"Travel the brand new highway. Doin' things finally my way."
Alex Chilton's early taste of commercial success during his stint as the voice of late-sixties A.M. radio favorites The Box Tops also exposed him to the more exploitative side of the music business, which, in many ways, was the catalyst for the unconventional career path he would wander down for the remainder of his life. After quitting The Box Tops in 1969 in order to gain more artistic control of his work, Chilton returned home to Memphis where he participated in a few recording sessions at Ardent Studios, ostensibly to put together a solo album. The fruit of these sessions was not deemed worthy of release; as a result, Chilton fled to New York City in an abortive attempt to make a name for himself as a troubadour before returning to Memphis and forming Big Star with Chris Bell. These unreleased Ardent solo sessions are gathered on 1970, and though not nearly as essential as Chilton's work with Big Star, the album does offer an interesting glimpse into his post-Box Tops artistic evolution. Many have suggested that Chilton's particular genius was at its best when working with collaborators who often functioned as a form of quality control for Chilton; thus, his solo ventures are notoriously uneven in terms of quality from song-to-song, and the sessions comprising 1970 are no exception. However, the album is not without a number of gems. Chief among these are the poppier tunes, which anticipate Chilton's work with Big Star. For example, "The EMI Song (Smile for Me)" is a beautifully recorded song with Chilton eschewing the gruff vocal style of his Box Top days for a softer, more introspective vocal performance, while featuring some of the distinctive characteristics that would come to define Big Star's trademark sound. On "The Happy Song," a countrified re-imagining of a Box Tops song, Chilton does his best Roger McGuinn imitation, while the studio band seems to channel The Flying Burrito Brothers, and the results are nothing short of lovely. While 1970 contains its share of unfocused throwaways (what Chilton solo album doesn't?), it also documents the early stages of Chilton's transformation from teen idol to artistic iconoclast.
1. Come on Honey (3:34)
2. I Can Dig It (3:50)
3. Just to See You (3:48)
4. Free Again (2:37)
5. Something Deep Inside (2:41)
6. All I Really Want Is Money (4:56)
7. I Wish I Could Meet Elvis (3:16)
8. The Happy Song (2:03)
9. Every Day as We Grow Closer (2:27)
10. The EMI Song (Smile for Me) (4:01)
11. Jumpin' Jack Flash (4:05)
12. Funky National (0:53)
13. Heavy Medley: Sugar Sugar / I Got the Feelin' (6:15)