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REVIEW : Lou - No Depression

JUNE 25, 2014

There are some moments in a musical life that are magical. This morning is one of those unexpected moments. A light rain falls in central West Virginia as the blackberries begin to ripen early this year, turning from a brilliant red to that luscious, Mercedes-Benz black, and the mail belatedly brings the new Joseph Arthur album, Lou -- an acoustic tribute to a fellow New Yorker: Lou Reed.

I remember the last time I saw Lou Reed. It was at Birdland, not as a performer but, like me, as an appreciator of one of the finest voices of the past half century: Jimmy Scott. (Scott, incidentally, just passed away.) I had no idea that Lou was in the back as I sat at the bar, and as the first set ended, Jimmy's bass player, Hilliard Greene, invited me over to their small corner. After a few minutes, out of the corner of my eye, I caught Lou strolling over. He did not do the star thing; he was gracious and paid his respects to a man whom he admired a lot. Lou was instrumental in the "re-discovery" of Jimmy some 25 years ago, and led to a new recording contract. He did not play any cards, just a warm hello to Jimmy and Jeanie, a nod to the rest of us, and he was off.

One of my great regrets is never having seen the Velvet Underground. I remember taking a lot of grief from folkies and rockers alike for playing their records. I cannot remember why I got that Velvet Underground record in the first place, and like Dylan, and the Beatles'Revolver, that preceded it, it shook things up, changed the landscape, expectations and what popular music could be. Despite the diversity of the arrangements, those albums had another thing in common: the strength of the songs themselves.

Lou Reed fell into and out of favor over the course of his life, with many of his albums that had been originally derided, having grand second lives. Berlin being the prime example.

Joseph Arthur who has an impressive amount of music and art in his own right, knew Lou Reed and attended his 70th birthday, writing and performing, with Jenni Muldaur, "Happy Birthday Lou":

This album, that contains twelve Lou originals, was a result of Arthur's poem to Lou following his passing -- first published byAmerican Songwriter on October 28, 2013. No, it was not Arthur's idea, but a friend who thought he could get it released as an album. Arthur mulled it over, and began by selecting the right mics, knowing from the start it had to be all acoustic, no drums, letting the songs themselves shine. And if it did not work, then it would be due to his own failure, not Lou's. It helped that he already knew the songs, knew Lou, knew the territory and himself.
Once begun, it did not take long, and Arthur liked the results. However, during that interim, the record deal fell through. He was disappointed, yes, and had some anger, but being satisfied with the recording was his way of saying goodbye to the man while still feeling the spirit, as it were. Then, on Christmas Eve, it was back on, with Vanguard Records picking it up.


2014-06-12 - Fingerprints Music, Long Beach

A great document posted today on YouTube by Larry Singer (thank you !!).

It's the complete performance at Fingerprints Music, and it's stunning.


2014-05-01 - The Loft Session, Sirius XM, NYC

Setlist :

famous friends along the coast
the ballad of boogie christ
walk on the wild side
dirty blvd
saint of impossible causes
i miss the zoo
stephanie says
honey and the moon
nyc man
blue lights on the rear view
i used to know how to walk on water

Loft Session MP3



2010-10-06 - Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, TBS TV, New York

with The Roots on backing band !!!

2007-04-24 - WOXY Radio, Cincinnati

Radio session with the Lonely Astronauts
[Greg Wiz (drums), Kraig Jarret Johnson (guitar), Jennifer Turner (guitar) and Sibyl Buck (bass)]

Setlist :

lack a vision
i will carry
cocaine feet
diamond ring



2010-11-10 - Conan O'Brien Show, NBC TV, Los Angeles

with Tom Morello on guitar.

2007-04-13 - Global TV, Montreal

Joseph played 2 songs at "The Morning Live" Show

lack a vision

2007-04-10 - CBC Radio Canada, Montreal


lack a vision
in the sun


2007-09-24 - CHYZ Radiographie, Quebec City

Setlist :

honey and the moon
you are free
lack a vision
i donated myself to the mexican army
in the sun
take me home
black lexus


2007-04-13 - The Conan O'Brian Show, NBC TV, New York

2008-08-08 - WXPN, Philadelphia

Setlist :

temporary people
say goodbye
dead savior
black lexus
too much to hide
turn you on


INTERVIEW : 2014-06-01 Joseph Arthur’s ‘Lou’: Artist’s Tribute to Unforgettable Songs (by Barbara Schultz)

A couple of months after Lou Reed passed away,
A&R rep/music producer Bill Bentley suggested that Joseph Arthur record a tribute to their mutual friend.

