Alex Chilton: Take Me Home and Make Me Like It
Alternate takes and rehearsal takes during 1975 sessions highlight Alex Chilton’s frenzied energy and uncompromising musicianship that resulted in Singer Not the Song and Bach’s Bottom.
Take Me Home and Make Me Like It is raw, it’s extremely unpolished, and it’s undeniably in the moment. This album features early recordings from 1975 that Alex Chilton and producer Jon Tiven laid down and would ultimately appear on the EP Singer Not the Song and album Bach’s Bottom. Given the impact Chilton wanted with these tracks, “a sinister record that threatened people” according to Tiven, it’s hard to disagree that the rawness and not fully completed tracks compiled on Take Me Home and Make Me Like It started or fulfilled that idea. But, do these alt versions and rehearsal takes add anything to the resulting records in the late 1970s, or are they an important posthumous document to Chilton’s career and immense influence in rock and punk.
The process presented by the screeching vocals, and dialogue between tracks insightfully explores Chilton and Tiven’s goals while recording, and some tracks are adamantly raw in their attempt to unsettle those listening. Apparently, this dynamic came from an unrestrained first day of recording followed by a more directed and producer controlled second day, but Chilton’s goal of threatening listeners is undone by softer, if not still edgy and unrestrained, tracks that are better polished and completed. This duality on the record is immediate from the opening title track followed by “Every Time I Close My Eyes” and “All of the Time". The vocals screech and guitars wail in an improvisational take of “Take Me Home", while Chilton composes his vocals and the jangling guitar on the subsequent tracks. Two takes of “Jesus Christ” and other tracks like the cover of the Rolling Stones’ 1965 B-side “Singer Not the Song” are similarly put together and indicate the shift toward production and control.
The sinister record appears largely in a haunting, lengthy cover of the Beatles’ (John Lennon’s) “I’m So Tired” from the "White Album". It’s still loose, but unsettling when the first take drifts apart and Chilton starts again. The drums are fully exposed and undirected, adding a boundless quality as guitar work and the pace picks up in the second take. The sinister intent breaks down with the multiple breakdowns in an alternate version of “Free Again", and virtually comes to a halt as takes start and stop repeatedly. With Chilton’s influence on punk rockers and in pop music overall acknowledged by this posthumous collection effectively, these interludes offer nothing beyond the producer’s notes that the recordings are presented “with no apologies". Not that anyone was looking for any, but the studio chatter is otherwise forgettable and extends an already brisk compilation.
The collection finishes with tracks that highlight Chilton’s punk influence and career that followed. With a cover of the venerable rock track “Summertime Blues," Chilton embodies the lyrics and the instrumentation with the documented rawness. It’s the best track in the collection with its demonstration of Chilton’s proto-punk inclinations and hints at a sinister attitude in his recording. It’s followed by rather put-together rehearsal tracks of “Take Me Home” and “Free Again", largely repudiating the brash opening of the same two tracks by reversing the dynamic. Here, “Free Again” falls apart and transitions smoothly into a clean vocal A cappella version of “Every Time I Close My Eyes". The vocals are sweet and harken back to Chilton’s teeny bop early career. Ultimately, Take Me Home and Make Me Like It is a nice collection that offers a perfect document of Alex Chilton transitioning from his Big Star days into the admired alternative and punk musician of the late 1970s through 2010.