Craft Recordings Reissues Big Star #1 and Radio City AAA on 180g Vinyl

"What happens in Memphis stays in Memphis"—at least until you get these home (unless you live in Memphis!) might be Craft Recordings' slogan for this all-analog pair of Big Star reissues, probably the first all-analog reissues of these two ignored when first released but now highly regarded early '70s albums since Classic Records released them in 2009 AAA on Clarity vinyl.

Craft's new editions to be released January 24th, 2020, were cut using the original master tapes by Jeff Powell at Memphis' Take Out Vinyl and pressed at Memphis Record Pressing. The band formed in 1971 by the late Alex Chilton and the late Chris Bell with drummer Jody Stephens and bassist the late Andy Hummel featured Beatle-esque/British Invasion influenced songwriting and jangly rhythm guitar saturated arrangements of often wistful, melancholic songs that should have gone crazy-big among Beatles-starved rock'n'rollers but that didn't happen, in part because the group's original label, Ardent, wasn't well distributed and in part because the music scene had "moved on"—but not for critics who rightly hailed these two records. On a personal note, I played the hell out of both on my all night WBCN weekend shows. Big Star songs have been often covered by other artists, keeping alive albums that were D.O.A.

A memorable tribute show at New York City's Baruch College late March, 2011 that I attended featured among many others, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and Mike Mike Mills, Chris Stamey, Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo, Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake, Matthew Sweet and many others, plus original Big Star drummer Jody Stephens. Encores included The Replacements' song "Alex Chilton" and of course for the finale, Chilton's "The Letter", from his Box Tops days, which he sang at age 16. It was written by fellow Box Top Wayne Carson. Running fewer than two minutes, "The Letter" is among the shortest hit songs ever to top the charts. It's "dragged out" by a jet plane sound effect at the end that Michael Stipe re-created on stage using a hair dryer. Between that show and Beach House's also memorable recreation during a mini-tour in 2014 of Gene Clark's also neglected No Other, the first half of the first decade of 2000 produced rock'n'roll justice! Glad I attended both!

These two albums, both of which are spectrally bright belong in every serious rock collection. So glad to see them brought back directly from the original tapes!

bassrome's picture

This record got a mention in a scene from HBO's Vinyl. It's a tragedy this LP never went big like it deserved to.

bassrome's picture

This record got a mention in a scene from HBO's Vinyl. It's a shame it never went big like it deserved to.

Rashers's picture

have bitten the AAA bug, with their unbelievable catalog, they are going to bankrupt me. Hopefully they will start to reissue Contemporary records albums, having gazumped them from Analogue Productions last year.

eugeneharrington's picture

Yes, they may have an unbelievable catalogue as you say, but they know absolutely nothing about quality orientated pressing plants. I'll hang on to my 2Fer SACD that I bought some years ago.

eugeneharrington's picture

Yes, they may have an unbelievable catalogue as you say, but they know absolutely nothing about quality orientated pressing plants. I'll hang on to my 2Fer SACD that I bought some years ago.

Snorker's picture

Any insight Michael? Analog Spark's website hasn't had any activity in a year, but I noticed Craft is releasing the Sound of Music Broadway Cast album, which Analog Spark had released as a Barnes & Noble Exclusive edition two years ago. The description on the Craft site reads: "Mastered from the original 3-track master tape by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound" which is the same as the Analog Spark version from 2017. Incidentally, the Analog Spark version sounds wonderful.

Michael Fremer's picture
Yes, Craft bought out Analog Spark
charliepress's picture

I found this link--"remastered from the original analog tape sources" which could be either be a poorly worded way of saying "AAA" or meant to obscure that there was a digital step. Hard to know.

charliepress's picture

Alex Chilton was the lead vocalist on the letter, but Wayne Carson wrote it. Also, I seem to recall reading that Concord's reissue a few years ago was AAA. I have that pressing but I believe it was pressed at United. The vinyl is certainly noisy

Michael Fremer's picture
I'll correct. Not sure if previous was AAA...
Lemon Curry's picture

Looking forward to this!

Tom L's picture

...out of a cutout bin for 99 cents. Always loved Big Star and Chilton, especially his more "jangly pop" side. The records are indeed "bright" sounding, as if nobody in the studio cared the about bass or bass drum sound.
I actually met Alex a couple of times. The assistant manager at my record store went to one of his shows and threw herself at him. They had a wild time for a while until my infatuated assistant showed up at his house in Memphis and confronted his wife. That was that...

Tom L's picture

I have a good-sounding CD of both of these albums (Stax FCD-60-025), and I usually listen to that. I just played the LPs, and they sound terrific except for the inevitable clicks in the drop zone. Bass and drums are not emphasized, but they are present and clear.
I blame my memory of the sound imbalance on my old B&O cartridge. That thing was incredibly bright sounding and it caused me to sell some perfectly good LPs because it emphasized the clicks and pops so much. When I replaced it many years ago with an original Stanton 681EEE I realized that, uh, mistakes had been made.

Steve Edwards's picture

the first "high end" cartridge I ever owned. I thought that little brush on the front of it was so cool. Well done Tom!

Tom L's picture

When I moved in with my future wife she had a nice Denon turntable with the Stanton cartridge. We still use them in our second system.
I am a very lucky man.

mjanovec's picture

Two sets of AAA reissues of these LPs came out previously. The first was a two-LP set featuring both albums that Stax (through EMI) released in 1978 in the UK. (This is a great sounding set, by the way.) The second were the Classic Records reissues from 2009, cut by Chris Bellman. The stampers from these were also used for the Concord reissues from the same year. The Classic releases were on 200g Clarity vinyl, while the Concord releases were on standard weight black vinyl. At one time I owned both the Classic and the Concord issues and both had the same deadwax details.

Also, just an FYI, Wayne Carson was never a member of the Box Tops. He did write three of their hits, but was not in the band. The lineup that recorded "The Letter" was Alex Chilton, Bill Cunningham, Danny Smythe, John Evans, and Gary Talley.

marmil's picture

I, too, bought the 2 Big Star LPs for $.99 each from a stationery store near my house. I'd heard O, My Soul on WNEW at some point and was thrilled when I found 'em. AND I, too, played them on my overnight show on WBCN a few years later than you did, Michael.

sennj's picture

...MRP has horrible QC, which makes this AAA DOA.

Vinyl On Tubes's picture

You can save about $10 if you buy the bundle over purchasing individually. Pricing is available now as a pre-order.

Tom L's picture
JEngg's picture