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The Bells [Import]

Lou Reed Audio CD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 23.98
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The Bells + Street Hassle
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Product Description


The Bells is one of the forgotten titles in Lou Reed's extensive oeuvre, though it's a mystery why. Perhaps because it was sandwiched (along with the less intriguing Growing Up in Public) between two triumphs--1978's fired-by-punk Street Hassle and 1982's revelatory The Blue Mask. But The Bells, despite its obscurity, ranks with Reed's best works. Arguably his jazziest outing, the nine-song collection is marked by woozy brass (some supplied by free-jazz icon Don Cherry), a unique ambience (Reed was experimenting with binaural production in the late '70s), and characteristically incisive wordplay. "With You" targets those who live on the edge ("Don't you think you could be less capricious / Unlike you I don't have no death wish"), while "All Through the Night" is empathetic toward the same precarious souls ("With a daytime of sin and a nighttime of hell / Everybody's gonna look for a bell to ring / All through the night"). An uncommonly cohesive set, The Bells wraps up with the lengthy title track--a stunning amalgamation of brooding synthesizer, barbed brass, and extemporaneous poetics. --Steven Stolder

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Lou Reed's most underrated albums. June 7 2001
Format:Audio CD
For me, Lou Reed's output in the 1970s is some of his best material, with his very unusual "The Bells" near the peak for that decade. An enigmatic, though thoughtful, foray into jazz-rock experimentation, "The Bells" finds Reed delving further into territory he had been previously exploring with "Rock and Roll Heart" and "Street Hassle".
Unlike those albums, here Reed really lets loose and tries on several different musical personas ranging from progressive jazz to dixieland. His band, with which he co-wrote almost all of the songs, is supplemented by the appearance of noted jazz trumpeter Don Cherry. Cherry and sax player Marty Fogel -- who arranged all of the elaborately layered horn parts -- are particularly outstanding.
Curiously, three tracks ("Stupid Man", "With You", and "City Lights") were co-written with guitarist Nils Lofgren. This association was made possible by Bob Ezrin (producer of Reed's "Berlin" album), who gets a thank you in the album credits. [Three other Reed/Lofgren collaborations made it onto Lofgren's 1979 album entitled "Nils".]
The connecting threads that hold the whole thing together are the lyrics, Reed's most personal, before or since; never has he sounded so vulnerable. On "Stupid Man" and "Families", Reed sings about separation from loved ones by distances both physical and emotional. "Looking for Love" and "I Want to Boogie With You" are naked, yearning declarations, but sadly, the singer is all-too-convinced of his own inability to grasp that which he desires.
The epic title track -- featuring Reed's own favorite lyric -- continues to impress to this day. Sounding like a horrific collision between a 16th century baroque brass ensemble and Ornette Coleman's Prime Time outfit (with a touch of Gothic nightmarishness thrown in for good measure), it defies categorization.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Deadpan Disco = Brilliance Dec 28 2000
Format:Audio CD
Like many Reed albums (even acknowledged masterpieces like "Blue Mask" and "New York") this isn't a particularly likable one at first hearing. His singing may seem callous at times, and the musicians like they're all in separate rooms, but there is real artistry at work if you're willing to stick with it; I play "The Bells" even more than "Berlin" these days, favoring it's anti- emotional (almost anti-"atmosphere") stance. The album doesn't lull you into anything, and you often have to listen quite hard due to the production to hear what he's singing about. The most often misinterpreted thing on this album is the disco. But would Lou Reed, an intellectual postmodern rocker--in his late 30's at the time of this album--really want to "Boogie With You" in earnest? The poet is not making an attempt at being radio-worthy. He is appropriating the hipspeak of the moment, as is his custom, and re-packaging it for us in a way that we can glimpse it's absurdity, and, essentially, it's harmlessness and fun, too. Remember that moment in "Oh Jim" (Berlin) when Lou deadpans a sort of Shirelles "doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo" right after the words "Beat her black and blue..."? I have a notion that the same sensibility is at work from start to finish on this album.
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Format:Audio CD
