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By Raymond Tuttle

Lou Reed
Set the Twilight Reeling
(Warner Bros.)

Like some kind of rock and roll Mr. Spock, once every decade the ice-cold, bug-eyed Lou Reed falls in love and feels like singing to the world. Back in '76 he made Coney Island Baby, a warm and tender love letter to his transvestite partner Rachel. In '84 it was New Sensations, about rediscovery, adulthood, and hetero love with then-wife Sylvia. This year, though, perhaps Lou has met his match: The object of his swooning obsession is performance artist and new girlfriend Laurie Anderson. Set the Twilight Reeling bubbles with a whole batch of new sensations, making it one of Reed's brightest and friendliest records in years.

Most times with Reed the subject matter is dour, as on the death-filled Magic & Loss or the street-tough New York, with Lou talking his way through the songs, as if injecting any melody into his dry vocals would distract from the heaviness of it all. But on Twilight, as with his past puppy-love albums, melodies abound: "NYC Man," "Trade In," "Hang On to Your Emotions," and the title track are all touchy-feely pop songs, by Lou's standards, complete with acoustic guitars, jazz chords, and aw-shucks lines such as "I want to make her my wife."

Of course it's not all goo-goo and ga-ga. Reed takes a vicious and viciously funny stab at the GOP's prudish hypocrisy ("Sex With Your Parents"), and remembers his late Velvet Underground cohort Sterling Morrison in "Finish Line," a stark elegy that would fit comfortably on Magic & Loss. But as Twilight ends with songs as sweet as "Egg Cream" and as goofy as "HookyWooky," we're simply left kvelling over Lou's true and lasting love, his romantic discovery cutting to the essence of what rock and roll's all about.

By Roni Sarig

Peter Tosh
The Toughest
(Heartbeat)

For too many years, the accomplishments of Peter Tosh have been dwarfed by the mountainous legacy of Bob Marley, reggae's greatest artist and Tosh's former bandmate (along with Bunny Wailer) in the Wailers. Tosh recorded sporadically as a solo artist during his tenure with that groundbreaking ska ensemble, and landed a few hits in Jamaica before leaving the band in 1973, complaining that Marley kept him in the background. He found celebrity in the U.S. a few years later when he signed with Rolling Stone Records, and cut a duet with Mick Jagger on a cover of the Temptations' "Don't Look Back." Yet his work for the label, although politically charged, paled in comparison to his early-Seventies collaborations with reggae Renaissance man Lee Perry, who, as producer, placed Tosh's gruff baritone amid a fluid mix of rumbling bass, crashing percussion, and slinky, soul-steeped grooves. Many of those tracks, as well as Tosh's finest vocals with the Wailers, have languished on countless multiartist compilations or been buried on the Marley-intensive Wailers collections.

Until now. The Toughest pulls together those tracks and documents Tosh's prime years, from his formative mid-Sixties solo recordings to early-Seventies landmarks such as "Brand New Second Hand" (heard here in two equally fine takes). Both the hard-skanking obscurity "Hoot Nanny Hoot" (Tosh's first lead vocal with the Wailers) and the rollicking "Maga Dog" define the exuberance of early ska, while "Sinner Man" is a gorgeous slice of reggae gospel that remained in Tosh's live sets up to his death in 1987. It's the six Perry-produced tracks, though, that capture Tosh at his peak: "400 Years" and "No Sympathy," in particular, are artful summaries of Tosh's rage at the racism and injustice in his Jamaican homeland.

By John Floyd

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