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Billed as a “once-in-a-lifetime meeting”, this release within ‘The Bottom Line Archive’ series is a show, across two CDs, that saw Lou Reed and Kris Kristofferson share a stage for the evening. And it was no ordinary night. Allan Pepper and Vin Scelsa apparently ran an ‘In Their Own Words’ series of shows, and it’s the latter who introduces the two men to the stage. First, he sarcastically wishes the audience a, “Happy Groundhog Day”, and continues with, “the friggin’ groundhog saw his shadow…six more weeks of this!” With the Bill Murray movie released just a year before, I’m guessing everyone gets the Punxsutawney Phil reference, hence much laughter ensues, on what was evidently a bitterly cold night in New York on 2nd February. He also explains that, “This is an evening of music and conversation. It is an unrehearsed event. This is not a polished performance; this is not the kind of thing you’re used to seeing these performers do when they get on stage. The idea behind ‘In Their Own Words’ is simply to examine, through songwriters, the art of writing songs.” And that’s precisely what we have here - songs and discussions, from both Reed and Kristofferson, all orchestrated by Scelsa.

1994 actually marked the twentieth anniversary of the Bottom Line, which first opened in 1974, so I guess that made the night an even more special occasion. And liner notes from Gregg Bendian reveal that Reed and Kristofferson were no strangers to the venue, with the former playing 54 shows there, and the latter 42. The recordings, which have a wonderfully clear and crisp sound, capture the guys in stripped-down form, and in good humour, as there’s banter between them during the songs, as they perform with all the raw emotional sincerity honed and garnered from their decades of artistry. If I’m being honest, Kristofferson’s country bias is not for me - Reed’s musical iconoclasm is far more my cup of tea - although I can still appreciate it for what it is.

There’s much merriment throughout, both within the songs through sporadic banter, and even more so during the between-song interviews with Scelsa. And it gets quite frank and personal at times, in what proves to be an extremely intriguing and revealing insight into their creativity; particularly Reed’s. And Reed dipped his toes into so many different forms of musical expression throughout his career, including his final venture, alongside Metallica for ‘Lulu’; a ubiquitously ill-received album amongst fans and critics alike, although proof that he was still prepared to exercise his iconoclastic proclivities within different parameter pushing contexts. It’s for that very reason I find this ‘In Your Own Words’ release a compelling insight into Reed’s always fascinating, perpetually divisive artistic flair. With some great music as well, of course!
Store for Music
Review by Mark Holmes
43:49 & 49:46
13th December 2019
DISC ONE: 1) Intro; 2) Vin Scelsa Introduces Lou Reed; 3) Betrayed; 4) VS Introduces Kris Kristofferson; 5) Shipwrecked; 6) LR on Songwriting; 7) Legendary Hearts; 8) KK on His Childhood & Songwriting; 9) Sunday Morning Coming Down / The Pilgrim; 10) LR on New York; 11) Strawman; 12) KK Talks about 'Strawman'; 13) Sam's Song; 14) LR on Writing for Wim Wenders; 15) Why Can't I Be Good; 16) LR on Autobiographical Lyrics
DISC TWO: 14 further tracks
"The recordings, which have a wonderfully clear and crisp sound, capture the guys in stripped-down form... as they perform with all the raw emotional sincerity honed and garnered from their decades of artistry."