Lou Reed's Animal Serenade
is a double live album, but to his credit--and in spite of his cantankerous image--he makes sure the appeal is wider than to strictly his hardcore fans. So, in the midst of the inevitable newer solo material, there's also a selection of classic tracks that span his entire career, from solo hit "Dirty Blvd" to Velvet Underground classics such as "All Tomorrow's Parties", "Sunday Morning" and "Venus in Furs". Of course, in the time-honoured tradition of solo albums, there's a lot of self-indulgence here: the intro track teases with the opening riff of "Sweet Jane" before launching into the lesser-known "Small Town" (a cruel trick, really), while "Venus in Furs" is a laconic 10 minutes long and features a viola solo. But his hometown audience (very much a New York City crowd) don't seem to mind at all. Animal Serenade
is a dark and sombre live album, a mood that suits Lou Reed's music perfectly. --Ted Kord
Recorded at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles during his 2003 world tour, Animal Serenade is an obvious homage to Rock 'n' Roll Animal which was cut some thirty years earlier and deemed by some as the best live album ever. So, no pressure then.
Reed's first live release since 1998's Perfect Night: Live In London, Animal Serenadefeatures the now-veteran Michael Rathke and Fernando Saunders on guitar and bass respectively. Where Animal is a prog-rock fest led by a somewhat belligerent anti-showman Serenade is a more matured and jovial affair with Reed occasionally coming across as nervous, like a first-time stand-up comedian. There would have been a time when he would have told the audience to shut up now he makes jokes about how he never made a living out of three chords...'It was four'.
Groan you may, but thankfully the music far outshines the comic performances on this release with Reed performing a generous portion of his back catalogue. Velvet Underground material is celebrated brilliantly with, amongst others, ''Sunday Morning'', ''Candy Says''and a mammoth ten minute version of ''Venus In Furs'' due to a Hendrix-does-Zorn styled cello solo from Jane Scarpantoni.
The main purpose of this release, however, is to celebrate Reed's three studio albums: Set The Twilight Reeling, Ecstacy and the critically acclaimed The Raven. ''Ecstacy'' live is a fine example of how Reed has developed as a songwriter whilst maintaining his unique style of guitar playing; featuring a fantastic solo where we know neither where he is going nor what his motives are. Nor do we care really. The results are astounding.
The best work on the recording must be material from The Raven, Reed's most recent studio recording. He introduces ''Vanishing Act'' as 'really such a beautiful song' and after the crowd settles the breathtaking intensity of this rendition proves it was no understatement. ''The Raven'' too is awesome. Reed's reworking of Poe's classic poem is a testament to the former VU star's writing and performing ability.
So Rock'n'Roll Animal: Part two this isn't, but Animal Serenade is a great document of how a legend can and is maintaining legendary status by doing what he does best: playing four chords and telling the truth. Maybe over two hours is a wee bit too long and a one disc edit might seem like less of a Reed-athon but when the man is on this good a form, better to have too much than not enough. --Cormac Heron
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