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Lou Reed
Albums

  • Lou Reed,
  • Transformer,
  • Berlin,
  • Rock And Roll Animal,
  • Sally Can't Dance,
  • Metal Machine Music,
  • Coney Island Baby,
  • Street Hassle,
  • The Bells,
  • Growing Up In Public,
  • Blue Mask,








  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Lou Reed

    berlin transformer street hassle the bells coney island baby

    Lou Reed 7 ( 1972 )
    I Can't Stand It / Going Down / Walk And Talk It / Lisa Says / Berlin / I Love You / Wild Child / Love Makes You Feel / Ride Into The Sun / Ocean

    You wouldn't really expect the first solo Lou Reed album to feature amongst the musician staff both Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe of progressive rock act, Yes. Help from such popular musicians as both Rick and Steve were at the time helped 'Lou Reed' reach all of 182 on the billboard album charts! Still, the legacy of the Velvet Underground was yet to attract the popular cult attention it later did. Lou had yet to write a terribly large amount of new material, the bulk of the material collected here dating back to his days with VU, albeit re-recorded of course. The music here at times recalls Lou's work with his previous group and at other times seems uncertain which direction to move in at all. 'I Can't Stand It' makes for a cracking opening track, though. The guitars do recall the velvet underground without apeing them, the song whips along at a good pace and rocks in places. Does it for me. Some strong material is collected throughout the album as a whole, actually. Neither 'Going Down' or 'Walk and Talk It' are anything but strong material, albeit material that within an album whole, doesn't seem to lend any actual purpose to this debut solo album. 'Lisa Says' is fun, 'Berlin' is a song Lou would later revisit and dramatically re-work. Nice piano work all through the track, although this version lacks any of the weight the later version manages.

    This lack of weight, or if you prefer, purpose to this album as an entity is the major problem, actually. A series of decent songs fly past you, little is really bad as such. Yet, the musical backing lacks any coherent direction. Everything is quite simple, from the songs to the playing. Just a bunch of songs, really. Nothing wrong with that of course, especially with such highlights as the fabulously enjoyable 'Wild Child', complete with its debt to both the Velvet Underground ( naturally ) but also to mid sixties period Dylan. I also dig 'Ride Into The Sun', a very pretty sequence of melodies. 'Ocean' wraps up the project, complete with a muddled and confused song arrangement and ill-realised effects. As a feeler for what later became a distinguished, if at times bewildering, solo career however, 'Lou Reed' hits enough spots to be a worthwhile and more often than not, an enjoyable listening experience.

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    Readers Comments

    siegfrid siegfrid010101@yahoo.com
    Eversince the Velvet's unceremonial and ironic end, many people have expected Lou Reed's solo production to be as exceptional, original, and sensitive as that of his former band. Few however noticed and ever appreciated that the unique blend of Reed together with Cale, Tucker and Morrisson who was actually a serious contributor in the first two albums (more in the first than in the second though as Reed's "tendency" to overwite everyone else started to spiral out of control) was actually responsible for the band's incredible sound, arrangements, the eternally haunted aura of their songs that portrayed the exasperation of "experiencing love through its absence". Few greeted the parade of musical mediocrity that Reed was signing, album after album after album through the seventies, eighties and ninenties without really being surprised. The pattern was however broken in certain occasions through individual glimpses of inspiration in songs (rather than albums). To gi! ve more credit to Reed, despite his obvious desire for reckognition that brought him acceptance of the same star-system rules, the need for which he once so graciously defied with the Velvets, he remained a true alternative figure to the present day. His first album is a collection of unpublished (to that date) Velvet material with new arrangements. The albums' obvious lack of direction shows how much Reed wanted to break through from the (supposed) failure of his recent past to the main and finally find a place of some kind in the music buisiness. It follows that the arrangements are terrible and do little justice to Velvet "lost" (as most people know them) classics. Reed's overstandard opinions about how songs should sound comes out clearly here for the first time; these opinions would grow over the years to the despicable results we've heard in the Velvets' live re-union album of 1993; that is all spark is replaced with unheardable - rock like - solos (Reed w! as always a very mediocre guitarist) and cliche jazz - blues -! country elements. Reed was always good with words and in many occasions a charismatic performer but unfortunately for him and for many of his fans he remains a very mediocre musician and songrwiter that replaced true flair with the weight of his legend: Velvets' frontman in the 60's, Rock'n'Roll animal during the 70's, intellectual mature artist of the 80's and (finally) a r'n'r legend in the 90's and 00's, as he has always wanted...


