Lou Reed: The Blue Mask

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discuss. title track is the most devastating, raging piece of music ever recorded by the man. also, the band is perhaps the best he ever played with during this particular recording. my opinions.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/410Kqe-9BaL._SS400_.jpg

best lou album ever?

haven't you all heard? (surfboard dudes get wiped out, totally), Sunday, 12 October 2008 16:50 (twelve years ago) link

woops

haven't you all heard? (surfboard dudes get wiped out, totally), Sunday, 12 October 2008 16:50 (twelve years ago) link

I listened to this album last night, yeah. Or I mean...this morning. I get confused sometimes. I bought it many years ago simply because I'd heard the title track on the radio and went completely entirely nuts over it. I've said it before on this board, but what I have is a cassette of an interview he did about that song and how he interpreted the lyrics. He said he thought it was the best thing he'd ever done, lyrically.

So anyway, back in the day, I'd bought this album on the strength of that song. And it disappointed me, at the time. But I think it's okay now. I enjoyed it. A little bit too concentrated on trying to carry things with lyrics and poetry, but I did enjoy it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got VU bootlegs to listen to...

Dracula Tells Superman What To Do (Bimble Is Still More Goth Than You), Sunday, 12 October 2008 17:30 (twelve years ago) link

i like Waves of Fear more than the Blue Mask.

dan selzer, Sunday, 12 October 2008 18:31 (twelve years ago) link

I said my peace about the album here. At times too studied and often awkward, it's still leagues better than his seventies work.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Sunday, 12 October 2008 18:34 (twelve years ago) link

I've said it before on this board, but what I have is a cassette of an interview he did about that song and how he interpreted the lyrics. He said he thought it was the best thing he'd ever done, lyrically.

i'm really curious to know if this is online anywhere or if there is a transcription or something because I would love to read it

haven't you all heard? (surfboard dudes get wiped out, totally), Monday, 13 October 2008 16:35 (twelve years ago) link

i think maybe wfmu's blog posted this interview thing? i think i have it somewhere ...

tylerw, Monday, 13 October 2008 16:39 (twelve years ago) link

Definitely the best Lou Reed album, by a wide margin. And while there definitely is some awkwardness, and at times it's flat-out goofy (e.g. the Syl-vi-a chorus of Heavenly Arms) it's still an incredibly great record, one of the 80s best.

kornrulez6969, Monday, 13 October 2008 17:05 (twelve years ago) link

Far and away my favorite solo album of his. The guitar interplay is a thing of beauty, too.

Jazzbo, Monday, 13 October 2008 17:11 (twelve years ago) link

Fernando Saunders is probably my favorite part of the whole thing

haven't you all heard? (surfboard dudes get wiped out, totally), Monday, 13 October 2008 17:16 (twelve years ago) link

"Sylvie and I got out our Ouiji board..."

thirdalternative, Monday, 13 October 2008 17:25 (twelve years ago) link

you know what lou calls Fernando Saunders' bass playing? "Fernandizing."

tylerw, Monday, 13 October 2008 17:27 (twelve years ago) link

i actually kinda admire this and the subsequent records' goofy qualities. i mean, his newfound domesticity and *gasp* love of life came as quite a relief to many a long-time fan when the thing was first released in '82--you know, after Lou had spent nearly a decade grappling with self-defeating nihilism (and with his own head largely up his own ass). also, unlike GUIP, it was actually good--with some fierce (and lovely) guitar playing even. who could ask for more?

"I'ma lose my religion and go secular on you, boy" (Ioannis), Monday, 13 October 2008 17:49 (twelve years ago) link

and he makes domesticity sound scarier than transvestites, dope pushers, and overdoses.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Monday, 13 October 2008 18:01 (twelve years ago) link

well, yeah.. also, his dalliance with the bottle wasn't a very good idea either (and it made him look square to hipsters, natch--"how could you, Lou? i shot up to your song and you're drinkin' bud???").

"I'ma lose my religion and go secular on you, boy" (Ioannis), Monday, 13 October 2008 18:12 (twelve years ago) link

well, it inspired one of my favorite couplets: "Things are seldom good, they go from bad to weird/Hey, gimme another scotch with my beer."

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Monday, 13 October 2008 18:26 (twelve years ago) link

wait, Blue Mask is a "love of life" album??? I could see New Sensations or Coney Island Baby but I've always heard this one as being pretty dark. kind of like the clearheaded sense of self that occurs just after the depression phase of the hangover subisdes...

haven't you all heard? (surfboard dudes get wiped out, totally), Monday, 13 October 2008 18:31 (twelve years ago) link

Actually it comes across as one of his more life-affirming, optimistic albums, IMO.

