Various Artists

Big Star Small World

Originally scheduled to be released in the late 1990s, Big Star Small World was inexplicably shelved at the last minute and eventually forgotten about; so naturally, it came as great surprise to see it sitting on the shelf in the record store. Big Star formed in 1971 in Memphis, Tenn., and gave the world three perfect pop albums before imploding a scant three years later. Yet, the band’s all-too-brief recording legacy influenced many artists who would go on to be legendary in their own right, such as R.E.M. and the Replacements. It’s a shame that it took so long to be released, because this is one of the best tribute discs you’ll ever buy. The disc is worth picking up for Wilco’s haunting cover of “Thirteen” alone. To further sweeten the deal, alt-country chanteuse Kelly Willis contributes a rollickin’ cover of “When My Baby’s Beside Me,” and Matthew Sweet’s version of “The Ballad of El Goodo” nearly surpasses the original. You’ll also find tracks—with nary a clunker among them—from Big Star devotees such as the Gin Blossoms, Whiskeytown, Teenage Fanclub and the Posies (members of which back up Chilton in the current incarnation of Big Star).