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    Transformer( 1972 )
    Vicious / Andy's Chest / Perfect Day / Hangin Round / Walk On The Wild Side / Make Up / Satellite Of Love / Wagon Wheel / New York Telephone Conversation / I'm So Free / Goodnight Ladies

    The reasons why Lou Reed hooked up with the then oh so hot commercially David Bowie, with artistic flourishes along the way from Bowie musical director Mick Ronson, can always be debated and/or surmised. Although, the very reasons Lou started his solo career in the first place had a lot to do with shining a light on the then rarely heard catalogue of The Velvet Underground. 'Tranformer' becoming a hit record led to renewed interest in the work Lou had previously done, it introduced the names Lou Reed and Velvet Underground to a largely ignorant British music buying public and raised his profile in his homeland. Lou made some money, made a largely artistically pleasing record and got those Velvet Underground records reissued and heard by more people than had ever heard them during the original lifetime of the group. For all the glam brought to the equation by Bowie and Ronson', underneath lies the same Lou Reed that wrote Heroin, etc. We've dark and seedy characters and situations, the same kinds of songs, albeit arranged and performed very differently to VU. The overall sound of the record is a more restrained version of Glam than Ziggy. We've beautiful piano and strong arranging flourishes from Ronson, the production touches of Bowie are evident and the combination works.

    Three of Lou Reeds most famous songs are present on 'Transformer' and its these songs that remain to this day three of the only solo Lou Reed songs the casual rock fan may know. 'Perfect Day' is as beautifully sang as any Lou Reed song can be during the softer passages and during the verses, the string arrangements hold sway and add needed drama. The string aided instrumental piano section leading into the songs close is a good touch, a very well arranged song all round. In similar ballad mode is 'Satellite Of Love', one of the simplest yet most enjoyable songs Lou Reed has ever penned. The pop flourishes present through the faintly theatrical backing vocals adding that extra dimension to turn a good song into a great one. 'Walk On The Wild Side'? Well, almost a cartoon version of The Velvet Underground, really, controversial lyrics and all. Still good though, of course. A hit single for Lou? Well, yeah. It was needed and all three of these songs mix with the light-rock of 'Vicious', the more obviously glam-rock of the enjoyable 'I'm So Free'. 'Make Up' and 'Goodnight Ladies' are stranger supporting material, the latter hinting towards elements of the 'Berlin' album, the former an eccentric mix of brass led music married to fine Lou lyrics. All in all, 'Transformer' holds together remarkably cohesively given the varying material and personnel, the Bowie/Lou match-up working surprisingly well.

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    Graham Anderson ganderson1@hotmail.co.uk
    On finding out that lou reed is playing Culzean Castle (near glasgow where i stay!) in May 2005 i began checking out 'lou reed' sites. Ye cant beat lou for total, downright mockit-ness! good scottish word for filthy, that. Anyway, cool reviews man.

    gazza garyhess44@hoymail.com
    Glad to see you reviewing lous solo work - much underrated , but youre wrong in saying the velvets were complete unknowns in the uk till bowie started covering them , several djs were playing the songs and the stones nearly signed them to their upcoming label (on marianne faithfuls recommendation) back in 68 . side 1 on the old vinyl is perfect. every song a classic , brilliant input from bowie/ronson throughout. check out the 2 basses and sax solo on walk on the wildside for a start ? satellite of love and perfect day are beautifully arranged too - credit is also due to ken scott who engineered bowies records at the time as well previously the white album ! Pretty much everything here is in tune with lous amazing talent . I love the brass band sound on make up and goodnight ladies .Great record to bathe too as well - Please review new york next !!


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    Berlin( 1973 )
    Berlin / Sad Song / Man Of Good Fortune / Caroline Says I / How Do You Think I Feel / Oh, Jim / Caroline Says II / The Kids / The Bed / Sad Song

    Glam rock. Hit singles and selling records. Lou acheived all of those things with 'Transformer'. So, what does Lou do with the follow-up record? Well, write an album about poverty, drug abuse and suicide, of course! Well, who wouldn't? Certain critics were savage, the record sold relatively poorly. But then, Lou is Lou. Well, we knew that less then than we do now, naturally. Having said all of this, there are a couple of tunes here that should have been enough at least to consolidate Lou's success commercially, if not advance it. 'Caroline Says 1' is a great little song, with bass guitar, strings and a very strong chorus. It's also got a soaring section where the backing harmonies come in. Enough said, really. Let's just say it's pretty great. The album doesn't start in such poppy fashion, though. The title track is deeply strange and fairly unsettling, but it sets the mood of the album very well. Moving into the rocky 'Lady Day', the title track works well, for me. 'Lady Day' written and performed by Lou Reed just didn't have enough about it to challenge the hit parade, but it could have done in a parallel universe. Let's say, if Lou had the backing and publicity David Bowie had in 1973. Could 'Lady Day' have been a hit then? Well, yes. I speak from an English perspective, of course. 'Berlin' actually did OK in Europe, sales wise. It was in his native USA that sales plummetted overnight. Well, nevermind that now. It doesn't matter, really.