Jazzbo, Monday, 13 October 2008 18:32 (twelve years ago) link

oh yeah, it gave him an excuse to write another batch of great songs, sure. but career wise, it was damn near suicidal (how many times did i have to hear people exclaim: “I liked him much better when he was all fucked up on drugs, man.”?).

xxp

tru dat. also, Lou is obviously 'in character' on the title track, duh.

"I'ma lose my religion and go secular on you, boy" (Ioannis), Monday, 13 October 2008 18:37 (twelve years ago) link

meanwhile Legendary Hearts remains out of print.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Monday, 13 October 2008 18:41 (twelve years ago) link

not to me (heh).

"I'ma lose my religion and go secular on you, boy" (Ioannis), Monday, 13 October 2008 18:43 (twelve years ago) link

I dunno about this album

Shakey Mo Collier, Monday, 13 October 2008 19:51 (twelve years ago) link

it's really Lou's band at their jazziest; with maybe his greatest rhythm section ever: Fernando + Doane Perry on drums! (wonder what ever happened to him?)

"I'ma lose my religion and go secular on you, boy" (Ioannis), Monday, 13 October 2008 20:25 (twelve years ago) link

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doane_Perry

good grief, he joined Jethro Tull in 1984!!??

"I'ma lose my religion and go secular on you, boy" (Ioannis), Monday, 13 October 2008 20:26 (twelve years ago) link

Average Guy is a funny song - the sound of this is hard for me to get over. All the fretless bass and way-too-crisp guitars, the gated drums, etc. Sonically it doesn't appeal to me.

Shakey Mo Collier, Monday, 13 October 2008 20:26 (twelve years ago) link

well, it was the '80s, you know. sign o' the times.

"I'ma lose my religion and go secular on you, boy" (Ioannis), Monday, 13 October 2008 20:30 (twelve years ago) link

hmm, i wonder if Lou had taken a liking to Chic's early-'80s records?

"I'ma lose my religion and go secular on you, boy" (Ioannis), Monday, 13 October 2008 20:31 (twelve years ago) link

Lou Reed is one of those artists whose sheer prolificness and contrarianism defies all of my attempts at digestion of his catalog, even with the benefit of internet cliffs' notes devices.

I do know that I pretty much always skip over songs from this album when they come up on random iTunes function, whereas "Bottoming Out" from Legendary Hearts rarely gets a pass from me.

dell, Monday, 13 October 2008 20:46 (twelve years ago) link

i'm really curious to know if this is online anywhere or if there is a transcription or something because I would love to read it

http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2006/11/lou_reed_minus_.html

Bimble, Monday, 13 October 2008 21:43 (twelve years ago) link

"Betrayed"! "Home of the Brave"! "Don't Talk To Me About Work"! That album has so many great tunes.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Monday, 13 October 2008 21:44 (twelve years ago) link

"The Last Shot"!

"I'ma lose my religion and go secular on you, boy" (Ioannis), Tuesday, 14 October 2008 06:05 (twelve years ago) link

career wise, it was damn near suicidal

Yes, especially after those multi-million sellers The Bells and Growing Up in Public.

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 08:11 (twelve years ago) link

haha--those were transitional records tho. come to think of it, were any of his Arista albums decent sellers?

"I'ma lose my religion and go secular on you, boy" (Ioannis), Tuesday, 14 October 2008 09:21 (twelve years ago) link

No, but each eighties album outsold its predecessor until New York (which actually went gold!).

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 12:24 (twelve years ago) link

plus, I've read that, thanks to the publishing and songwriting royalties which finally started to trickle in, Lou did rather well in the eighties.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 12:25 (twelve years ago) link

Blue Mask is the best of the Quine/Saunders/Maher albums by a vast margin, and one of my fave Lou solo albums. In fact, I'm a little surprised Quine hasn't gotten more dap in this thread for his contributions. I seem to remember reading in some magazine at the time that they had to send Quine home in a cab after he recorded his bit for "Waves of Fear," and I can totally believe that.

DLee, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 12:46 (twelve years ago) link

Oh, maybe Maher wasn't on that one. Well, Quine/Saunders then.

