Ecstasy (Lou Reed – Artist Of The Year Part 22)

With this album that comes four years after Set The Twilight Reeling, an album about Lou Reed’s newfound adulthood love that made him feel like a child again, we get a return to the two guitars, bass and drum format  that was largely absent on the previous album. Here Lou Reed employs a second guitarist to help him out, and there are, like the previous album, some embelishments in the form of other instruments, but for the most part this is a straight-forward rock album by Lou Reed, you get exactly what you expect.

Actually, this was the last “Lou Reed” album (if you think about what a Lou Reed album would sound like. The next few releases would be very different.

The first few songs don’t really stand out, but if you listen to them separately, outside of the context of the album itself, they are great examples of Lou Reed’s late career. Solid musicianship that serves as a driving force for the lyrics.

“Future Farmers of America”

There is a happiness in Lou Reed’s personal life that shows up, but he still has some issues to get off his chest. At times the music is soft, ballady, other times it is in your face. In using the standard rock and roll format Lou Reed is using a lot of different tools at his disposal to tell his stories. Many of them this time around are from a first-person perspective, a clear departure from his earlier works.

There are two pieces on Ecstasy that could be counted as the greatest in his career. The first is the seven minute “Rock Minuet” which is classic Lou Reed storytelling. Then there is the eighteen (yes, 18) minute “Like A Possum” and is rock and roll as art fusing the poetry with the guitar.

“Rogue”

As if to cleanse the palate from the lengthy “Like A Possum” immediately after that track we get “Rogue” a one minute instrumental featuring Laurie Anderson on her electric violin. Then the album closes with a poetically rocking number.

Ecstasy is a brilliant album that wasn’t meant to be Lou Reed’s final solo rock album, but it is, and it wasn’t his final work – which for his career, is extremely appropriate.

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Set The Twilight Reeling (Lou Reed – Artist Of The Year Part 21)

“Egg Cream” opens up Lou Reed’s 1996 album Set The Twilight Reeling and is essentially an ode to a childhood treat. That is what sets the tone for his first album in four years. Another song later on “HookyWooky” is a play on skipping school. There is a lot of that unbridled childhood emotion on this album, and while he can not simply be happy or upbeat and positive, this is about as much of that sort of an album we could expect from Lou Reed.

“NYC Man” is the second song on the album, and it is Lou Reed describing himself. His previous marriage, his second, has ended, and it was about this time he had connected with Laurie Anderson who would be his third and final wife. She would even appear on this album. I’ll get to that in a minute. “NYC Man” appears to be Reed singing directly to Anderson, not so much a love song, but going over his apprehension for falling in love again and not wanting to be hurt.

Following the same formula he had for the last few albums, Lou Reed decides to alter it a little bit here. He plays almost all of the guitar parts himself, eschewing the two guitar players panned stereo left and right. There are also a few songs with embellishments of piano or horns. Unlike his earlier albums they are merely window dressing to the songs they appear in rather than heavily permeating the album as a whole.

Actually, there is a fair amount of acoustic guitar on this album as well. Somehow it all still sounds unmistakably like Lou Reed. It’s his particular style of singing and storytelling, his use of rock and roll as art.

Laurie Anderson provides some backing vocals on “Hang On To Your Emotions” which is about falling in love and not being sure about it. His love songs are really interesting.

Following up on the idea that this is Lou Reed at perhaps his most positive, “The Proposition” sounds like his marriage proposal to Laurie Anderson. And it is not cheery, but it is sweet.

Set The Twilight Reeling is Lou Reed being nostalgic, upbeat, sentimental, and it all still somehow winds up having a biting edge to it all. The album closes with the title track and includes the most telling lyric – “I accept the new found man” meaning he isn’t looking for anything any more, and accepts who he is, where he is at in life.

 

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A Positive Outlook

This post started out as a comment on another’s blog post. You should check her out. Her writing is far superior to my own. Well, she is an actual writer, so there’s that.

Over the last few years I have been trying to be more… something… I can’t seem to put my finger on it. Positive is not the right word. Intentional? Appreciative? Accepting of what I have? There are so many different but similar facets of emotion that can be said here, and I can not seem to get the words right. Grateful is only part of it.

There is something to be said about living honestly, being true to yourself. Finding that truth, however, can be difficult.

People think I’m in a bad mood or being nihilistic when I answer truthfully. If you ask me how I am doing I’m actually going to tell you. I might be tired (more than likely) or my legs might be sore from spin class. Sometimes I offer up a snarky response, but it is still wrapped in honesty. When I say “I’m not dead yet” I am not being negative, it is a form of affirmation of life. Really, I’m trying to appreciate what I have. Instead of listing off the litany of things that might be going wrong in my day I try to focus on something that is positive. It could be worse. I try to acknowledge that and in doing so appreciate that fact.

