Alex Chilton Electricity By Candlelight: NYC 2/13/97 on LP
First Release from the Chilton Estate Since His Death in 2010
Remastered from the Original Source Tapes
On the night of February 13, 1997 Alex Chilton and his band were getting ready to play their second set of the night at the Knitting Factory in New York City when the lights went out. What happened was this album, a spontaneous off the cuff performance by Alex on a borrowed acoustic guitar with his drummer Richard Dworkin sitting in for half the set.
Fortunately long time Chilton fan Jeffrey Vargon was there at the Knitting Factory with a tape recorder. This set is now being released by venerable indie label Bar/None as Electricity by Candlelight. Vargon’s remembrance of the night is included as liner notes with the album package. This recording is taken from the original source tape.
This is Alex Chilton thinking on his feet, totally in the moment, bouncing songs and ideas off the folks that stuck around for a real one-of-a-kind exchange. This is as close and personal as it gets. Much of the material he never played before or after; a lot of country, some Beach Boys and a few songs he may not have played until that very moment.
Chilton, who passed away in 2010, was that rare artist that re-invented himself over and over again often abandoning earlier successful formulas. He ran the gamut, working in many genres including the Memphis blue-eyed soul of the Box Tops (singing the number one hit “The Letter” at age 16) the Beatles meets Beale Street high harmony of Big Star (three classic cult albums) a stint as a ‘77 punk provocateur at CBGBs and a co-conspirator in the mutant Memphis art rock of Panther Burns.
In the early 1980s Chilton escaped his hometown and settled in New Orleans to recuperate from years of hard living. There he soaked up the music around him and developed a stripped down musical style and a sardonic persona. Instead of playing his greatest hits he played songs that spoke to him personally; lost obscure soul and blues tunes, jazz standards and rockabilly.
After younger musicians like REM and the Replacements began singing his praises to a new generation he put together a pair of touring outfits, one in the ‘80s made up of Rene Coman and Doug Garrison and another group in the 90s with childhood friend Ron Easley and Richard Dworkin. It was the latter group Alex was playing with when the lights went out. Ron hung out in the balcony and snapped some pictures while Richard eventually set up a snare and played along.
Electricity By Candlelight adds something to the Chilton canon, the sound of the man himself unencumbered by electronics or amplification getting down and thinking off the top of his head, searching for that perfect folk song that can bring it all to a close. He never finds it but he takes those that stuck around that night on a musical joy ride rolling through decades of song.
Alex Chilton Electricity By Candlelight: NYC 2/13/97 Track Listing:
1. Last Bouquet
2. Baby I’m Your Man
3. Let’s Get Lost
5. Raining In My Heart
6. Lovesick Blues
7. Girl From Ipanema
8. My Baby Just Cares For Me
9. Motel Blues
10. Someone To Watch Over Me
11. Footprints In The Snow
12. Case of You
13. Wouldn’t It Be Nice
14. Surfer Girl
15. Solar System
16. I Walk The Line
17. If I Had A Hammer