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Lou Reed and 'The Raven'

Cover for Lou Reed CD 'The Raven' (Warner Bros.)
Cover for Lou Reed CD 'The Raven' (Warner Bros.)

Over the past few decades, iconic musician Lou Reed has worked with a gallery of talented visual and performing artists — Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground, his girlfriend Laurie Anderson, just to name a few.

He tells NPR's Liane Hansen that his newest collaboration has proven to be the most challenging project to date. It's a dramatization of the works of Edgar Allan Poe, along with songs inspired by the poet's work. The two-disc extended collection is entitled The Raven.

Reed — the genius behind rock songs such as "Walk on the Wild Side," "I'm Waiting for the Man" and "Sweet Jane" — is considered by many to be the godfather of punk rock, or at least the model for the attitude that punk represented. So for some critics, taking on the dark themes of Poe's best-known works isn't as big a stretch as one might imagine.

Reed's inspiration for creating The Raven came several years ago, when Reed was working with Broadway producer Robert Wilson and saw a spoken-word performance of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." He recruited well-known actors such as Steve Buscemi and Willem Dafoe, musicians Ornette Coleman and David Bowie, and a large ensemble of other artists to create a hybrid spoken-word/music CD.

It's hard to put Reed's latest effort into any category. It's part music, part radio play, part free-form jazz, blended and layered with screams, noises, words, guitars, silence and drums — the overall effect, critics say, is meant to mirror Poe's tormented vision.

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