Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Lou Reed: Live in Italy [RCA, 1984]
Unlike 1969 Velvet Underground Live, this isn't a song album, which is no surprise--a guitar album is what I was hoping for. But unlike Rock n Roll Animal it isn't a showoff showcase, either--it's a guitar ensemble album, which is subtler than I was hoping for. Reed and Robert Quine get their moments, but the matter at hand is the interaction of a crack rock and roll band. One of the things that makes Quine a great guitarist is his formal tact, and just as Fernando Saunders's bass defines Reed's recent music on record, the modulated anarchy of Quine's acerbic fills and background commentary defines the live stuff. Even so, I wish they'd arrived at a way for him to cut loose more within the structure, especially since Lou doesn't seem deeply interested in the well-worn classics that dominate the show. The function of crack rock and roll bands, after all, is to set songs. B+