Tag Archives: Lou Reed

Acclaimed Albums – New York by Lou Reed

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 332/1000
Title: New York
Artist: Lou Reed
Year: 1989

The expansion of the music list meant the inclusion of two more Lou Reed albums, this solo album and another album with The Velvet Underground. Honestly, to see him here with an album from 1989 was a bit of a surprise to me as I figured he hit a high in the seventies and then, much like David Bowie, went on a critical decline to the point they became more known for their peak than their current body of work. Obviously Bowie came back in the 2010s, but you get the idea.

Well, turns out Lou Reed still had New York in him which really does not feel like an album you would see getting massive acclaim in 1989. Ignoring the lyrics for now, New York is a very simple type of rock album. It’s not unlike something you would expect to see Bob Dylan release in the early 1970s, but with someone who can sing well and it sometimes breaks into a more hard rock mode. In one way it makes it both a bit timeless as well as, for the time, a bit of a throwback.

The music itself is purposely simple as, again like Dylan, New York is meant to be all about the lyrics. I mean, it’s like Lou Reed went back to what worked with Transformer except now he is older and angrier. The fact that a 1989 Donald Trump is mentioned as part of the lyrical venting shows how things change slower than you’d like, although in the case of New York, it’s a good thing as it’s Lou Reed building on what was good about his earlier music.

Again, there is so much in here that is still relatable to where things are now. At the moment of writing this, America is beginning to boil over after more police shootings have occurred and rather than AIDS we are still being ravaged by Covid-19 with some countries like India faring worse than others. Guess that’s how this can still strike a chord 32 years later.

Acclaimed Albums – Berlin by Lou Reed

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 204/250Title: Berlin
Artist: Lou Reed
Year: 1973
Position: #223

And the award for ‘Most Depressing Album I’ve Listened To In Months’ goes to… Berlin by Lou Reed. Cue the cheers of the crowd and the music that plays as someone walks to the podium for, truly, it has been quite a while since I have been so blindsided by an album’s lyrical content. Not that I wasn’t warned (a friend of mine told me it was meant to be a bit of a downer), but not even I expected things to get that dark.

Let’s back-pedal a bit from the dramatics that began this post. So, today I thought it would be worth trying to cross off on of the oldest albums remaining from this list, which meant a choice between this and Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye. Since I had no desire to listen to a sexy album whilst getting my Python code to work, I was left with this concept album about a couple completely being destroyed by drug abuse and other kinds of abuse.

Much like the proverbial frog in boiling water Reed ratchets things so slightly from the beginning track that it actually takes a while to realize just how desperate things get for this couple… that is until you get to the antepenultimate and penultimate tracks. In ‘The Kids’ this couple has fallen so far that their children are taken away, the crying of children in the final reaches of the song really hammering it home. Then, in ‘The Bed’ she slits her wrists and it hurts.

Berlin is a hard listen because it is just such a tragic story so very well told. The only other albums that come to mind in that category is Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree and Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked At Me, but those are based on real and unspeakable grief. All three are hard listens, but all three are well made and ultimately rewarding. Just not ones for the regular rotation lest I fall into a depression.

1001 Songs – 1972: Part Three

Most People I Know (Think That I’m Crazy) – Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs

When doing this list, which is very much focussed on what happens in Europe and the Americas, it is easy to forget about the music that was happening on the other side of the world. Makes it a nice change, therefore, that this final section of the 1972 songs begins with a song that is thought to be an exemplar of Australian rock.

It’s a song that feels very much like the result of the previous five years of music being filtered on it’s way around the world. There’s elements of The Rolling Stones, The Byrds and early Who that has been meshed together. Since I have never heard of this act before, it is really hard to judge how big they were. I mean, this is an act that was big enough in their native Australia to weather the storm of Beatlemania.

As a song it is nice enough. It feels like a bit of a throwback, but that’s not always a bad thing.

Taj Mahal – Jorge Ben

Something extremely different here from the shores of Brazil. My first instinct was to think of this as samba disco or funky samba (mainly because of that guitar in the background). It’s unlike anything that I have heard so far for this song list, and am unlikely to again. It was just so much fun to listen to!

What I have been really getting from listening to this list is just how influential Brazil was in this era of music. Once jazz and blues had become normalised and brought into the fold of the English-speaking world’s music it really is these Afro-South American genres of samba, tropicalia and bossa nova that ware the next big wave of influence. It’ll get drowned out by punk and metal, but this will still be playing in the background.

Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed

I’ve always enjoyed this song. It never ceases to amaze me just how a song about a transvestite hooker giving blow jobs got radio play in the US. I mean, sure, we have sexual songs now – but this is 1972. I guess that it helps that this song has the catchy ‘do-be-dop’ as the earworm, so people don’t realise what they’ve just been listening to. At least on the first listen.

It’s also interesting how this song was co-produced by a young David Bowie and each verse namechecks a different member of Andy Warhol’s collective. ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ is just this little piece of history that has so many layers to it that could take an entire book to explore.

Virginia Plain – Roxy Music

I guess it’s official, we’re entering the brief window of time where glam rock was a big genre. Honestly, this is going to be a bit of a push for me as the majority of glam rock doesn’t really excite me. Although, way back when, I did enjoy listening to Roxy Music’s second album For Your Pleasure as that was when Brian Eno took the reins and steered the band into a more art rock direction.

