Rock City Rock City

Nine times out of ten, there’s good reason why old, supposedly "lost” tapes predating a band’s official debut release become, and remain, lost in the first place: they suck. Not so with this set of studio tracks by Rock City — the Memphis outfit featuring Chris Bell and Jody Stevens, who adopted the name Big Star once Alex Chilton joined ranks. Recorded sporadically over the course of 1969 and ’70, these 14 tracks are guaranteed to be of utmost interest to any and all serious Big Star fans, especially those particularly enamoured of the hugely influential cult band’s ’72 debut, #1 Record. Three songs from that record, "My Life Is Right,” "Try Again” and "Feel,” appear here in their not-so-different infancy (the latter is credited to the group’s briefly used interim moniker, Icewater). Several other songs feature bits later worked into Big Star numbers. For instance, Bell carried over his descending guitar work on "Try A Little Harder” (one of two titles credited to Marc Bolan-ish Chilton predecessor Thomas Dean Eubanks) for Big Star’s "When My Baby’s Beside Me.” While this from-the-vaults keeper doesn’t necessarily rewrite Big Star’s history, it definitely warrants an edit, especially with regards to the primary role played by Bell — more so than Chilton — in charting the band’s course. Incidentally, Chilton does show up here, but only on one track ("Try Again”) as backing vocalist and acoustic guitarist. The disc is intended as the first instalment of the Twentieth Century Memphis Series, apparently curated by Rock City bass player, Lucky Seven label motivator and Bahamas resident, Terry Manning. (Rounder)