Following on from the recent run of Big Star’s Third live shows, culminating in a sold out night at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles in September, Rhino are planning reissues of the acclaimed Big Star 4CD box Keep an Eye on the Sky and the expanded deluxe version of Chris Bell I Am the Cosmos.
Back in print due to popular demand, both Keep an Eye on the Sky and I Am the Cosmos were compiled with full involvement from Ardent founder and Big Star producer John Fry, who expressed his excitement for the forthcoming reissues and commented, “The Big Star box is a unique collection of music and insightful liner notes that keep telling the story to an ever growing number of fans. The Chris Bell 2 CD Cosmos reissue is in my opinion the definitive collection of Chris’ solo work. We took great pains to use original analog sources and to master the CDs much as we would have done vinyl in the 70s. Enjoy the music and the story.” Founding Big Star member Jody Stephens added “I’m very glad to see the box set and Chris’ deluxe set reissued. Both written stories, and in this case, stories as told through song and musical development are incredibly important.”
Chris Bell I Am the Cosmos will be available nationally at retail for the first time, released November 11, with the repackaged Keep An Eye on the Sky following two weeks later on November 24.
The two sets were highly lauded, both by the media and the record buying public, when first released in 2009. In its original review of Keep an Eye on the Sky Pitchfork was gushing in its praise, citing it as a Best New Reissue, with a 9.3 rating, while stating the 98-song set “presents a history of the band that could not be gleaned from the albums themselves, using finished studio tracks along with demos and rarities to give a fuller picture of the musicians, their dynamic, and their songs” and “the one reissue that finally gets Big Star right”. Pitchfork also said of the Chris Bell, “this edition of I Am the Cosmos comes closest to capturing “just pure Chris” as we’re likely ever going to get.”
Rolling Stone also showed its admiration for the Big Star box, awarding 4 ½ stars and citing it as “the last word on Big Star’s first, ultimately glorious lifetime”, while Magnet Magazine commented “As a career retrospective and unreleased/rarities compilation, you couldn’t do much better than Keep An Eye On The Sky…the unreleased music is always interesting and frequently revelatory” and NPR simply stated “One of the most welcome reissues of last year…”
Praise for the Chris Bell release was just as universal, with The Guardian saying “I Am the Cosmos is wonderful for many reasons: the hazy, slightly dreamlike feel of the recording and of Bell’s vocals; his yearning, slightly damaged voice” and No Depression stating “the title cut is one of the most nuanced evocations of the struggle for self-confidence in the face of life’s withering setbacks.”
Since the original releases in 2009, interest and acclaim for Big Star has only increased, magnified by the film Nothing Can Hurt Me, outlining “the definitive story of the greatest band that never made it”. The documentary, released on DVD in the USA in 2013, has recently been screening in the UK, with wider distribution forthcoming across Europe.
Jody Stephens has been touring performing Big Star’s Third album with a revolving cast of musicians including Mitch Easter (Let’s Active), Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Ken Stringfellow & Jon Auer (The Posies), and Chris Stamey (The dB’s). Big Star’s Third performs a free show at College Square in Downtown Athens, GA on November 8th as part of University of Georgia’s Spotlight on the Arts Slingshot.