Lou Reed – The Raven

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Album Review by EDF

Well this is unexpected. Originally a stage play performed last year in New York, Lou Reed decides to use Edgar Allan Poe as his subject matter to what can only be described as a brave experiment.

It’s been over thirty years since Lou Reed’s debut solo album was released but it was his second album, TRANSFORMER, released in 1972, produced and featuring David Bowie and Mick Ronson that brought him to a wider audience. Tracks featured included SATELLITE OF LOVE, PERFECT DAY and the classic transsexual tale WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. His follow-up album, BERLIN was released the following year but was not as successful as its predecessor. Reed changed styles after this and went for a heavier guitar sound producing an album of white noise, the 1975 METAL MACHINE MUSIC, which has been described as unlistenable.

The next few albums Reed released were average until he came back with a bang with his 1989 album NEW YORK. Moving on, his latest release is THE RAVEN, a double CD based on the stage play mentioned earlier and featuring a host of guest actors reading Poe’s work. The contents within concentrate on a selection of Poe’s work. Instead of weaving a coherent storyline that would have made THE RAVEN easy to follow, the approach is unpredictable and does not make this your typical concept album.

Throughout the two CD’s, we have a real mishmash of instrumental music, a selection of Poe read by the likes of Willem Dafoe, Steve Buscemi and Amanda Plummer amongst others and guest vocalist as well as Reed singing on a number of songs. The best of all of those is the beautiful VANISHING ACT, accompanied by strings and is destined to be a Lou Reed classic.

I can see why a lot of people will not like this. Unlike the unlistenable METAL MACHINE MUSIC, this is creatively an interesting release from Reed. Anyone with an interest in Poe or the theatre just might enjoy this but those looking for an album full of Lou Reed songs will be disappointed. Reed does not sing on all of the songs featured and on those he does, they will either be or not be a hit with his fans. This is an interesting project and how many artists do you know hitting the ripe age of 60 that are coming up with an alternative, creative release such as this.

4 stars