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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 9 February 2003
Lou Reed is not pretentious. Lou Reed is Lou Reed. You hear his voice and you know it is him. He has been creating innovative music for about 40 years.
With 'The Raven', he again offers us something completely original; snippets of literature read by some very talented actors set to brooding electronic music and interspersed by great songs.
If you were excited about another Lou Reed album, another good 12 songs, well here they are, from the gravelly rock of 'Edgar Allen Poe', 'Change', 'Blind Rage' to the delicate beauty of 'Vanishing Act' and the utterly gorgeous 'Who am I'.
But as well as good songs, 'The Raven' also offers the intriguing addition of drama; Willem Defoe, Steve Buscemi, Amanda Plummer, Elizabeth Ashley, captivatingly reciting dark, passionate and witty lines from an author who Lou Reed clearly respects and identifies with.
The result is interesting, exciting, beautiful and artistic. And why not? Lou Reed is an artist, not someone who churns out radio friendly hits.
Lou Reed has always pushed through doors and added an alternative to the face of popular music. And yet he still retains the same distinctive style; that voice, that ability to swing between aggressive rock and heart-pricking beauty.
He has his mark. And I think its a superb one and 'The Raven' keeps it going. Long live his creativity and gift for change.
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on 5 February 2003
I wrote a review a couple of weeks ago, not realising that The Raven came out in Gemany a week before it did in the UK. So it wasn't published. But now, after having had the albums for over a week, I can tell you right now that I am still listening to it and still discovering new moments of brilliance. The Raven is a masterpiece, but it takes time and patience to discover its brilliance. I've read favourable reviews in papers like the Guardian and not so favourable reviews in magazines like NME. So what does that tell you? Yes, you do need to be an adult to appreciate and understand this concept. I was lucky enough to see the musical Poe-try, on which the Raven is based almost entirely, so I have a head's start. But if you have just bought the album, savour some immediate moments of magic in Burning Embers, Who Am I? and Guardian Angel. The rest will follow. It has been a while since I have fallen so much in love with one of Lou's albums, but this is in my heart along with Berlin, Blue Mask, Street Hassle and the delightful caberet of Take No Prisoners. Love him or hate him, you cannot ignore this immense artist.
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VINE VOICEon 25 February 2003
Lou Reed's "The Raven" is an album that listeners will either love or hate... and by the five stars printed at the head of this review I think you can guess my reaction.
However this is not an introduction to Edgar Allan Poe (perhaps you should try the Alan Parson's Projects album, "Tales of Mystery and Imagination"), this is Lou Reed trying to capture the feeling, the dark emotion, that fills Poe's prose and poetry.
This is Lou Reed recreating Poe. Take the title track. "The Raven" is not Poe's seminal poem read over music. Reed has rewritten the poem, modernised it and tried to make it relevant to the 21st Century. Listen to the track, feel how familiar it is, and then listen to it again with the original poem in hand.
This album is challenging... to my way of thinking much like the way Scott Walker's "Tilt" was challenging, and like that album the rewards are bountiful. Indeed the re-recording of "Perfect Day" is almost "Tilt" like in it's haunting beauty.
Reed has juxtaposed American gothic with rock and roll and created a fantastic album. It will take several sittings to get the most out of this album, and each time you listen it will be hard work. But music should be challenging, after all.
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on 3 February 2003
In many ways, “The Raven”, Reed’s 2003 album, is the ex-Velvet's most ambitious work to date. Taking as his starting point the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Reed fills two CDs – that’s over two hours, although for less intrepid Reedophiles, there’s a single-disc edition, too – with his interpretations of pieces from the gothic writer’s oeuvre. Some tracks feature Lou and his core band performing Poe-inspired straight-ahead Reed rockers. Elsewhere, as on “Vanishing Act”, Reed sings to a stark, beautiful piano accompaniment, and on “Fire Music”, he even returns to the blaring soundscapes of 1975’s “Metal Machine Music” album. A number of the tracks on the record do not feature Reed at all. The majority of these are spoken-word pieces, featuring actors such as Willem Dafoe and Amanda Plummer performing Poe’s works to varying degrees of success. While it’s nice to hear the word “buffoonery” upon an album, one cannot help but apply this label to the antics of Lou himself, when he decides to take gospel singers The Blind Boys of Alabama on at their own game on “I Wanna Know (The Pit and the Pendulum)”. Other notable guests include one-time Reed producer David Bowie, who does a surprisingly accurate and completely pointless Lou Reed impression on “Hop Frog”, jazz great Ornette Coleman, whose playing on “Guilty – Song” is either “mind-tearing heart-rending” (Reed’s assessment) or overblown and shrill (mine). Even Reed’s old lady, Laurie Anderson, puts in an appearance on “Call on Me”, singing along with her beau. Two old Reed numbers are revisited here: “Perfect Day” is given yet another rehashing (this is, surprisingly, one of the numbers Lou is completely absent from), but “The Bed” from “Berlin” is given a tender and powerful reworking. When the record works, it is impressive, but the flaws of this overblown undertaking outweigh the triumphs. Reed isn’t Poe, and this is no bad thing. While “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” could never have issued forth from Reed’s imagination, nor could Poe have written “Heroin”. And perhaps that’s the problem: in trying to be what he is not, Reed only reminds us of what he once was and – as the tantalising return to seventies vocal form on the painfully short “Science of the Mind” shows – could still be. Whether failed experiment or egotistical rambling, this is an album which promises more than it delivers.
