Lou Reed’s Listening Experience Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s work
“These are the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, not exactly the boy next door.” This is how Lou Reed opened “The Raven”, his nineteenth solo album. Accurate, isn’t it? I’ll get back to this later in the post. I decided to call it ‘listening experience’ because “The Raven” really engages the audience intellectually, hauling it in Edgar Allan Poe’s -and maybe in Lou Reed’s and, ultimately, the human- dark world. Let me tell you, it is not an easy listening, but indeed no less pleasant, in my opinion.
What we have here is a concept album completely inspired by the American nineteenth century writer Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous works, with blues, rock’n’roll, new age and proto-punk vibes. Moreover, some tracks are only instrumental, whereas several others spoken, the lyrics read by very famous actors (Steve Buscemi, Willem Dafoe and Elizabeth Ashley, for example). As Adam Begley from Observer.com wrote “Reed Does Postmodern Poe”. And he definitely nailed it! Reed, in fact, re-wrote his own contemporary version of “The Raven”,which he has read in Cannes in 2013, “The Valley Of Unrest”, and a personal version of the famous story “The Pit and the Pendulum” among the others. You can read the respective original versions here, here, and here.
“Let the burial rite begin
The funeral song be sung
An anthem for the queenliest dead
That ever died so young
Sweet Lenore has gone before
Taking hope that flew beside
Leaving instead the wild dead child
That should have been your bride.”
That’s an example of how dark Reed’s lyrics can be, and that’s not all.
Talking of intros, I identified a massive one at the very beginning of the record, made of four tracks: “The Conqueror Worm”,Ouverture,Old Poe and Edgar Allan Poe. It just seems like the first three songs descrive the development of Poe’s life, from youth to old age, until Reed’s voice gets stronger and stronger in Edgar Allan Poe, who ironically is “not exactly the boy nexy door” as the poet, as much as the singer has done, investigates and plays with the human psyche. The music too is surprisingly in contrast with the mood and themes of the album, with an unexpected kinda positive attitude, which makes this track as a way for Reed of becoming a TV host, presenting his special guest. There you go:
It would be frankly impossible to cover thoroughly the album and Reed’s affinity with Poe, and I will definitely write again about it. Let me know if you liked the album, or why do you think Reed has decided not to create a modern version of Annabel Lee. Watch out tonight, there might be a Raven cawing at your window.