Top 10 List – Mental Musical Masterpieces – # 10 Chris Bell

Chris Bell – I Am The Cosmos (1992)

chris-bell-i-am-the-cosmos2

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Authored by Dale Nickey:

In the early seventies, Alex Chilton left The Boxtops (The Letter) and partnered up with Chris Bell to form the perfect power-pop band Big Star. Their work was acclaimed by the rock press but commercial success was another story. Cheap Trick had the cartoon appeal to capture the pre-video age imagination of the power-pop audience. Big Star just had tunes. It was ultimately not enough. After Big Star’s inevitable demise, a despondent, clinically depressed (some hint closeted) Chris Bell worked at his father’s restaurant, battled Heroin addiction, found Christianity and recorded solo tracks.  He joined the fabled “27 club” (rock stars who died at the age of 27) on December 27, 1978 when he crashed his car into a light pole on the way home from work.  His solo tracks were assembled into a posthumous album collection titled “I Am The Cosmos”. Though not an album proper, you couldn’t tell by listening. All the album’s tracks carry the same murky sadness and desperation as their tortured creator.

Debut Albums That Shook My World (Spotlight) Kate Bush “The Kick Inside”

By Dale Nickey:

Kate Bush (The Kick Inside)

Until Kate came along, you had to make do with archetypical female Rock artists. Janis Joplin was the unapologetically loud, horny, stoned, soul mama. Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro gave us our liberated, erudite, (Dylan with a vagina) fix. However, if a woman was too smokin’ hot, they were automatically relegated to the vacuous show-biz preserve where the Olivia Newton Johns and Juice Newtons reigned supreme.  Kate took a mortar and pestle and mashed up all the stereotypes.  She had a music geek’s appreciation for prog and an ethnomusicologist’s ear for British Folk.  On ‘Kick’ she took her Minnie Mouse soprano, formidable piano chops and applied them to subjects as diverse as menstrual cycles, suicide, incest, Lolita complexes and ghosts. She sang, wrote, played, danced and had an entire nation salivating at her teen feet.  After one jaw dropping European Tour,  she walked out of the machinery and opted for quiet domesticity and the occasional block buster album.  “The Kick Inside” is her first and best.  Kate denies it because it was the album she had least control of.  But, it will always remain her masterpiece. Every song is eye-watering, and wrapped in a package that launched a million masturbatory fantasies.

Kateophiles admire Bush’s alpha-fem independant streak as much as they do her music. EMI’s good old boys thought they knew better when it came time to select a single off her first album.  Kate would not be bullied and held out for “Wuthering Heights.”  It went number one and and stayed there for six weeks. On this performance from her only live tour, she inhabits the spirit of Cathy Earnshaw to a degree that is chilling and thrilling.

Lost Treasures – Kate Bush (Lionheart Revisited)

More Kate? click for >>> Hall of Kate   /  Kick Inside

Reviewed by Dale Nickey

Ok, here’s the party line on Kate Bush’s second album Lionheart.  It was the “difficult second album”;  rush released too soon after her stupendous debut, The Kick Inside. The material was under cooked,  it was recorded hastily.  It was a commercial disappointment. Lionheart has always been viewed as the gawky, homely sister to The Kick Inside.  It languishes in the same purgatory as Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk and Michael Jackson’s Bad.  Those were all albums that were tasked with following up a monster critical and commercial smash; too much to expect of any mortal record.

However, what if The Kick Inside had never existed, and Lionheart had been her debut? Take away the baggage  and the job of reviewing becomes a little more interesting.

Lionheart is not a perfect album yet its still a staggering achievement.  Had  it been the opening missive in Kate’s discography,  jaws would have still dropped just as far. This record is a potent example of the complexity of Kate Bush and her audacious voice, charisma and songs.  Had it been her debut, it may not have conferred upon her the instant mantle of “Icon” (as ‘Kick’ did), but that might have been a good thing.

Sure, Lionheart could have benefitted from more time in the bottle or… maybe not.  Kate had all the time in the world to worry over The Dreaming.  Was it a better record? I’ll let you know when I get around to listening to it as many times as I have Lionheart.  Lionheart is a grower that is unique in her canon. Every track on Lionheart earns and rewards repeated visitations.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The song “Wow” is a wonderful confection of fantasy/pop.  Equal parts torch ballad and bubblegum, it was a smart and successful single that could turn the heads of tabloid writers and music critics alike.  And “England, My Lionheart”, is quite simply one of the most beautiful and  unique melodies ever written.  Usually in pop song craft you can hear echoes of the familiar; even if the artist is stealing from him/herself.  This song exists on a different plane.  That the lyrics are penned by a teenage girl is stupefying and magical.  Why this song hasn’t been declared Britain’s national anthem is beyond me.  It still might someday.

