Customer Reviews: Silver Bell
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon October 8, 2013
Record companies are just plain weird. "Sliver Bell" was recorded by Patty Griffin as a follow up to her 1998 album Flaming Red, but it went unreleased by her label at the time, A&M records. The reasons for this are still unclear but centre on two theories. The first is that it essentially got lost in the shuffle due to a change in ownership of the label at the time. The second and possibly more likely of the two is that some tuneless dimwit felt that it sounded too much like her previous effort. Indeed Griffin has mentioned the role of the usually impeccable Jimmy Iovine who told Griffin that "You have never made a good record,'" and then handed her a copy of U2s 'Beautiful Day,' and said, 'Take a listen to this. This is how you write a hit record.'" Oh dear me Mr Iovine, shame on you!

"Silver Bell" was recorded in March 2000 at Daniel Lanois's Kingsway Studio in New Orleans. The musicians were Patty Griffin (vocals, guitar, piano), Doug Lancio (guitar), John Deaderick (keyboards), Frank Swart (bass), and Billy Beard (percussion). To have the album released some 13 years after it was first recorded and now remixed by Glyn Johns is a long overdue treat. Many Griffin fans will already own the widely circulated bootleg of this set and in essence the track order remains the same. In the interim a couple of the songs have also appeared on other releases. The most famous of these is "Top of the World" which appeared on 2004's "Impossible Dream" and later received a high profile cover from the Dixie Chicks. The version on "Silver Bell" is different with more of a bar room ballad feel but Griffin's voice is a magnificent instrument on both takes. The Dixie Chicks also covered the excellent empowerment anthem "Truth # 2" which is probably the song on this release which would have best fitted in "Flaming Red". Other tracks like the hard rocking "Boston" and the almost Eastern sounding "Little God" clearly benefit from the new mix with the vocals on both far more front and centre than the previous unreleased version. Alternatively some songs here do not work particularly the rather distorted "Perfect White Girls" which while a bold experiment is far from being a Griffin classic. The title track will also challenge her traditional fan base since it is almost a punk thrash, although over the years it has grown on this reviewer. The bass heavy "Sorry and Sad" does prove however that Griffin can do soft rock with some panache. As the album proceeds there is much to admire not least the gentle blues of "Sooner or Later" and the one newly released track "Fragile" is excellent. The standouts nonetheless pick themselves. "Mother of God" predates a part of the melody on "Burgundy Shoes" and is a heartbreaking classic worth the price of entry in its own right with the next song "One more girl" almost matching it. The moody "Driving" is pure pop excellence whilst concluding track "So long" is a rough hewn Appalachian lament and is charming.

Like all "lost albums" legends have grown around "Silver Bell" reinforced by Natalie Maines description of it as her secret treasure trove. Factors such as this and its selective leaking over the years has led some to claim it Griffin's best album. 'Silver Bell" is a rock solid album with some classic songs but it is not Griffin's most consistent or finest release. That honour goes to the brilliant "1000 Kisses". Still after all this time it is great to legally complete the released canon of Griffin's work and "Silver Bell" is a very worthy addition to the songwriting credits of a truly great American artist.
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on October 14, 2013
Why Silver Bell was held without being released for 10+ years is a mystery. This is some of Patty Griffin's finest work, a fact that was not lost on other performers like the Dixie Chicks who's use of Truth #2 and Top Of The World turned into monster hits. As anyone who has listened to Patty Griffin knows, she has massive emotional impact that somehow crosses the barrier between performer and listener like no other artist I know of. This woman created a masterpiece with Silver Bell. The album shows a range that will blow you away; from the Zeppelin-like, melt-in-your-mouth feeling of Little God to the sophisticated harmonies she displays with Emilou Harris on Truth # 2, this is an album not to be missed. I predict multiple breakouts into popular music from this album which is going to make the folks at the record label who kept this music in limbo look pretty foolish.
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on October 8, 2013
Truth #2 is a brilliant track. This album was originally recorded in 2000, the follow-up to "Flaming Red," but its release was cancelled by the record company. Only bootleg copies have been available since. It's nice to see Griffin finally release this material.

