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The Blue Mask is the eleventh studio album by singer-songwriter Lou Reed. It was the first album released after Reed left Arista Records and returned toRCA Records. It returns to the stripped-down sound of his previous group, the Velvet Underground, with only guitars, bass and drums. It also follows the Velvet Underground stylistically by counterpointing and transposing jarring feedback-driven rock with tough and tender ballads, melodic distortion of a magnitude not heard since the "Sister Ray" days. The album was released near Reed's 40th birthday, and covers topics of marriage and settling down.
Reed and Robert Quine's guitars were mixed separately in the right and left stereo channels respectively. To differentiate his guitar's sound from Reed's, Quine used D tuning, playing each song as if it was one major second higher. For example, "Heavenly Arms" is in G major, so Quine used fingerings for A major to play the song.
Quine, who years earlier followed the Velvet Underground across the country and taped several of their early shows (they were later released as Bootleg Series Volume 1: The Quine Tapes), was a perfect complement to Reed. Quine also toured in support of the album and can be seen on the recorded Bottom Line show titled A Night with Lou Reed. The album contains no instrumental overdubs with the exception of Reed's guitar on "My House", but all vocals were overdubbed with the exception of "The Heroine".
Longtime Reed collaborator Fernando Saunders plays the bass and adds backing vocals (most noticeably, a falsetto refrain in the outro to "Heavenly Arms") to this album and can also be seen in A Night with Lou Reed. In 2000, a remastered version of The Blue Mask was released. Quine and Reed share the distinction of being named to Rolling Stone's Top 100 Guitarists of All-Time List. The drummer for the album was the studio ace Doane Perry who later joinedJethro Tull.
All songs written by Lou Reed.
- "My House" - 5:25
- "Women" - 4:57
- "Underneath the Bottle" - 2:33
- "The Gun" - 3:41
- "The Blue Mask" - 5:06
- "Average Guy" - 3:12
- "The Heroine" - 3:06
- "Waves of Fear" - 4:11
- "The Day John Kennedy Died" - 4:08
- "Heavenly Arms" - 4:47