1978's STREET HASSLE was a strong album from Lou Reed, but overshadowed by the embarassment of the subsequent live album TAKE NO PRISONERS, which I was amazed to see that it got released. Once again, Reed was in need of a fresh start, and even though he's had many throughout his career, his most interesting creative 180 was his journey into disco and fusion with 1979's THE BELLS. He's built his career on being brutally honest, of course, but his lyrics on THE BELLS have an equal amount of heartbreak along with their anger. The second half is devoted to this with highlights like "Families", "City Lights", and the title track. Reed was still living the rock & roll high life at this time, but these songs seem to indicate he's realized that there's more permanent things to worry about like personal and family relationships. But the first half still has him casting a dirty glance at the disco lifestyle that was about to reach its peak and valley during 1979. "Disco Mystic" (plodding & boring, but so was most disco music!) and "Stupid Man" are not exactly sequels to "Stayin' Alive", but Lou still manages to skewer the decadence of the disco era while also proving himself to be a good practitioner of the sound himself. THE BELLS was both another glance into Lou Reed's personal psyche and another stop on his journey through the genres of popular music. Both of those have been the two poles of his long career, and THE BELLS is one of the rare times they happen to intertwine.
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3.0 out of 5 stars diskomyztik July 18 2000
Format:Audio CD
As with most Lou Reed records from this era, you're better off just buying "Live: Take No Prisoners." However, certain songs on this album relentlessly dig their way into your skull, and are pretty welcome once they're there.
Lou wins big points with the hyperkinetic opener "Stupid Man," even though you're wondering why the heck they sped up the tape on his voice. The record then nosedives into the interminably long "Disco Mystic," which (apparently) required five writers. Lyrics? "Disco, disco mystic" repeated ad infinitum until an expensive rental gong carries the song to its grinding (but welcome) conclusion.
"I wanna boogie with you" is a kind of tired, drunken plea for sex, followed by one of Lou's greatest vocal explosions ever committed to record: "With You." You may not understand the lyrics the first 10 times you listen to this song, but that's why they published "Pass Thru Fire." I can't even begin to describe this tune, but when Lou wails "slo-ow down!" over the weird pulsing keyboards and out-of control Marty Fogel sax you wish the band would listen. "With You" contains one of the worst guitar solos ever committed to tape (listen for it wailing behind the chorus). This song brought tears of laughter whenever I listened to my vinyl copy, and I'm glad it's now available to the general CD buying public to experience. This is just nuts, as is "Looking for love," another one that spins entertainingly out of control.
"City Lights" is an ode to Charlie Chaplin (of sorts), and here they slow Lou's voice down, turning him into a rumbling frog.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Three magnificent tracks
The 3 tracks All Through The Night, Families and The Bells are enough to make this a must-have. The first describes an all-night drunken party or pub crawl in stunning observations... Read more
Published on June 7 2008 by Pieter Uys
1.0 out of 5 stars Actually a half-star would be appropriate
This is really a huge mess of an album. The cover bodes ill; Lou wearing more makeup than he has since "Transformer" days, apparently distracted from gazing into a mirror, and... Read more
Published on May 10 2002 by happydogpotatohead
3.0 out of 5 stars GOOD BUT NOT GREAT
Uau !! People keep seeing a "depth", a "great meaning", a "message" in all of Lou Reed's records. He's a great songwriter, of course. Read more
Published on May 29 2001 by Carmarthen
5.0 out of 5 stars underrated 5 star record
The Bells is lou reed's next to last recording with his 1976 to 1980 line up. It is know as his forgotten record and has been unavailable till now. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2001 by David Grossman
4.0 out of 5 stars Good moments, and Don Cherry, too.
Not a bad album, really, particularly if you never spin the first side. (Sorry, I know, that's the language of another time). Read more
Published on Oct. 24 2000 by Allan MacInnis
4.0 out of 5 stars UNUSUAL LOU
I love the three stunning songs All Through The Night, Families and The Bells. The first is a description of an all-night drunken party or pub crawl which contains some of Reed's... Read more
Published on July 5 2000 by Pieter Uys
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetic, funny, odd
It's great to have The Bells on CD - even if the original master has been lost for years and the CD was made from a vinyl source. Read more
Published on July 2 2000 by Howard Sauertieg
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Lou Reed's Best, But Still Very Good.
Lou Reed's 1979 release, The Bells, is not his best. It is not a five star album. Four stars is an accurate review of this album. Read more
Published on May 16 2000 by M. Scagnelli
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