Part of that, or maybe it is related to that, I’m not sure, is how I look at the world.

Literally.

I have spent decades, actual decades of my life walking with my head down. I guess it started as a survival tactic in school. Keep your head down, don’t make eye contact, avoid, avoid, avoid. Getting bullied in school will do that to you.

Yes, I was bullied, and no, many other kids had it much tougher than me, I’m not trying to say I had it that bad, but there were challenges.

It has taken until way too long into my 40s to see that I didn’t need that.

A few years ago I actively tried to change things by consciously walking like a normal person, looking forward and not down. It has helped with my perspective in life. I’m still honest when you ask me how I’m doing. That’s not changing. My outlook has, however, changed.

Being able to see what is around you can do a lot for a person.

You just need to be able to see.

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Magic And Loss (Lou Reed – Artist Of The Year Part 20)

Coming on the heels of the artistic statement of New York, the follow-up collaboration with John Cale and events in his personal life, Magic And Loss captures Lou Reed at a point in his life where there are equal parts, well, magic and loss. His second marriage ended, he had explored themes surrounding the death of Andy Warhol, his career was at a high point, other friends had died, but life moves forward. it is that which Lou Reed explores on this album.

Largely sticking  to the two guitars, bass and drums format of New York, Lou Reed makes an album that celebrates life and love. “Goodby Mass” is a great example of this where Lou Reed takes on the role of the somebody saying his final thoughts to somebody.

Some of the songs are clearly Lou Reed coming to terms with his own mortality. Perhaps it is that sense of finality that he is not necessarily beginning to face, but at least recognize (the album was recorded and released as he approached the age of 50) and the loss of people around him that gave way to not only contemplation, but a sort of celebration.

“No Chance”is a great song about the suddenness of loss, with a “walking” style of guitar playing, but for me it is Rob Wasserman’s bass playing that really makes this listenable.

A few of the songs are credited as being co-written with the 2nd guitar player, Mike Rathke. Maybe it was the collaborative effort with John Cale. Maybe Lou Reed just gives enough creative freedom to his sidemen and felt that there was enough of a contribution to warrant some credit. Whatever the case I found it interesting that on five of the fourteen songs Lou Reed shares the songwriting credit.

Magic And Loss isn’t as sharp as New York, but it is essentially very much a “Lou Reed” album, full of stories and emotion. Grounded in reality the lyrics offer a glimpse into Lou Reed, the person. These aren’t necessarily the fictional characters or real people of previous albums. Sometimes as I listen to this album I think this must have been a form of therapy for Lou Reed.

 

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Phamily Foto Phriday 12/1/17

You would think I had more pictures for not having done this post for three weeks.

Here is Grace having climbed into the rocket ship on her own. Yes, we had a rocket in our house for about a week. There was a lot of space travel taking place for a while.
Space travel can take a toll on its travelers. For a while Tevye was determined to sleep on the floor, not in his bed.

Another thing that was a regular occurrence was the post-preschool and pre-nap puppet show that Tevye put on.

Just before Thanksgiving we got a new table. Stephen (who, you may remember, has been here before) built us a table over the last couple of years and it was a challenge getting it in the house. Here is August and Tevye working on screwing in the legs.

Tevye has discovered the joy of board games. At 3 he isn’t able to tackle some of the other family favorites, but we do have a couple of preschool ones that he is being introduced to. It is never too early to learn how to take turns, play well with others, and possible lose.

August helped deliver some furniture to a formerly homeless family that just moved into some housing. We rented the truck and were stuck on the Ballard Bridge waiting for the drawbridge to go down (for a while) here.

 

 

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Mornings

Monday

I wake up about 5 or 10 minutes before 5a.m.

Spin class starts at 5:30 – the only time I can make. I have to be home by 6:30 to get the house going. Kids need to get up for school, Laura needs to get off to work, diapers need to be changed, etc.

Between 6:30 and 8 I am actively, constantly on the move getting each of the six kids ready to get out the door. Granted, Grace doesn’t need much in the way of preparation, but does require attention.

August leaves early, as he does every morning for zero period, a math class that takes place before school starts. I remind him to take his trombone for band. He texts me when he gets to school that he forgot a book, one he needs for later on in the day. I scramble around the house trying to find it and get the kids ready. Fortunately the book isn’t too difficult to find and we are out the door on time.

Next year will be different, but these five kids go to the same school so everything is right there. Ciaran and Xavier go get in their lines, Dela takes Grace (who is in the stroller) and Tevye walks up with me to drop off August’s book.

8:15 I have Grace in the stroller with me to drop Tevye off at preschool when, as the door opens, I realize that I forgot the snack. On the calendar it was Tevye’s day to bring snack and it is sitting on the counter at home. of course we only live a block and half away, but I have Grace.

