Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Letter/Neon Rainbow (1967)

"Neon Rainbow" An album like this is not supposed to sound as good as this one does. Named slash-wise for not one but two Box Tops hits, and otherwise filled with covers of the day: "Trains and Boats and Planes," "Whiter Shade of Pale," "I'm Your Puppet," and like that. That's not fair because there are a few more original songs here (thanks mostly to Wayne Carson, also the author of "Always On My Mind"), but you see my point. It's doing business in the Herman's Hermits fashion, the albums purely afterthought to hit singles. Oh, and by the way, that's really Alex Chilton on lead vocals, and he really is 16 at the time this was recorded. "The Letter" was the big hit but "Neon Rainbow" was the better song. Not only does it sound more like the voice of the Alex Chilton we came to know, it's more his sensibility too: the wide-eyed kid and the dirty, thrilling city at night. The key to Alex Chilton, always, is understanding how everything there always comes back to Memphis. And on this Box Tops debut he gets his share of gems to work, and he acquits himself well. A promising debut, you might say, with little indication where it would ultimately go.

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