Lou Reed Demos and a Tribute to Astral Jazz
Lou Reed, “I’m Waiting for the Man – May 1965 Demo” (Light in the Attic Records)
Sometimes the phrase in the header of this column, “Best New Music”, actually means “Most Historically Significant Early Music”. This is the case of “I’m Waiting for the Man – May 1965 Demo” by the late Lou Reed, main songwriter of the greatest American rock band of all time, the Velvet Underground. The song is intended to appear on Words and music, May 1965, the first title in Light in the Attic’s Lou Reed Archive Series. The album is out August 26, but you can Pre-order now.
Recorded with future Velvets violist/bassist John Cale, Words and music, May 1965 includes three embryonic versions of songs – “Heroin”, “Pale Blue Eyes”, “I’m Waiting for the Man” – that appeared on Velvet Underground albums. Additionally, there are tracks that reveal Reed’s brief flirtations with folk and blues, including covers of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and the traditional (adapted by Eric von Schmidt and Dylan) “Baby, Let Me Follow You.” Amazingly, the tape containing these 17 songs remained in a sealed envelope for almost 50 years; Reed had posted it to himself as “poor man’s copyright”. Light in the Attic worked with Lou’s widow, experimental artist Laurie Anderson, to bring this previously unseen work to the public.
On Words & Musicfans can catch a glimpse of songwriting genius in the raw and hear trace elements that would blossom into iconic, iconoclastic forms just over a year later. The Velvet Underground & Nico. In a sense, Words & Music makes for an interesting comparison with the release of Record Store Day 2022 I’m So Free: The 1971 RCA Demos: You can hear how Reed evolved over the next six years and retained his core songwriting qualities.
The 1965 demo version of “I’m Waiting for the Man” bears little resemblance to the proto-punk chugger on the copping smack in Harlem that smeared the first side of the Velvets’ 1967 debut album. Instead, it is a laid-back acoustic-guitar-based ballad with a rough-hewn harmonica lament augmented by Cale’s backing vocals and mannered Welsh intonations in response to the protagonist accused of chasing women from the neighborhood (“Oh, pardon me, sir / Nothing could be further from my mind / I’m just waiting for a very dear friend of mine”) This is historical and telling shit – okay, Boomer?
Twins, “Something About Alice Coltrane” (Earth Libraries)
Twins (aka Berlin musician Miro Denck) is one of those rare modern solo bands with the special sauce that elevates their work among mediocre crowds. Broadly speaking, the bedroom pop of his music is a singer-songwriter, but it’s bathed in an otherworldly glow and steeped in complex emotions that reward repeated listening. (If you literally only have a minute, you could do worse than check out his 2021 track “Velvet Dreams” proof.)
Denck’s voice may be limited, but that doesn’t stop him from conveying a strong sense of sadness and longing. Her vocal boundaries actually complement the intimate and vulnerable character of the music. Not everyone can be Tim Buckley or Nilsson on the mic; Sometimes the earthly monotones of your Lou Reeds and Leonard Cohens are just what the occasion calls for.
Twins’ next album Human Jazz (out June 29) is subtitled “an ode to the ephemeral,” which, if you work in pop, is practically a no-brainer. It might be an overstatement to say that we will listen Human Jazz in 20 years, but so far its eight songs resonate deeply amidst a sound style that has become overwhelmingly familiar.
Human Jazz really excels when Denck gives up singing, as with the too brief “Transcend”. On titles like it and “Foliage”, he lets his exceptional ear shine through for seductive tones and poignant melodies with a retro-futuristic panache.
As good as Human Jazz that is, the non-LP track “Something About Alice Coltrane” elevates Twïns’ playing to an even higher level. First, we should encourage anyone – especially musicians who appeal to young listeners – who bring more attention to astral jazz harpist/keyboardist Alice Coltrane, who died in 2007. Her cosmic excursions have only just appeared more relevant over the years. his death. Second, Denck truly captured the sound and spirit of Coltrane’s haunting compositions on his most popular album, Trip to Satchidananda. It’s a brilliant surprise coming from a German musician young enough to be Coltrane’s grandson.
Denck scallops “Something About Alice Coltrane” (a reference to his track “Something About John Coltrane”) with that purring tamboura “Satchidananda”, a chillingly beautiful piano motif and Cecil McBee bass feints. The addition of miniaturistic wah-wah’d guitar calligraphy puts Denck’s distinctive stamp on the piece. It’s a perfectly cast tribute to one of the most rightly revered musicians of the last century, and I hope it inspires people to seek out more Alice Coltrane and Twins albums.