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Laurie Anderson - United States Live CD (album) cover


Laurie Anderson


Crossover Prog

3.19 | 7 ratings

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3 stars 4 1/2 hours of Surreal Music Theater

Laurie Anderson is probably best known for her hit album Big Science and the experimental yet strangely alluring single "O Superman". What most people may not know is that these songs were originally conceived as part of an extended concept piece called United States, over four hours in duration. This 4 CD box set is a complete live performance of that piece. For those familiar with Big Science, it is quite interesting to hear the pieces in the context they were originally intended.

Of course, listening to a 4.5 hour long stage concept piece can be a daunting task without at least the aid of visuals, but on the whole this is very listenable. There are surreal spoken word pieces, atmospheric instrumentals (often featuring Anderson's violin playing), and rhythmic synthesizer-based vocal pieces (also usually spoken). I haven't bothered to untangle the meaning behind it all, but with a name like United States, it appears to be a humorous yet slightly sad examination of the state of the nation. It's not overtly political - she seems to focus more on the chasms that exist between people. In an age where we are closer than ever before -- thanks to innovations in communication and travel technology -- we still seem spiritually farther apart. Nowhere is this more poignantly stated than in "O Superman", on the surface a novelty number, but when you listen closely it's almost unbearably sad. That kind of melancholy hangs over the whole piece, even as Laurie Anderson keeps the audience entertained with a significant dose of both verbal and musical humor. They say that comedy often hides huge pain underneath, and that seems true here.

Way too long to listen to in one sitting, and without the visuals (which I'd like to see someday), it suffers a bit, but overall a huge and daring accomplishment by Laurie Anderson.

HolyMoly | 3/5 |


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