After spending a good many years searching for his main line, Lou Reed tapped into a fresh vein of creativity with 1989's New York and Songs for Drella, a tribute to Andy Warhol made with his former Velvet Underground partner John Cale. With two friends suffering from cancer--one being songwriter Doc Pomus--Reed went to work on his most soul-searching effort to date. The rollicking opening cut, "What's Good," suggests he found the rock & roll heart in such tragedy, but once the supple rhythm section is supplanted by a slow, time-checking click, the reality of death's ominous shadow casts a doom and gloom on the proceedings. The result is an extremely grim, yet fascinating, song cycle. --Rob O'Connor
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from CHEVY CHASE, MD
Reviewed on 3/14/2011...
An oustanding addition to his work - perhaps not the best, but certainly worth close listening. Taut emotion, driving beats, dark imagry. What's not to like?
More loss than magic
Pieter | Johannesburg | 07/23/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"On Magic & Loss Reed investigates mortality, loss, guilt, rage and resignation. Each song has a subtitle and a mystical symbol, tracking the issue in full circle and attempting to cover all aspects and relevant emotions of the chosen theme.
The best tracks, because their melodies make them stand out, include Sword of Damocles (Externally) with its flash of humor ("That mix of morphine and dexedrine/We use it on the street"), Cremation (Ashes to Ashes), the strange, funny and sad Harry's Circumcision (Reverie Gone Astray) and the powerful rocker What's Good.
As on his New York album, the instrumentation is sparse with only guitars, bass, percussion and drums. It is a moving and literate piece of work, but ironically lacks some of the magic found on most of his best albums. Perhaps because he chose a rigid framework, the overall impression is one of sameness and lack of variation.
Still, it is by no means a uniformly bleak album, and at least lyrically, there is plenty of material that ranks among his best work. The sound is reminiscent of the New York album, but unlike that one which is his least personal work, this one focuses on the loss of specific friends and his reaction to death, making it highly personal and intimate in its exploration of universal themes.
A good album then, but not a Reed work that I listen to very often. My real rating is three and a half stars."
Keith Langkan | Chicago | 06/02/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When this CD came out, I was 21 and I just lost my gramps to lung cancer (DONT SMOKE!). I was a heavt metal, long haired head banger back then. For some reason I bought this CD on one of those CD mailing clubs. I put this in and was transformed musically and spiritually. This CD is amazing and it was like Lou was there with me along the way of my gramps demise. There even lyrics in it that relate exactly to incidents that ocurred during his decline. Anyway, aside from that, the songs on here are great. They are well written and just have tons of feeling in them. You can tell Lou went deep into his heart when he wrote this. This is easily in my Top 10 CD list. Rock on!"