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POP REVIEWS : Chilton's Retro R & B

November 02, 1987|CRAIG LEE

How do you live up to being a cult legend? In Alex Chilton's case, you ignore it and try to have a good ol' time.

Among underground pop advocates, Chilton is renowned for his songwriting, his production skills, his stint in the fabled group Big Star and his former reputation as a drinker. But Friday, the great white hope of Southern pop played a sparsely attended Variety Arts Center show and boogalooed through a catalogue of vintage soul, from Johnny Taylor's "Disco Lady" to Lee Dorsey's "Sitting in La-La." Plus that cheesiest of kitsch hits, "Volare."

Chilton's current originals like "No Sex" and "Dalai Lama" possess a sexy, smart-aleck topical humor, and when he launched into his slicing "September Girls" (a recent near-hit for the Bangles), one was reminded of what this man can really do--write beautiful, unique pop songs. His retro set of obscure R&B nuggets may have been exhilarating fun for performer and audience, but considering the scope of his talent, Chilton's slummin' it.

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