DLee, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 12:47 (twelve years ago) link

Don't like fretless bass, so that tends to mar this and other albums

Ich Ber ein Binliner (Tom D.), Tuesday, 14 October 2008 12:49 (twelve years ago) link

Lou did rather well in the eighties

The motor scoooter commercial probably helped too. "Hey. Don't settle for walkin' "

kornrulez6969, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 13:49 (twelve years ago) link

I seem to remember reading in some magazine at the time that they had to send Quine home in a cab after he recorded his bit for "Waves of Fear," and I can totally believe that.

this is awesome.

surfboard dudes get wiped out, totally, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 15:04 (twelve years ago) link

I've never understood unconditionally disliking fretless bass. There are so many different tones and styles of playing out there. Yes, you have your typical cheesy jazz fusion, but you also have very simple lines like on PIL's "Rise." Fernando's tone and style is quite unique and funky and pleasing to me.

Have you guys seen the Lou Reed Live in New York DVD from 1983? Great stuff! Quine has a cig hanging from his mouth the whole time, and Fernando's in leather pants.

Patrick South, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 15:17 (twelve years ago) link

From a PSF interview with Quine (the whole thing is here):

"PSF: After that, what would you say about the time you played with Lou Reed?

Musically, the first week and a half was really great, out of the four years. We did The Blue Mask. It's a record that I'm really proud of. There was no rehearsing, no overdubs, no punch-in's for mistakes. The exact opposite of the Voidoids. I inspired and encouraged him to play guitar again. I didn't have a lot of fun with him but at least it's out there and I'm proud of that. With that record, Fernando Saunders and Doane Perry were taken aback by this primitive playing. There was an intensity there and we reacted to each other as musicians. It isn't a jazz record but there's that kind of sensitivity. He listened to some wild ideas I brought in like with 'Waves of Fear'- he had nothing to lose at that point as he'd just done Growing Up In Public.

It's just a shame- I'd still be with him now and put up with whatever personal problems I had with him. But he's not a nice guy. In one way, he respected me. If he yelled at me, I'd yell back. I'm outspoken and don't take crap from people. His problem is that he likes to be surrounded by 'yes' men that flatter him but he's smart enough to know what's going on and he hates them for it and he ends up with a lot of hack musicians.

The Blue Mask was a very big critical success but it didn't sell well. It built up his confidence though. By the time we did Legendary Hearts in late '82, he was much more of a control freak. He was rejecting ideas that I brought in. He was feeling pretty precious about his career. His biggest weakness is that he wants to be regarded as a poet. The more conscious he is of this, the worse songs he writes. It could have been a pretty good record. It wasn't going to be as good as the last one: the songs weren't as good. The atmosphere was really uptight- it's impossible to be friends with him. When I got the final mix, I was really freaked out. He pretty much mixed me off the record. I was in Ohio and took it out in the driveway and smashed the tape into pieces. I didn't talk to him for a month but he knew what he'd done. I have cassettes of the rough mix of the record and it was a really good record but he made it all muddy and murky.

He approached me about playing live and I said 'what the hell.' It was a pretty good band- Fred Maher was there. Lou was very erratic with his rhythm playing but I dug that. It was impossible for the drummer to follow it. Me and Fred had to play around him. Fernando was great but I prefer a Duck Dunn-type player who can hold down the bottom. If Fernando doesn't dig a drummer, he wouldn't play with him- he didn't dig Fred. He's a great player when he plays with someone he likes. We did some more touring. He just happened to record bad concerts like Live In Italy. The band was sensitive enough that we were capable of improvising, like on 'Sister Ray' and 'Heroin' which we only did once. He had to teach it to the others but I knew it already.

But there was more and more of a strain between us. About a day before New Sensations was going to be recorded, he fired me and did the guitar himself. I did do the tour with him afterwards- that was a long tour. I came to him and said 'forget whatever happened, I just want to play with you.' By this time, we had an awful band. The new drummer would only play well in rehearsals and the keyboard player (Peter Woods) worked with Al Stewart and Cyndi Lauper. There wasn't much room to improvise. At the end of 'Kill Your Sons,' I'd do a drone and Lou would do a guitar solo- we'd get pretty far out there. This keyboard player thought it was joke and play with his feet- Lou would have to come over and tell him to stop. Because I wasn't on New Sensations, I didn't have a lot to add live. I'd be doing a song, playing D and G for six minutes like 'Doing the Things that We Want To,' which I didn't really like, with no variation and the keyboard guy playing accordian. I thought, 'this is not why I got a guitar and wanted to play in a rock and roll band.' We hated each other's guts, me and the keyboard player. Lou got really abusive at the end- he'd hog all the guitar solos and made sure I got mixed out- even live. I got back from the tour and decided that was it. I assumed he knew it. He'd put me down to the rest of the band, knowing that they'd tell me about it later.

