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Friday, May 8, 2020

Lou Reed - Original Album Classics (1972-75 us, amazing 2008 five disc box set)

The career of Lou Reed defied capsule summarization. Like David Bowie (whom Reed directly inspired in many ways), he made over his image many times, mutating from theatrical glam rocker to strung-out junkie to avant-garde noiseman to straight rock & roller to your average guy. Few would deny Reed's immense importance and considerable achievements. As has often been written, he expanded the vocabulary of rock & roll lyrics into the previously forbidden territory of kinky sex, drug use (and abuse), decadence, transvestites, homosexuality, and suicidal depression. As has been pointed out less often, he remained committed to using rock & roll as a forum for literary, mature expression throughout his artistic life, without growing lyrically soft or musically complacent. By and large, he took on these challenging duties with uncompromising honesty and a high degree of realism. For these reasons, he was often cited as punk's most important ancestor. It's often overlooked, though, that he was equally skilled at celebrating romantic joy, and rock & roll itself, as he was at depicting harrowing urban realities. With the exception of Neil Young, no other star who rose to fame in the '60s continued to push himself so diligently into creating work that was, and remains, meaningful and contemporary. 

Although Reed achieved his greatest success as a solo artist, his most enduring accomplishments were as the leader of the Velvet Underground in the '60s. If Reed had never made any solo records, his work as the principal lead singer and songwriter for the Velvets would have still ensured his stature as one of the greatest rock visionaries of all time. The Velvet Underground are discussed at great length in many other sources, but it's sufficient to note that the four studio albums they recorded with Reed at the helm are essential listening, as is much of their live and extraneous material. "Heroin," "Sister Ray," "Sweet Jane," "Rock and Roll," "Venus in Furs," "All Tomorrow's Parties," "What Goes On," and "Lisa Says" are just the most famous classics that Reed wrote and sang for the group. As innovative as the Velvets were at breaking lyrical and instrumental taboos with their crunching experimental rock, they were unappreciated in their lifetime. Five years of little commercial success was undoubtedly a factor in Reed leaving the group he had founded in August 1970, just before the release of their most accessible effort, Loaded. Although Reed's songs and streetwise, sing-speak vocals dominated the Velvets, he was perhaps more reliant upon his talented collaborators than he realized, or was even willing to admit in his latter years. The most talented of these associates was John Cale, who was apparently fired by Reed in 1968 after the Velvets' second album (although the pair subsequently worked together on various other projects). 

Reed had a reputation of being a difficult man to work with for an extended period, and that made it difficult for his extensive solo oeuvre to compete with the standards of brilliance set by the Velvets. Nowhere was this more apparent than on his self-titled solo debut from 1971, recorded after he'd taken an extended hiatus from music, moving back to his parents' suburban Long Island home at one point. Lou Reed mostly consisted of flaccid versions of songs dating back to the Velvet days, and he could have really used the group to punch them up, as proved by the many outtake versions of these tunes that he actually recorded with the Velvet Underground (some of which didn't surface until about 25 years later). 

Reed got a shot in the arm (no distasteful pun intended) when David Bowie and Mick Ronson produced his second album, Transformer. A more energetic set that betrayed the influence of glam rock, it also included his sole Top 20 hit, "Walk on the Wild Side," and other good songs like "Vicious" and "Satellite of Love." It also made him a star in Britain, which was quick to appreciate the influence Reed had exerted on Bowie and other glam rockers. Reed went into more serious territory on Berlin (1973), its sweet orchestral production coating lyrical messages of despair and suicide. In some ways Reed's most ambitious and impressive solo effort, it was accorded a vituperative reception by critics in no mood for a nonstop bummer (however elegantly executed). Unbelievably, in retrospect, it made the Top Ten in Britain, though it flopped stateside. 

Having been given a cold shoulder for some of his most serious (if chilling) work, Reed apparently decided he was going to give the public what it wanted. He had guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner give his music more of a pop-metal, radio-friendly sheen. More disturbingly, he decided to play up to the cartoon junkie role that some in his audience seemed eager to assign to him. Onstage, that meant shocking bleached hair, painted fingernails, and simulated drug injections. On record, it led to some of his most careless performances. One of these, the 1974 album Sally Can't Dance, was also his most commercially successful, reaching the Top Ten, thus confirming both Reed's and the audience's worst instincts. As if to prove he could still be as uncompromising as anyone, he unleashed the double album Metal Machine Music, a nonstop assault of electronic noise. Opinions remain divided as to whether it was an artistic statement, a contract quota-filler, or a slap in the face to the public. 

Later, Reed never behaved as outrageously (in public and in the studio) as he did in the mid-'70s, although there was plenty of excitement in the decades that followed. When he decided to play it relatively straight, sincere, and hard-nosed, he could produce affecting work in the spirit of his best vintage material (parts of Coney Island Baby and Street Hassle). At other points, he seemed not to be putting too much effort into any aspect of his songs ("Rock and Roll Heart").
by Richie Unterberger

Disc 1 Lou Reed 1972
1. I Can't Stand It - 2:37
2. Going Down - 2:57
3. Walk and Talk It - 3:40
4. Lisa Says - 5:34
5. Berlin - 5:16
6. I Love You - 2:21
7. Wild Child - 4:41
8. Love Makes You Feel - 3:13
9. Ride Into The Sun (Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker) - 3:16
10.Ocean - 5:06
All songs by Lou Reed except as noted

