It seems like every year brings a larger crop of releases for Record Store Day, which is on April 16 this year. Some of them are a bit dodgy, and I would be more comfortable if the prices weren’t quite so high, but each year there are a few Record Store Day items that are very special.
At the top of my want list for this year is the Omnivore Recordings vinyl release of the haunted, harrowing Big Star classic, Third. This is the first ever release for the fledgling label that was founded by three music industry veterans who are determined to do it right in every way, from the music, to the packaging, and ultimately to the delivery.
By the time the recording for Big Star Third came about, half the original band was gone. The brilliant Chris Bell had left after #1 Record, Big Star’s stunning debut, which was released in 1972. Then after the band’s second album, Radio City, bass player Andy Hummel exited. In their wake they left a trail of bad deals, bad drugs, physical altercations, and unrealized potential.
The remaining members of Big Star were the mercurial Alex Chilton, and the rock steady drummer Jody Stephens. Together they entered Ardent Studios in 1974, along with producer Jim Dickinson, and an assorted cast of musicians. They emerged in early 1975 with one of the most extraordinary albums in the history of rock and roll.
Unfortunately, not everyone saw it that way. Chilton and Ardent founder John Fry visited record companies in New York and California, but found no one willing to release the album. Big Star’s third album was put on the shelf, deemed unreleasable. It would take four years for the album to be released by PVC Records under the title Third/Sister Lovers.
There were other reissues over the years, but none were considered definitive. Finally, in 1992, producer Dickinson assembled a version of the album for a Rykodisc reissue. It was considered to be the first attempt to present Big Star’s original concept for their third album. It has remained the closest thing to the real deal, until now.
Omnivore Recordings will release what they are calling the Test Pressing Edition of Big Star Third on 180-gram vinyl. The limited run of 2,000 copies (1,000 for the US, 1000 for Europe) is being released as a Record Store Day exclusive. In other words, good luck finding it after this Saturday. The track list commemorates the original 14 song version of the album.
The album was cut from the original assembly reel, on the same Ardent Studios lathe, by the same engineers who cut the original album, Larry Nix and John Fry. The package will also include replicas of the original tracking sheets, and lead sheets. As if all of that isn’t enough, five of the packages will contain copies of the album’s original test pressing signed by Nix, Fry, and the only surviving member of Big Star, Jody Stephens.
One lucky Popdose reader (I guess it would be frowned on if I won, right?), will win a copy of Big Star Third, courtesy of Omnivore Recordings. To enter, send an email to email@example.com with ‘Big Star’ in the subject line, and the answer to the following question in the body:
When Big Star regrouped in 1993, Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens were joined by two members of what band to complete the new Big Star lineup?
The deadline for entries is Thursday, April 14, at 5:00 p.m. eastern time. This contest is open only to readers with a valid US mailing address.
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