From the greedy professional angle, I've had three things that have made people interested in who I am. The Voidoids things, the Lou Reed thing and Matthew Sweet. On a personal level, Reed was a guy who really influenced me and I had a chance to give something back to him. Encouraging him to play guitar again was digging my own grave. But I would have done it again because I owed it to him. This guy changed my life. If I did something to put him back in the right direction... I wish that it would have gone on with the level of something like The Blue Mask. Everything else after is pretty lousy. He never found anyone else to replace me except the Velvet Underground and he had to ruin that. I hate him because if I had my way, we'd still be playing. It was good steady work. He didn't tour often. I hate his guts because he made it impossible to play with him. There was nothing in it for me. He was not going to give me any space for any creativity."

DLee, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 15:20 (twelve years ago) link

At the end of 'Kill Your Sons,' I'd do a drone and Lou would do a guitar solo- we'd get pretty far out there. This keyboard player thought it was joke and play with his feet

Yikes

Ich Ber ein Binliner (Tom D.), Tuesday, 14 October 2008 15:24 (twelve years ago) link

off-topic - why is Sally Can't Dance Reed's biggest seller? There are no hits on it and apart from the last trio of songs it sounds fucking horrible.

Shakey Mo Collier, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 15:27 (twelve years ago) link

I think Lou has asked himself the same question on many occasions

Ich Ber ein Binliner (Tom D.), Tuesday, 14 October 2008 15:29 (twelve years ago) link

It's not his biggest seller – it's his highest charting album. His two biggest sellers are Rock and Roll Animal and New York.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 15:30 (twelve years ago) link

and SCD peaked so high on the goodwill and sales built on Transformer and RARA.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 15:31 (twelve years ago) link

It sold on the back of "Rock and Roll Animal", didn't it?

Ich Ber ein Binliner (Tom D.), Tuesday, 14 October 2008 15:31 (twelve years ago) link

(xp)

Ich Ber ein Binliner (Tom D.), Tuesday, 14 October 2008 15:31 (twelve years ago) link

I heard Transformer sold quite well too...

xpost me and my slow typing...

Mark G, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 15:34 (twelve years ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjYS585jwm4

ABBA O RLY? (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 22 September 2020 12:53 (eleven months ago) link

Ha, my guitar teacher (along with Narducy et al.) backed him doing something similar with the Smiths a couple of years back.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oFEkHYNe_k

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 22 September 2020 13:18 (eleven months ago) link

Here's Shannon giving his tribute all to Bowie and Iggy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQ88oSMRo_4

I think he skipped some awards show to do this instead.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 22 September 2020 13:21 (eleven months ago) link

ten months pass...

Sylvia! Sylvia!

No Particular Place to POLL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 13 August 2021 02:09 (one month ago) link

You guys know that story about Sylvia, Ivan Julian and Bo Diddley?

No Particular Place to POLL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 13 August 2021 02:10 (one month ago) link

At Max’s Kansas City.

No Particular Place to POLL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 13 August 2021 02:15 (one month ago) link

Can’t find the original story though, only me posting about it here/pvmic

No Particular Place to POLL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 13 August 2021 02:15 (one month ago) link

You guys know that story about Sylvia, Ivan Julian and Bo Diddley?

― No Particular Place to POLL (James Redd and the Blecchs)

who topped?

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 13 August 2021 02:16 (one month ago) link

Heh, close. Ivan and Sylvia went to see Bo and when they met him Bo thought Sylvia was Ivan’s girlfriend and tried to make some sort of deal with him.

No Particular Place to POLL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 13 August 2021 02:20 (one month ago) link

Sylvia is supposed to be writing a memoir of some kind, which should be interesting ...

tylerw, Friday, 13 August 2021 03:03 (one month ago) link

That'll make two ex-wives with books! Sylvia was interviewed extensively in the DeCurtis biography, there was a lot of interesting stuff about how he basically installed her as his manager and then wondered why the record company wasn't giving him the support he felt he deserved.

