Prix 'Historix' LP
“Every time I close my Eyes” I fear this is just a sick dream, that there could really be such an incredible mid 70s power pop masterpiece like the PRIX Historix album, and that it’s really found it’s home on HoZac Archival, but yes it’s really happening. What very well might be the most overlooked and unusually obscure offshoot of the Big Star family tree, PRIX started off after Tommy Hoehn and Jon Tiven had done time in the last version of Big Star, with Hoehn contributing to the final Sister Lovers/3rd LP, and Tiven filling out the last live version of the band on their 1974 tour. The pair found themselves in 1975 looking for a new project as Tommy had sent in demos to Tiven, as well as having been called up to perform backup work on Tiven’s production with Chilton’s 1975 Bach’s Bottom LP. Hoehn would sing backup on the Chilton songs on the Chilton recordings and vice-versa on the PRIX recordings as they cross-pollenated a batch of songs that are best represented here on Historix than anywhere else. Chris Bell was roped in for production as well as guitar & backup vocals and with Rick Clark added in on bass, they headed into the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis to cut the recordings contained on this LP. Soon enough, this studio group made up an incredible collection of songs that would fluidly fade across projects, from all parties involved, very quickly in this especially creative mid 70s period, resulting in some of the most powerful rock’n roll of the 1970s, and that’s REALLY saying something.
PRIX is all about Tommy Hoehn’s vocals, right on par with Chris Bell, if not even more ballsy, fluttering between beauty and the beast effortlessly, every bit as much of a skull-crusher as it can carry a lullabye, the most potent weapon in the PRIX arsenal, let’s just get that out of the way first. “How have I never heard this?? This sounds like Bon Scott fronting Big Star” has been the usual interpretation when fresh ears are torn open with such intimidating force upon first exposure to “Run, Run Away” and “Take Me Home and Make Me Like It,” both of which were deemed too demonic for the production touch of Chris Bell, who could feel the devilish raucousness seeping through the grooves. Jon Tiven scorches on the guitar across the whole album, reeling in savagely powerful riffs, jutted head-first into drop-dead gorgeous bridges & breaks that will instantly own your tattered soul, but that’s not all. Across the album we’re treated to an impeccable group of cameo appearances, from Hilly Michaels (Sparks, Peach & Lee, Van Duren), the inimitable Jim Dickinson, and various other Memphis pop underground luminaries, which really provides a vivid portrait of the times.
Sadly, PRIX suffered the same bad luck as Big Star a few years prior, and only mustered two 7” releases in 1977 (ORK Records) and 1978 (Miracle Records) before wit’s end was reached, and the rest of the truly jaw-dropping cuts on this album were hidden away on a CD-Only Japanese release in 2002 that didn’t get much exposure outside of the Far East, until NOW. Thanks to the ORK Records Boxed set released by Numero Group last month, the world has been a bit more exposed to the previously released PRIX songs, and if you like what you’ve heard so far, the other 3/4ths of the material contained here is going to really clean your clock. Included as well are three alternate version bonus tracks not included on the original CD release, and most of these tracks making their first appearance on vinyl here makes this LP a mandatory brick in your Memphis pop collection, and another essential piece in the Big Star family tree that’s been unavailable for far too long. - VictimofTime.com
Much like the Hot Dogs, Prix was a Memphis studio band; this one centered around singer Tommy Hoehn, guitarist Jon Tiven and bassist Rick Clark. The first two were tied in with Big Star -- Hoehn having sung backup on 3rd, and Tiven producing Chilton's Bach's Bottom sessions. Interestingly enough, both Chilton and Bell are credited with playing, and Bell produced at least some tracks. My low-quality internet research shows the band released one EP in 1977 (Girl) and a single in 1978 ("Everytime I Close My Eyes" / "Love You Tonight"), and this 11-track compilation collects all the group recorded.
For their brief existence, Prix made some top-notch songs; "Girl", "She Might Look My Way", "Love You All Day Long" are all classics that picked up Big Star's power-pop sound, but not as frantic as the Scruffs. Hoehn in particular is excellent - he sings like Eric Carmen riled up with a broken heart, and Tiven's guitar adds some Allman Brothers to the Big Star sound. Since the band is mostly straight and heartfelt pop, it lacks the poignancy or chaos of Big Star, much like the Scruffs' approach. (Of course, Chilton took the other route - half-assing and scuffing everything up). Since this is rather off the beaten path, most of the album may be superfluous as a good portion of the songs overlap with the Bach's Bottom sessions - "Every Time I Close My Eyes", "Take Me Home and Make Me Like It", "Free Again" and "All of the Time" appear here. While the arrangements are the same and Hoehn hits the high notes easier than Chilton, they lack Chilton's relaxed charm. But if you want more straight versions of those songs, you will find them here (despite sound quality issues on a couple of tracks). Certainly a minor work of Memphis power-pop, but some songs are easily on par with more familiar names like the Scruffs.
Recommended If You Like: Big Star, Tommy Hoehn, Scruffs, Raspberries, Badfinger, Beach Boys, AC/DC, Stories, Blue Ash
Catalogue number: HZR-177
Label: Hozac Archival