    In contrast to the happy and poppy 'Caroline Says 1', 'Caroline Says II' is a slow ballad, albeit a very beautiful one. A very strong song that only gains further in beauty when strings, bass and piano enter midway through to flesh things out from the barest of musical backings the track has when it first begins to play. 'How Do You Think It Feels' was released as a single, wasn't it? Well, I believe that it was. Compared to 'Walk On The Wild Side', this was never likely to hit the top. The song has a weird structure with too many stop start sections and an awkward rhythm. 'Man Of Good Fortune' has lyrics you really ought to pay attention to, in order to try and get the message behind it. It's a quite simple message. 'Men Of Good Fortune' is one of the album highlights and shows that Lou hadn't lost an ounce of his writing talent since the more lauded Velvet Underground days. Ah, I haven't mentioned yet about this albums ending, have I? 'The Kids', 'The Bed' and 'Sad Song'. Of course, this 'Berlin' album has a reputation for being kind of dour. These final three songs have gone a long way towards giving 'Berlin' that reputation. From the slow, seven minute long story of 'The Kids', through to the ultimately lovely lullaby 'The Bed', which still manages to unsettle. The closing track comes across as some kind of big Opera number at the end of a show. A very dark opera it would have to be, naturally.

    Anyways, all in all 'Berlin', for all its magnificent moments, also does contain a couple of other moments realised less well than perhaps they might have been. The albums ( nearly ) completely unremitting dark and depressive tone isn't for everyone. The album isn't perfect. It is a wonderful piece of art, though. It's something to be admired and enjoyed in places. The lyrics are ultimately the glue that hold the record together. It's some glue, and 'Berlin', with highlights like 'The Bed' and 'Caroline Says', does work as one of the better Lou Reed album releases. No question, none at all.

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    Rock N Roll Animal 4 ( 1974 )
    Sweet Jane / Heroin / White Light White Heat / Lady Day / Rock N Roll

    Long time readers of this site will know i'm not overly fond of live albums, often choosing to not review them altogether than struggle to say something that might be of interest about them. When it comes to this Lou Reed album, we see Lou touring in the wake of solo success and then relying on a set full of Velvet Underground songs. Suddenly, people knew who VU were, which very few people did during their lifetime. As such, the setlist Lou chooses here, including just one solo tune, is predictably weird. Two songs are featured from the not really a VU album, but you know, it is.... 'Loaded. One from the debut, one from the follow-up and nothing from the these days lauded third VU album. Anybody perhaps expecting Lou to produce something resembling the sound of Velvet Underground will be sorely dissapointed. A nine minute wank-fest version of 'Rock N Roll' for example, only barely resembles the original. Instead, it resembles something full of indulgence, solos... and only towards the end gains any kind of energy. At which point, it still doesn't resemble the original at all. Perhaps that wasn't the point? This relatively straightforward song being given such a treatment, it was with some trepidation that I listened to the version of 'White Light White Heat' contained herein for the first time. The music is changed to resemble light-glam rock. The tempo is faster and the sense of danger the original possessed is all but gone. Were there two many s's in the word possessed? Are there now? Answers on a postcard. Myself, like Lou, rarely manages to produce perfection. Or indeed, even wants to.

    As an aside, and as immense tribute to fellow web reviewer Mark Prindle ( stick his name into google and send him a mail saying I sent you ) the following quote comes from a readers comment contained on his Lou Reed page, concerning this very album. Think of the original versions of these songs. Then think what it would be like if a hair-metal band full of wankers from the 80's was sucked through a timewarp into 1973 onto the stage with Lou Reed. These renditions are so polished (the bad kind) with overproduction that they're bland and rather uninspired (case in point: "Heroin" --- as if a lounge singer who hadn't slept in four days was singing, along with a band that sucked all the scary life out of the soul of the song was going through the motions behind him.) Speaking of Reed, he sounds as if he doesn't even give a sh*t. (ie. his vocal delivery leaves a lot to be desired, cases in point "Rock n' Roll" and "Waiting for the Man"). Surely of the the worst live albums i've heard in my life. Please note, the opinions expressed immediately above do not neccessarily resemble the opinions of either myself, or of Mark Prindle. Thank you.