“I thought he meant, ‘Pick a Lou song,’ for a compilation with other artists. But he said, ‘No, do a whole album of your interpretations of Lou’s songs.’ The idea came from Bill,” Arthur explains. “I’m pretty sure it would never have occurred to me. I was interested and intrigued and flattered that he thought I could do it. But it seemed like an outlandish idea: Is it even okay to do that?”

Arthur considered the suggestion further while he toured promoting his own album The Ballad of Boogie Christ (2013). “Then I got home from the tour and it was winter, and I was snowed in, in my apartment in New York. At the end of a tour, you’re sort of an emotional wreck. Even if you take care of yourself, it’s draining and you’re a little bit scattered. And then I was snowed in—and I have a recording studio where I live—and I remembered Bill said, ‘When you try to do this, keep it simple.’ That just gave me my way in on it.

“I was by myself,” he continues. “And I just started. The first one I did was ‘Coney Island Baby.’ I put down acoustic guitar and piano and acoustic bass. I didn’t plug anything in. I felt like I’d found an inroad. That simplicity gave the song something that was different from the original, but it was bound to the original and it honored the original.”

For six days, when New York City was buried in snow, Arthur says, “I just lived with Lou. I spent all my time recording.” Arthur made Lou—a full album of spare, tender, haunting Reed covers—in less than a week. “People can undervalue something because it was quick, but it just flowed,” Arthur says. “You can’t take those times in the studio for granted, because it doesn’t always happen like that.”

Arthur used acoustic instruments and two microphones—a Coles ribbon and a Wunder CM67. On each song, he first cut his lead vocal and acoustic guitar together, then added piano, then bass, and finally his own backing vocals. “I’d just move the mics around,” Arthur says. “I’d put the Coles on the guitar body and sing into the Wunder. I have a Steinway grand piano from 1912; I’d put one mic on the low end and the other high.”

Arthur tracked to Pro Tools, running the Wunder through his Chandler Abbey Road TG2 mic pre and the Coles through a Summit pre. “No EQ on anything,” he says. “I kept it really simple, and that’s why it worked. It really put the focus on the song in a clear way, and I thought that was a valid thing to do.”

Arthur created his own mixes, and sent the files to Gavin Lurssen in L.A. to be mastered. “Mastering sessions can be like when you turn your term paper in to the teacher. Usually you’re going to get a couple of red marks and maybe even a slap on the wrist,” Arthur says. “I thought for sure it would happen on this, because on some of the rough mixes, I hadn’t even put a master fader on the Pro Tools session. I didn’t know if those mixes might be clipping a little bit. I was nervous.”

“Joseph was very close to this project,” Lurssen says. “I realized he was worried about what sort of comments I’d send back, but I found it to be very special. What he captured with very minimal tools was a very organic and sweet-sounding.”

Lurssen, who always masters in the analog domain, converted the files and brought to the project his usual philosophy of transparency. “There can never be a veil between the listener and the recording,” Lurssen says. “The most successful I can be in my job is to make it sound like I was never there.”

In the case of Lou, the most essential element to emphasize was Arthur’s vocal and what Lurssen calls the artist’s “quiet confidence,” a quality that Reed possessed as well.

“These guys are both storytellers,” Lurssen says. “We needed to make sure the listener focuses on the vocal performances, and the acoustic sounds supporting those vocals. That meant nothing oversaturated, nothing overcooked.

“Once we found a zone, we approached it song-by-song, but we also kept a global vision in mind as we got all the songs onto one canvas,” Lurssen continues. “One of the key elements was a Fairchild 670 that belongs to a rental company called Design FX; they maintain it and it’s completely dialed to integrate with our chain.

“I also used an EAR tube equalizer in combination with a GML 9000. So when I go for the solid-state EQ, I can get a little bit of lift into the music while having the tube saturation from the EAR, in addition to what the Fairchild gives me.

“At the end of the day, what’s important to me is what’s important for Joseph—to maintain best practices that give listeners a beautiful experience.”

“For Gavin to give the album such a good sonic ‘grade,’ for lack of a better term, was inspiring to me,” Arthur says. “It made me realize that when the material is as strong as Lou’s songs are, you can keep it really simple. I think Lou was one of the greatest songwriters that we’ve had. When you keep it really simple, you accentuate that all the more.”

2008-10-07 - Album de la Semaine, Canal+ TV, Paris

with the Lonely Astronauts [Greg Wiz (drums), Kraig Jarret Johnson (guitar), Jen Turner (guitar) and Sibyl Buck (bass)]