By Ira Robbins
Updated June 14, 1991 at 04:00 AM EDT

Once the gravel-voiced lead singer in the Box Tops (”The Letter,” ”Cry Like a Baby”), Alex Chilton went on to the critically revered Big Star, a British-influenced Memphis pop combo of cult legend, and a wildly erratic solo career. Like an old friend whose vulnerability makes him trouble-prone yet no less lovable, Chilton delivers his personal reflections in a variety of low-key styles in 19 Years. This reissue of Chilton’s work in the ’70s and ’80s — a patchwork of tracks from the excellent final Big Star album and his hit-and-miss solo releases — answers the need for a domestic retrospective but is unlikely to earn the eccentric singer-guitarist many new fans. It’s a melange of unfancy pop (alternately crisp and dissolute), rock (alternately raving and restrained), crooning (a straight reading of ”Volare”!), Memphis soul, and country; it has many fine tracks, but Chilton is an acquired taste whose charm emerges slowly. B-