You “Aughta” Know: Lou Reed, THE RAVEN

Thursday, January 30, 2020
Lou Reed THE RAVEN Cover

Welcome back to “You ‘Aughta’ Know,” where we take a look back at an album from the 2000s that was released on or around this day. In this instance, our topic du jour is the last studio LP released by Lou Reed as a solo artist during his tenure on Sire Records (and the next-to-last studio album that he released as a solo artist before his death in 2013. 

The fact that THE RAVEN shares its title with one of Edgar Allen Poe’s most famous works is not coincidental: it’s a concept album in which Reed delivers a number of Poe’s short stories and poems. In fact, the album was actually adapted from POEtry, the opera he co-wrote with Robert Wilson in 2000. But the material isn’t exclusively Poe-derived: Reed also reprises “Perfect Day” (from TRANSFORMER) and “The Bed” (from BERLIN). 

Interestingly, THE RAVEN also features a number of guest vocalists, among them David Bowie, Steve Buscemi, Willem Dafoe, Antony Hegarty, and Reed’s wife, Laurie Anderson. Also unique was the decision to release two versions of the album, one of which was an edited single-disc version. It’s hard to imagine any diehard Reed fan buying the single-disc version except to be a completist, of course, but labels are gonna do what labels are gonna do. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its concept, THE RAVEN was not a massive commercial success, failing to even chart in the US, but it did hit #122 in the UK and #60 in France. Say what you will about the French, but when they wrap their arms around an artist, they rarely let them go.

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