Category: Lou Reed

Lou Reed – Berlin

ARTIST: Lou Reed                      220px-Berlinloureed

TITLE:  Berlin

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #98 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: How Do You Think It Feels, Caroline Says

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Berlin, Men of Good Fortune, Lady Day

LINEUP: Lou Reed, Bob Ezrin, Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner, Jack Bruce, Aynsley Dunbar, Steve Winwood with help from Michael and Randy Brecker, Tony Levin, BJ Wilson, Gene Martynec, John Pierson, Allan Macmillan, and Blue Weaver.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Hey, let’s follow up our hit album with a song cycle about a couple living in Berlin who are hooked on smack and doomed in this life! That’ll keep the cash registers humming!”

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Wow. The themes and motif of this album should have about a billion trigger alerts for survivors of addiction, domestic violence, and suicide attempts. It’s Lou Reed telling a story of Caroline and Jim, two characters from a track on his debut album. And it’s not pretty.

The music and arrangements are outstanding, and there’s some great work by Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner on guitar. But the bleakness that Reed describes really hits home in the second half of the album – Side 2 for you vinylists. I don’t know if I can play it again it’s so dark and depressing, and Reed’s montone becomes creepier as the songs go along.

The most gut wrenching song is “The Kids” where Reed and producer Bob Ezrin put actual sounds from kids screaming for their mother in the background. I couldn’t deal with it.

It’s art and not pop, and I can see what Reed was aiming for, but it really stopped his career cold for a while as his audience couldn’t relate to the decay and desperation. It wouldn’t be the first time he did that.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bob Ezrin and Reed had planned a stage adaptation, but 86’d it due to sales. That would’ve been a laugh riot. Or not…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: This is a split decision. The second side is so bleak and dark I’m exiling ¾ of it. As a song cycle, and in artistic terms, it works. But as for enjoyment, oh man. No.

Lou Reed – Transformer

ARTIST: Lou Reed
TITLE: Transformer

220px-Loureedtransformer

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: #29 US, #13 UK
SINGLES: Walk on the Wild Side (#16 US, #10 UK), Satellite of Love (#119 US, #51 UK), Vicious
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Perfect Day
LINEUP: Lou Reed, Mick Ronson, Herbie Flowers, John Halsey, David Bowie, Klaus Voorman
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: David Bowie and Mick Ronson take Reed under their wing and get a (very) unlikely hit record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Lou Reed’s subject matter hadn’t varied much up until that point. He wrote about those at the margins of society, much like himself.

Except this time he didn’t just reach an audience of like souls, he hit the major leagues.

In part, this was due to Bowie and Ronson, and the public’s affection, brief as it was in the US, to glam rock. Also, these songs were even more commercial than the great VU album Loaded, at least on the surface.

Of course, the subject matter of “Walk on the Wild Side”, “Perfect Day”, “Goodnight Ladies”, “Make Up” and others are about drugs, sex, junkies, hookers, and the like. So, not much really changed, except they all had hooks. “Vicious” is a song the VU could have done easily and “Satellite of Love” showsthe versatility here with arrangements.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Andy’s Chest” and “Vicious” were about Andy Warhol.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: There’s a version with a couple of demos.

GRADE: A-: Most everything here is good to great, and the really iconic songs make this a good one to plop in your library.

 

Lou Reed – Lou Reed

ARTIST: Lou Reed 220px-Lour72
TITLE: Lou Reed
YEAR RELEASED: 1972
CHART ACTION: #189
SINGLES: I Can’t Stand It, Walk and Talk It
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Wild Child is probably the best known.
LINEUP: Lou Reed with UK session help including Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Velvet Underground leader’s first solo album is mostly leftover tracks from that group, but the production choices mar the songs at times.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first Lou Reed solo album was anticipated by some, as the Velvet Underground was getting some critical acclaim (finally) in 1971 or so. While the record has some moments (“Wild Child”,”Ocean”, “Ride into the Sun”) overall it seems lackluster.

The first side of the album, especially, suffers from the addition of backing vocals that are more out there than what the songs called for. Maybe I’m used to the VU versions of “I Can’t Stand It” or “Lisa Says”, but the backing vocals and arrangements seem a bit intrusive to the songs.

Eight of the ten tracks were Velvet Underground outtakes or songs that never were recorded by played live. The songs are good, I just think they could have been arranged better.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The two ‘new’ tracks (not VU leftovers) were “Going Down” and “Berlin”. The latter would be re-recorded as part of the Berlin album the next year.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B: Side two is much better, and “Wild Child” and “Ocean” are the saviors of the album.