Magic and Loss

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Magic and Loss
Magic and Loss (Lou Reed) album cover.jpg
Studio album by Lou Reed
Released January 14, 1992
Recorded April 1–27, 1991
Studio The Magic Shop, New York City
Genre Rock
Length 58:27
Label Sire
Producer Lou Reed, Mike Rathke
Lou Reed chronology
Songs for Drella
Magic and Loss
Between Thought and Expression: The Lou Reed Anthology

Magic and Loss is the 16th album by Lou Reed. Originally released in 1992 on Sire Records, the concept album was Reed's highest peaking album on the UK Albums Chart, reaching No. 6.[1]


It's my dream album, because everything finally came together to where the album is finally fully realized. I got it to do what I wanted it to do, commercial thoughts never entered into it, so I'm just stunned.

Lou Reed, explaining his satisfaction with the album.[2]

Magic and Loss was originally intended to be primarily about themes of magic after hearing stories about magicians in Mexico. However, when tragedy struck during the writing process, Reed expanded the album's focus to themes of loss and death as well.[3] Inspired in part by the illnesses and eventual deaths of two close friends, Magic and Loss was written for songwriter Doc Pomus, who had given Reed his start in the music business some 25 years earlier,[4] and a woman Reed has identified as "Rita", popularly assumed to be Rotten Rita, who along with Reed was a familiar figure at Andy Warhol's studio, the Factory, in the mid-to-late '60s.[5] Photographs of Pomus and a woman's face can be seen at the center of the lyric booklet included with the CD release.[6]

Jazz singer Little Jimmy Scott performs the backing vocal on track 3, "Power and Glory". Reed's live performance of the album filmed on March 18, 1992 at Pinewood Studios in London was released on VHS and LD.[7]

The single "What's Good"/"The Thesis", released in March, was Reed's second #1 hit (after "Dirty Blvd.") on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart,[8] occupying the top spot for three weeks. The 12" version of the release contained Reed's reading of "Harry's Circumcision" and "A Dream". A longer version of "What's Good" was previously released on the 1991 soundtrack album to Until the End of the World.[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[10]
Chicago Tribune 4/4 stars[11]
Entertainment Weekly B−[12]
NME 10/10[13]
Q 4/5 stars[14]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[15]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars[16]

Magic and Loss was voted the 16th best album of the year in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll for 1992. Robert Christgau, the poll's creator, disapproved of the voters' support of an album he felt was a "failed concept" marred by Reed's uninteresting views on death.[17] Christgau gave it a "neither" grade in his own review, indicating an album that does not warrant repeated listening despite coherent craft and one or two highlights.[18] In a positive review, Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune said that the album shows "a great rocker at the peak of his powers: Striking tunes, gripping lyrics, honest emotion stripped of melodrama."[11]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics and music by Lou Reed unless otherwise stated.

Side 1

  1. "Dorita - The Spirit" – 1:07
  2. "What's Good - The Thesis" – 3:22
  3. "Power and Glory - The Situation" – 4:23 (Lou Reed, Mike Rathke)
  4. "Magician - Internally" – 6:23
  5. "Sword of Damocles - Externally" – 3:42
  6. "Goodby Mass - In a Chapel Bodily Termination" – 4:25
  7. "Cremation - Ashes to Ashes" – 2:54
  8. "Dreamin' - Escape" – 5:07 (Reed, Rathke)

Side 2

  1. "No Chance - Regret" – 3:15
  2. "Warrior King - Revenge" – 4:27
  3. "Harry's Circumcision - Reverie Gone Astray" – 5:28
  4. "Gassed and Stoked - Loss" – 4:18 (Reed, Rathke)
  5. "Power and Glory, Part II - Magic - Transformation" – 2:57 (Reed, Rathke)
  6. "Magic and Loss - The Summation" – 6:39 (Reed, Rathke)


  • Lou Reed - vocals, acoustic & electric guitar
  • Mike Rathke - guitar
  • Rob Wasserman - bass
  • Michael Blair - drums, percussion, background vocals
  • Roger Moutenot - background vocals
  • Little Jimmy Scott - background vocals


  1. ^ "ChartArchive - Lou Reed - Magic and loss". ChartArchive. DistantStar. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  2. ^ Johnstone, Nick (April 7, 2010). Lou Reed 'Talking'. London, United Kingdom: Omnibus Press. p. 89. 
  3. ^ Reed, Lou (December 9, 2008). Pass Thru Fire: The Collected Lyrics. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press. p. XXIII. ISBN 978-0306816307. 
  4. ^ "World Cafe Remembers Lou Reed". NPR. October 29, 2013. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  5. ^ Greenman, Ben (October 28, 2013). "A Clipper Ship of Lou Reed Songs". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  6. ^ Magic and Loss (CD Booklet). Los Angeles: Sire Records. 1992. 
  7. ^ "Lou Reed – La Edad de Oro (Pignon-095)". Collectors Music Reviews. October 18, 2011. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  8. ^ Molanphy, Chris (November 1, 2013). "Embrace and Repel: Lou Reed's Chart History". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  9. ^ DiGravina, Tim. "Until the End of the World - Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  10. ^ Deming, Mark. "Magic and Loss – Lou Reed". AllMusic. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Kot, Greg (January 12, 1992). "Lou Reed's Recordings: 25 Years Of Path-breaking Music". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  12. ^ Zacharek, Stephanie (January 17, 1992). "Magic and Loss". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  13. ^ "21 1990s Albums NME Has Given 10/10". NME. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Lou Reed: Magic and Loss". Q (65): 87. February 1992. 
  15. ^ Fricke, David (January 23, 1992). "Lou Reed: Magic And Loss". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on May 3, 2009. Retrieved September 3, 2011. 
  16. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-743-20169-8. 
  17. ^ Christgau, Robert (March 2, 1993). "Pazz & Jop 1992: Between a Rock and a Hard Place". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  18. ^ Christgau, Robert (2000). Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s. Macmillan. pp. xvi, 264. ISBN 0312245602. Retrieved July 29, 2013.