"Crap! I wish I hadn't seen Ricky on the sidewalk."

"You will be fine for 31 minutes. You will be dead in 32 minutes."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Live in Anvers by Alex Chilton (Last Call Records 3093182)
Boy, I sure love Alex Chilton (1950-2010). 

Janel made me a mixed tape (a real tape, a cassette) when I was working at Hunter's back in the late 80s. Mostly Big Star stuff, but also his solo work. Paul Westerberg had already steered a lot of people in Chilton's direction, but it was Janel who marched me into the light.

Much as I love the music, I've always loved the Alex Chilton story. The early success with The Box Tops (Chilton was only 16 when he recorded "The Letter"), the hugely influential (but poor-selling) Big Star albums. When Big Star failed, Chilton quit the music industry. He found work washing dishes and trimming trees, ultimately wasting a whole decade drinking and doing drugs.  

Live in Anvers is a concert Chilton played in Belgium back in 2004, his first proper live album. Chilton was backed by three local musicians who rehearsed for a few hours on the day of the concert. It was an experiment that paid off, with Chilton playing very few of his own songs ("In The Street" and "Bangkok") in favor of covers of his favorite jazz, r&b, and soul tracks.

My favorite cut of the evening is Chilton's six minute take on "It's Too Late to Turn Back Now" by Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose, a #2 hit from 1972.

The chorus, for those who don't know it, is

It's too late to turn back now
I believe I believe I believe I'm falling in love

The song is perfectly suited to Chilton's voice. You know how some people have eyes that have seen a lot? That's the kind of voice Chilton has. Said a lot, yelled a lot, heard a lot, hurt a lot. 

And then about halfway through his version, with the band still playing, the drummer still keeping the beat, Chilton addresses the crowd directly:

Yes, people!

I want to thank you all for coming out here tonight and seeing us. It's been really fun to come here and play for you. You've been a great audience and the band has been so good tonight. They're all from here in Belgium and they've done such a great job and I have to say I really appreciate them helping to make me sound a little bit better than I normally would, ya know?

Chilton introduces Mauro Pawlowski on the guitar and Pascal Deweze on the bass, and back on the drums, Karel DeBacker, and then he says some things in Flemish and Dutch and quickly apologizes, saying it's all the Flemish and Dutch he knows.

He thanks the crowd a few more times then launches right back into the song without missing a beat.

'Cause, yeah, uh-huh . . .
I tell ya
It's too late, to turn back now
I believe I believe I believe I'm falling in love

It's too late to turn back now
I believe I believe I believe I'm falling in love

And even though it might sound cheesy, it's not. It's not slick, it's not ultra-rehearsed. 

It's real, just four working musicians sharing a stage, pounding out some tunes for an enthusiastic crowd.

If you've got to go out, it's a nice way to go.

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