. Test copies that do exist are minor collectors' items.
True to the spirit of "The Letter," which clocked in at under two minutes, the last two tracks on side one are 1:28 and 1:45 respectively.
In 1987, Radio City was chosen by a panel of rock critics and music broadcasters as the #78 rock album of all time.
- Paul Gambaccini, The Top 100 Rock 'n' Roll Albums of All Time, Harmony Books, 1987.
Largely lacking co-leader Chris Bell, Big Star's second album also lacked something of the pop sweetness (expecially the harmonies) of #1 Record. What it possessed was Alex Chilton's urgency (sometimes desperation) on songs that made his case as a genuine rock & roll eccentric. If #1 Record had a certain pop perfection that brought everything together, Radio City was the sound of everything falling apart, which proved at least as compelling. * * * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Harder-edged than #1 Record, Chilton-led unit roars on Radio City, which contains such luminous tracks as "O My Soul," "I'm In Love With A Girl," and the incomparable "September Gurls." Essential.
- Billboard, 1995.
Like the Velvet Underground, Big Star's influence far outstripped their sales. On this lean, guitar-driven album they come up with a new, upside-down pop sound, filtering their love of the Beatles through their Memphis-soul roots. Towering achievement: the blissful, sad "September Gurls."
Radio City was chosen as the 403rd greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.
- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.
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