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Culture Watch

Play This One on Your Doombox

January 04, 1998|JANET KINOSIAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Forget Anne Rice, Stephen King and "The X-Files." If you want to make literati of your young denizens of darkness--and no, we don't mean listening to Goth rockers Marilyn Manson, Bauhaus, and Siouxsie and the Banshees--you're in luck. Edgar Allen Poe, that purest preeminent architect of American Gothic literature and poetry, has resurfaced in millennium form.

Filled with his trademark amalgam of obsession, terror, madness, beauty and decay, the new CD "Closed on Account of Rabies," (a reference to the disease that killed Poe) has singers Iggy Pop droning "The Tell-Tale Heart," Marianne Faithful rasping "Annabelle Lee," and actor Gabriel Byrne using his Irish velvet voice on the "Masque of Red Death."

Have your crucifixes ready; you've likely not heard Poe like this before.

"It's a bit like pinning dead oranges on an orange tree," remarked Hal Willner, the CD's producer, offering a clue as to how the 16 poems and prose pieces ended up on the double disc (Mercury/Mouth).

Other tracks include "The Raven," read by Christopher Walken; "The City and the Sea," performed by ex-Blondie Deborah Harry, and a 15-minute "The Black Cat," read by Diamanada Galas.

The last--and best--performances for the CD--by Irish singer Gavin Friday ("For Annie") and the late Jeff Buckley ("Ulallume")--were recorded the day before Buckley was to move to Memphis. Allen Ginsberg, a friend of both singers, came by to visit and ended up coaching Buckley.

Says Friday of that eventful evening: "It may sound weird, but it was a type of religious experience. It was Poe, so the vibe was intense, and we all knew Allen was sick, but Jeff's death was nowhere in sight."

Within several months, in fact, both Buckley and Ginsberg would be dead.

The immortal writer of darkness and dementia was "writing about love," Willner says. "How love and death are redemptive and forever intertwined."

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