    'Heroin' starts quitely and about three people in the crowd cheer as if to acknowledge the utter classic nature of the song in question. Roughly two minutes in, absolutely horrific metal type guitar comes in, for around half a minute, before the song goes all quite again. Lou sounds bored. It takes some nine and a half minutes to elapse before this song, in the VU days always full of life, to gain any life at all. Sadly, that wanker of a guitar player gets going again with a solo that wouldn't be out of place on a Deep Purple album. What the hell was Lou thinking?? Oh, by the way. Quite predictably, the song song here that most resembles its original version is 'Lady Day' from the marvellous 'Berlin' album. A decent rendition, but even here the lead guitar player manages to ruin things by sounding like several strangled cats, all at once. As an aside, portions of the original Cale era VU live were meant to sound like several strangled cats at once, and did. As such, they were essential rock n roll moments. Trying to sound like Jimi Hendrix but just doing it very badly, doesn't really compare.

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    Matt matthew@tonysoprano.demon.co.uk
    I disagree with you totally on Heroin Adrian. The whole song builds up an atmosphere of complete apathy to life which sinks lower and lower. This I feel is exactly what the song is about!! Lou's singing is ridiculously laid back, but this fits perfectly with the whole style and atmosphere of the piece. The ending to the song is nothing short of spectacular in my view. After a full 9 minutes of anti climax and horrendously slow moving keyboard and bass solos, we get an explosion of a guitar solo with lou singing through the middle "Well theres heroin in my blood, and that blood is in my head!!". In my view this song is fantastic. I will concede that it is not the same "Heroin from VU and Nico". Taken on its own, and seperated from this, it is a very enjoyable piece.


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    Sally Can't Dance 5 ( 1974 )
    Ride Sally Ride / Animal Language / Baby Face / NY Stars / Kill Your Songs / Ennui / Sally Can't Dance / Billy / Good Taste /

    A fairly ordinary album from Lou, complete opposite of 'Metal Machine Music', obviously. Lou goes commercial, his playing is absent. He doesn't play a thing. The arrangements were left more or less upto the band playing the songs. The lyrics are fairly trite, although have elements of humour here and there. The album sold, which must have pleased the record company. The title track is some clumsy sounding slab of funk music, complete with female backing vocals attempting to add the required element of soul. Far more soulful is one of the most understated tracks on the album, the very endearing 'Billy'. The story-telling lyrics are proper Lou Reed, the guitar is simple strummed acoustic. The trumpets through the beginning are slightly annoying. Lou's vocal is soft and warm sounding, very nice indeed. It's not a song that particularly goes anywhere musically, but then again, it doesn't really need to. Lou keeps you engaged. Another warm sounding track is 'Ennui', quiet and full of softly brushed drums, a slight jazzy feel and another song that's a story of sorts put to very simple, effective music. In a rockier vein, which is good because 'Sally Can't Dance' needs at least one decent rocker, is 'Kill Your Sons'. A proper slice of Lou, another song that survives purely through Lou's vocals and lyrics. One thing this album doesn't have you see is music that is particularly worthwhile or interesting. The guitar is good all through 'Kill Your Sons' though. We've got that, at least.

    I don't know. It's not that there is anything particularly wrong about this album. It's easy enough to listen to. The main problem is the dullness of everything, the unimaginative arrangements and the lack of strong hooks. I understand the commercial arrangements, the piano parts, the pitching of Lou as a proper mid-seventies singer-songwriter, almost in Elton John style. To Lou's credit, he remains interesting dispite the utterly uninteresting musical backings. I can listen to the album because of Lou's vocals and lyrics. I can listen to it, it's not too bad. It's just not very exciting or interesting or indeed, something you'll reach for very often. Lou has made far better records than this. And that's about all I can think of to say about 'Sally Can't Dance'. An album with two or three songs to consider placing on your Lou Reed mix-tape. But not an album very likely to be discussed with your friends when you all get talking about great albums you could possibly listen to. <

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    paul paulwatts@optushome.com.au
    I think you've marked this record a bit harshly, Adrian. Not that you'd call it a masterwork or anything, Lou has deliberately set out to make a record that is lightweight by comparison to his other records. The result is nothing if not entertaining, and this is why Sally did well sales wise. Not all of the songs stand the test of time. Billy only requires a certain number of listens before being banished forever. Conversely Ennui and the title track hold up well today. There was no "Good Taste" on my ye olde vinyl record. Maybe this is a latter day bonus track. The record has a running time of just 32 minutes from go to whoa, not really satisfactory. Still I think it deserves a rating of 7.5.


