Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lou Reed 16: Live In Italy

RCA Records had history on its side, but promotion and art direction weren’t always their strengths. Their budget reissues looked cheaper than the cardboard they came in, and annotations tended to be at a minimum. Yet for all the ways they’ve repackaged Lou Reed’s catalog over the decades, it’s odd that one of his most acclaimed albums worldwide has never been properly released in the U.S.
Live In Italy captures the band that had just recorded Legendary Hearts, a straightforward, tight combo with Robert Quine on guitar alongside the boss, Fernando Saunders on bass, and Fred Maher on drums. The set leans heavily on the standards, from “Sweet Jane” to “Walk On The Wild Side”—most of which had already been on one or two previous live Lou albums—with songs from the new album and The Blue Mask, and even a few from Sally Can’t Dance. Quine apparently insisted that they play more obscure (for the time) Velvet Underground material, and since he was still in Lou’s good graces, that’s how we get a lengthy amalgamation of “Some Kinda Love” and “Sister Ray”. The band’s tight and Lou’s in good voice; he even manages throw in a couple of lines from Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight” at the end of “Rock & Roll”.
The album did make it over here as an import, under different covers and alternate titles that sometimes came off like bootlegs. But even when the digital era dug all kinds of things out of the backs of closets, and Lou became even more of a commercial icon, Live In Italy remained a foreign pressing only. It can now be streamed from the usual places, which is how we finally got around to hearing it, just as all Lou fans should.

Lou Reed Live In Italy (1983)—3

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