• Lou Reed’s poetry from 1970 collected in new book

    By | March 7, 2018

    Written after he quit the Velvet Underground.

    In 1970, a 28-year-old Lou Reed left the Velvet Underground and moved back to his hometown in Long Island to write poetry.

    Read more: 50 years on: The Velvet Underground & Nico

    A new book from Anthology Editions explores Reed’s creative output from this period.

    Do Angels Need Haircuts? features his poetry alongside photographs and “ephemera from this era, including previously unreleased audio of the 1971 St. Mark’s Church reading”.

    The book also includes a forward by Anne Waldman with an afterword by Laurie Anderson.

    Do Angles Need Haircuts? is published April 2018 by Anthology Editions, head here for more info.

  • Jenny Hval collaborator Susanna reinterprets Joy Division, Lou Reed and more on new album

    By | November 6, 2017

    Go Dig My Grave also features a once-banned poem by Charles Baudelaire.

    Norwegian musician Susanna has teamed up with harp player Giovanna Pessi, accordion player Ida Hidle and fiddle player Tuva Syvertsen for new album Go Dig My Grave.

    Listen next: VF Mix 37: Susanna’s haunting, cinematic vinyl mix

    According to the press release, the LP features 10 reinterpreted songs brought together “from seemingly disparate worlds”, including “traditional English and American folk songs, numbers by Purcell, Elizabeth Cotten, Joy Division and Lou Reed, as well as a new composition by Susanna written to a poem from Charles Baudelaire’s once-banned Flowers of Evil”.

    Go Dig My Grave is out 9th February via Susanna’s own SusannaSonata label.

    Listen to title track ‘Go Dig my Grave’ and check out the track list below.

    Tracklist

    1. Freight Train (Elizabeth Cotten)
    2. Cold Song (John Dryden/Henry Purcell)
    3. Invitation to the Voyage (Charles Baudelaire/Susanna Wallumrød)
    4. Rye Whiskey (Traditional)
    5. The Willow Song (Anonymous)
    6. Go Dig My Grave (Traditional)
    7. Lilac Wine (James Shelton)
    8. Wilderness (Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner)
    9. The Three Ravens (Old English folk ballad)
    10. Perfect Day (Lou Reed)

  • Lou Reed’s entire musical archive to be housed at New York Public Library

    By | March 3, 2017

    There may even be a listening room dedicated to the singer.

    Yesterday would have been Lou Reed’s 75th birthday and to celebrate the occasion, the New York Public Library has announced it will house the legendary artist’s entire musical archive.

    The announcement was made at a press conference at NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center which featured speeches from Reed’s sister and his longtime partner, performance artist Laurie Anderson, Billboard points out.

    In addition to the archive, Anderson said she has has pitched “phase two” of the project which would be a “Lou Reed Listening Room” so people attending the library have a place to hear the music as intended and provide a resource for younger musicians.

    “Lou’s music was super-physical,” she said and the listening room would provide a place where the “force and energy” of the recordings could be properly experienced. The archive includes 300 linear feet of paper records, electronic records, and photographs, as well as approximately 3,600 audio and 1,300 video recordings including unreleased material.

    Many artifacts from the archive will be on display at the Library’s midtown Stephen A. Schwarzman Building until March 20. Head to The New York Times for a slide show of some of the materials.

  • Lou Reed early solo albums collected in massive 6xLP box set

    By | September 14, 2016

    Remastered by Reed before his death.

    Legacy Recordings will release Lou Reed – The RCA & Arista Album Collection, Vol 1, the first box set in a series looking back at the late singer’s solo albums.

    Comprised of six early Reed albums, Vol 1 includes: Transformer (1972), Berlin (1973), Rock n Roll Animal (1974), Coney Island Baby (1975), Street Hassle (1978) and The Blue Mask (1982). The LPs will be housed in a meticulous reproduction of the original artwork, with an accompanying 30 page book. The recordings were remastered by Reed in the months before his October 2013 death.

    “Lou put his heart into remastering these records,” Laurie Anderson, Reed’s widow, said in a press release. “They are not smoothed out. Sometimes remastering revealed their details and roughness in the most exciting ways. They leap out at you with their original energy.”

    Lou Reed – The RCA & Arista Vinyl Collection, Vol 1 will be available on November 18, pre-order you copy here.

