Secret Meeting score: 72
by Phil Scarisbrick
Nils Lofgren has been an incumbent of the E Street Band since 1984, and going back even further was a side man for Neil Young on his seminal After The Gold Rush and Trans records. To say he is one of rock music’s most brilliant collaborators would not be an understatement. One of his lesser known composing partnerships though was with Velvet Underground legend, Lou Reed. Now though, Lofgren has dusted off a selection of these originals and brought them to life on Blue with Lou.
Recorded at his home studio in Arizona, Lofgren’s first new album for eight years gives us an interesting take on these songs. His fret work is, as you would expect, pretty flawless. Built around a power trio setup of bass, drums and guitar, Lofgren’s voice intertwines with fellow Springsteen collaborator, Cindy Mizelle’s on album opener Attitude City, while Give adds a layer of funk to the eponymous blues. The charitable sentiment of the song lends itself well to the soft vocals that his fans adore.
Talk Thru the Tears takes Charlie Chaplin’s classic Smile and turns it into an ironic lament. Doubtlessly written for Reed to sing, Lofgren lacks a little of his friend’s acerbic dryness, but the song is only marginally diminished for this. What he may lack in that case though, he makes up for in spades of earnest vulnerability on Pretty Soon. Before City Lights adds saxophone to the mix on another of the pair’s co-authored songs, adding an element of reggae to the eclectic mix.
The album’s title track is another display of Lofgren’s exquisite guitar work, but feels like it could have been reined in a little – needlessly clocking in at over seven minutes. The track though sums up the whole record. Despite what could have been a mawkish exercise in remembering the star that was Lou Reed, it is actually a celebration of his late friend, and another memorable addition to the stellar back catalogue of one of rock’s most versatile renegades.