TJR presents… Top 10: Lou Reed

TJR presents… Top 10: Lou Reed

– Ten glorious episodes from the native New Yorker. What a pen.
  • Runtime: 51m.
  • Compiled from 336 collection entries @ 27-Oct-2019.
  • Fantasy Album Rating: 9.79 “An elite masterpiece”
  • To access shuffle-play or avoid in-play interruption due to territorially blocked videos, it might be best playing directly via YouTube external-link.png

Perfect Day by Lou Reed (1972)
(Lou Reed)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Pop Ballad
TJR saysFrom his second album “Transformer” released in November, 1972. By the standards he’d set with the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed’s self-titled debut LP in April ’72 was, as good as it was, a bit of a plain-Jane affair, literally recorded with Yes men. By sheer contrast, the follow-up, “Transformer”, out just 6 months later, was way-ahead in every department – production, quality of songs, invention and delivery. So perfect is the first side of this LP, it probably stands in my All-Time Top 5 of album sides. Again, Lou recorded this one in London, but this time he chose his cohorts wisely, falling in with David Bowie and Mick Ronson – the album’s co-producers – who were into Lou’s work and also had loads of their own ideas to bring to the party. The sublime “Perfect Day” can be taken innocently as an ode to a beautiful romance or sinisterly to a deadly dalliance; adjust as per your mood of the moment. Mick Ronson’s string arrangements showcase a master craftsman at work; clearly, he’s not your average filthy Rock n Roll animal. A contender for the greatest song of all-time.

Street Hassle by Lou Reed (1978)
(Lou Reed)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Songwriter
TJR saysFrom his eighth album “Street Hassle” released in February, 1978. Lou’s eighth album of new music in seven years was the best of his solo career since the high-watermark of 1972s “Transformer”. The almighty “Street Hassle” has got to be the best “don’t do drugs kids” campaign I’ve ever heard… “but when someone turns that blue, it’s a universal truth, and you just know that bitch’ll never fuck again…” Just say no kids.

Walk On The Wild Side by Lou Reed (1972)
(Lou Reed)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Jazz
TJR saysFrom his second album “Transformer” released in November, 1972. Closing side 1 was the radically different “Walk On The Wild Side”, as Lou once again reaches to Warhol’s New York scene for inspiration as trans-genders, hustlers, drug dealers and users are immortalized in song. As if the brilliant lyrics and vocals weren’t enough, the stunning framework provided by Herbie Flowers (double bass); Ronnie Ross (baritone sax) and Mick Ronson (strings) raise the work to “masterpiece” level. And, of course, who can forget all the colour girls going “doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo”. Incidentally, Dari, Karen and Casey (collectively known as the vocal trio, Thunderthighs) were as white as English snow (I do love a bit of trivia).

Vicious by Lou Reed (1972)
(Lou Reed)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Proto-Punk
TJR saysFrom his second album “Transformer” released in November, 1972. The Warholian influence remains strong throughout the LP, and is apparent from the off on “Vicious” with a brilliant throwaway lyric straight from Andy’s head: “Vicious, you hit me like a flower” juxtaposed with the threatening proto-punk assault from the guitars of Lou and Mick.

Hangin’ Round by Lou Reed (1972)
(Lou Reed)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Proto-Punk
TJR saysFrom his second album “Transformer” released in November, 1972. On the album, “Hangin’ Round” gets the punk action back on track. It’s a super-cool cut – a pop “Waiting For My Man” if you will. On the surface Lou sounds bugged by the presence of an unwanted old friend – I wonder who was “hangin’ round?” The buoyancy of this track is underpinned by some of that “Zimmerman humour” that he’s got running throughout his work – check these lines: “Harry was a rich young man who would become a priest, he dug up his dear father who was recently deceased, he did it with tarot cards and a mystically attuned mind”. Brilliant! “Cathy was a bit surreal, she painted all her toes, and on her face she wore dentures clamped tightly to her nose, and when she finally spoke her twang her glasses broke”. No doubt, somewhere there is a real-life Cathy wincing and, if she has a good sense of humour, smiling.

Nobody But You by Lou Reed and John Cale (1990)
(Lou Reed, John Cale)

9.9 “All-time classic” Cerebral Pop
TJR saysFrom Lou's 16th album “Songs For Drella” released in April, 1990. 15 songs for Andy 'Drella' Warhol was an unexpected surprise and was a work to be cherished. I have absolutely no doubt he'd have loved it and all would have been forgiven. I would soon get to see the original Velvet Underground play; this album served as a prelude to a dream come true.

A Dream by Lou Reed and John Cale (1990)
(John Cale)

9.7 “All-time classic” Avant-Garde
TJR saysFrom Lou's 16th album “Songs For Drella” released in April, 1990. John Cale reads from Warhol's posthumously published diaries, with no sugar coating on how Andy felt about life, work and people, especially people. Affecting and poignant.

Xmas In February by Lou Reed (1989)
(Lou Reed)

9.6 “All-time classic” Songwriter
TJR saysFrom his 15th album “New York” released in January, 1989. Simple music to let his frank lyrics be heard. There's no Xmas, not even in February, for down-and-out ex-Vietnam Sam, no matter how much he saves. “Half his friends are stuffed into black body bags with their names printed at the top”. He was on terrific form in the late 80s.

Harry’s Circumcision (Reverie Gone Astray) by Lou Reed (1992)
(Lou Reed)

9.4 “Classic” Moodcore
TJR saysFrom his 17th album “Magic And Loss” released in January, 1992. Echoing Cohen, Lou's “Dress Rehearsal Rag” is a black tale indeed, starring poor old suicidal Harry. It's one chapter in a remarkable story album, ruminating on life and death, concluding that there’s a bit of magic in everything, and then some loss to even things out. Said Lou: “It's my dream album, because everything finally came together to where the album is finally fully realized. I got it to do what I wanted it to do, commercial thoughts never entered into it, so I'm just stunned.

Coney Island Baby by Lou Reed (1975)
(Lou Reed)

9.3 “Classic” Soft Rock / A.O.R.
TJR saysThe closing track on his sixth album “Coney Island Baby” released in December, 1975. The album was, on the surface, a “play the game” concession, as Lou is backed by a group of oh-so conventional session rockers. The one saving grace is Lou himself though; his vocal style continues to be effortlessly cool, as he drags and drawls it all around, with those affections which are uniquely his. Single-handedly, he lifts the set out of the mediocre and into the realms of a perfectly acceptable good ‘un. The title-track summed up what the album was really all about – his Coney Island Baby was Rachel, his new transgender lover, who’d be around for the next couple of years: “Just remember different people have peculiar tastes and the glory of love might see you through.” Well, I never. In 1975, that was probably half of his potential sales gone right away. Their loss.

TJR presents… Top 10: Lou Reed (via Spotify)

  • Runtime: 50m.
  • To access shuffle-play or overcome other issues with the embed application, it might be best playing directly via Spotify external-link.png

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