Lou Reed's 'Magic and Loss' has the makings of a classic

January 17, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

MAGIC AND LOSS

Lou Reed (Sire 26662) Death is not a normal subject for rock and roll songs, nor is grief an emotion the music is used to expressing, and as such, Lou Reed's "Magic and Loss" is a very unusual album. Essentially a 14-song cycle in which Reed chronicles and considers the way two friends died of cancer, the album is by turns angry, nostalgic, sentimental and surreal, and blessed with words and music perfectly suited to those feelings. Yet despite its seemingly morbid focus, the songs positively bristle with life -- in part because of the way Reed's writing conveys character and emotion, but mostly because what this work deals with is far more real than most rock song fodder. As rewarding as it is difficult, "Magic and Loss" has the feel of an instant classic.

PIMPS, PLAYERS & PRIVATE EYES

Various Artists (Sire 26624)

Say what you will about their cinematic merits, but the "blaxploitation" flicks of the early '70s -- films like "Shaft," 'Cleopatra Jones," "Superfly" and "Foxy Brown" -- frequently had fantastic soundtracks. Just listen to the samples assembled by rapper Ice-T for the anthology "Pimps, Players & Private Eyes," an affectionate look back at a lot of forgotten music. Unlike today's hard-edged gangsta rap, the music these movies favored was smooth and soulful, and though the collection touches the most obvious bases, like Isaac Hayes' "Theme From Shaft" and Curtis Mayfield's "Pusher Man," its greatest value lies in resurrecting tracks like Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street" and Millie Jackson's "Love Doctor." A killer collection, and not just for the nostalgic.

LOVE AND LIFE: A JOURNEY

WITH THE CHAMELEONS

Definition of a Sound (Cardiac 8002)

P.M. Dawn isn't the only rap group to pull a sense of psychedelia from hip-hop's scratch-and-sample eclecticism; just take a taste the sonic cocktail concocted by Britain's Definition of a Sound on "Love and Life: A Journey With the Chameleons." Mixing live instruments with inventive samples and solidly soulful singing, the Definition's sound is delightfully rich, with an insinuating approach to melody and all the bass-powered drive of Soul II Soul. But the best thing about this music is the irrepressible glee audible in everything from the gospel-funk pulse of "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" to the sly reggae groove of "Reality."

RUSH

2& Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

(Reprise 26794)

If you expect an Eric Clapton movie score to be nothing but wall-to-wall blues, you may want to be sitting down when you listen to the soundtrack album from "Rush." Sure, E.C. plays the blues here; in fact, his playing in that vein runs the gamut from smoky, after-hours instrumentals like "Tracks and Lines" to the full-tilt ferocity of "Don't Know Which Way To Go," with Buddy Guy doing the singing. But the blues isn't all he plays here, and the edgy atmosphere conveyed by "Realization" and "New Recruit" suggests that Clapton learned more than a little from playing on soundtracks like "Homeboy" or "Lethal Weapon II."

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