John Cale, the co-founder of The Velvet Underground, left the group in 1968 after tensions between himself and Lou Reed became intolerable; neither had much charitable to say about one other after that, and they seemed to share only one significant area of agreement -- they both maintained a great respect and admiration for Andy Warhol, the artist whose patronage of the group helped them reach their first significant audience. So it was fitting that after Warhol's death in 1987, Reed and Cale began working together for the first time since White Light/White Heat on a cycle of songs about the artist's life and times. Starkly constructed around Cale's keyboards, Reed's guitar, and their voices, Songs for Drella is a performance piece about Andy Warhol, his rise to fame, and his troubled years in the limelight. Reed and Cale take turns on vocals, sometimes singing as the character of Andy and elsewhere offering their observations on the man they knew. On a roll after New York, Reed's songs are strong and pithy, and display a great feel for the character of Andy, and while Cale brought fewer tunes to the table, they're all superb, especially "Style It Takes" and "A Dream," a spoken word piece inspired by Warhol's posthumously published diaries. If Songs for Drella seems modest from a musical standpoint, it's likely neither Reed nor Cale wanted the music to distract from their story, and here they paint a portrait of Warhol that has far more depth and poignancy than his public image would have led one to expect. It's a moving and deeply felt tribute to a misunderstood man, and it's a pleasure to hear these two comrades-in-arms working together again, even if their renewed collaboration was destined to be short-lived.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming