Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
The title, “Blue With Lou” is referring to the Lou who is also at the top of the rock and roll food chain posthumously. That would be Lou Reed. This album contains six tracks that were co-written with Lou Reed way back in the late 70s. These six songs were what remained on the cutting room floor. After Reed’s death in 2013, Nils had seriously considered breathing life into the “lost tracks”. “They got left by the wayside. Years went by, and it kept nagging at me. I thought, look, Lou’s not here to deliver these lyrics. He was inspired when he did this. It would be a shame not to share it”, stated Lofgren in a Conqueroo press release about the upcoming album.
That press release also gives insight as to how the whole project was conceived to begin with:
“I kind of forgot about the idea,” Lofgren recalls. “About a month after that, I was sound asleep, the phone rang at 4:30 in the morning, and I answered it in the dark. ‘Hey, Nils, it’s Lou Reed.’ That woke me up. He said, ‘I’ve been listening to the tape you sent, and I love it. I’ve been up for three days and nights straight. I haven’t slept. I’ve been working on your tape. I’ve completed 13 sets of lyrics that I love.’ And I’m like, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me.’ Then he said, ‘If you wanna get a pad and pencil, I’ll dictate them to you.’ We spent two more hours on the phone. You can imagine my excitement.”
Ultimately, the co-written songs “A Fool Like Me,” “I Found Her,” and “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” (the last co-written with guitarist Dick Wagner) appeared on Nils, while Reed claimed “City Lights,” “Stupid Man,” and “With You” for his own 1979 album The Bells. The pair’s “Life” appeared on Lofgren’s Damaged Goods (1995), while “Driftin’ Man” was recorded for his Breakaway Angel (2002).
Having two rock and roll heavyweights on a project of this caliber is enough to garner a lot of buzz. But the ultimate question remains: Does it sound good? The answer is a resounding yes. The writing on all of the songs is smart and makes me nod in agreement when the words unfold. The sound, mix, and production are as good as it gets. Hats off to Nils and his wife Amy who tackled all of the technical stuff in-house.
Blue With Lou (Track 7), the title track has moved out early to the front of the pack. This is not one of the songs that Nils and Lou penned together. This number was 100% conceived by Nils. He did a phenomenal job of crafting this song so it fits perfectly alongside the rest of the 11 passengers on this rock and roll bus. Of course the song is about Reed and the words describe Lou perfectly. Lou had the ability to really explore the under belly of society and apparently Nils does as well. The guitar work and backing vocals are the leaders in this very talented class.
The album starts out with the ballsy, protest ballad Attitude City (Track 1). This song was written by both parties and it is a perfect lead off number. It has the right amount of brashness and pace to set the tone for the rest of the songs. I don’t think enough can be said about Nils’ guitar work. The man knows his way around a fret board. But more than that, Nils shows on this number that not only is he technically proficient, the feeling part is what really shines through. The song seems to be about vanity and arrogance among the Hollywood and music jet set types. Not much has changed in 40 years, unfortunately.
This album is amazing just on the merits of the music and writing alone. If you throw in the Lou Reed collaboration, it makes this mountain even larger. Add the fact that both Reed and Lofgren are esteemed members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, makes it that much more desirable. Not only does it live up to the hype, it completely overshadows it.