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  • How John Cale rebuilt Music For A New Society, his most intimate and devastating album

    By | February 3, 2016

    That John Cale’s discography outside of his work with the Velvet Underground starts and ends with Paris 1919 is indeed a most impoverished viewpoint. Right up there is 1982’s oft overlooked Music For A New Society, which catches Cale on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

    With the item back in print on vinyl, along with a visceral new re-working album M: FANS, Martin Aston revisits Cale at his most anguished and fractured.


    Words: Martin Aston


    John Cale was recently asked what inspired him to keep going after the best part of half a century of recording and touring: “Finding new ways to do things,” he replied, adding, “It’s a quest that keeps you hungry.”

    If keeping the brain activated is the path to a long life, then perhaps Cale might live to see out a century of making music. Is there another musician, let alone one who celebrates his 74th birthday next month, who’s in his studio every day when not on tour, writing? (He’s already got 27 songs stockpiled for his next album).

    On tour, in 2015 alone, Cale kept advancing: he premiered Signal To Noise (“an experimental exploration of durational audio-visual movements”, apparently) and a six-hour performance for New York’s Whitney Museum of Art inspired by Andy Warhol’s Empire film, whilst making room for his continuing Nico tribute show Life Along The Borderline and performances of his own 1973 album Paris 1919. And when it came to re-mastering another of his solo albums, 1982’s long-out-of-print Music For A New Society, Cale conceived an entirely new version, christened M:FANS, as his reaction to the causes of the original, as if he is remixing his own brain.

    Released this last month as separate vinyl packages or as one conjoined CD, Music For A New Society and M:FANS are two distinct chapters in a restless quest that’s proved even more prolific, enterprising and risk-taking than David Bowie’s. Setting aside M:FANS for now, Music For A New Society is a very strong contender for the most fascinating and compelling record of Cale’s solo years: the restless questing artist on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

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    After studying music in London and New York through the early ’60s, Cale’s initial recordings took a drier, cerebral approach with avant-garde experiments in minimalist form before taking an entirely new direction when Cale met Lou Reed and they formed The Velvet Underground. Post-Velvets, Cale had – ironically, given Reed supposedly fired him for persisting with outlandish ideas – turned to a dreamy, melancholic brand of singer-songwriting (1971’s Vintage Violence and the orchestrated Paris 1919), then gone for the option marked ‘Dirtyass Rock’n’Roll’ – to use one songtitle from that era – and after producing Patti Smith’s Horses, continued with a mixture of careering garage-rock and gaunt ballads. By 1980, he’d acquired a nasty cocaine habit, had no clue how he could sell records, or where to go next.

    Music For A New Society had a fraught birth, to say the least. With Cale having folded his Spy label imprint into Michael Zilkha’s Ze Records, and retired his band for a run of solo concerts, Zilkha proposed an album to capture this new phase. Rising to the challenge – “a very good one” Cale thought – he created an unusual brief for the exercise; to only allow ten days in the studio, and only set the tape rolling when he was ready to improvise.

    Was Cale nuts? If he’d wanted to sell records, this wasn’t the solution. The result was both exquisite and unhinged, with random episodes where Cale audibly unravels, like the madman in the attic, putting him in the same place as Lou Reed’s Berlin or Big Star’s Third. Cale once recalled the recording process as “like method acting. Madness. Excruciating. I just let myself go. It became a kind of therapy, a personal exorcism.” But that fed into the album’s extreme qualities; its nerve-shredding raw intimacy, its fractured, anguished beauty.

    “I can’t get away from the fact it’s a very personal album – it was just chaotic and unresolved,” Cale says today. “My motivation at the time was to refocus my life on stuff other than what was going on – to turn what’s going on right now into something of value later on – which is a big part of why I wanted to present the album in the different way, as M: FANS. I also wanted to be able to listen to the songs again, because I can’t easily go back to the original. A lot of aggro and despair went into that record, and I recognise every gargoyle as they come along – but they made the album at the time.”

    Music For A New Society features one rock arrangement, the lurching ‘Changes Made’, and one strange ambient treatment, ‘Rise, Sam And Rimsky Korsakov’, but the crux of the album is its piano ballads, naked and wired, such as ‘Taking Your Life In Your Hands’, ‘Broken Bird’, ‘Chinese Envoy’ (lyrically, …New Society is as much mystery as confession) and a re-recording of one of his most magisterial old songs, ‘Close Watch’. And then there was the lengthy, wayward, crazed ‘Sanctus’, titled ‘Sanities’ when the album was first released because the studio engineer felt that Cale sounded in danger of losing his.

