Lou Reed's "Guitar with a Sound Like Diamonds" (5/29/98)
Lou Reed, Perfect Night (Reprise 1998) - Veteran rocker Lou Reed returns with Perfect Night, a live performance encompassing his career. With a new guitar sound (see below), Perfect Night is a fine showcase for the moody rocker.
And Lou Reed is nothing if not moody. During a 30-year career that began with the Velvet Underground in the 60's and continued with such renowned solo releases as Transformer and Magic & Loss, Reed has carved a name for himself as an iconoclastic performer who is not afraid to bear his soul.
Perfect Night was recorded on July 3, 1997, as part of the prestigious Meltdown Festival at London's Royal Festival Hall. Reed was invited to perform by guest organizer Laurie Anderson (who also invited spoken word pioneer, Ken Nordine). For Perfect Night, Reed brought along his trusted band, including Mike Rathke on guitar, Fernando Saunders on bass, and Tony "Thunder" Smith on drums.
But the star of the show is Reed and his guitar. Perfect Night is a quasi-unplugged performance, as Reed used a unique acoustic guitar arrangement. Says Lou, "And then I discovered that I can plug straight into one of my amps, and that was the sound I wanted to hear: amplified purity. . . Also, I had gotten this incredible acoustic guitar, and I still remember in the old apartment plugging it in - what an astonishing sound - and I thought 'I want everything to sound like this.'
Reed continues. "In some ways, it was really luck. Most acoustic guitars you plug into an amp are going to sound horrible. I mean really horrible. But the guy who built the guitar knew the correct pick-up to use, and as soon as I heard it, I called. I wanted to have this guitar for the London show. It was shockingly beautiful to hear it through the amp. I'd never heard a sound like that.
"The night of the show, when the band and I hit the stage, I was really pumped. I had an acoustic guitar with the sound of diamonds, a sound that no one had ever really head before. I had a sound and I knew it, and I was going to be able to share it - me and the guys in the band."
And Reed does share it, on such songs as a subdued "Vicious," old favorite "Coney Island Baby," and "New Sensations" (a great driving song about motorcycles). Also included are two songs from a collaboration with Robert Wilson: "Into the Divine" and "Talking Book."
Reed wraps up the 66-minute, 15-song set with "Rip Tide" and the ironic, "Sex With Your Parents," both from his last studio album, Set the Twilight Reeling (1996).
One thing lacking on Perfect Night is a sense of audience participation. Perfect Night has a studio feel, with only limited audience feedback. And Lou remains his typical, laconic self. But his guitar skills are legendary, and Reed is capable of making a great rock recording. Perfect Night Live in London won't disappoint any fans.
Sue Foley, Ten Days in November(Shanachie 1998) - Veteran blues guitarist Sue Foley is back with her fifth album, Ten Days in November. Recorded after the birth of her son, Foley shows that motherhood hasn't dampened her guitar skills.
And Foley is of the best blues/rock guitarists in the business. A native of Ottawa, Canada, Foley moved to Austin, Texas, in 1990, where she was immersed in the boiling pot that has produced such talents as The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lou Ann Barton, and Marsha Ball.
Says Foley, "It was like a complete dream come true. There was no better university I could have gone to than to go to Austin and play. And it wasn't just the blues, but everything I was exposed to: Mexican music, zydeco, Louisiana swamp music. You don't hear that stuff in the north country."
On the new album, Foley (lead guitars and vocals) is joined by Jeremy Baum on Hammond organ and keyboards, Jonathan Sanborn on bass, Stuart Stahr on drums, and Joe Ferry on percussion. Not surprisingly, the album was recorded during ten days in November 1997 with production help from Joe Ferry.
The star of the show is Foley's amazing pink Telecaster guitar. Mixing blues, rock, roots, and a bunch of other styles, Foley emerges as a unique stylist. Thus, the songs range from the get-down blues of "Baltimore Skyline," to the rootsy "The Forest," to the more introspective "Dating Game."
Foley is a major talent (even if her voice is not her strongest skill), and Ten Days in November should expose her to a wider audience.
- Randy Krbechek © 1998
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