Alex Chilton – Live on Beale Street (review)

Alex Chilton and the Hi Rhythm Section – Boogie Shoes – Live on Beale Street (Omnivore)

A hot set of classic soul, and…KC & the Sunshine Band?  Yep.  

Being from Memphis, Alex Chilton was certainly influenced by the incredible music coming out of that city.  At the tender age of 15, he led the Box Tops to the #1 hit “The Letter,” then spent the early 1970’s in the under-appreciated power pop combo Big Star, before embarking on a solo career –  doing whatever the hell he wanted.  But, Chilton grew up in music and certainly could lead a band on command.  

When fellow musician Fred Ford fell ill, a benefit was created in his honor and Chilton was tabbed because of his popularity to sell tickets.  At the time, Chilton didn’t have a band, so he teamed with the legendary Hi Rhythm section, and without so much as a rehearsal, got up and just tore it up. 

The KC & the Sunshine Band staple “Boogie Shoes” might seem like a snarky choice, but the band and Chilton totally pull it off.  Less convincing is “Precious, Precious,” maybe because it was originally done by a woman?  But, with Wilson Pickett’s “634-5789” things get back on track.

It’s funny to hear the talking between songs – Chilton literally says “let’s play Kansas City in C” and away they go.  That’s the beauty of being surrounded by pros.  The Memphis Horns really shine on this one, what a great trumpet solo.  Again, remember there was absolutely no rehearsal here.  “Lucille” features a fantastic sax break and then Chilton takes one on guitar.

The set closes with “Trying to Live My Life Without You” which was a Memphis tune recorded at the Hi Records studio.  A fitting way to bring everything back to where it all began.  —Tony Peters