cream of the crate: album  review #141 – lou reed: walk on the wild side [ the best of lou reed]
cream of the crate: album review #141 – lou reed: walk on the wild side [ the best of lou reed]
Front cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

 

 

"Lou Reed: an art-rock pioneer, whose subtlety and darkness blazed significant trails for counter-culture music.” - (New Music Express) . . . "Lou understood pain and he understood beauty. And he knew that these two are often intertwined and that was what energized them." - (Laurie Anderson) . . . "There's a bit of magic in everything." - (Lou Reed)

This is album retro-review number 141 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called
“Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

The first fifty reviews were vinyl only, and the second fifty reviews were CD’s only. Links to these reviews can be found at the bottom of this page. From review 101 onward I have mixed vinyl and CD albums and, try and present an Australian album every fifth review!

The artists featured in this review has always been controversial, right from his first album through to his last.

The album is by Lou Reed and is titled: Walk On The Wild Side – The Best of Lou Reed.

The album is vinyl album bought out on the RCA Victor label in 1977, and it has the identifying code of APL1 – 2001.

cream of the crate: album review #141 – lou reed: walk on the wild side [ the best of lou reed]
Album label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

It features a total of 11 tracks, being the “best of”, but even this may be controversial to some fans.

[Parts of the following biographical material has been adapted from a Rolling Stone biography on Lou Reed]

Lou Reed was born Lewis Alan Reed on March 2, 1942 in Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in Freeport, Long Island, and attended Syracuse University, studying poetry under Delmore Swartz, to whom Reed dedicated a song on the first Velvet Underground album, along with studying journalism.

Reed’s poems were published in Fusion magazine.

After leaving Syracuse, he returned to New York and worked for Pickwick Records, taking part in the studio group that recorded various Reed-penned songs. During this period he met the musicians with whom he would subsequently form the Velvet Underground (VU).

With future VU member, John Cale, he formed a band called the Primitives, which then became the Warlocks; they made one record.

In the mid-1960s, Reed and Cale connected with Sterling Morrison and Moe Tucker to form the Velvet Underground.

 

cream of the crate: album review #141 – lou reed: walk on the wild side [ the best of lou reed]
A Young Lou

 

As the lead singer and songwriter of the Velvet Underground in the 1960s, Lou Reed helped invent punk rock and while writing about femme fatales, black angels and heroin.

In the process, he also brought a stormy dissonance to the foreground, helping to expand the vocabulary of the electric guitar.

For the next 40 years, during periods both inspired and hollow, Reed tried his hand all sorts of artsy and evocative music.

He loved to mess with his persona and his first big commercial splash came in the guise of glam rock, and in the process of inventing and reinventing himself and his music, he’s explored all sorts of unexpected tangents.

These early days saw him work in conjunction with other cutting edge artists of both the music and art worlds, such as John cale, Nico and Andy Warhol.

It was with Nico that he completed his 1967 album – The Velvet Underground & Nico

cream of the crate: album review #141 – lou reed: walk on the wild side [ the best of lou reed]
Lou 7 Nico – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

His 1970 departure from the Velvet Underground was bitter; he did not even stay to complete their fourth album, Loaded, though songs from that project – “Sweet Jane” and “Rock & Roll”, would become cornerstones of his live show and reputation.

It’s no secret that throughout the 1970’s he indulged, at times very heavily, in a range of drugs, even appearing on stage sometimes in a state that left his audiences shocked and angry.

Early in the 1980’s he gave up drug taking, even swearing of all intoxicants themselves, and he became openly heterosexual and openly married.

He had what many thought was a “shambolic marriage earlier, to Betty Reid, which lasted less than 12 months. However now it was Sylvia Morales, a marriage that would last from 1980 to 1994. They were eventually divorced.

In 2008 he married and was devoted to, Laurie Anderson, and that marriage continued up to Reed’s death in May of 2013.

This album is a good compilation of some of his best and most notable work covering the period 1968 through to 1976.

The album is titled Walk On The Wild Side which is one of his great tracks from the 1972 album Transformer.

In some ways it was originally a shamless “cash in” attempt by RCA to present some of his 8 years of work on that label. Yet time now allows us to see that indeed it is some of his best work.

Its 11 songs included two from Lou Reed, three from Transformer, one from Berlin, two from Rock N Roll Animal and the title tracks from Sally Can’t Dance and Coney Island Baby, plus the previously non-LP B-side “Nowhere at All.”

Track Listing:

Side 1.

1. Satellite Of Love
2. Wild Child
3. I Love You
4. How Do You Think It Feels
5.
New York Telephone Conversation
6. Walk On The Wild Side

Side 2

1. Sweet Jane
2. White Light/White Heat
3. Sally Can’t Dance
4. Nowhere At All
5. Coney Island Baby

 

cream of the crate: album review #141 – lou reed: walk on the wild side [ the best of lou reed]
Rear Cover inc Track Listing – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Track 1, is one of three tracks that have been lifted from the fantastic 1972 Transformer album.

