It’s no secret that Alex Chilton is one of my heroes. So this unexpected release is a happy reminder of what made this late musical giant so great. The story of Electricity By Candlelight is simple: at a two set performance in 1997, at New York’s Knitting Factory, the power went out and the second set was cancelled. While many people took their refund and left the venue, several stayed. Alex came out with an acoustic guitar and guided by candles, he proceeded to deliver an impromptu 18 song set which was miraculously caught on tape. So for all intents and purposes, this is an accidental album. And I am very glad this accident happened.
The set opens with “Last Bouquet” which is touching but yet has Alex’s signature humor in his over-emphasized Southern drawl on the chorus (which, it should be noted, he did in many of these songs, which make it even more charming). “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” is hilarious and great with the audience’s participation – which, again, is throughout this entire set. You can tell he was winging it, but it’s done in such a good natured way that it’s one of the album’s highlights. The same applies to one of my favorites of yesteryear, “Lovesick Blues”. Richard Dworkin joins on brushed drums for a reading of “Girl From Ipanema”; Loudon Wainrwright’s “Motel Blues” is simply sublime. Back to back renditions of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Surfer Girl” are funny, yet sweetly sincere – since it was well-known that Alex Chilton loved Brian Wilson/The Beach Boys.
This album is joyful; heart warming and again, a miraculous document caught on a fluke. I’m glad it was. It reminds us of the talent and versatility of Alex Chilton. A huge nod of thanks to the fine people at Bar/None for releasing this.