Lou Reed The Raven

Reed takes a long walk on the weird side with this bizarre and thoroughly uneven 75-minute epic, named for one of Edgar Allan Poe's best-known works. The album is, in part, a tribute to Poe, featuring tracks like "I Wanna Know (the Pit and the Pendulum)," "Tripitena's Speech" and "The Raven," along with the dead giveaway "Edgar Allan Poe." It's also an exercise is revisionism as Reed sets out to update some of his material of yore including "The Bed" and "Perfect Day," the latter of which is sung by young, singularly-named up-and-comer, Antony. Many of the other names on the guest list are more familiar, like Reed cohort of old David Bowie, fellow NYC artist Laurie Anderson, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, sax legend Ornette Coleman, and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Even Reed's actor pals Willem Dafoe and Steve Buscemi get involved, lending their voices to a pair of tracks. As if that weren't enough to make this the unintentional novelty release of the year, The Raven is available in two different sizes: as a single disc or as a double-CD package that promises even more disjointed hits and misses. (Warner)