Chillin’ to Chilton… what could be more enjoyable as late spring heads into summer? I nearly forgot about this one – it slipped down between the seat and the transmission hump and sat there for over a month before I thought, “Isn’t that new ALEX CHILTON & HI RHYTHM SECTION thing coming out soon?” Sure enough, it’s out now. Boogie Shoes: Live on Beale Street is the kind of short ’n’ snappy one-set show that you want to listen to over and over again. Chilton and his one-off backing band – made up of some of Memphis’s most esteemed musicians – got together for one benefit show in 1999 and luckily someone had the forethought to record it for future enjoyment.
Fact is, Chilton and band had not one rehearsal prior to this performance and you’d never notice it: these guys are the right amount of tight for a live set, never mechanical, yet never too loosey goosey either. The ten songs range from covers of Little Richard and Chuck Berry to Jimmy Reed, The Supremes and even K.C. & The Sunshine Band (the title track). With no missteps in song choice, this ten-song, 45 minute disc keeps the boogie factor high and the “ugh” factor to a bare minimum. Sure, I’d have brought the guitar up in the mix some. I might have asked “Hubie” Mitchell to use some more authentic sounding keyboard sounds (the organ’s not as organic as I’d like it). Maybe I would have had the guys play “Lucille” a whole step lower, as it’s just about out of Alex’s range. Finally, I’d wish that closer “Trying to Live My Life Without You” didn’t have to be faded out so early. But remember: I’m a critic. I’m supposed to point out the things that stand out, good and bad. Or in this case, neither good nor bad just noticeable. But what’s most noticeable is the fun vibe of this set. Besides the obvious good vibes people got from performing at or attending a benefit concert for Memphis promoter Fred Ford, a good time must’ve been had by all if the sound of this release is any indication. And at this late date, in this particular context, what it sounds like and whether any of us would listen to it more than once is of utmost importance.
When two disparate legends come together it’s not necessarily gonna be a success. But – at least this one time – getting rocker Chilton and Hi Records’ ace rhythm and horn sections to don their boogie shoes together was as close to a perfect fit as you could ask for. – Marsh Gooch
3.5/5 (Omnivore Recordings OVCD-420, 2021)