As for this song, I am glad that this did not make it onto the initial pressings of Roxy Music’s eponymous debut as I really did not like this. Something just felt off about it, which is rectified in their later work.

You’re So Vain – Carly Simon

Arguably one of the best mysteries in modern music history is the identity of the man who ‘You’re So Vain’ is aimed at. Then again, any man who thinks it could be about them just plays into the song’s conceit.

It’s a powerful piece of pop-rock that has become near immortal thanks to the fact that the identity of the man hasn’t been 100% divulged, just one of the three men who the song is about: actor-director Waren Beatty. For me this sounds like a rockier Carole King, which is never a bad thing. It makes me wonder what a Carly Simon album would be like, especially as she has influenced one of my favourite pop acts: Carly Rae Jepson.

Today I Started Loving You Again – Bettye Swann

Every now and then I do feel the need to scratch my head as to why a song has been included on the list. ‘Today I Started Loving You Again’ is one of those songs.

It’s interesting how this song started life as the work of outlaw country star Merle Haggard and has passed through so many hands that it has resulted in this big band RnB cover. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good song with Bettye Swann having a beautiful timbre to her voice – but it’s a throwback to the late sixties (when it was first recorded… and just wasn’t a hit until 1972). So, yes, why is this on here? Who knows, but who cares. At least it’s a good song.

Il mio canto libero – Lucio Battisti

At the start of this post we had a song that was deemed an Australian rock classic, now we have a song seen as an Italian pop classic. Maybe future iterations of this list will finally bite the bullet and start to include classic songs from Japan, Korea and China? I hope so, but that’s not what this song is about.

‘Il mio canto libero’ is an Italian pop-rock song about the freedom to love. The first 2 minutes are an excellent slow build into a big emotional chosut, but by the time you reach the four minute mark it starts to feel like the song has used up all it’s emotional cache and it becomes slightly overshadowed by it’s own bombast.

Superfly – Curtis Mayfield

Sadly the first thing I thought about when this song started was the Nelly and Christina Aguilera duet ‘Tilt Your Head Back’ (don’t judge, it’s a good song).

It is hard to hear ‘Superfly’ and not compare it to ‘Theme From Shaft’. After all these are both title tracks from blaxploitation films from the early 1970s that contain elements of funk and soul. For me ‘Superfly’ is a better song because it doesn’t feel indulgent, in fact it’s subversive because (as a song that plays over the credits of Superfly the movie) it actively criticises some of the things you just watched. All whilst being effortlessly cool.

Makes me think that Superfly should be my next album.

Crazy Horse – The Osmonds

How did a Mormon boyband end up making a great piece of hard rock like ‘Crazy Horses’? Thinking about everything I have been fed about the Osmond family and their incredibly wholesome image I cannot help but but applaud such a substantial change in direction that ended up with them playing concerts filled with Black Sabbath fans.

This is a song that helped to usher in harder rock and metal into the charts – and they did it with a song about gas-guzzling cars messing up the enviornment. Such a wholesome topic, which shows how you can never truly take the Mormonism out of the Osmonds. Also they were pretty much all in their mid to late teens by this point, so how metal could their lyrics be.

All the Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople

Okay, so maybe I over-generalised about glam rock. I really like this song, and have done since I first heard it on the Juno soundtrack. I guess that it might be the David Bowie influence that makes ‘All the Young Dudes’ a noteworthy track.

I’m not sure why this works as well as it does. Maybe it’s the dark music and imagery? Maybe it’s because I’m still not entirely sure what is going on in the song? Maybe it’s the opening guitar and the closing repetition. Probably a bit of everything. It’s just a good glam rock song.

Progress: 374/1021

Acclaimed Albums – Transformer by Lou Reed

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 127/250Title: Transformer
Artist: Lou Reed
Year: 1972
Position: #76

I had a surreal out-of-body moment when I had my first listen of Transformer. There I was sitting in front of my laptop and peeling the pericarp off of pomelo segments whilst watching my husband play The Witness. Just a typical Saturday night of married life to be honest (ain’t it grand).

It just got me to thinking how this album from 45 years has found itself being weirdly transplanted through time. I guess I had this weird moment of disconnect with Transformer and not some of the other albums because this is an album that is a weird mixture of recognisable, brand new, contemporary and of its time.

So as an album it just seems to float there like a strange thing outside of time. I promise you, I do not and have never done drugs… maybe there was something in the pomelo.

There aren’t a lot of people who will not have heard some version of ‘Perfect Day’ or ‘Walk on The Wild Side’ – the latter song first came into my awareness through the weird parody singing group called Hooray for Everything from The Simpsons. The version that was sung in that episode had been significantly toned down for their young audience, which is a weirdly specific joke that I only now get some 15 years after first seeing that episode.

I guess what I am trying to say, in a roundabout way, is that I really enjoyed this album. It’s got a few throwaway tracks here and there (like ‘Make Up’),  but on the whole this has held up extremely well since it was first released 45 years ago, despite some of the casually racist and sexist language.