Last year, Lou Reed returned with one of his best albums of his entire career. Having been a fan of his since my days in high school and gathering up every Velvet Underground and solo LP I could get my hands on, I was no stranger to Reeds ever-changing styles. It had been a long time since I had even really enjoyed a recent solo album from him. His previous release, Set the Twilight Reeling didnt do much for my ears with “Hooky Wooky” and “Egg Cream”, two tunes that would have probably embarrassed any other rocker, but since they were coming from Lou, it wasnt too surprising. The problem was the songs just werent that enjoyable.
So it was with much skepticism when I first sampled tracks from Ecstasy from an online retailer. I still wasnt convinced. However, I realized that you can never really tell if an album is good or not simply from 20 second snippets of low-grade quality. Afterwards, every time that Id go to the local music store, Reeds new album would be in the back of my mind, almost taunting me with the knowledge that I owned all his other works.
Finally I bought the damn thing and threw it into my cars CD player. What a revelation. Hearing Lou crank off another amazing three chord rocker in the opening “Paranoia Key of E” was just too much. The man still had it in him. His rhythm guitar was still so incredibly moving. And with the inclusion of longtime cohorts Mike Rathke on lead guitar and Fernando Saunders on bass, Ecstasy clicked away effortlessly. This is the kind of beautiful album that Reed knows he can make in his sleep yet seldom does. Good thing for us, or else he would have failed to remain so insanely interesting long ago.
As with many other post-seventies Lou Reed albums, Ecstasy finds Reed commenting on current relationships. However, this time around he does it in such an impassioned way that he also manages to fucking rock the whole time through. Whether it be in the two chord frenzy of “Mystic Child” or the perversely amazing “Rock Minuet”, Lou grabs the songs by the throat at the beginning and cranks every last ounce of energy from them until were completely satisfied.
The slow songs have a distinct majesty to them as well. The wonderful horn parts that punctuate “Tatters” prove that Reed can be a terrific arranger, and the sensual lyric refrains of “White Prism” are some of his most stirring recorded moments in years. To top it off, Reed even includes the raving “Future Farmers of America” from his Timerocker project. This is just an amazingly solid rock album that people other than Reeds fans should have given a listen to.
Ecstasy topped my “Best of 2000” list. Its so nice to hear Lou doing it all over again. Its especially wonderful to have him embrace the ghost of the VU so fully and hear him turn out 17 minute epics like “Like a Possum” as if it was 1968 all over again. Lou Reed refuses to age and let his music become boring like so many other sixties rock icons have. His music and message remains pure and simple. If you havent heard Ecstasy yet then do yourself a favor and hear Mr. Lou Reed reinvent the wheel once again.
// Notes from the Road
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