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on 3 January 2006
Rock songs that invoke deep contemplation with splices of Egdar Allen Poetry. How could anyone possibly not admire this opus? People may not enjoy it, but I think it should be admired by everyone. It's ambitious, it's deep, in places it's brutal, in others beautiful. It's long, daring, it works as background music and it survives intense scrutiny. In short, as a piece of work, it's remarkably daring.
It has to be admired.
Enjoyment of this masterpiece, however, like everything, depends upon the individual. I was lucky enough to catch the live incarnations of some of these songs. I heartily believe Vanishing Act to be one of Lou's best songs, and he has a lot of songs. It's so delicate, so fragile, so unlike anything being produced by anyone. Lou's voice has certainly improved with age: Gone is the cool cynicism and wit, to be replaced by a hauntingly beautiful lament of a delivery that I find simply irresistable. Mix this with the absolutely stunning croon of Antony (sometimes as a backing singer, but he makes "Perfect Day" his own) and you have a humbling listen in your hands. It enriches.
"Who Am I?" is the song that got me into Lou Reed. I saw him perform it on Jools Holland in about 2003 and I was so blown away that I bought the NYC Man compilation. I was quite dissappointed with the version found on that, turns out the one I was looking for was here all along. I love it so much. I don't want to repeat myself, so just take any previously used adjectives and apply them here.
So Vanishing Act and Who Am I? are in my opinion two of the most affecting songs ever produced. Whilst the remainder of the album never catches up with these two joys, like I said, it's mightily impressive. Willem Dafoes reading of The Raven is gloriously dramatic, and Steve Buscemi's Broadway Song is very entertaining. Overall, it's a package that's well worth a purchase. Having purchased, you'll not only own two of the greatest songs ever, you'll own a vastly underrated masterpiece that will only truly be appreciated posthumously. And you'll be able to say that you were there from the start!
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on 13 September 2008
I put this on my ipod , having not listened to this since its released in 2003 . This album is totally out on its own like Berlin it was completely overlooked when released !!! if you put it on and listen from start to finish you will be amazed by the genius of Reed yet again, time proves him right .
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on 1 July 2012
I may have received a damaged CD, but I believe my contemporary 2 disc edition, which plays beautifully in a CD player, had a manufacturer's trick to prevent ripping the discs on to a computer. (Quite right, too, ahem.)

As for the music itself, well, Lou Reed is a genius, full stop. I bought it for the David Bowie vocal on 'Hop Frog', which I'm sure many Bowie nerds do, but the whole CD has surprise after surprise. Steve Buscemi's track in particular was a treat (he's normally so evil in Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Reservoir Dogs etc!).

But it is odd and if you don't like odd I don't even know why you wanted to go so far as reading the reviews, go away and buy the most recent Syco album and have done.
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on 10 May 2014
Hooray, the Raven has been released in a 2 CD version - there are 2 versions out there, the short and the long. AND the long and short of it is that if you are a Lou Reed fan you need this album and you need the long version. Okay so Lou Reed aint pop, he ain'r rock, but he is original. What this album does show is Lou's passion for his subject, Edgar Allan Poe. I love Lou Reed but I also remember reading tell tale heart as a child and once you read a story like that combined with the originality of Reed what can go wrong, Nothing. God Bless you Lou.
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on 3 February 2003
A serious mixture of material here, I was not sure what to expect ... something based on the readings of Edgar Allen Poe (EAP). Some of the music is minimal and background only to some of the chilling and eerie spoken words, in some places typical Lou Reed material about EAP - a good mixture and balance overall. The words are spoken with very real eloquence and passion, and the actual meaning of the words are enforced by the speakers. A few listens to the CD's will give me cause to reflect on the words and the material, and later recall key phrases on which to ponder and reflect. The recorded-sound is very good on the CD's and the first disc comprises of over 50 mins and the second over 73 mins. Ray H [Peterborough]
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on 11 February 2003
For those 6th form students wishing for another Transformer or people who thought all Reed's work was as melodic as Perfect Day, you will be in for a shock. However those, like me, who have remained loyal to Lou through, lets say, some turbulent times will not be disappointed at all. The spoken tracks come accross in a weird way. It is NOT like listening to some old BBC drama series on cassette (Sorry Grandma, I hated them) but more like a song. Weird but true. The backing tracks are perhaps some of the most highly polished compositions Reed has penned for many years. The percentage of songs which are actual songs are pure vintage Reed. Rock-Pop-Gospel-Metal-Fast-Slow. The list is endless. Further for those Bowie completists Hop-Frog is a great little ditty
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