CD Review: The Box Tops – Playlist: The Very Best Of (Arista/Legacy, 2013)
Fans of the Box Tops’ Memphis-tinged radio pop, whether period AM listeners or working their way backwards from Big Star or Alex Chilton’s solo work, will find something interesting here. The band’s ten charting singles (from 1967’s chart-topping debut, “The Letter,” through the non-LP “Turn on a Dream” and “You Keep Tightening Up on Me”) are supplemented by four B-sides, all in their original gut-punching mono. The B’s include the first Alex Chilton track released on a single, “I See Only Sunshine,” as well as “Together,” his B-side to “Turn on a Dream.” Though the group’s original albums provide a deeper experience, stringing together the hit singles and a few B-sides closely replicates how the band was heard by record buyers at the time. It’s a compelling introduction to Alex Chilton’s soul-soaked vocals and the terrific production of Dan Penn, Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill. It’d be great if someone released a complete singles collection, adding the missing B-sides and the group’s later sides for Bell, Hi and Stax, but at fourteen tracks the set provides some lesser-heard B-sides without losing the focus on the group’s hits. Best of all, the mono mixes deliver an original sound that really distinguish this set from the longer Best of the Box Tops.