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.
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.
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.