The notion of reviewing a live set in a small club by a band doing cover tunes is not exactly the stuff audiophiles or most music fans would find of particular interest. However, when the live set is a Cancer benefit concert for a Memphis music legend performed by Big Star’s Alex Chilton and backed by the Hi Records rhythm section, one’s ears tend to perk up.
And perk up they did when I previewed the new album, called Boogie Shoes: Live On Beale Street, on vinyl and CD. This is a fully mixed, great sounding live recording captured at The New Daisy Theater in Memphis, Tennessee on October 7, 1999.
So all that is good but the big thing here to listen for between the grooves is the shear joy of hearing Alex Chilton just letting loose, comfortable on stage and ripping out the tunes in the grandest rock ’n roll tradition.
Revel in moments when he asks the band off mic if they know the 1959 Wilbert Harrison #1 smash “Kansas City” (one of the first hits written by the legendary songwriting team of Leiber & Stoller). In barely an instant they agree on a key to start it in and then Alex counts it off as they launch into a wonderful soaring rendition of the tune.
Revel in the notion of Alex being in great voice as he’d been in the Big Star reunion shows. He’s just singing like Alex… not the Big Star Alex… not the angst-filled bitter solo years Alex… and not the Box Tops’ sounding Alex. Boogie Shoes: Live On Beale Street just showcases Alex running through the rock ’n soul songbook with gleeful abandon including Little Richard’s “Lucille” and Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline.” The band is spot-on tight and smoking, even giving Alex the solid backing to lay down a nifty guitar solo (at least I assume it is Alex and not the other guitarist in the band). They open the show with K.C. and The Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes” which is great fun and the source of the album’s title.
I can’t underscore enough the underlying joy of hearing Alex in his element with this band of studio pros, clearly relaxing and just grooving on the moment. That river of good vibrations just runs through the record grooves and into your speakers
Available on CD, Digital and LP, Boogie Shoes: Live On Beale Street is a wonderfully concise package. Even at just 10 songs it feels “just right” — not too short, but not too long. The (I think) 180-gram vinyl pressing is thick, dark, quiet and well centered.
The album features a lovely cover design by rock & roll folk art painter, Lamar Sorrento. In fact, there is a special edition bundle available from Omnivore Records’ website which includes a limited run lithograph of the album art, suitable for framing.
The package contains liner notes from Producer David Less, a friend of Chilton’s and author of the acclaimed book Memphis Mayhem: A Story Of The Music That Shook Up The World.
Boogie Shoes: Live On Beale Street is a great discovery and will no doubt be something that fans of Alex Chilton will want to hear. Its coming out in the beginning of May so grab your copy soon.