This CD was signed by Nils Lofgren especially for Backstreet Records customers, released on April 26, 2019.
Nils Lofgren's first studio album in eight years features five previously unheard songs that Lofgren and Lou Reed co-wrote 40 years ago.
Master rock singer-songwriter-guitarist Nils Lofgren returns on April 26 with Blue With Lou, an all-new collection featuring a dozen dazzling, forceful songs, half of which were penned in collaboration with the late, legendary Lou Reed.
The 12-track collection, issued on Lofgren's own Cattle Track Road Records, was produced by the musician and his wife Amy. Basic tracks were recorded live at his home studio in Arizona with longtime collaborators Andy Newmark (drums) and Kevin McCormick (bass). Saxophonist Branford Marsalis is featured on a new recording of the Lofgren-Reed composition "City Lights."
Five more songs co-written by the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers -- "Attitude City," "Give," "Talk Thru the Tears," "Don't Let Your Guard Down," and "Cut Him Up" -- have never seen the light of day and have remained in the trunk for decades.
Producer Bob Ezrin, who had worked with Lofgren, and previously worked with Reed on his concept album Berlin, suggested the collaboration. Lofgren and Reed spent a long night at Lou's New York City apartment discussing the collaboration, which eventually led to 13 songs penned together.
"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, some of 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 (2001).
After Reed's death in 2013, Lofgren revisited the idea of recording their unheard songs. He says, "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."
Lofgren began shaping those tunes and refining his own new original songs during his stint with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band during the group's tour in Australia, 2017.
"I began preparing, arranging, and practicing to be able to have every lyric written, every melody," he recalls. "The goal was that by the time my old friends Andy Newmark and Kevin McCormick got to the house to record, I could perform every song live with no problem. I wanted to go for live takes, no matter what instrument I was playing. Then it would be fine to go in and fill in the blanks, add background vocals, add extra sounds. But I wanted to keep it a very simple record. I practiced for that a long time while I was preparing the sessions."
Captured live in the studio following a solid week of rehearsal time with the rhythm section, the newly recorded Lofgren-Reed compositions exhibit the combination of swagger and sensitivity that has always characterized the work of both artists.
Those taut, hard-hitting songs are complemented by six all-new Lofgren numbers, his first fresh original material since 2011's Old School. Not unexpectedly, Blue With Lou takes its title from a song honoring his late colleague.
"I had the title and the groove," Nils says, "and I worked from that like a jigsaw puzzle on this homage to Lou and what I took from him, which is, yes, we're in a mess here, but there's beauty and hope in all art. The theme of the record is about being expressive, keeping it live and raw, and moving forward, trusting your instincts."
That theme and that attitude extends to the anthemic track "Rock or Not." Lofgren says, "In the climate that we're in, it turned into my version of a protest song -- come on, talk's cheap, shit or get off the pot, let's freakin' get some stuff done."
Blue With Lou also features the deeply affecting ballad "Too Blue to Play," which Lofgren describes as a metaphorical look at his relationship with wife and creative partner Amy, and two songs of loss, "Remember You" (a reminiscence about the family's beloved dog Groucho), and "Dear Heartbreaker" (a tribute to his longtime friend Tom Petty).
He says of the latter two numbers, "All these things, these people and friends that are gone, are not forgotten. You've got to find their spirits and hook into them as companions moving forward. I felt those songs went together and they needed to be at the end of the album."
Riding a sound that is straight-ahead and largely unadorned, save for a small men's choir and the featured vocals of Cindy Mizelle, Blue With Lou is as direct and hard-hitting as any recording of Nils Lofgren's long and distinguished career. He says, "I definitely feel a greater urgency and inspiration in the music, thanks to all that we laid out to accomplish on this heartfelt project."