(This review first appeared in issue #71 of Shindig! magazine.)
In any artistic medium there's a risk of embarrassment when juvenilia is available for public consumption. Not so here. This collection, culled from Ardent Studio's 1969-1971 tapes and centred on the early works of Chris Bell, Jody Stephens and an ever-rotating group of East Memphis musicians (most notably Tom Eubanks and Terry Manning) is, if anything, an embarrassment of riches. Early versions of 'My Life Is Right', 'Oh My Soul' and 'Try Again' are included along with several previously unreleased tracks.
Pre-Big Star groups Icewater and Rock City are well represented, and there's three tracks credited to The Wallabys, (albeit aided by Bell and musical compatriot Steve Rhea). It's clear the studio downtime at Ardent, primarily awarded to Bell to sharpen his skills for the nascent Big Star, was not wasted. Clever production touches and skilful arrangements abound, as does a shared sense of fun and discovery. A true joy!