This is the nearest you will get to having angels breathe gently into your ears. Angels who have been eating dainty pancakes (no more than 6cm in diameter) smothered with lemon curd and topped with fresh loganberries (Scottish). And what's that? The faint smell of hazelnuts toasting in your neighbour's garden on a late summer's day... Not your next-door neighbour. Next-door-but-one.
This is the record the Beach Boys would have made, had they been the Cocteau Twins, rather than the Beach Boys. Yes, that good.
I bought this Album in 1988 and it still holds its magic. I agree with some of the other reviewers that this was the Cocteaus at their creative peak and in my opinion this is a far better record than its more successful successor Heaven or Las Vegas. From start to finish the production is excellent, and as an example of beauty in modern music I do not think that this album can be bettered - although it is run close by the sparser Victorialand. The funny thing is that there are no standout tracks on the album as the quality is so high, but there are few better ways to close an album than the exquisite Ella Megablast Burls Forever.
Whilst the earlier albums were crying out for remastering the original BBKnoll was certainly a clearer production...the sparkling crisp guitar effects gave a brightness which contrasted the darker elements (e.g. minor chord progressions )giving a very different feel to this album to previous outings...the remastering makes these elements even sharper ...I wonder if the original recording took the slight dampening of the treble into account because ,fully clarified, some of the guitars are almost too sharp. A very slight niggle as the remastered tracks are even more orgasmic in places than before, and certainly it just proves how suprisingly clearer the remaster really is.
Rest assured that every odd numbered track is a classic (amongst the twins' best), and some even numbered tracks are so-so..still worth 5 stars for the even tracks alone.
Ps the credits for the remaster are tiny and put at various hard to find points on the case, different places for different albums!?
I bought the Cocteau's second album, 'Head Over Heels' on a whim a few years ago and, while I certainly enjoyed it, I wasn't overwhelmed by the urge to delve further into their catalogue anytime soon. However, about a year later I found a cheap second hand copy of 'Blue Bell Knoll' and decided to give it a go. It was unquestionably the best £3.50 I have ever spent. For anyone new to Cocteau Twins and intrigued to know more, I would recommend this as the place to start as it succinctly encapsulates the group's definitive sound. 'For Phoebe Still a Baby' is just over 3 minutes of perfection. Rendered beautifully by Liz Fraser's exquisite vocals, the simple lullaby is at once comforting and yet, somehow, utterly heart breaking. It's the kind of track I could listen to on loop for eternity and never tire of. 'Carolyn's Fingers' puts forward the case that Fraser is one of the all time great female singers as she pulls off some deliriously euphoric vocal acrobatics. As with practically all of the Cocteau's output, don't go hunting for deep meanings or poignant messages in the lyrics. In fact, don't hunt for lyrics at all because you'll struggle to decipher them, let alone make sense of them. The emotions conveyed through THAT voice coupled with the enveloping wash of Robin Guthrie's guitar work speak infinitely greater volumes than identifiable lyrics ever could.
This was the Cocteau Twins nearing their creative peak. The compositions were tight and beautifully arranged. All the syrupy gloopiness which soaked through previous productions, bogging down the sound was absent, leaving the sound here clean and sharp. All the instruments are distinctive and sit well to the fore in the mix. Elizabeth Fraser is as usual a voice like no other. The album starts sprightly enough with the title track, opening with a percussive harpsichord type synth sound leading into a haunting vocal from Fraser. The whole thing takes off after about two minutes when the drums enter the proceedings to carry the whole thing off to a satisfying conclusion. “Carolyn’s Fingers” is the most commercial song on the album, very infectious and strident. My personal favourite is the final track, “Ella Megalast Burls Forever”. This is heavenly perfection. The guitars and vocals in perfect balance throughout. The last section is even better, the layered vocals taking off into some other world. Bliss! The sound on this remaster is cleaner and fuller than on the original CD, but apart from a slightly different front cover, nothing extra is added. The next album would be their last for 4AD and their best, but “Blue Bell Knoll” contains plenty of gems.
