Third/Sister Lovers

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Third/Sister Lovers
Studio album by Big Star
Released 1978
Recorded 1974
Genre Power pop
Length 52:34
Label PVC Records
Producer Jim Dickinson
Big Star chronology
Radio City
(1974)
Third/Sister Lovers
(1978)
Live
(1992)

Third, also (since 1985) issued as Sister Lovers,[1] is the third studio album by American rock band Big Star. It was recorded in 1974. Though Ardent Studios created test pressings for the record in 1975, a combination of financial issues, the uncommercial sound of the record, and lack of interest from singer Alex Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens in continuing the project prevented the album from ever being properly finished or released at the time of its recording. It was eventually released in 1978 by PVC Records.

After two commercially unsuccessful albums, Third documents the band's deterioration as well as the declining mental state of singer Alex Chilton. It has since gone on to become one of the most critically acclaimed albums in history and is considered a cult album. Rolling Stone placed the album at number 449 on its "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list.[2]

Composition and recording[edit]

After the commercial failure of Big Star's first two albums, #1 Record (1972) and Radio City (1974), Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens returned to Ardent Studios in late 1974—accompanied by what biographer Bruce Eaton describes as "a large and revolving cast of Memphis musicians"—to record, under producer Jim Dickinson, "a batch of starkly personal, often experimental, and by turns beautiful and haunting songs that were anything but straight-up power pop."[3] Ardent's John Fry, producer of the first two albums and also involved with the third, recalled that the sessions were burdened by severe personal issues; Eaton tells how Fry "finally called a halt to the escalating madness" and the album was mastered by Larry Nix on 13 February 1975.[4]

Different opinions exist regarding the categorization of Third as a Big Star album. According to Chilton, "Jody and I were hanging together as a unit still but we didn't see it as a Big Star record. We never saw it as a Big Star record. That was a marketing decision when the record was sold in whatever year that was sold. And they didn't ask me anything about it and they never have asked me anything about it." Stephens said, "I've seen it in different ways. To a great extent it is an Alex solo record ... It's Alex's focus, it's his emotional state of being but I brought in the string section for the one song I wrote and Alex hit it off with Carl Marsh ... and started using Carl and the string section for other things. What would that album have been like if it didn't have the strings?" According to Eaton, the mastering card identifies Chilton as the recording artist.[4] Jovanovic, meanwhile, notes, "Whether the band was still called Big Star is debatable. The session sheets have the band name 'Sister Lovers' (Chilton and Stephens were dating Lesa and Holliday Aldredge at the time) clearly written on them. This may well have been a joke, although Chilton and Stephens did use the Sister Lovers name for a radio broadcast in early 1975."[5] Lesa Aldredge, a cousin of photographer and Radio City album cover creator William Eggleston, contributed vocals and was, in the words of Dickinson, "a big, big part of the record". Dickinson said that Chilton, whose relationship with Aldredge was stormy, "reached a point ... where he started to go back and erase her—there was a lot more of Lesa on the album than there is now".[6] During the sessions, Chilton recalled, "Jim and I did all sorts of weird things ... in off hours here and there".[4] Steve Cropper contributed guitar work to a cover of The Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale".

Release[edit]

In 1978 the tapes were acquired by the PVC label and given their first official release. Numerous reissues by other labels on vinyl and CD would follow, often varying the title, running order and cover art, as no 'definitive' version had ever been agreed upon by the band. In addition to the original songs, covers of The Kinks' "'Til the End of the Day" and Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" were variously included or omitted. The 1992 CD release on Rykodisc, assembled with Jim Dickinson's involvement, was regarded as the first attempt at a presentation of the original album concept devised by Dickinson and the band in 1974.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[7]
Robert Christgau A−[8]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[9]
Tiny Mix Tapes favorable[10]
Treble favorable[11]

Like Big Star's first two albums, Third/Sister Lovers did not have commercial success at the time of its release but has more recently attracted wider interest. In Allmusic's retrospective review of the album, the website gave it five stars out of five, calling it a "shambling wreck of an album" while at the same time "among the most harrowing experiences in pop music; impassioned, erratic, and stark" and "the slow, sinking sound of a band falling apart".[7]

Accolades[edit]

It was listed on David Keenan's "The Best Albums Ever...Honest" by the Scottish newspaper The Sunday Herald.[12] In 2012, the album was ranked number 449 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[13]

It was ranked #1 at the Top 30 "Heartbreak" albums of all time by NME.[14]

"Kangaroo" and "Holocaust" were both covered by This Mortal Coil on the band's debut LP, It'll End in Tears. The 1992 Rykodisc CD release of Third/Sister Lovers includes a "thank you" to This Mortal Coil in the liner notes in acknowledgment of this. "Holocaust" was also covered by Placebo on the band's single for Slave to the Wage in 2000 and can also be found on their compilation Covers. "Take Care" was covered by Yo La Tengo on Summer Sun. "Kangaroo" was released by Jeff Buckley on his posthumous live album Mystery White Boy; another version can be found on the legacy edition of his album Grace.