As for The Blue Mask, it started the Professor Lou phase of his career where he would put one good song on albums whose interest was maybe more conceptual than musical:

The Blue Mask: "The Gun"
Legendary Hearts: I actually like most of this
New Sensations: title track
Mistrial: "Tell It To Your Heart"
New York: "Dirty Blvd"
Songs for Drella: don't even like the Cale songs on this
Magic and Loss: title track
Set the Twilight Reeling: "Adventurer"
Ecstasy: wow, maybe four good songs!
The Raven: "Call On Me" is the only good song, but some of the recitations are funny
Lulu: about half of this is good

He wanted to make records that were taken as seriously as novels, but I want albums that I can play dozens of more times than I would ever want to reread a book.

Halfway there but for you, Friday, 13 August 2021 15:24 (one month ago) link

Strongly disagree about New Sensations and STTR.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 13 August 2021 15:26 (one month ago) link

Strongly disagree overall

tylerw, Friday, 13 August 2021 15:41 (one month ago) link

xp Not liking blue mask, New York, and Drella is quite a Lou Reed challop!

Shallot Shortage 2021 (morrisp), Friday, 13 August 2021 15:43 (one month ago) link

Strongly disagree overall

Same here.

birdistheword, Friday, 13 August 2021 15:44 (one month ago) link

Also I didn't really like Drella all that much until I got a hold of the Ed Lachman film of their performance. For whatever reason, I found that to be more moving even though the audio itself wasn't really different.

birdistheword, Friday, 13 August 2021 15:45 (one month ago) link

I know these albums well, I could probably recite you lyrics from most of the songs on them. But for an enjoyable listening experience, I'd even prefer Sally Can't Dance or Rock 'n' Roll Heart.

Halfway there but for you, Friday, 13 August 2021 16:00 (one month ago) link

Strongly disagree overall

OTM ... and not for the first time, some people just have very different tastes!

Soundtracked by an ecojazz mixtape (Tom D.), Friday, 13 August 2021 16:05 (one month ago) link

The Blue Mask: "The Gun"

This whole album is consistently great.

Legendary Hearts: I actually like most of this

Ditto, but it needs more Quine.

New Sensations: title track

It's hit-or-miss, but there's at least three other songs on it as good as the title track.

Mistrial: "Tell It To Your Heart"

This album is so awful that I forgot a not-awful song was on it. But I'm not hearing an overriding "concept" on it (unless the concept is "GET ME OUT OF MY RCA CONTRACT NOW").

New York: "Dirty Blvd"

There's a few songs as good as (or better than) "Dirty Blvd", but when I listened to it a few months ago (for the first time in maybe 30+ years), I'd forgotten how infuriatingly both-sidesy "Good Evening, Mr. Waldheim" was. Fuck that song.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 13 August 2021 17:22 (one month ago) link

yeah, "Waldheim" is the only really bad song on New York imo.

tylerw, Friday, 13 August 2021 17:45 (one month ago) link

three weeks pass...

title track and “waves of fear” are incredible and inspiring. Fuck every other singer songwriter who ever lived, this is the real shit

wish I liked 80s lou more tbh, only thing I dig on NS is “high in the city”. “turn out the light” on LH is really cool, it captures that totally lou extremely laid back low pulse rate cool feeling I first got a hit of with “some kind love” back in high school

brimstead, Wednesday, 8 September 2021 15:16 (one week ago) link

i like legendary hearts, which i only heard fairly recently, part of it is i think the low expectations based on the album cover

lou is one of those where i can tolerate the really bad stuff because i feel like he worked in such a way where if he wasn't prone to making such cringey stuff he would never be open to receiving the genius ones

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Wednesday, 8 September 2021 15:40 (one week ago) link

This last is a fair point, although I feel like I have less tolerance for it than some. But I also think it is kind of an integral part of being a fan of his.

What Does Blecch Mean to Me? (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 8 September 2021 15:51 (one week ago) link

yeah the fact that lou generally delivers his great stuff with the same gusto that he does with his less great stuff has something to do with it.

tylerw, Wednesday, 8 September 2021 15:55 (one week ago) link

I remember this Mojo interview with Lou where he was in quite a mood and the interviewer asked something about how he knows songs are good, a jazz record (monk maybe, something real classic) was playing and he walked over and held out his forearm, which had goosebumps and said "look at that, when i feel like that no one can tell me that's wrong"

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Wednesday, 8 September 2021 16:00 (one week ago) link

Legendary Hearts is the come down from Blue Mask, and is otherwise cool cuz it's the only Reed/Quine/Saunders/Maher record except for Live in Italy…