The crossing guard knows Grace, Her son and August are friends and classmates. I ask and am able to leave Grace with her. I run home, literally, a block and a half, which, if you know me, and the kind of shape I am in (both literally and figuratively) you know this is an accomplishment. Grabbing the snack and gallon of water I return to the school – no, not running the whole way, just half or so.

When I finally get home I put Grace down for nap and finally begin to take my shower.

Tuesday

I wake up about 5 or 10 minutes before 5:00 a.m.

Again this morning I have a spin class that starts at 5:30a.m.

Getting home the normal routine of getting everybody going kicks in to high gear. This particular morning would actually be a lot more difficult if I had not been able to rely on the help of a couple of other parents. August is visiting a high school today and needs to get there and back. Fortunately one of his friends is also schedule to visit this day as well and they are taking him as well as bringing him back.

This particular morning is still rough because of resistance and conflicts. We actually don’t make it out the door on time. Some mornings are a struggle and this was one of them.

After the kids get to school I get home and put Grace down for nap. After that I notice a text  from Dela that she forgot her lunch. I plan to take it when I pick up Tevye from preschool. then the call comes in, Dela needs her lunch now because she is going on a field trip. I tell her if she had not spent so much time and energy deliberately being slow to make everybody late we might have remembered the lunchbox as it is sitting on the counter by the door. As it stands I am not about to wake up Grace from her nap to bail Dela out from the consequences of her fit.

Again, after putting Grace down for nap I take my shower.

Then I start on this blog post.

Wednesday

I sleep in. Until 5:30 in the morning.

At least I get a shower before getting the kids up.

August is up at 6:30 because he needs to leave here about 7:20. Tevye usually wakes up at about the same time on his own. I try and wake everybody else up by 7 as we need to leave here at 8. Between getting everybody up, breakfast, helping Laura to get out the door and getting the two youngest ready there isn’t much time for anything else.

It can be difficult because nobody gets up and has breakfast at the same time. Some kids get up and get dressed before eating breakfast while others do it the other way around. Then there is the pace of preparation each kid has. It can be frustrating.

Thursday

I have my spin class again.

And another day of rushing to get out the door on time.

Everybody staggers the time they get up, so it is a struggle working on one breakfast, getting somebody moving out of bed, making sure another person has everything together in their backpack for school.

Friday

I get to sleep in again today until 5:30.

And shower before getting the kids up.

This is the morning Dela had asked to get up early, so I wake her at 6:30, the same time August usually gets up so as to leave in time for his early class. Grace had woken on her own early. Xavier woke up with August. Tevye woke up when I woke up Dela.

With almost everybody up early it was a relatively easy morning. I think I might be needing to get people  up “early” more often.

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November 2017 Geek Fuel Unboxing

November’s Geek Fuel box was a good one. It started with the shirt, which is a great reference to Jurassic Park. It looks like a great travel poster.

Then the Star Wars AT-ACT model kit is something that we would never buy, but is certainly welcome and should be fun to put together.

The gift wrap is amusing.

A stuffed Deadpool figure is cute (and probably deadly).

The pin this month is alright, and probably the least welcome inclusion in the box.

Finally the game which we have not yet redeemed, but likely will this weekend.

Here is the video of August opening it up.

 

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Songs For Drella (Lou Reed – Artist Of The Year part 19)

“What is something you are suited to?”

“Getting out of here!”

The opening number in Songs For Drella sets up the origins of Andy Warhol, the subject of the first collaboration between former Velvet Underground bandmates Lou Reed and John Cale in two decades. Encouraged and inspired by the death of Andy Warhol in 1987, the duo worked on this song cycle at the same time Lou Reed was working on his New York album.

“Drella” is a nickname that combines Dracula and Cinderella, and reportedly Warhol disliked the moniker. This album would also serve as the catalyst for a Velvet Underground reunion, but that is another story.

Songs For Drella is an album I always thought I had. I would see it in the racks of whatever record store or second hand shop I was in and not pick it up because I thought it was already in my collection. Whoops. What surprised me the most about this album was that Lou Reed did not take the lead vocal on every track.

“Style It Takes”

The liner notes say this album is purely fictional, but there are lyrics that hit a lot closer to the truth than you might think (such as Warhol’s Catholic upbringing).

Various songs discuss aspects of Andy Warhol’s life. The attempted murder of Warhol is covered in “I Believe”. “Work” is all about Andy’s work ethic and how he was always doing something in one form or another. “Starlight” is about the film career of Andy Warhol and the ordinary people he turned into stars. “Nobody But You” examines how Andy settled down in a way with one person after the murder attempt. Warhol’s style of painting, perhaps what he is most famous for, is examined in “Images”.