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    Metal Machine Music 3 ( 1975 )
    Metal Machine Music Pt 1 / Metal Machine Music Pt 2 / Metal Machine Music Pt 3 / Metal Machine Music Pt 4

    I'm currently listening to this album in Windows Media Player version 9, complete with 5.1 surround sound speakers. Just for that extra special wall of hoover effect that only 'Metal Machine Music' can bring a listener!! Yeah, the Lou Reed magnum opus that is 'Metal Machine Music' really is quite something. Often painted as simply being an hours worth of mindless screaming feedback, it's actually a little bit more than that. It's an hours worth of screaming feedback, that some twerp ( lou reed, in this case ) has actually THOUGHT ABOUT!! He's 'arranged' this mindless screaming feedback! He was totally insane, let's face it. I like parts of the fourth section. At some point, it sounds like birds tweeting. At some other point, it sounds like a man farting in a wind-tunnel whilst lou reed both tortures and mutilates a young child. A young child that, admittedly, is made entirely from an out of tune electric guitar! Yes, sir, 1975 truly was a transcendent year for the world of music, in general. You know, All Music Guide give 'Metal Machine Music' 1/5 out of principal. Most people do, because it is hard to recognize this atonal wailing screaming layered guitar noise as music. Yet, I still prefer this to the New Radicals, so somewhat controversially, i'm giving this 2/10. Just for the sheer balls it must have taken Lou's record company to actually release this in the first place. Can you imagine this being released in 2004 by, let's say..... Oh, I know. Stephen Malkmus, ex of Pavement? No, you can't, can you? Because Stephen Malkmus is a boring old git. Even to this day, however cliched the new music of Lou Reed seems to be, he's at least an interesting and intelligent hateful eccentric, if nothing else. That's surely better than just being some guy that plays guitar?

    Lou himself has apparently said that anyone who gets as far as side four is even dumber than he is. He is, of course, being mischeivous. Rock critic Lester Bangs was famously a fan of Metal Machine Music. To this day, you will find apologists and fans of this record. Just for its daring! For the fact the guy did it in the first place!! Well, i'll put it this way as 'Part Two' comes screaming to a halt as i'm writing this review. I'll put it this way. How often have you alternative music fans had your favourite artist described by either your parents, or some other unknowing type, as simply 'a noise'? I always wanted an album that really WAS 'just a noise', so I could throw that album in such a persons face when they dared to say something as melodic and brilliant as, say, Polvo, was 'just a noise'. Or The Fall, or Captain Beefheart, or, 'insert artist of your choice'. Lou Reed was smart enough to provide people just like me with ammunition to use against stupid and musically uneducated people. That ammunition is 'Metal Machine Music'. I forever thank Lou Reed, for that. Hey, dig the groovy ending to 'Part Four'!! Dig it! It sounds like someone digging through somebody else's skull whilst every single annoying noise in the entire known universe is being blasted right into the centre of your brain, after all! And, the great thing is, that is really DOES sound like that. Hey, let's face it, you can admire this record. That doesn't mean it's good, but it does mean something. Ah, hell. I'm giving it a massive 3/10, just because I can.

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    michael zeigermann michael.z@dial.pipex.com
    Just wanted to mention that your review of Metal Machine Music had me rolling on the floor with laughter. In fact, most of your reviews are excellent and pretty much spot-on. Great stuff, keep it up.

    Stephen Stephendfall@yahoo.co.uk
    One of the all-time great albums, in my opinion. It's scary, it's exciting, it's a massive wall of horror-noise that never lets up. As Lester Bangs says, sometimes you just need to clean out your head, and playing this scree-monster at ultra-loud volume really does the job. I don't see what's not to like: it's a truly glorious racket that I'd take over at least 80% of the 'accomplished', 'well-produced' and 'finely crafted' records that are released every week. Lou should have made it a triple.

    Thomas
    I had the 'pleasure' of listening to this album. I can listen to stuff like Merzbow and decided to try this out for a laugh more than anything... Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth) does this kinda thing...but only at 3 or 4 minute stints...this is just over an hour of that kind of thing and it's pretty terrifying. I love Lou Reed for having the balls to release this though, it must've been scary in 1975 and it still is 30plus years on! I wouldn't really give this a rating though...it's just not conventional enough

    DIL England
    My all time favourite album,I never listen to it without hearing something I missed last listen,especially on headphones.My original LP has a locked groove so side 4 never ends,sadly missing on CD reissue.It's as if there are certain layers there.Released the same month as the other end of the musical spectrum's "Discreet Music" by Brian Eno.


