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Album Review

October 23, 1994|Chris Willman

LAURIE ANDERSON, "Bright Red" ( Warner Bros. ) ***

As an impressionist of impressive lyrical accomplishment, Anderson has the uncommon ability to take a metaphor and stretch it so ridiculously far that it's no longer metaphor but vivid waking dream. And in this she is at her haunting best in several tracks on her first new album in nearly five years.

"Speechless" takes off from an Annie Dillard wilderness anecdote, about a doomed weasel terminally latching onto a preying eagle's neck, to make a statement about fading love. "Night in Baghdad" most evocatively essays what could be overly obvious: beauty in destruction. "Love Among the Sailors," which imagines a black plague spreading into every port, is one of the most touching songs yet to be written about AIDS.

Too many other miniatures here fall sketchily short of this greatness, dependent no doubt on her next live revue for fuller contextual effectiveness.

In any case, this is some of her most accessible work, with producer Brian Eno ditching a lot of the electronic filtering and putting Anderson's unmasked voice right up front in all its ageless spookiness, a voice that can speak-sing a song about the 12:00 blinking on your VCR and truly make it seem like the stopped sands of time.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

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