Bootleg mp3s of "Silver Bell" have been distributed online since 2000. However, for this disc, Patty Griffin has remixed the tracks substantially, not only improving the sound quality, but changing the tone of some of these songs. If you're a Patty Griffin fan, this is a must-buy.
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on October 11, 2013
This turned out to be much better than I even thought. Strangely some of the sounds are similar to Robert Plant's Sensational shape shifters and Band of Joy before they came along...very different from her later classics ...maybe more similar to the preceding Flaming Red. This is one "lost" album I am happy to own. Yes it is more alternative than Americana but after the great American Kid ...nice to hear something different...if only she'd swing by CT soon.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon October 13, 2013
Rather shamefully, I only came across Patty Griffin recently with her excellent American Kid. After that I had no hesitation in trying this "long lost" album on its release, and I think it's at least as good.

There is an excellent review here by Red On Black to which I can't add much except to endorse it wholeheartedly - although I must say that I do disagree with him about Perfect White Girls, which I think is brilliant :o). This is a terrific album, crammed with real quality songs. They are varied, melodically interesting, very well produced and full of great lyrics. It is the quality of the lyrics and Patty Griffin's powerful, sincere and full-blooded performances which really make this album shine for me.

I'm off to try 1000 Kisses on RoB's recommendation. I would suggest that you read his review and then snap this up - it's real quality and very warmly recommended
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on October 8, 2013
I'm so happy that this wonderful album has finally gotten an official release. Patty Griffin made a beautiful thing here. It's full of great songwriting, there's lots of variety, the band is very strong, and Griffin's phenomenal voice has never sounded better. So many great songs! Some are haunting, some are beautiful, and a couple are kick-ass rockers.

In short, this is a genuinely great album. The fact that it was buried for so many years by a clueless record company is not just sad, it's a disgrace to the industry. I wonder if it was suppressed because some soulless executive thought he recognized himself being described in "One More Girl"...

At any rate, it's finally here. Like the Beach Boys "Smile" album, one of the greatest albums you never heard is, against all odds, finally ready to be purchased and enjoyed. Jump on it!
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on October 10, 2013
I was lucky enough to know people who knew people who knew people that I heard, many times, the original Silver Bell, and because of that I favor the original. On the other hand Glyn Johns has done a wonderful job of re-producing the album. Over the years, after Silver Bell, Patty Griffin, has drifted further and further from the material on this album, especially the hard core rock and roll. I buy all of Patty's stuff, but don't keep it all, though as I get older, I like the quieter stuff very much. Anyway you cut it, this is an essential album to any collection and especially if you love Patty Griffin's tremendous talents.
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I'm giving it 5 stars because the work is amazing any way you slice it, and you should definitely buy this, but I'm still going back and this release better than the original mix, or is this not better? It's both really. For those of us lucky enough to have decent copies of the bootleg, the real sell here is the two replacement tracks, "Fragile" and "So Long." The other major upside is being able to really hear Doug's stellar and haunting guitar work, which wasn't boosted as much in the original mix.

Otherwise, I'm finding I prefer Silver Bell in its unofficial form, messy and clippy and thrown together by god knows who though it was. That version is the one that's written on my insides, so it will probably always be the one I prefer. The thing is the old Silver Bell contains the truly definitive edit of "Top of the World" with Patty's mother singing at the end, inexplicably trimmed by 50 seconds on this release (and previously poorly edited on "Impossible Dream"). The song really suffers atmospherically for it. Why anyone would twiddle knobs on that track for any reason boggles my mind, it was perfect.

I reiterate, this edition of Silver Bell is a must-have for Patty fans. But if you can creep around out there and get that old bootleg, you won't be sorry. It's better to have both!
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on November 13, 2013
I got hooked on the song Silver Bell when I purchased the Natalie Maines album Mother. This led me to discovering Patty Griffin and her "lost album" and what a find it was. Three of the songs on the album were favorites of mine through Nat's recordings both with the Dixie Chicks and her solo album. Now that I hear the originals it's funny to see how closely Nat covered these songs. She did not even try to make them her own which is the ultimate compliment to the original artist and songwriter.

Why the record company did not release this album is beyond me. It is a real gem and Patty is a class act. Highly recommended to anyone who likes great music and interesting song lyrics.
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VINE VOICEon June 29, 2015
Although this album's been floating around on the Internet for ages, it was an unfinished piece that was released into the wild by someone unknown party after it languished after being recorded. For a very long time, it was the only way to find the album and I was happy to see that Patty was able to finish the album properly. Since I like supporting artists, I wanted to be sure to have a fully-legal copy and bought it when I found it for sale on Amazon.

For those who have heard the Internet version, this version will be a bit startling at first, but if you're like me, you'll come to prefer it. It's much cleaner and has some very good musicianship on each song.

My two favorite tracks are "Silver Bell" and "Little God", but the album stands out as one of Patty Griffin's best albums. I highly recommend it.
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