After re-reading what I wrote about Lou Reed the other day, it seemed a bit rough and impersonal so I thought I’d take another stab at what particularly grabbed me about him.
Strip away all the hype and Lou Reed’s greatest strength was his unflinching honesty. His ability to capture a scene and get it down in verse and slip in his own thoughts of what’s happening whether documenting drug abuse or S&M or beautiful, unconditional love or the differing and evolving social conditions of New York City.
I’ve heard a lot of comparisons about Lou Reed and Bob Dylan in the last week since he died. To me, they are not very accurate. They come from the same influences but are almost polar opposites. Dylan is all metaphorical and allegorical and surreal and Reed just told it like it is.
Musically, I think Reed’s high point was THE BLUE MASK/ LEGENDARY HEARTS/ NEW SENSATIONS era where he worked with a smoking back-up band including Robert Quine on guitar and Fernando Saunders on bass. When he stripped the music down to its foundation, that’s when his music worked best.
Here’s my thoughts on his solo records….
Top tier records – LEGENDARY HEARTS, STREET HASSLE, BERLIN, THE BLUE MASK, NEW SENSATIONS
Second tier – SONGS FOR DRELLA, TRANSFORMER, GROWING UP IN PUBLIC, ECSTASY
The rest fall somewhere below.
Always felt his two best known solo albums were slightly overrated. TRANSFORMER is a good record but the singles, the famous songs (Satellite of Love, Perfect Day, Walk on the Wild Side, Vicious) are much better than the album tracks most of which seem like filler. NEW YORK finds Reed very inspired and animated but his anger and bitterness are too in your face as he has really stripped down the music. Very little humor there. Also comparing Arafat to the KKK is just disgusting.
As far as the Velvet Underground goes, all four VU albums are brilliant with the order of preference being 1st, 3rd, WHITE LIGHT/ WHITE HEAT and LOADED.