Track listing[edit]

The record has been reissued more than ten times with different tracks and orders.[15] Some are below.

All songs were written by Alex Chilton, except where noted.

Third/Sister Lovers
Rykodisc Edition, 1992
This version created by Jim Dickinson is alleged to represent the band's original intentions for the album.

  1. "Kizza Me" – 2:44
  2. "Thank You Friends" – 3:05
  3. "Big Black Car" – 3:35
  4. "Jesus Christ" – 2:37
  5. "Femme Fatale" – 3:28 (Lou Reed)
  6. "O, Dana" – 2:34
  7. "Holocaust" – 3:47
  8. "Kangaroo" – 3:46
  9. "Stroke It Noel" – 2:04
  10. "For You" – 2:41 (Jody Stephens)
  11. "You Can't Have Me" – 3:11
  12. "Nightime" – 2:53
  13. "Blue Moon" – 2:06
  14. "Take Care" – 2:46
  15. "Nature Boy" [bonus track] – 2:30 (eden ahbez)
  16. "Till the End of the Day" [bonus track] – 2:13 (Ray Davies)
  17. "Dream Lover" [bonus track] – 3:31
  18. "Downs" [bonus track] – 1:43 (Chilton/Lesa Alderidge)
  19. "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On" [bonus track] – 3:20 (Dave Williams)

Sister Lovers
Ardent Test Pressing, 1975

Side A:

  1. Stroke It Noel
  2. Downs
  3. Femme Fatale
  4. Thank You Friends
  5. Holocaust
  6. Jesus Christ
  7. Blue Moon

Side B:

  1. Kizza Me
  2. Sometimes [working title of For You]
  3. O, Dana
  4. Nighttime
  5. Whole Lotta Shakin'
  6. Kanga Roo
  7. Take Care

3rd
PVC Vinyl LP, 1978 (first issue)

Side A:

  1. Stroke It Noel
  2. For You
  3. Kizza Me
  4. You Can't Have Me
  5. Nightime
  6. Blue Moon
  7. Take Care

Side B:

  1. Jesus Christ
  2. Femme Fatale
  3. O, Dana
  4. Big Black Car
  5. Holocaust
  6. Kanga Roo
  7. Thank You Friends

(Note that, compared to the promo, this version removes "Downs" and "Whole Lotta Shaking", and adds "You Can't Have Me" and "Big Black Car." It consists of the first 14 songs of the Rykodisc CD, in a different order.)

The Third Album
Aura Records UK LP, 1978

Side A:

  1. Kizza Me
  2. You Can’t Have Me
  3. Jesus Christ
  4. Downs
  5. Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On
  6. Thank You Friends

Side B:

  1. O, Dana
  2. Femme Fatale
  3. Stroke It Noel
  4. Holocaust
  5. Nighttime
  6. Kanga Roo

The Third Album and Sister Lovers – The Third Album
Line Records CD, 1987 and Castle/Dojo Communications CD/LP, 1987
(both editions feature the same tracks, in different running orders)

  1. Stroke It Noel
  2. Downs
  3. Femme Fatale
  4. Thank You Friends
  5. Holocaust
  6. Jesus Christ
  7. Blue Moon
  8. Dream Lover
  9. You Can't Have Me
  10. Big Black Car
  11. Kizza Me
  12. For You
  13. O Dana
  14. Nighttime
  15. Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On
  16. Kanga Roo
  17. Take Care

Personnel[edit]

Big Star
Additional musicians

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Third/Sister Lovers at Discogs (list of releases)
  2. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  3. ^ Eaton, 107.
  4. ^ a b c Eaton, 108.
  5. ^ Jovanovic, 148.
  6. ^ Jovanovic, 150, 158.
  7. ^ a b Jason Ankeny. "Third/Sister Lovers". Allmusic. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  8. ^ Robert Christgau. "Big Star". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  9. ^ "Rolling Stone Album Guide - 5 Star Record List 1992". rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  10. ^ Ryan Sherwood (14 August 2008). "1978: Big Star - Third/Sister Lovers". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  11. ^ Jeff Terich (9 July 2005). "Big Star". treblezine.com. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  12. ^ Keenan, David. "Sunday Herald's "The Best Albums Ever...Honest!"". The Sunday Herald. Retrieved 13 October 2009. 
  13. ^ "456 Third/Sister Lovers - Big Star". rollingstone.com. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  14. ^ "Readers & Writers Choice For The Most Heartbreak Albums Of All Time". NME. 16 September 2000. Retrieved 13 April 2011. 
  15. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Big-Star-3rd/master/13848. Retrieved Aug 14, 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

References[edit]

  • Eaton, Bruce. Big Star's "Radio City" (33 1/3). Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8264-2898-1.
  • Jovanovic, Rob. Big Star: The Story of Rock's Forgotten Band. London: Fourth Estate, 2004. ISBN 0-00-714908-5.