“Starlight”

Since I thought I had this album, I never picked it up, and as a result, I had not listened to it until recently when I finally did buy it. Songs For Drella is less a Lou Reed album than it is almost a different beast entirely. Not quite a Velvet Underground album, and certainly not just a Lou Reed album, it fits somewhere in between. With the subject matter focused all on one subject, it again makes this a very unique entry in Lou Reed’s catalog.

Songs For Drella ends with Lou Reed saying the things he should have before Warhol died, a sort of apology and thank you letter. “Hello It’s Me” is a heartfelt goodbye to a person who loomed large in Lou Reed’s life.

 

Songs For Drella was released a few years after Andy Warhol’s death, but like Warhol himself, the event of his death had a lasting impact that still resonated and remained present for several years.

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New York (Lou Reed – Artist Of The Year Part 18)

This is probably my favorite Lou Reed album. I remember when it came out, and I was already a little familiar with his work, having a cassette of his “hits” and hearing his music on the radio – I was not really listening to commercial radio at the time. What I remember about New York’s release was that it was heralded as a stripped down and “back to basics” style of music, in many ways the antithesis of what was being released at the time. Lou Reed opted to release a concept album of various characters found in New York City, marrying the storytelling he is so good at with the idea of rock and roll as a form of art.

At the time New York was released I was listening to a lot of punk rock. The “stripped down” aesthetic of Lou Reed’s 1989 release really spoke to me. In late 1988 and early 1989 the popular albums on the charts were heavily produced. Alternative music (such as it was at the time) had succumbed to a lot of keyboard embellishment as well. Even The Ramones, the punk rock band that essentialy was the blueprint for the “back to basics” style would find themselves succumbing to the times in their late 80s albums.

New York was released on a new record label, Lou Reed’s third in his solo career. Originally signed to RCA, then a few albums later switching to Arista, only to return to RCA for a few more albums then on to Sire. The first album under his contract with Sire, which at the time was a label that featured many artists within the “alternative” genre and while Lou Reed largely defied categorization, he fit right in.

“Romeo Had Juliette” is a great introduction to this album which serves as an examination of New York City. It captures young love in an aggressive setting. It serves as both a character study of the people, but also of the city. That city, New York City, comes even further into the forefront in the song “Dirty Blvd.” which examines the dichotomy of society within the city.

Musically the album is very raw, with just two guitars, a bass and drums, and the musical styles of the songs are more varied than one would expect. The subject matter is pure Lou Reed, with scathing indictments of everything from politicians to religion – “Busload Of Faith” is the most overt example of the latter. “Sick Of You” deals with politics and social issues with a bit of twang.

“Hold On”

I like the album because it paints a big picture with a lot of little pictures. It is a fantastic example of Lou Reed the storyteller, the social commentator, the rock and roll poet. From this point he would jump on to the rest of his career with renewed creativity and each subsequent album at least offering some variation or even something completely new. It is almost as if this album was the start of Lou Reed’s 2nd solo career.

 

 

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Mistrial (Lou Reed – Artist Of The Year Part 17)

Lou Reed seems a bit upset in the opening and title track for his 1986 album Mistrial. It almost seems a reaction to the mediocre reception his albums have been getting. he has his two guitars, bass and drums formula down at this point and in the opening number his anger and frustration comes through with clarity.

Sonicaly the second track is much less “raw” and more “slick” with added instrumentation. “No Money Down” was the subject of one of the most disturbing music videos of the time. It is still really creepy to watch today, and halfway through it gets even creepier, if that were possible.

The next couple of songs are victims of the times, the production feels sort of out of place. Was Lou Reed trying a few different ideas to see what works and what doesn’t, sort of like a different phase of experimentation for him.

“Video Violence” is a commentary on the state of television at the time, and while it veers away from the personal stories that Lou Reed is famous for,  there are still characters that come to life within the song. “”Spit It Out” sounds so unlike a Lou Reed song, as if the vocals are completely separate from the dancey pop rock instrumentation.

Then there is “The Original Wrapper” which doesn’t sound like a Lou Reed song at all. This is a great example of rock and roll trying to be new wave, and the video for the song is nearly as inexplicable as the audio production.

All in all Mistrial feels like an album Lou Reed could have rerecorded a few years later when he got back to basics. Some of the songs are completely overproduced or clearly done in a way that is meant to capture what was “hot” at the time on radio. There are some decent songs, but at times they just get overshadowed by the album’s production which doesn’t necessarily hold up as well today.

And in staying with the times, the single “No Money Down” got the extended 12″ single remix treatment with the b-side being the “dub” version of the song which is just as weird as you would expect.

Yes, Lou Reed, the original Rock And Roll Animal getting caught up in modern trends. Or perhaps he was being forced to as he would switch record labels after this record and go on to create what is perhaps the greatest album of his career.

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