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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$ 35.95
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars Three magnificent tracks June 7 2008
By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
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 with trenchant imagery over a propulsive rhythm and a backdrop of bar crowd sounds. Co-written with Don Cherry (who contributes trumpet and African Hunting Guitar to the album), All Though The Night is an exploration of the "post natal" depression that follows the completion of a novel or an album, plus various other types of Weltschmerz.

Families is autobiographical and moving, with a line or two imploring his dad to let his sister manage the family business. The sound is dominated by electric guitars and guitar- and bass guitar synthesizers and the mood is mournful. The Bells itself is a breathtaking, majestic experience, something Reed has never done before or since. Hard to describe, perhaps it is his exploration of what Bowie did on Low in those atmospheric tracks like Warszawa, Art Decade, Weeping Wall, etc. but with more vocals. Dissonant, atmospheric and jazzy, the sound consists of a barely audible monologue under the wails and drones of the saxophones and gong sounds to create an eerie mood. The instrumenation builds up slowly while the vocals become audible and at its height, Reed repeats the line Here Come The Bells in a dramatic conclusion.

The others are short songs - Disco Mystic is an amusing comment on the disco fever of the late 70s, whilst I Want To Boogie With You is more somber and serious. These fall in the disco commentary genre like Frank Zappa's Dancing Fool and Cristina Monet's Blame It On Disco on her Doll in the Box album, and as such are good, not great.

The Bells is an uneven work, but the aforementioned three exceptional songs merit the four stars.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Actually a half-star would be appropriate May 10 2002
Format:Audio CD
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 looking as though he'll glance back at the mirror any second and get lost in the mystery of his own gaze.
That's pretty much what's happening here. Lou seems to be trying to pull off something here, but it's impossible to figure out what; the sped-up voices, the fake jazz inflections, the dreadful studio-musician glaze, the bad lyrics and unemotional singing, all add up to the nadir studio recording of Reed's Arista years.
I am a big Lou Reed fan, but I am NOT willing to cut him this much slack. "Transformer" and "New York" stand in stark contrast to this as testimonials to what he's capable of when he's really trying. Unfortunately, through most of his Arista years, he wasn't trying very hard. It really shows here.
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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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3.0 out of 5 stars GOOD BUT NOT GREAT May 29 2001
Format:Audio CD
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. But that doesn't mean "THE BELLS" is so great just because is different from other Reed's works. It's a good album, strong, but has some tunes that repeat themselves for over five minutes !!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars underrated 5 star record Feb. 24 2001
Format:Audio CD
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. The record is his last work ( except songs for drella) in which lou reed featured co writers on most of the songs. 3 of the best being with Nils Lofgren odly enough. from droneing subtle avant melodys to quirky electric piano ala dowop 50's progressions The Bells projects the mood of a mature new york appartment cocktail party. Definately 5 stars
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Deadpan Disco = Brilliance
Like many Reed albums (even acknowledged masterpieces like "Blue Mask" and "New York") this isn't a particularly likable one at first hearing. Read more
Published on Dec 28 2000 by Matthew Van Winkle
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 Lou Reed disco king, but at least he doesn't do the hustle!
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... Read more
Published on Sept. 28 2000 by 33-year old wallflower
3.0 out of 5 stars diskomyztik
As with most Lou Reed records from this era, you're better off just buying "Live: Take No Prisoners. Read more
Published on July 18 2000 by Jonathan J. Casey
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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