On "Sloe Gin," Tim Curry sounds like John Cale playing Lou Reed. That Reed guitarist Dick Wagner and producer Bob Ezrin are involved in Read My Lips, the solo debut from the star of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, should come as no surprise. Wagner's tastefully brilliant guitar on "Sloe Gin" underscores the melancholy vocal, and these journeymen are the perfect crew to work on this "film for the ear" sequel. Dick Wagner sounds very much like Nils Lofgren here, and Lofgren shows up playing accordion. It's a big cast and a big sound, but Bob Ezrin refines it all, keeping the large musical presence as subtle as possible. Perhaps the best compliment one can give this record is that it is almost back to Berlin, the brilliant Lou Reed recording, this time put in a commercial setting. Curry mutates from Cale to Mitch Ryder with his shouting in "Harlem on My Mind," then he mutates midsong to some '30s crooner. Since Berlin (the album, not songwriter Irving Berlin, who composed "Harlem") was the aforementioned film for the ear, it makes sense that some of the crew involved with that epic disc would do another such endeavor when the cat who performed in the ultimate cult film had an album to cut. The sheer drama of "Anyone Who Had a Heart" is the album's zenith, highlight, and treasure. It is so good it takes away from the beauty of the rest of the disc. It's Dr. Frank N. Furter dancing a waltz with Dionne Warwick trapped on the psychic network. It is brilliant. The Regimental Pipers and Drums of the Forty-Eighth Highlanders of Canada are superb, blending their marching-band sounds with Curry's unique voice -- halfway to Alice Cooper but detouring to Robert Goulet's house. This isn't Brian Eno's Portsmouth Sinfonia, nor is it Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk"; this is a mini-epic which should have at the very least appealed to the myriad fans of Berlin and at most sold millions of discs. A reggae version of Lennon/McCartney's "I Will"? It is reverent and works better than Lou Christie running through "If I Fell," to give just one Beatles cover comparison. As an interpreter, Curry is marvelous; he relishes this role as he did Rocky Horror. Roy Wood's "Brontosaurus" might be an oddity, but so is covering Joni Mitchell's "All I Want" or stretching Irving Berlin's "Harlem on My Mind." It's an amazing cast of rock & roll characters who come to the party: Lee Michaels on keyboards, Allan Schwartzberg on drums, and a record that should have been put on video. It works so much better than Bob Ezrin's Kiss venture, Music From "The Elder", and only goes to show that Lou Reed taught them well. Irving Berlin on the sequel to Berlin --- now that's very Lou Reed, and a very clever tip to the master.
AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione