Artist: Chris Bell
Album: Looking Forward: The Roots of Big Star
Release Date: 07.07.2017
Recorded during the haze of forming the vernacular Big Star, Looking Forward: The Roots of Big Star is one of the most fascinating archives of the undeniably prescient boys from Memphis. Featuring an eclectic cache of unissued material amidst the logical inclusion of the eureka moments for Chris Bell and company, Looking Forward is perhaps the most logical collection of lesser-known Big Star adjacent music to date. Though primarily a Bell-driven release, one can nonetheless hear the articulated touch of Jody Stephens and the astral presence of Alex Chilton looming over the sessions.
Looking Forward lilts from jangly post-Box Tops radio hopefuls to Village Green-era psychedelia-driven nostalgia. Bell and the boys nonetheless deftly form their style as the record unfolds. Grappling with post-teenage fandom gracefully, one can interpret the previously unreleased “The Reason” as an ode to the dangerous yet beloved ’60s standards—a tribute the likes of Tweedy and Farrar would eventually sink their teeth into.
Still, it’s a euphoric feeling to hear the more lackadaisical cuts as a reminder of Bell’s youth and fascination with dabbling in the teeming counterculture. “Psychedelic Stuff” may not be so much an ode to the lifestyle as it is a recognition of what psychedelia would entail, nonetheless proving Bell’s endurance amidst his curiosity.
Unlike other ’70s-era acts whose formative efforts seem ostensibly ready for issue given the correct production, Looking Forward demonstrates a much greater leap from roots to the Big Star canon as we know it. Bell had the pleasure of living through a bevy of eras leading up to the eventual confrontation of country that the group presented, allowing for a great deal of breadth in their eventual releases. The result is a treasure trove of Big Star’s most intellectual member wading through a bildungsroman of his own design.