    Thirty-three years since …New Society was released, this is no ‘landmark’ anniversary, so why now? The impetus was a request in 2014 from Denmark’s Aarhus Festuge festival to play Music For A New Society live. How could the most naked of Cale’s albums translate in a festival context?

    john-cale-couv-mfans

    “We’d already been discussing how to reissue the album, to digitise it and get the process rolling,” Cale recalls, “and all these new ideas popped up. Looking back to the emotions of the old record, which were dark and draconian, it was gentle one minute and hard the next, and then frightening… So do you present that exactly as the original? No; you do it as a concert and you try to tell a story, which gives you a glimpse into my life at the time.”

    So Cale set about re-imagining it with his current live band, and with his ongoing fascination with digital music – from electronica to hip-hop – came up with M: FANS, which crackles with louder, fleshed out and rhythmically heavier frequencies, while sometimes sampling the original, giving Cale the opportunity for closure on one of the most testing eras of his life. This included his response to Lou Reed’s death toward the end of 2014, which Cale was able to convey through the new version of ‘If You Were Still Around’, for which Cale released a music video on the first anniversary of Reed’s passing. “The song fitted perfectly to Lou, on a relationship that was really scattered and ill-defined,” Cale reflects.

    Some fans will baulk at the changes Cale made, turning some ruined ballads into charged, modern pop, as if it’s sacrilege on his part. For example ‘Close Watch’, is now a spectral trance-duet with Amber Kaufman of The Dirty Projectors (Cale enthuses about her “amazing ability to replicate microtonal shifts”) while ‘Chinese Envoy’ is even more radical, a borderline-pop song, “a happier song the way it is now,” Cale reckons. “But it doesn’t offend the sensibility of the song. I think the tracks have benefitted from being given more attention this time. The rawness and immediacy that comes from making mistakes, as I did, and the struggle to get words out – that goes away when you do it again, so you need something else.”

    It will be interesting to see what Cale comes up with when he embarks on the very first live performance of The Velvet Underground And Nico debut album, to mark the 50th anniversary of its recording (it was the band’s label, Verve, that held it up until 1967). Will it be a faithful reproduction or adventurous reconstruction? Cale’s not saying. But given how Music For A New Society and its equally radical twin have turned out, no one can predict anything, except that it will be fascinating, compelling, and emotional. With Bowie’s demise, and Reed gone too, we urgently need Cale to keep questing, to stay hungry, to keep finding new ways to do things.


    Cover image courtesy of Cale Archives

  • The Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat gets extended anniversary vinyl reissue

    By | November 27, 2013

    John Cale and Lou Reed’s sophomore masterpiece remembered 45 years on.

    As the tributes continue to pour in for the late Lou Reed who passed away last month, UMC have announced that they will be reissuing The Velvet Underground’s superb second album White Light/White Heat 45 years after it was first released on Verve Records.

    Released alongside the deluxe CD version, the 13-track double LP will bolster the remastered original with previously unreleased outtakes and alternate versions, giving an insight into the working relationship between Cale, Reed and the rest of the band, who were enjoying a degree of freedom having hewn themselves from the artistic Andy Warhol.

    Recorded in just two days, Cale once called it a “rabid record” and one that was “consciously anti-beauty”, a transgressive attitude that was reflected in the poor reception it received at the time. Forty-five years on, the crunching guitars and avant-garde lyricism (drugs, orgies and lobotomies) sound as fresh as ever.

    The rejuvenated edition is set to be released on 9th December. Click here for more details.

    Listen to wonderfully dry script ‘The Gift’ below:

  • Lou Reed and photographer Mick Rock collaborate for deluxe book and 7″ release “Transformer”

    By | October 9, 2013

    Intimate photos of Lou Reed shot by friend Mick Rock collected in high-end coffee table publication.

    Known as “the man who shot the 70’s”, Mick Rock’s relationship with former Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed runs deeper than most. Close friends from the moment Rock pitched the out of focus cover shot to Reed for the cover of 1972’s landmark Transformer, the history of their personal and professional collaboration collected in a new book by the same name looks set to reveal Lou Reed in the most intimate of lights.

    With unseen and the well-known photos side by side and chosen by Reed himself from Rock’s extraordinary archive, Transformer also includes a wart-and-all manuscript of a dialogue between the two retracing some of their most treasured (and often candid) memories.

    Transformer is available in “Collector” and “Deluxe” editions, both of which are signed by Reed & Rock and contain a limited edition 7″ picture disc, while the latter will also throw in a 10″ x 12″ signed Giclée print. Capped at 2,000 and 350 copies respectively, Transformer has been published by Genesis and is out now. Click here for more info.

    Look at the Deluxe Edition below:

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