I will quickly mention that in a 1996 Mojo interview, he mentioned that in NYC at the time, there was a Joe Meek renaissance and that he was amused with the amount of compression in the music and somewhat counterintuitively liked it…I was super proud in that that boomlet in town was due to a CD reissue that was my piece de resistance that I pitched and produced…that mean motherfucker who didn't like hardly anything liked something that was my idea!

veronica moser, Wednesday, 8 September 2021 18:38 (one week ago) link

XP I remember that interview! A pretty wild one w/Sylvie Simmons, IIRC. At another point he got so carried away talking about Ornette Coleman that he started crying. He was also eating a lunch of Chinese takeout during the discussion, and at one point, mid-rant, he went, "Owww" after burning his mouth on a hot prawn.

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 8 September 2021 18:50 (one week ago) link

haha yeah it might have been ornette w/the goosebumps, i just remember it was a real "brand name" jazz legend type

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Wednesday, 8 September 2021 19:04 (one week ago) link

At one point, his website had recordings of six or seven different takes of Ornette's solo on "Guilty", from The Raven (I guess a composite was used on the album), which he enthusiastically encouraged the website visitor to sample.

Halfway there but for you, Wednesday, 8 September 2021 19:39 (one week ago) link

Is it time to bring up Terms of Endearment again?

What Does Blecch Mean to Me? (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 8 September 2021 21:04 (one week ago) link

When Lou passed, Spin asked Xgau for thots, and he even did some more listening, incl. to several recently discussed here; I need to check these again too, and finally get to the late live albums he also mentions:

...Reed was making albums about a less-than-tranquil domestic stability that signified metaphorically whatever its factual accuracy: The Blue Mask in 1982 and Legendary Hearts in 1983, both featuring the doomed guitarist Robert Quine, and also I thought New Sensations in 1984, after Reed canned Quine while sticking to the concept. Listening back to that one now, though, I miss Quine...

After playing and probably being an apolitical cynic all his career, he debuted on Sire in 1989 with an album entitled New York that won praise for its social consciousness by copping to liberal shibboleths that wouldn't have sounded out-of-place from Ed Koch on a campaign stop in the Bronx, and that put its truisms across with a rock more VU-like in its toughness than any of the many variants he'd been tossing his fans for years. In 1996 came Set the Twilight Reeling, functionally his love album to the companion of his last two decades, the performance artist Laurie Anderson--which is not to claim a single lyric addressed or reflected any detail of their life together, only that the mood of the thing seemed congruent with the impressions of we who didn't know them. And in 2000, when he was 59, came his last full-fledged solo album, Ecstasy, which I've been playing since I heard Reed was failing on Friday. If his solo career produced a masterwork on the scale of whatever VU album you prefer, this de facto farewell is it. Companionable and perverse, enraptured and enraged, brought to the finish line by an 18-minute guitar freakout as world-historical as "Sister Ray," it reconfigures the passions, resentments, affections, and misfiring neurons that have always driven him to fuse the lyrical and the abrasive, the spiritual and the sarcastic.

There are a bunch of other records, of course--post-Ecstasy, a Poe collab that probably got too much mazel tov and a Metallica collab that probably didn't get enough. But if you want a sense of how he proceeded into that dark night, two of his many live albums are worth a listen: 1998's Perfect Night and 2004's Animal Serenade. In both he's wisecracking and enjoying his guitar and palpably proud that he's written a shitload of songs people want to hear. What he was like offstage those nights I don't know and don't care. What I do know is that the world is poorer because there'll be no more of them.
from https://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/music/reed-13.php

(Wasn't there a 2-disc, maybe import, ed. of the Poe? Would like to hear.)

dow, Sunday, 12 September 2021 21:50 (six days ago) link

His original takes on those, and a lot more, o course, are here: https://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=Lou+Reed (I'd give The Bells an A.)

dow, Sunday, 12 September 2021 21:53 (six days ago) link

The 2CD version of The Raven was released domestically. I reviewed it at the time:

Lou Reed's career is a mystery on at least two levels. The first, of course, is the series of artistic tangents and blind alleys he's caromed down at one point or another since his emergence with the Velvet Underground in the 1960s. In a more meta sense, though, the larger mystery is that he still has a career at all, at least on a major record label. He's never been anything like a sure, or even safe, commercial bet. RCA sponsored Reed through the 1970s, a decade in which he released one successful album (Transformer), two good ones (Berlin and the live Rock 'n' Roll Animal), and a string of records that ranged from the merely competent (Coney Island Baby) to the calculatedly offensive. The latter group included the song "I Wanna Be Black," the infamous noisefest Metal Machine Music and another live recording, Take No Prisoners, on which he spent as much time berating his critics as playing his music. Only near the end of his tenure with the label did Reed release anything which even approached the level of his Velvet Underground work: a pair of back-to-back albums, The Blue Mask and Legendary Hearts, which found him fronting a tasteful but still rocking band and writing some of the best lyrics of his career.