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    Coney Island Baby( 1975 )
    Crazy Feeling / Charley's Girl / She's My Best Friend / Kicks / A Gift / Ooohhhh Baby / Nobody's Business / Coney Island Baby

    Eight songs, thirty five minutes of music and Lou Reed in a somewhat relaxed mood. A couple of tracks could even be called romantic, which is quite something after 'Metal Machine Music'. The vast majority of the songs here are mellow and based around simply strummed guitar patterns, but they work. A great example and Lou back to his lyrical finest is 'A Gift'. I'm just a gift to the women of this world, sings Lou, somewhat hilariously. It's such a lovely sweet sounding musical track and vocal, then that line, repeated quite often, over the gentle and addictive strummed guitar melodies. Not all the songs are gently strummed mellowness, 'Ooohhhh Baby' is a simple rock tune with daft simplistic lyrics that actually work, stream of conciousness probably. The opening tune is mid-tempo and happy sounding and actually sounding almost as if George Harrison plays guitar on it. It's a great song with an uplifting chorus, sweet occasional backing vocals. I like it lots, I do. Like it lots and i'm about to start typing very quick nonsense now, to fill out the review. Because, sweet and listenable as this album is, it isn't a major work and I can't really find much of interest to talk about whilst reviewing it. Does it matter? No, just wallow in the wonder of it all, then promptly forget all of the songs once the albums finished. So, what do you do? It's a short enough album to just go ahead and listen all over again.

    The six minute long 'Kicks' reminds me of The Velvet Underground without all the tense stress and strife between the band members if we're talking the John Cale era. It's fairly bare, a little shuffle based perhaps on a jazz rhythm, Lou speak sings the words, words that clearly didn't come from a lyric sheet. Or indeed, had previously been thought up at all before this six minute, enjoyably understated rock shuffle had been recorded. 'Nobody's Business' does little for me, not strong material and lacking the simple charm of other tracks here. 'She's My Best Friend' is very dull and unattractive until the rockier, second half of the tune. Which just leaves us with? Well, 'Charley's Girl' should have been a hit song, it's as addictive and catchy as any of the 'Transformer' era hit songs. The title track? Well, here's the albums masterpiece, the album needed one to become a little more substantial. We could forget the album, even with all the enjoyable sweet tunes, if it wasn't for 'Coney Island Baby' being an essential Lou Reed tune. Lou does his speak singing here, the tune is soft with little absolutely lovely understated guitar melodies. It's a gem of a tune that ends with Lou singing 'the glory of love'. Was Lou in love? Well, he was apparently a gift to the women of the world, so who knows?

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    paul paulwatts@optushome.com.au
    The title track is a killer, one of Lou's best efforts. It is my understanding that if he wasn't in love, he was involved in some sort of relationship. Apparently the lucky girl was called Rachel, who gets a mention in the title track. From what I can gather from websites and such, Rachel was in fact a man.


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    Street Hassle 8 ( 1978 )
    Gimmie Some Good Times / Dirt / Street Hassle / I Wanna Be Black / Real Good Time Together / Shooting Star / Leave Me Alone / Wait

    I wanna be black, I wanna have some natural rhythm, and shoot twenty feet of jism, too. And fuck up the Jews sings Lou Reed, and what can you say to that? Elsewhere, Lou adds his own warped sense of humour here and there to barely developed, although wonderfully loose, arrangements. 'Street Hassle' is a strange album altogether, with live tracks forming the basis for a good half of the album, an eleven minute long title track and the LP released as punk was raging around him. Lou Reed, 'godfather of punk', was keen to distance himself from the movement. Whilst it's tempting to label 'Street Hassle' Lou's punk record, really that's lazy journalism. He never approaches a punk 'style', he's got the attitude and always did, yet is the title track 'punk'? An eleven minute, multi-sectioned love song? It's not very punk. Symphonic music emerges, although skeletal. Lou tells his tale, backing harmonies pop up for a brief moment. We continue. There's a touch of Dylan lyrically, Bruce Springsteen makes an uncredited guest 'spoken word' appearance, which is a touch bizarre. For eleven minutes, Lou doesn't bore us for a single one of them. Towards then end, he comes back in after the Springsteen cameo, suitably impassioned as voices and instruments, all in their own barely there way, meld and sway with him. It's an impressive piece. Arriving after the darker than dark 'Dirt' and the rock n roll humour of the lead cut, it does lend 'Street Hassle' little cohesion, however. 'I Wanna Be Black' can be forgiven, Lou taking the piss hugely. 'Real Good Time Together' is indication of any cohesion the album may have, musically it's a cousin to the more ambitious likes to the title cut, minimalism personified. We're gonna dance and bawl and shout... together sings Lou, shortly followed by the songs chorus Na-na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na, na-na Na-na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na, na-na Na-na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na, na-na Na-na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na, na-na. The 2nd half of the tune livens up, deliriously good rock music whilst still repeating the Na-na-na-na-na chorus. The band behind him go wild, for a brief minute or so, fade to close.

