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I Am the Cosmos

Chris Bell

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iTunes Review

At this point Memphis’ Big Star, though woefully underappreciated during their brief career, have at last achieved their rightful place in the rock and roll canon. Their first two albums, #1 Record and Radio City effortlessly captured the desperation and exuberance of adolescence, while the despairing implosion of Big Star’s 3rd laid the groundwork for many harrowing anti-masterpieces to follow. But while Big Star leader Alex Chilton has gone on to achieve Lou Reed-level status as a cult icon, Big Star co-founder Chris Bell, who wrote many of #1 Record’s most memorable tracks, has been largely forgotten. After leaving Big Star in 1972, he embarked for an extended sojourn in France, where the majority of songs compiled on I Am The Cosmos were recorded. Though none of these tracks saw release during Bell’s lifetime, with the exception of the title track and “You and Your Sister," taken together they comprise one of the greatest lost albums of the 1970’s. From the suicidal desolation of “Better Save Yourself” to the Spectorian grandeur of “I Am The Cosmos,” Bell’s songs balance frightening self-loathing against the vague promise of eventual spiritual redemption. I Am The Cosmos is an album of bracing rockers and ballads of soul-searching disquietude that reveal Bell to have been one of the finest songwriters of his generation.

Customer Reviews

A Must For Fans of Early Big Star

Chris Bell was the former half of the Lennon/McCartney-like partnership of Big Star. But if you found this recording, you probably know that already. While Alex Chilton could write a ballad that could make a stoic weep, Bell was responsible for most of the riffing/edgy rockers, and that unique sound is well represented here on tracks like "Get Away," "Make a Scene" and "I Got Kinda Lost". But Bell has a softer sensibility as well, best seen here on the lovely "You and Your Sister" and "Though I Know She Lies," the latter which Extreme's "More Than Words" bears a suspicious resemblance to. Chris' twelve string guitar is beautifully spacious on "Speed of Sound" and punctuated with most tasteful vibrato and keyboard arrangements. A very dynamic record, altogether. The only downsides here are the duplicate versions of "Sister" and "Cosmos" that really aren't very different from the originals and the fact that Bell's whiny voice takes some getting used to. But it is an album that should be heard, particularly by fans of Big Star's first two albums.

One of the most tragically overlooked records ever...

A messy, lo-fi, unfinished-sounding masterpiece. Some of the sweetest pop melodies ever written, and Chris sings them in a rough, fragile voice that's often heartbreaking. "I am the Cosmos" ranks with the best of Big Star, and its obscurity is a crime.

For all intents and purposes, the third Big Star album.

Not "Third/Sister Lovers" or the bootlegs or any of the other albums masquerading under the name "Big Star." If it isn't "#1 Record" or "Radio City" or one of the live recordings that featured Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, Andy Hummel, Alex Chilton, or a formation therein, it isn't Big Star as we came to know and love them. But Chris Bell's "I Am the Cosmos" is, for all intents and purposes, the closest we've come to a third Big Star album. And not just because of Chilton's presence. It's the sound, sorely missed after "#1 Record" (no slight to "Radio City," a fine album in itself) that hits you like a ton of bricks, cascading over you like a wall of sound on the title track, washing over you with blankets of feeling (mainly sadness) in songs like "You and Your Sister" and "I Got Kinda Lost." This is sound that created Big Star. The world lost an amazing talent when it lost Chris Bell.


Born: January 12, 1951 in Memphis, TN

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Chris Bell was one of the unsung heroes of American pop music. Despite a life marked by tragedy and a career crippled by commercial indifference, the singer/songwriter's slim body of recorded work proved massively influential on the generations of indie rockers who emerged in his wake. Born January 12, 1951 in Memphis, Tennessee, Bell grew up enveloped by the city's indigenous soul sounds — typified by the prodigious output of the Stax label — but his first love was the music of the British...
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I Am the Cosmos, Chris Bell
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