Since the late 1980s, Reed has been on another major label, Warners, shuttling around between a few of its divisions (Sire, Reprise). Virtually every record he's made for them has been in some respect autumnal and more than a little cranky. This has led him down some side roads, of course; one was New York, an exploration of metropolitan entropy regarded by some as his greatest solo album, despite its now-dated topical lyrics. But for the most part, his former preoccupation with the race toward self-destruction has been replaced with a fixation on death, both as it claims others and as it closes in on him. This was the basis for his reunion with Velvet Underground partner John Cale on the Andy Warhol eulogy album Songs For Drella, and his 1992 album Magic and Loss. On his latest record, The Raven, Reed has combined his obsessions with self-destruction and inevitable death into an album which attempts to link his own songs with the writing of Edgar Allan Poe. It's not a seamless fit and, unsurprisingly, Reed comes out looking the worse for the inevitable comparison. His command of language is simply nowhere near the equal of Poe's. Even at his artistic peak in the 1970s, Reed always cultivated a plain-spokenness which has by now devolved into mere grumbling. He seems to feel that listing the decadent effects of time on the body and mind is enough; whatever insights he may have gained from his decrepitude are largely withheld from the listener. And the song "Edgar Allan Poe," which consists of a single, monotonous guitar riff and the repeated chant "This is the story of Edgar Allan Poe/Not exactly the boy next door," is simply an embarrassment. By contrast, the readings from Poe — by actors Steve Buscemi and Willem Dafoe, among others, and accompanied by Reed's music — are terrific, and would have made a great album all by themselves.

Not every song here is a failure. "Blind Rage," which appears early on Disc Two, is a noisy guitar-rock track. "Broadway Song," which opens the same disc, is utterly bizarre: sung by Steve Buscemi, it's a tribute to showbiz done in a lounge arrangement complete with cheesy horns. "Guilty" features the saxophonist Ornette Coleman, which would make it by default the best song on the record even if it was boring or uninspired — and it's not. Ornette's playing is brilliant, especially when he accompanies Reed's croaking vocals, creating a melody the singer can only approximate and dancing around him with endless, inspired variations on it.

The Raven is an interesting idea. Lou Reed has had lots of interesting ideas over the years. Unfortunately, there have only been perhaps a half dozen occasions when the execution has lived up to the potential, and this isn't one of them. It's not a total loss; hardcore fans will certainly find a few gleaming nuggets amid the slurry. But it's nothing a neophyte needs to be concerned with, just one more tangent along the way to wherever Reed is going. And like so many of his previous records, it's totally, wilfully uncommercial.

but also fuck you (unperson), Sunday, 12 September 2021 22:32 (six days ago) link

Christgau got me into those '80s albums but his Lou Reed isn't mine.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 September 2021 22:50 (six days ago) link

I remember hearing Xgau on a World Cafe preview/overview thing for Ecstasy where he brought up the reason he felt Reed had lasted as long as he had on major labels was that his albums weren't prohibitively expensive to make or promote, and that he had a large enough built-in audience willing to check-in on whatever he was doing; even if they didn't necessarily show up on release day, they would show up eventually, so he did respectable catalogue business.

Of course, Ecstasy ended up being his last proper Major Label release.

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Sunday, 12 September 2021 23:06 (six days ago) link

One of the surprising things about the DeCurtis biography was learning how high Lou's commercial expectations were for his later career - airplay, gold records (he got both for New York), fancy record store set-ups. It didn't help that he was not necessarily going to enthusiastically join in the banal process of record promotion, or that he installed his wife Sylvia as his manager with no particular background.

Halfway there but for you, Monday, 13 September 2021 01:55 (five days ago) link

Thanks for the new input; I thought this thread might have run its course for a while,as old threads usually do after a few days. Think all yall have seen this, but for people of the future, some good related discussions: Robert Quine

dow, Monday, 13 September 2021 03:26 (five days ago) link

I just want to say “Coney Island Baby” sounds great when drinking wine with friends. Very laidback. Sounds like outtakes from earlier Lou Reed/VU compositions which is odd considering this album was made a year after “metal machine music”, it feels like something that came even before “transformer”.

