Reed shows off "heavy bear" side on two-CD tribute to 19th-century poet
Legend has it when Waterboy Mike Scott delivered Fisherman’s Blues after a long time “getting his head together”, a label boss called him in and said, “Great. You’ve spent four years off and you’ve made a fucking folk album.”
Christ knows what he’d make of Lou Reed’s latest double album, The Raven, based on POEtry, the musical founded on the peculiar life and work of Edgar Allan Poe, which Lou and Robert Wilson performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last year. You missed it? No matter. Lou commits it to CD here, on this quasi-‘life and crazy times’ of the poet.
Psychosis plagued Poe’s life. “He was no ordinary Joe,” Reed points out kindly. “If you haven’t heard of him you must be deaf or blind.” In the mood for a rock star lecture? No doubt Poe wasn’t cut from the same cloth as we mere mortals, yet one gets the feeling this sprawling, unwieldy concept, featuring poems set to music as well as some stand-alone songs, will be, at best, admired, played once and filed away. All albums are vanity projects, but this vanity may be in vain, despite its benign nature.
“The Bells” and “Annabel Lee” are influences that have always taken root in Reed’s work, and he’s never been afraid to munch a cockamamie project?Berlin, Songs For Drella, Magic And Loss. The Raven also comes with a stellar cast of musical and theatrical luvvies?Dave Bowie, the missus Laurie Anderson, Ornette Coleman, Steve Buscemi and Willem Dafoe. Obviously it’s not all pretentious.
Still, at 60 Reed’s entitled to do what he wants. If he wants to do an operatic version of “Perfect Day”, get back into his “Blind Rage” character or duet with Dave on “Hop Frog”, he can. The rest of us may prefer to score some Poe by bell, book and candle. Whatever, you will need inordinate patience to sit through something that sounds like one of Frasier’s follies with Kelsey Grammer going off on one.
What was it the raven quoth? “Nevermore.” I’m with the bird on that one.