*** Lou Reed/John Cale "Songs for Drella, " Sire / Warner Bros.
Casual and conversational in presentation, bittersweet but never maudlin in mood, the "Drella" song cycle has the most prominent half of the original Velvet Underground reunited to eulogize the band's patron and mentor, Andy Warhol. As simple as his art theories, as complex as his inner struggles, it follows the artist/celebrity from his misfit youth in Pittsburgh through his explosion on and dominance of the Pop art scene to his later uncertainties and fears.
Sometimes told from Reed's or Cale's point of view, sometimes from Warhol's, the songs don't romanticize the artist--all his paranoia and pettiness are laid bare, as is the musicians' guilt for turning their backs on him at times of need. The ungussied music (just Reed on electric guitar and Cale on keyboards and viola) keeps it personal, and even lends a Warholian sense of instant art, though that doesn't seem to be the intent. "Drella" is instead an often moving remembrance by two now-matured artists with an unlikely father figure.
Star scale: one (poor) through five (a classic).