I think it might be the last Lou Reed album I can play entirely without feeling like I want to change the mood entirely.

✖✖✖ (Moka), Monday, 13 September 2021 03:44 (five days ago) link

Btw I do like “metal machine music” but I find it too homogenic to be a true classic or at least to warrant any replay value. It’s one of those things that it’s more fun to analyze and talk about than to actually experience. I think I’ve only listened to it in its entirety two times in my life.

✖✖✖ (Moka), Monday, 13 September 2021 03:59 (five days ago) link

I rarely set out to listen to MMM. I have a CD copy and it's on the computer and walkman, and I often shuffle through my collection while listening. Whenever MMM happens to come on there is an instant "Argh, wtf!" followed immediately by a feeling of calm and I trip out on it. I like it and I there is a lot of depth in the sounds.

Does it have a reputation in the noise rock community? Is there a noise rock community? Maybe it's not noise "rock." Noise music? Anyways, somebody that can get off on My Bloody Valentine ought to be able to appreciate MMM.

If MMM was a vindictive "fuck you" to the record company, it also turned out to be really good.

Once Lou figured out what Lou Reed was supposed to be, I was done with him. Take No Prisoners is the last Lou that I really love, along with Street Hassle. I've never tried The Bells or Growing Up In Public. I'm a little afraid that they will make me reconsider Street Hassle in a negative light.

I tried Blue Mask and New York and most of what came after and none of it did much for me.

Cow_Art, Monday, 13 September 2021 04:28 (five days ago) link

MMM feels like an art installation that earned notoriety due to the change in context. When you look at what was essentially a touring exhibit of Lou's guitars as well as the Lincoln Center's display of the same instruments, aurally it was apiece with MMM, and they didn't get any shit for any of that because it seemed perfectly reasonable. I'm sure if you walked into MoMA hearing the same thing in a room somewhere, you wouldn't blink.

I've grown to appreciate his '70s output a whole lot more even though it's wildly uneven, but The Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts, New Sensations, New York, the film Songs for Drella and Ecstasy are my favorite works. I need to revisit the Berlin film...I recall some critics who thought it was better than the studio LP, but I've grown to love the studio LP, even if everyone I know knocks it for being too harrowing or depressing.

birdistheword, Monday, 13 September 2021 05:50 (five days ago) link

I wouldn't say the Berlin movie is better than the original record but it certainly succeeds far better then most "artist revisiting classic album in total" exercises

chr1sb3singer, Monday, 13 September 2021 13:27 (five days ago) link

Sounds like outtakes from earlier Lou Reed/VU compositions

"She's My Best Friend" is a VU outtake. Bonus tracks that came with the 30th Anniversary edition included Doug Yule on guitar and bass.

willem, Monday, 13 September 2021 13:52 (five days ago) link

Yes, those Yule-inclusive outtakes were from the "original" Coney Island Baby sessions in January 1975, which were shut down when producer Steve Katz told RCA that the sessions were going nowhere. Then came Metal Machine Music in the summer, and a return to recording Coney Island Baby with a different producer in the fall.

Halfway there but for you, Monday, 13 September 2021 14:08 (five days ago) link

I wouldn't say the Berlin movie is better than the original record but it certainly succeeds far better then most "artist revisiting classic album in total" exercises

That sounds more plausible. I can't think of a single live revisitation of an album that would somehow "replace" the original studio version. There are live albums that feel like definitive documents for a given band (The Allman Brothers' Fillmore album, probably the Grateful Dead's first live album), but they're not the track list of a previous album.

birdistheword, Monday, 13 September 2021 16:11 (five days ago) link

title track still the greatest song ever

brimstead, Wednesday, 15 September 2021 20:33 (three days ago) link

one thing about my lou love is that I don’t feel defensive about haters. it’s ok, he’s not for you. hes for me and the other fuckups

brimstead, Wednesday, 15 September 2021 20:35 (three days ago) link

but if you’re not a fuckup it’s ok to like lou

brimstead, Wednesday, 15 September 2021 20:36 (three days ago) link

I like Lou, I think he's great
He's a solace to the world, he's my mate

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 15 September 2021 21:02 (three days ago) link


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