    Towards the end of the LP, Lou sounds drunk, with brass instrument assistance for a couple of noisy, messy rock music drones in search of tunes, then turns up with one of the best melodies contained on the entire album with the closing 'Wait'. His lyrical gift returns, it's a song you want to listen to. For once, he's not messing about. Well, he probably still is, but nevermind, he sees fit to include hand-claps towards the end of this charming tune. So? Well, 'Street Hassle' has no cohesion? Well, it's tempting to want to see cohesion that isn't actually here. The album contains stories, some of them great. It contains plenty of black humour. It's fairly drunken sounding, although always on the verge of being properly played. Everything here, even the improvised sections or the parts taken from live tracks, is intentional. What Lou's intentions actually were is harder to say. Make a punk record that definitely isn't a punk record? Take the piss? Make us think? Well, he always does that. Even 'Metal Machine Music' makes us think. An uneven 70s output coming to a close with 'Street Hassle', which for all the faults individual tracks posess, their lack of sitting easily alongside each other, eventually becomes a compelling listen. The title cut is one of the mans absolute classics and 'Dirt' for example really is fabulously dark, seedy and desperate sounding. The album's not perfect, no. Not a masterpiece, but certainly one of the mans stronger efforts of the era.

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    The Bells 8 ( 1979 )
    Stupid Man / Disco Mystic / I Want to Boogie With You / With You / Looking for Love / City Lights / All Through the Night / Families / The Bells

    An experiment in binaural sound techniques engineered by Rene Tinner, who worked with German group Can for many years. This produced easily one of the best sounding Lou Reed LPs. The playing is often tight and inspirational, with horn parts hinting at jazz and a rhythm section hinting at funk and disco. The songs are pretty unfastened, Lou sounds largely improvisational throughout, yet the sound of the album really does stand out. Echo on almost everything, although the drums have a kind of dull echo. It reminds me almost of a Phil Spector type production, although there isn't the same thickness of sound, here. Anyway, the closing nine minute title track is something else. A slow hymn with brass parping drunkenly, Lou repeating 'here come the bells' as the entire tune falls onto the ground, pukes up and then attends its own funeral. There's something about the album, perhaps, of Lou Reed attempting to make his own version of 'Low' by Bowie. Whatever his intentions, 'The Bells' is a strange, absorbing album. 'Stupid Man' sounds very new wave to these ears, has real funky bass parts, brass playing the guitar parts and Lou with much to say. It's a likeable piece that rewards repeated listens. 'I Want To Boogie With You' is clearly a song from the same pen that wrote 'Berlin', 'Transformer' or The Velvet Underground albums. Except this is like Phil Spector producing Dion, complete with Sax parts wailing mournfully above the grubby throng of the music.

    'Disco Mystic' contains two words of lyrics, guess which ones. Lou's voice has been processed to the point you can't recognize it and the production is both rich and ‘disco’. It's the kind of thing Marc Bolan might have done, quite strange for it to appear on a Lou Reed LP. 'City Lights' in contrast sounds just like regular Lou Reed, his low, semi-spoken growl just about managing to carry a tune. The brass/semi funk continues throughout the LP, the guitars are usually understated, although 'Looking For Love' and a few moments here and there witness the guitar moving more towards centre stage. 'Looking For Love' has see-sawing sax, real rock 'n' roll piano and an animated Lou Reed sounding like he's singing into a mono tape recorder. Still a good tune though, I mean, it sounds stupendous. So, even though 'The Bells' doesn't really contain any Lou Reed classic compositions, the nature of the LP, the sound and style over substance, works in this case. Well, Lou's a strange old bugger, isn't he?

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    Stephen stephendfall@yahoo.co.uk
    Lou once claimed that the title track, apparently improvised, is the best thing he's ever done. I'm not sure he's correct about that, but it is utterly fantastic and worth hearing the album for.