Disc 2 Transformer 1972
1. Vicious – 2:58
2. Andy's Chest – 3:20
3. Perfect Day – 3:46
4. Hangin' 'Round – 3:35
5. Walk on the Wild Side – 4:15
6. Make Up – 3:00
7. Satellite of Love – 3:42
8. Wagon Wheel – 3:19
9. New York Telephone Conversation – 1:33
10.I'm So Free – 3:09
11.Goodnight Ladies – 4:21 
12.Hangin' Round" (Acoustic Demo) – 3:57
13.Perfect Day" (Acoustic Demo) / "Transformer" Radio Advertising (Hidden Track) – 4:50
All songs written by Lou Reed

Disc 3 Berlin 1973
1. Berlin – 3:23
2. Lady Day – 3:40
3. Men of Good Fortune – 4:37
4. Caroline Says I – 3:57
5. How Do You Think It Feels – 3:42
6. Oh, Jim – 5:13
7. Caroline Says II – 4:10
8. The Kids – 7:55
9/ The Bed – 5:51
10.Sad Song – 6:55
All tracks composed by Lou Reed

Disc 4 Sally Can't Dance 1974
1. Ride Sally Ride - 4:05
2. Animal Language - 3:05
3. Baby Face - 5:05
4. N. Y. Stars - 4:01
5. Kill Your Sons - 3:40
6. Ennui - 3:43
7. Sally Can't Dance - 4:12
8. Billy - 5:10
9. Good Taste - 3:30
10.Sally Can't Dance (Single Version) - 4:12
All songs by Lou Reed

Disc 5 Coney Island Baby 1975
1. Crazy Feeling - 2:56
2. Charley's Girl - 2:36
3. She's My Best Friend - 6:00
4. Kicks - 6:06
5. A Gift - 3:47
6. Ooohhh Baby - 3:45
7. Nobody's Business - 3:41
8. Coney Island Baby - 6:36
9. Nowhere At All - 3:17
10.Downtown Dirt - 4:18
11.Leave Me Alone - 5:35
12.Crazy Feeling - 2:39
13.She's My Best Friend - 4:08
14.Coney Island Baby - 5:41
All compositions by Lou Reed
Track 9 Recorded November 18, 21, 1975 At Mediasound Studios, NYC
Track 10 Recorded January 3, 4, 1975 At Electric Lady Studios, NYC
Track 11 Recorded October 19, 20, 1975 At Mediasound Studios, NYC
Track 12 Recorded January 3, 4, 1975 At Electric Lady Studios, NYC
Track 13 Recorded January 4, 1975 At Electric Lady Studios, NYC
Track 14 Recorded January 6, 1975 At Electric Lady Studios, NYC

1972 Lou Reed
*Lou Reed - Guitar, Arranger, Keyboards, Vocals, Producer
*Clem Cattini - Percussion
*Helene Francois - Harmony Vocals
*Kay Garner - Harmony Vocals
*Steve Howe - Guitar
*Les Hurdle - Bass
*Paul Keogh - Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
*Brian Odgers - Bass
*Caleb Quaye - Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Piano
*Rick Wakeman - Piano, Keyboards
1972 Transformer
*Lou Reed - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
*Herbie Flowers - Bass Guitar, Double-Bass, Tuba
*Mick Ronson - Lead Guitar, Piano, Recorder, Backing Vocals, String Arrangements
*John Halsey - Drums
*Ronnie Ross - Baritone Saxophone
*David Bowie - Backing Vocals
*The Thunderthighs - Backing Vocals
*Barry Desouza - Drums
*Ritchie Dharma - Drums
*Klaus Voormann - Bass
1973 Berlin
*Lou Reed - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
*Bob Ezrin - Piano, Mellotron
*Michael Brecker - Tenor Sax
*Randy Brecker - Trumpet
*Jack Bruce - Bass
*Aynsley Dunbar - Drums
*Steve Hunter - Electric Guitar
*Tony Levin - Bass
*Allan Macmillan - Piano
*Gene Martynec - Acoustic Guitar, Synthesizer, Vocal Arrangement
*Jon Pierson - Bass Trombone
*Dick Wagner - Background Vocals, Electric Guitar
*Blue Weaver - Piano
*B.J. Wilson - Drums
*Steve Winwood - Organ, Harmonium
*Bob Ezrin, Dennis Ferrante, Steve Hyden, Elizabeth March, Lou Reed, Dick Wagner - Choir
1974 Sally Can't Dance
*Lou Reed - Vocals, Guitar
*Danny Weis - Guitar, Tambourine, Background Vocals, Horn Arrangement
*Paul Fleisher - Saxophone On "Billy"
*David Taylor, Lou Marini, Trevor Koehler, Jon Faddis, Alan Rubin, Alex Foster - Horns
*Steve Katz - Harmonica, Horn Arrangement
*Michael Fonfara - Keyboards, Background Vocals, Horn Arrangement
*Prakash John - Bass, Background Vocals
*Doug Yule - Bass On "Billy"
*Ritchie Dharma - Drums On "Kill Your Sons" & "Ennui"
*Pentti "Whitey" Glan - Drums
*Michael Wendroff - Background Vocals
*Joanne Vent - Background Vocals
1975 Coney Island Baby
*Lou Reed - Vocals, Guitar, Piano
*Bob Kulick - Guitar
*Bruce Yaw - Acoustic Bass, Electric Bass
*Michael Suchorsky - Drums
*Joanne Vent, Michael Wendroff, Godfrey Diamond - Background Vocals
*Doug Yule - Bass, Guitar (On Bonus Tracks)
*Bob Meday - Drums (On Bonus Tracks)
*Michael Fonfara - Keyboards  (On Bonus Tracks)