Strange Angels (Laurie Anderson album)

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Strange Angels
Laurie Anderson-Strange Angels.jpg
Studio album by Laurie Anderson
Released October 24, 1989
Genre Avant-garde, experimental, pop
Length 46:04
Label Warner Bros.
Producer Laurie Anderson
Roma Baran
Mike Thorne
Arto Lindsay
Ian Ritchie
Laurie Anderson chronology
Home of the Brave
Strange Angels
Bright Red
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau (A)[2]

Strange Angels is the fifth album by performance artist and singer Laurie Anderson, released by Warner Bros. Records in 1989.

With this release, Anderson attempted to move away from her previous image as a performance artist into a more musical realm. Although music had always been part of her performance, it was never brought to the fore as much as it was on Strange Angels. Anderson did more singing on this album than she did on previous albums. As a result, completion of this album was delayed for nearly a year when Anderson decided that she needed to take singing lessons; in the process she discovered that she was a soprano.

The album includes contributions from vocal artist Bobby McFerrin. Its cover photo was shot by Robert Mapplethorpe, who died several months before the album's release. One of the songs on this album, "The Dream Before" (also known as "Hansel and Gretel Are Alive and Well") had been introduced several years earlier in her short film What You Mean We? while she had performed "Babydoll" and "The Day the Devil" years previously on Saturday Night Live.

Reaction to Anderson's new direction was mixed, with some critics praising her new style, while some accused her of abandoning her performance art roots, even though Anderson soon began work on a major piece titled The Nerve Bible. Her next album would not be released for five years.

Strange Angels received a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album.

Beautiful Red Dress was covered in Portuguese by the Brazilian singer Marina Lima, on her 2006 album 'La nos Primordios', titled "Vestidinho Vermelho" (Little Red Dress).

The Dream Before contains the iconic phrase "history is an angel being blown backwards into the future" which is a reference to Walter Benjamin's musing on Paul Klee's painting Angelus Novus.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks composed by Laurie Anderson except where indicated

  1. "Strange Angels" – 3:51
  2. "Monkey's Paw" – 4:33
  3. "Coolsville" – 4:34
  4. "Ramon" – 5:03
  5. "Babydoll" – 3:38
  6. "Beautiful Red Dress" – 4:43
  7. "The Day the Devil" (Anderson, Peter Laurence Gordon) – 4:00
  8. "The Dream Before" – 3:03
  9. "My Eyes" – 5:29
  10. "Hiawatha" – 6:53


  • Laurie Anderson – vocals, keyboards, drums on "Coolsville"
  • Chris Spedding – guitar
  • Jimi Tunnell – guitar
  • Peter Scherer – bass, keyboards, and drum programming
  • Mark Dresser – bass
  • Sue Hadjopoulus – percussion
  • Joey Baron – drums
  • Cyro Baptista – percussion
  • Alex Foster – alto saxophone
  • Bobby McFerrin – vocals
  • Steve Gadd – drums
  • Anton Fier – drums
  • Naná Vasconcelos – percussion
  • Tony Levin – Chapman stick
  • Jimmy Bralower – drum programming
  • Lenny Pickett – tenor saxophone and horn arrangements
  • David Van Tieghem – percussion
  • Leon Pendarvis – drum programming
  • David Spinozza – guitar
  • Dave Lebolt – keyboards, synthesizers
  • Ray Phiri – guitar
  • Bakithi Khumalo – fretless bass
  • Mark Egan – bass
  • Tom "T-Bone" Wolk – accordion
  • Hugh McCracken – harmonica
  • Gib Wharton – pedal steel guitar
  • Louis Del Gatto – baritone saxophone
  • Manolo Badrena – percussion
  • Ian Ritchie – drum programming
  • Gene Tyranny – keyboards
  • Lisa Fischer – backing vocals
  • Bennie Diggs – backing vocals
  • B.J. Nelson – backing vocals
  • Yolanda Lee – backing vocals
  • Phil Ballou – backing vocals
  • Angela Clemmons-Patrick – backing vocals
  • Paulette McWilliams – backing vocals
  • Darryl Tookes – backing vocals
  • Diane Wilson – backing vocals
  • Earl Gardner – trumpet
  • Laurie Frink – trumpet
  • Steve Turre – trombone, conch shell
  • Robby Kilgore – keyboards
  • Errol "Crusher" Bennett – percussion
  • John Selolwane – guitar
  • Arto Lindsay – guitar
  • Mike Thorne – keyboards, drum programming
  • Bill Buchen – percussion
  • The Roches – backing vocals
  • Meat Loaf – backing vocals, chant


The lyrics to this song appeared on the liner for the vinyl recording, centered and formatted into the shape of a doll.[3]

Music videos[edit]

In lieu of filming a standard music video to promote the album, Anderson instead taped a series of 60-second "Personal Service Announcements" in which she humorously discussed the economy and American culture. She later produced a music video for "Beautiful Red Dress".


  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ Robert Christgau review
  3. ^ Anderson (1989). Strange Angels (vinyl). Laurie Anderson. Warner Bros. 25900.