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    Growing Up In Public 7 ( 1980 )
    ow Do You Speak to an Angel? / My Old Man / Keep Away / Growing up in Public / Standing on Ceremony / So Alone / Love Is Here to Stay / The Power of Positive Drinking / Smiles / Think It Over / Teach the Gifted Children

    Lou and 'A N Other' band strike up some chords to produce 'Growing Up In Public', not exactly a sound in tune with 'New Wave' or anything the public particularly wanted at the time, but Lou was never one to be easily deterred. Recorded with his long-running road band and co-written and co-produced by keyboardist Michael Fonfara, 'Growing Up In Public' often gets slated, and criticised in particular, for an apparent lack of care taken over the music. I find this hard to fathom, true, the set sounds like a polished, far less dangerous version of Velvet Underground largely set around familiar guitar grooves, yet because of that it's one of the more easily digestible Lou Reed releases. No classic songs then, a few excellent lyrics and a few terrible ones - what the hell is the semi-disco disaster mid-section of 'So Alone'? Yet, the title track has a really simple, dumb repeating bass line and an often repeated four word chorus - that despite itself utterly works! So does 'The Power Of Positive Drinking' - and even if Lou did use half this album as therapy, it works as being listenable and offering him a different route to making music - one many critics apparently didn't like, but there you are. They point to the synths of Fonfara being prominent - even though they aren't. They don't like the idea of Lou co-writing songs. Well, all the Velvet Underground songs in truth should have had writing credits that just said 'Velvet Underground' if they were being accurate.

    People get upset about 'Smiles' having 'do da do da do do da do do do' bits but then overlook the thoughtful, delicate and accomplished 'Think It Over' or 'Teach The Gifted Children' - both songs that if actually played by Velvet Underground everyone would likely feel very differently about, even if the latter only has about five words combined to form the entire lyrical content! I like 'My Old Man', it has energy and Piano buried and lyrics that paint pictures. I keep coming back to the title track though - this dumb, simple thing. I keep coming back though to 'The Power Of Positive Drinking' - a phrase I could probably learn from.

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    Blue Mask 8 ( 1982 )
    My House / Women / Underneath the Bottle / The Gun / The Blue Mask / Average Guy / The Heroine / Waves of Fear / The Day John Kennedy Died / Heavenly A

    Lou returns to RCA Records after a period with Arista for his 12th official studio album. Instrumentally, we've got a stripped back sound - bass, guitars and drums. Talking of guitars, Robert Quinne joins Lou and the mixing is particular - Lou on one stereo channel and Quinne on the other. Quinne as both a Jazz and Punk guitarist, and whilst he gets credit in a lot of quarters for revitalising Reed's own guitar playing - only really on the title track do we get a proper guitar fest - more of which later. Faintly autobiographical lyrics this time out, including the often much maligned 'Women' - Lou putting to bed any bi-sexual tendencies? Well, who knows - but this ode to Lou loving women is nicely sung and has a sweet tune. Not much of 'Blue Mask' is nicely sung, by the way. Possibly not even 'Women' - Lou sings particularly flatly throughout - but then again, he always did, didn't he? The opening 'My House' has a great last minute or so where the guitars post a sign that Lou is back to basics - spiralling and twisting guitars that float. Yes, 'Women' really does have an opening couplet "I love women, I think they're great. They're a solace to the world in a terrible state" - but I like this song. The bass lines are very cool, soft and just up and down slowly.

    We are so very familiar with those classic first three Velvet Underground albums, and sometimes we are frustrated at Lou being a contrary sod throughout his solo career, in almost never giving people what they wanted. Yet, do we hear solo Lou Reed as often, bar the radio hits? Do we sit down and give the records a chance, the less obvious records? We all gave the VU albums a chance because everybody said they were brilliant - and they are. Yet, 'White Light, White Heat' is hardly an easy listen. It's hardly an album you'll spin three times and say, 'Yeah, I get it now!'. 'Blue Mask' is a kind of album that needs to be listened to over and over again. I go back to the engineer/producers idea of having one guitar left, one guitar right. Why don't more albums do this? It works brilliantly across this record, and whilst 'The Gun' may not be poetry, it has that Velvet Underground menance. The title track meanwhile is the best thing here, the one song that, drums apart - genuinely can be classified amongst the mans very best work. Why? Well, the lyrics are violent, the guitars are promiment and see-saw throughout the track and Lou himself gives the vocals no little bite. It's also kind of groovy - the riffs. "Make the sacrifice, mutilate my face" sings Lou. Well, indeed.

    'The Heroine' sounds like a demo, 'The Day John Kennedy Dies' rolls along but seems clumsy lyrically. We have a second side of the vinyl that simply doesn't match the first, yet I do love 'Waves Of Fear' - this has riffs that wouldn't be out of place during 'Glam Lou' era and mentions of sickening sights and chest's choking tight give us the lyrical.... thrills as the guitars slam away. What else? 'Heavenly Arms' works as an album closer, a simple little poem he almost certainly wrote before the music - and the music seems improvised and without much thought - yet for all the critics of Lou as a singer - he knew how to get his point across. Bob Dylan, Nico, Lou Reed, Captain Beefheart, Mark E Smith and many other singers - who needs a perfect voice - it is always, always, what you do with it that counts.

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    this page last updated 30/01/16


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