Some peo­ple just go out danc­ing / oth­er peo­ple like us we got­ta work. Lou Reed’s Sweet Jane has been spe­cial to me since the first time it crossed my radar, which I don’t re­mem­ber since it was in the Seven­ties. This may be Lou Reed’s mas­ter­piece.

I’m pret­ty old, but too young to have been in­to the Vel­vet Un­der­ground. But I was liv­ing in dingy base­ment back in those days when some­one brought home Lou Reed’s Rock n Roll An­i­mal and oh my good­ness, ev­ery note on that record spoke to me, and it still does. I blogged at length on the sub­ject a dozen years ago, Let me quote my­self:

Let’s see: the band is tight as any famous-name clas­si­cal string quar­tet, the gui­tars are or­ches­trat­ed and played well; Lou’s vo­cals are wasted-sounding, which is ap­pro­pri­ate, but the phras­ing and tim­ing is right up there. And the songs, those songs are jam-packed full of won­der­ful melodies and lyrics that get their hooks in­to your brain and won’t let go.

Wel­l, OK, on the oth­er side of the coin, yes, it’s heavy pompous Seven­ties glam/are­na rock, and two of the songs are to­tal­ly about get­ting high, and the guitar-playing isn’t very in­no­va­tive (it’s very good, just not very in­no­va­tive) and Heroin in par­tic­u­lar hasn’t worn all that well. But stil­l, this is re­al­ly extra-fine mu­sic.

Rock n Roll Animal

In that blog piece I al­so dissed Lou’s re­mark that the best ver­sion of Sweet Jane was the Cow­boy Junkies’, from The Trin­i­ty Ses­sion. But as I get old­er I find I keep go­ing back to Trin­i­ty and of­ten get teary-eyed. Its beau­ty is stark, the per­for­mance pol­ished, and the record­ing sounds fab­u­lous on the big sys­tem.

I on­ly saw Lou on­ce, one of his last per­for­mances, in 2010 as part of the Van­cou­ver Olympics cul­tur­al fes­ti­val. It was at a weird con­cert where a whole crowd of mu­si­cians not in­clud­ing Neil Young per­formed Neil’s Songs. Lou took an aton­al elec­tric charge at Help­less which was mem­o­rable if not ac­tu­al­ly good, and then joined Elvis Costel­lo for the clos­ing ex­tend­ed raw-noise melt­ing down of Cow­girl In The Sand, which was ac­tu­al­ly pret­ty ex­cel­len­t.

This is part of the Song of the Day se­ries (back­ground).

Links · Spo­ti­fy playlist. From Rock n Roll An­i­mal: Ama­zon, iTunes, Spo­ti­fy. From The Trin­i­ty Ses­sion: Ama­zon, iTunes, Spo­ti­fy. As for live video, it’s a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing, but here is Lou look­ing way drug­gy with part of the Rock n Roll An­i­mal Band and lousy vo­cals in Paris, and then much old­er in a Vel­vet Un­der­ground re­union, with in­suf­fi­cient gui­tar roar but nice snap­py vo­cals and Mau­reen Tucker’s down­town drum­ming. As for the Junkies, they’ve al­ways been more a stu­dio than a per­for­mance band, but this is pret­ty grip­ping.


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May 02, 2018
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