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* * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty : : Fallible Pontiff

November 29, 1987|STEVE HOCHMAN

* * 1/2 ALEX CHILTON. "High Priest." Big Time. Chilton is indeed the pontiff of American alternative pop as preached by the likes of the Replacements, R.E.M. and the dB's. But the truth is, his first full album of new material since 1980 does little to further that image. Of the four original songs only the droll "Dalai Lama," set over a funky garage-blues groove, is of particular note. Even that doesn't approach the level of the Replacements' tribute song "Alex Chilton"--let alone Chilton's '70s work with Big Star, which is the legitimate basis for his legend. The rest of the album, like the greater part of the 1985 EP "Feudalist Tarts," is given over to generally obscure blues, gospel and pop numbers (including a version of "Volare" sung in passable Italian). All are lovingly rendered by Chilton with support from a jazz-blues combo, but still it adds up to little more than an album of trifles and throwaways.

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