Chris Bell’s I Am The Cosmos contains some of the most beautifully desolate songs ever recorded. Like Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, Bell’s lone solo album seems to reach out from beyond the grave, with music and lyrics foreshadowing his tragic end.
Unlike the delicate acoustic tapestries of Drake though, at heart Chris Bell was a rocker. As a founding member of Big Star, Bell knew the inherent joys of the perfect three minute rock song. The failure of Big Star’s debut, #1 Record to find an audience seemed to deeply affect Bell. He left the band in 1972 before the follow-up, Radio City was recorded.
It was Bell’s proverbial banishment to the rock and roll wilderness that resulted in the 12 songs originally released in 1992 by Rykodisc. For a certain audience, I Am The Cosmos was a revelation.
Many of the tracks were in various states of completion before the 1978 car crash that took Bell’s life. Thankfully, they were not tinkered with, at least as far as I can tell.
Although he obviously had nothing to do with the sequencing and design of the record, it is hard to believe that Bell would not have approved of it. The 12 tracks that comprise I Am The Cosmos seamlessly work together to tell a story.
Beginning with the child-like vision of the title cut, through fun rockers like “Get Away,” and “I Kinda Got Lost,” through the triumphant (if willfully blind) acceptance of love on “Though I Know She Lies,” I Am The Cosmos succeeds brilliantly.
Rhino has taken the original version of the disc and added a second to create the just released I Am The Cosmos (Deluxe). To be honest, the extras on these types of things are usually pretty negligible. Having said that, there is a lot on the second disc to recommend to even a casual Chris Bell fan.