Lou Reed/Laurie Anderson/John Zorn: The Stone: Issue Three (2008)
By the time the sax overblowing, guitar distortion and electric violin screeching overwhelmed the introductory solo guitar of "Stone One," the first of the three tracks that comprise this CD, my four dogs had all given their critical verdict, charging for the door with barks and howls. I persevered through the final 14 minutes of the track, then through the two mercifully shorter ones. Oh yes, there are some interesting, even arresting, sonic textures and overtly cinematic (soundwise) moments here, but basically this is freedom run amok. But putting three iconic Downtowners on stage together a band does not make.
It's what happens when artists who work mostly with disciplining structures (the rock song, the recitative, jazz song forms and, importantly for two of these artists, words) are set free to make sound without structure or parameters. Lou Reed, except for a surprisingly lyrical solo prelude on "Stone One," reverts to primal power chords and a lot of feedback. Laurie Anderson, eschewing the cool disembodiment of her filtered voice and Zen-like poetry, screeches and squeals between snatches of melody on electric violin and a variety of textures on her synths. And saxophonist John Zorn lurches between post-bop Ornette lines and Ayler squalls. There's promise, not really fulfilled, in the alternately chant-like and nursery rhyme melodic kernels of "Stone Two," but self-indulgence trumps development. And Zorn is creatively weird with reed and mouthpiece on "Stone Three," which almost achieves an artistic unity through repetition and alternation. But mostly this is self-indulgent doodling.
Track Listing: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.
Personnel: John Zorn: saxophone; Laurie Anderson: violin, electronics; Lou Reed: guitar.