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The Bells Import

3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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58th Annual GRAMMY Awards
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 1 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: SBME
  • ASIN: B0012GN3JG
  • In-Print Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 7 2008
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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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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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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