The epic “Hammer Horror” could be the subject of an entire review unto itself. By 1978, the term “Rock Opera” had become devalued currency.  “Hammer Horror”  is definitely a rock opera (albeit a tightly compressed and edited version of the form).  Kate whispers, wails, moans and rumbles like both a siren and natural woman.  She’s got some burr in her saddle in the form of a stalker, ex-boyfriend, ghost, or some unholy permutation of the three.  Whatever happened, it’s now an ever-present nightmare of the soul.  The tinkling piano ending turns the neat trick of being pretty and dissonant at the same time. The delayed reaction gong crash signals a melodramatic end to a brilliant and melodramatic record, and the cover art will rock your world.

Elsewhere, things get more eclectic and esoteric. “Coffee Homeground” courts Cabaret and Broadway and elevates both forms.  Lead track, “Symphony In Blue” evokes a heavenly cocktail mix of Carol King on ecstasy and helium.  On this album, even more than The Kick Inside, Kate takes her voice to its full, death defying limits.  Many argue it takes listeners to their limits as well.  Like Dylan, Kate’s voice is her signature, money maker, and albatross all rolled into one.  One must come to the party prepared to marvel at her athleticism and then dig deep into the music itself.  The rewards are there.  Kate Bush is not a passive listen. We’ve got Sade for that.  No, Lionheart is a three ring circus of emotion, estrogen and technique.  And you know what?  EMI put it out at just the right time.  I’m glad we got two albums documenting Kate’s eloquent, teen dream genius.  Soon our little girl would all grow up to be a woman. Lionheart didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just a matter of the paint on her masterpiece hadn’t quite dried yet.

Lionheart Revisited (Kate Bush album review)

Reviewed by: Dale Nickey

Ok, here’s the party line on Kate Bush’s second album Lionheart. It was the “difficult second album”, rush released too soon after her stupendous debut, The Kick Inside. The material was under cooked, it was recorded hastily. It was a commercial disappointment. Lionheart has always been viewed as the gawky, homely sister to The Kick Inside. It languishes in the same purgatory asFleetwood Mac’s Tusk and Michael Jackson’s Bad. Those were all albums  tasked with following up a monster critical and commercial smash; too much to expect of any mortal record.

However, what if The Kick Inside had never existed, and Lionheart had been her debut? Take away the baggage, and the job of reviewing becomes a little more interesting.

Lionheart is not a perfect album yet it’s still a staggering achievement. Had it been the opening missive in Kate’s discography, jaws would have still dropped  at the innovations of Kate Bush and her audacious voice, charisma and songs. It may not have conferred upon her the instant mantle of “Icon” (as ‘Kick’ did), but that might have been a good thing.

Sure, “Lionheart” could have benefitted from more time in the bottle. Or… maybe not. Kate had all the time in the world to worry over The Dreaming. Was it a better record? I’ll let you know when I get around to listening to it as many times as I have “Lionheart”.  Lionheart is a grower that is unique in her canon. Every track earns and rewards repeated visitations.

The song “Wow” is a wonderful confection of fantasy/pop. Equal parts torch ballad and bubblegum, it was a smart and successful single that could turn the heads of tabloid writers and music critics alike. And “England, My Lionheart” is quite simply one of the most beautiful and unique  melodies ever written. Usually in pop song-craft you can hear echoes of the familiar; even if the artist is stealing from him/herself. This song exists on a different plane. That the lyrics are penned by a teenage girl is stupefying and magical. Why this song hasn’t been declared Britain’s national anthem is beyond me. It still might someday.

The epic “Hammer Horror” could be the subject of an entire review unto itself. By 1978, the term “Rock Opera” had become devalued currency. “Hammer Horror” was definitely a rock opera (albeit a tightly compressed and edited version of the form). Kate whispers, wails, moans and rumbles like both a siren and natural woman. She’s got some burr in her saddle in the form of a stalker, ex-boyfriend, ghost, or some unholy permutation of the three. Whatever happened, it’s now an ever-present nightmare of the soul. The tinkling piano ending turns the neat trick of being pretty and dissonant at the same time. The delayed reaction gong crash signals a melodramatic end to a brilliant and melodramatic record. And the cover art will rock your world.

Elsewhere, things get more eclectic and esoteric. “Coffee Homeground” courts Cabaret and Broadway and elevates both forms. Lead track, “Symphony In Blue” evokes a heavenly cocktail mix of Carol King on ecstasy and helium. On this album, even more than The Kick Inside, Kate takes her voice to its full, death-defying, four octave limits. Many argue it takes listeners to their limits as well. Like Dylan, Kate’s voice is her signature, money-maker, and albatross all rolled into one. One must come to the party prepared to marvel at her athleticism and then dig deep into the music itself. The rewards are there. Kate Bush is not a passive listen. We’ve got Sade for that. No, “Lionheart” is a three-ring circus of emotion, estrogen and technique. And you know what? EMI put it out at just the right time. I’m glad we got two albums documenting Kate’s eloquent, teen dream genius. Soon our little girl would all grow up to be a woman. “Lionheart” didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just a matter of the paint on her masterpiece hadn’t quite dried yet.