Looking Forward: The Roots Of Big Star by Chris Bell on Ardent Music with exclusive license to Omnivore Recordings

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

I have been listening to this for a little while, but hadn’t had the time yet to write about it. I have noticed that in spite of that, I keep gravitating back to this album during my free time. That says a lot since my “leisure listening” has decreased drastically. 

Chris Bell was an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He was a member of the iconic band Big Star on their first album, #1 Record, along with Alex Chilton. Although Chilton gets way more accolades than Bell, this collection proves just how incredible Bell was. Clearly, a lot of the Big Star sound is apparent on this collection, which may indicate that Bell’s sound was more influential than Chilton’s. Certainly, a good topic for a never ending debate. 

 

Listening to Looking Forward tells me just how influential Chris Bell was and still is through his musical legacy. I can hear a multitude of so called “alternative” performers that have aped Bell’s sound to a certain degree. Bands like Dinosaur Jr., REM, and Beck have borrowed elements of their sound from Bell. You couldn’t really pick a better person to borrow from.

Bell did his share of borrowing himself. Feeling High (Track 4) is an example of Bell’s homage to The Beatles. This song could be on Sgt. Peppers pretty easily. Bell, like the Beatles, did a fantastic job of expanding the boundaries and sonic possibilities of psychedelic music. Feeling High is as as psychedelic as it gets. Luckily, it doesn’t have those calliope organs and sound like the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s Too Much To Dream Last Night. Feeling High  is just as mind bending as any of the garden variety psychedelic songs you can think of, it also happens to be ground breaking. 

The Answer (Track 11) starts off like Hey You by Pink Floyd but doesn’t end up there. The first minute and change of this song is a psychedelic number akin to Jethro Tull but at just over a minute, the song takes a sharp right and goes into uncharted territory. A little bit like Angry Eyes by Loggins & Messina but definitely with more edge and attitude. That is just to gain a reference point. This song is a mind bender and jaw dropper.  

If you ever look for the greatest pop song never heard, it’s here. The term pop is used properly here. Not the vapid horse manure that is frequently paraded as pop music. This is the genuine article and the gold standard. Without further ado, the greatest pop song never heard (until now, for most people) is I Lost A Love (Track 9). This song has it all, impeccable writing, other worldly vocals, great transitions and bridges, and plenty of piss and vinegar. 

I am not normally a fan of compilations or “greatest hits” collections because they usually exclude the best songs from any particular artist. I would rather listen to an entire body of work and draw my own conclusion as to which songs are the best. In this case, all of that goes out the window. All of the songs on this collection are worthy of a compilation. This will be in heavy rotation in my collection for a very long time.  

Listen to Looking Forward on Spotify

Buy Looking Forward on Amazon

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