Lou Reed: Mistrial (1986)

Lou Reed’s career has been marked by lapses into laziness, which he manages to shake off every few albums. Mistrial is the trail end in just such a trough, shy of the consistency that marked Legendary Hearts and pale in comparison to New York. It’s not a bad record, thanks to a few standout tracks like “Video Violence,” “Tell It To Your Heart” and “Mama’s Got A Lover.” But this is Reed on auto-pilot, pulling double duty on lead and rhythm guitars with co-pilot Fernando Saunders handling bass and drum programming. You won’t find the clever musical interplay that appeared on Legendary Hearts, and Saunders gives the music a decidedly funky flavor, which makes Mistrial punchier than most Lou Reed albums. The lyrics are still strong, including a rap of sorts on “The Original Wrapper” that manages to be funny and political at the same time (a style Reed would revisit with greater success on New York’s “Good Evening Mr. Waldheim”). Perhaps more telling, Mistrial is two years removed from his last studio album; from now on, Reed would enter the studio with less frequency. Mistrial may not be an inspired effort, but it’s not any worse than some of Reed’s Arista records. “Mistrial” (an appeal to the equally damaged denizens of New York City), “Don’t Hurt A Woman” and “I Remember You” are pretty good cuts, and help make Mistrial less of a disappointment than it might otherwise be. Is it one of his worst albums? Judge for yourself.

Original LP Version
A1. Mistrial
A2. No Money Down
A3. Outside
A4. Don’t Hurt A Woman
A5. Video Violence
B1. Spit It Out
B2. The Original Wrapper
B3. Mama’s Got A Lover
B4. I Remember You
B5. Tell It To Your Heart

All songs written by Lou Reed.

The Players
Lou Reed (vocals, lead & rhythm guitars, power guitar), Fernando Saunders (bass, drum programming, background vocals, bass synthesizer, percussion, rhythm guitar, piano) with Rick Bell (tenor sax), Ruben Blades (background vocals), Jim Carroll (background vocals), J.T. Lewis (drums), Eddie Martinez (rhythm guitar), Sammy Merendino (percussion, drum programming). Produced by Lou Reed and Fernando Saunders; recording engineered by David Greenberg; additional engineering and digital mixing by Bruce Lampcov.

The Pictures
Cover design by Sylvia Reed.

The Plastic
Released on elpee, cassette and compact disc in April 1986 in the US (RCA, AFL1/AFK1/PCD1-7190), the UK, Germany and Italy (RCA, PL 87190), Argentina (RCA, TLP 70040), Brazil (RCA, 7104214) and Japan (RCA, RPL-8337) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #47 on the US charts and #69 on the UK charts. Re-issued on compact disc on September 21, 1988 in Europe (BMG, ND-90253) and in 1989 in Japan (RCA, B20D-41008). Re-released on remastered compact disc on March 19, 2007 in Japan (RCA, BVCM-37754).

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