The early work of Cocteau Twins, favoured by some, to me is a little indebted to Siouxsie & the Banshees & Mike Hedges-production of Associates' 'Sulk.' The band came into their own with a series of key-singles (Pearly Dewdrops Drops, Aikea-Guinea, Pink Orange Red) & the watershed album 'Treasure' (another contender for the quintessential Cocteaus album...)Following 'Treasure' they experimented somewhat- from the more ambient-climes of 'Tiny Dynamine', to the minimal 'Victorialand' (Simon Raymonde temporarily leaving to work with This Mortal Coil), & the 'new age' collaboration with Harold Budd, 'The Moon & The Melodies.' 'Blue Bell Knoll' was a return to the Frazer/Guthrie/Raymonde line-up & the ultimate summation of the sound they had been developing - follow-up album 'Heaven or Las Vegas' would emphasise words a lot more, so this is where Frazer's heavenly-nonsense reigns completely for the last time... I do know one person who thinks the opening title-track is the most perfect thing and doesn't require anymore Cocteau Twins than that- opening with some ambient-electronic-strains it builds up into one of those huge songs as Guthrie's trademark guitar cuts across the song. It sounds like the definition of Cocteau Twins, the song you would play to an inquisitive alien who wants to discuss 4AD-acts. The influence on later-generations is apparent and without 'Blue Bell Knoll', there would have been no My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Lush, Medicine, Seefeel, Chapterhouse etc. It's all a highlight, thirty-plus minutes of sublime joys, including the huge 'Cico Buff' (whose chorus says something about beauty, though I don't want to know the words, I know how they sound and feel...), 'Carolyn's Fingers' (which I believe was used in a mineral-water advert in the late 80s!), 'Suckling the Mender' (Frazer duets with herselves), 'The Itchy Glowbo Blow' & the closing pleasure that is 'Ella Megalast Burls Forever' (the best song-titles since 'Trout Mask Replica', incidentally...) 'Blue Bell Knoll' was my favourite album of 1988, and stands out as a key release in the Eighties; the 2004-remaster reminds you how wonderful it is - perhaps people will rediscover this band now they're reforming?
;Someone once said to me that their favourite Cocteau Twins song was always the one they were listening to at the time which is pretty succinct and effective way of surmising how special this band are /were. Released in 1988 and coming after the sometimes airily wonderful collaboration with Harold Budd "The Moon and the Melodies" Blue Bell Knoll saw the band revert to their classic line up of Robin Guthrie (guitars and general grumpiness) Elizabeth Fraser( mercurial vocal gorgeousness) and Simon Raymonde ( bass and spectacular spiky haircut) though there is a feel of some programming having gone into this album (just listen to the skittish backing rhythms on the title track or "A Kissed Out Red Floatboat" )but there are also marimba, xylophone, harpsichord, and various elemental percussive sounds. It helps create an even denser tapestry of sound than ever before and although Guthrie with typical curmudgeonly tones has said this was to cover up the lack of true song writing on the album the results rather speak for themselves . Not that you can tell much from the lyrics .Liz Frazer as usual sings like a possessed angel and has stated that the lyrics were simply a portmanteaux of made-up and borrowed words sung with poor diction and bad grammar and that they were a mask for her true feelings. Christ alone knows what she would sound like if she was truly in touch with the words issuing forth from her mouth for she is inspired on Blue Bell Knoll. Listen then to her extraordinary vocals on "Carolyn's Fingers" where her almost supernatural ability to skip over her unbelievable vocal range is matched by a lovely. pirouetting riff. "A Kissed Out Red Floatboat" is one of my favourite Cocteau songs ever a genuinely gorgeous effusion of regal melody with a dip in Fraser's vocals-around 50 seconds in- that renders it almost heart breaking . Really though with the exception of the wonderful Treasure this is the most consistent Cocteau Twins album. . From the diffident strains of "For Phoebe Still A Baby " ,the more regimented arpeggio's of "The Itchy Glowbo Blow" and the sky scraping chords and choral majesty of Cico Buff it's an absolute pleasure ."Suckling The Mender" prompts the usual clichés like celestial ...with very good reason and Ella Megablast Burls Forever is just hypnotically wonderful. Anyone who tells you that "Heaven Or Las Vegas" is the quintessential Cocteau's album is talking rot. They are always worth listening to of course but it's this album and the monumental Treasure that best encapsulate their exceptional divinity. As good as music ever gets this ...though the song titles are still a tad silly. As complaints go that's a pretty minor one ...they could call all their songs Clive for me as long as they were as good as the ones on Blue Bell Knoll.
I have had this since it came it out, and have yet to tire of listening to it. People all like to pick their favourite tracks, but for me another outstanding aspect of this release is its whole, integral sound and feel - it flows through from beginning to end smoothly.
I like to sing along to Liz Fraser's voice, even though in all the years I have been listening to these tracks, I have never really deciphered any of the words!