That album is worthy of me drawing from the crate to review in it’s own right, but for a reason I’ll share later, I chose this compilation.

The track Satellite of Love was in fact a minor hit. This is something quite noteworthy for a man whose musical career has in fact careered out of control at times, and been incredibly focussed at other times.

At times his career was cutting edge, and at other times over the edge. His music rarely attracted the public in numbers to result in tracks being “hits”.

However this very well known and much loved track typified the brilliant period of self-reflection, discovery and there is an argument to say, this was one of his best periods for both writing and vocal delivery.

Written while Reed was a member of the Velvet Underground it never made it onto a VU album. Well not at the time.

It has since been released as part of a 1995 boxed set.

The track was produced by his friend David Bowie, who also contributed to the background vocals, particularly those wonderful high notes. There is nothing “hidden” about the meaning of the lyrics – there is a guy who is watching a satellite being launched as broadcast on television, and was ruminating about his unfaithful girlfriend.

Satellite’s gone up to the skies
Things like that drive me out of my mind
I watched it for a little while
I like to watch things on TV

(Mm-mm-mm-mm)
(Bum, bum, bum) Satellite of love
(Bum, bum, bum) Satellite of love
(Bum, bum, bum) Satellite of love
Satellite of

Satellite’s gone way up to Mars
Soon it’ll be filled with parkin’ cars
I watched it for a little while
I love to watch things on TV

(Mm-mm-mm-mm)
(Bum, bum, bum) Satellite of love
(Bum, bum, bum) Satellite of love
(Bum, bum, bum) Satellite of love
Satellite of

I’ve been told that you’ve been bold
With Harry, Mark, and John
Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday through Thursday
With Harry, Mark, and John

Satellite’s gone up to the skies
Things like that drive me out of my mind
I watched it for a little while
I love to watch things on TV

(Mm-mm-mm-mm)
(Bum, bum, bum) Satellite of love
(Bum, bum, bum) Satellite of love
(Bum, bum, bum) Satellite of love
Satellite of

Satellite
Of love
Satellite
Of love (Ah, ah, ah, ah)
Satellite (Ooh)
[Continues until fade out]

There is much to like about the track. The backing musicians consist of Mick Ronson, Klaus Voorman, Herbie Flowers, John Halsey and David Bowie and the Thunder Thighs.

They are very much on the same page and the result is a very tight but great piece of music, castanets and all!

Satellite of Love

Track 2 is Wild Child, which along with track 3, are tracks from his 1972 debut solo album.

The tracks are good, but the problem Reed faced was that the popularity of the VU was on the rise, and that fans took a dislike to the album because he left the VU.

Mind you the critics were fairly scathing with a number of the tracks being sarcastic, full of irony.

Wild Child is a great example of his excellent work, with a good tempo and Reed’s voice sounding so young, it is a damn fine track.

Track 3 is a really beautiful ballad – I Love You.

This is not one of his most complex pieces, in fact it adheres to the KISS principle, and because of that in many ways it is beautiful and timeless.

It has a great array of muso’s and acoustic guitar work is really, really nice.
Lou Reed – guitar, arranger, keyboards, vocals, producer
Clem Cattini – percussion
Helene Francois – harmony vocals
Kay Garner – harmony vocals
Steve Howe – guitar
Les Hurdle – bass
Paul Keogh – guitar, acoustic guitar
Brian Odgers – bass
Caleb Quaye – guitar, acoustic guitar, piano
Rick Wakeman – piano, keyboards

Given the brutal drug world that Reed would enter not long after, in fact it is suggested he was already tasting at this stage, this is a happy, almost innocent ‘summer” type song.

I Love You

How Do You Think It Feels was on the 3rd Lou Reed album – Berlin.

Released in 1973 the whole album is different to previous albums, heavily produced with a “big-band” backing, it is certainly another in-your-face album and the track is one of Reed’s many tracks that reflects on the horrors of the drug world.

The final two tracks on this side are both from the Transformer album and really are very strong and are two tracks that I just love.

Track 6 – Walk On The Wild Side is for me, one of his most brilliant tracks and it reflects the personal world that he was immersing himself in – the world of ‘sexuality” in all it’s forms including transexuality and oral sex and . . . well if you don’t know by now, maybe you should just listen, be entertained and learn.

Amazingly the track reached number 16 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1973 – amazingly not because it didn’t deserve to, but because of the totally in-your face nature of the lyrics.

Mind you the released single was altered to make it more palatable for the sensitive ears of some listeners – but in its full glory it was an anthem of its time.

The beautiful sax playing on this track is by Ronnie Ross, and the track oozes feeling in a most wonderful lay-back manner.

That almost erotic pulse is largely due to the upright bass playing of Herbie Flowers, and, don’t you just love the “doop de doops” from those coloured girls?

The title is taken from the offer that transvestite prostitutes in New York would approach potential customers with.

Each verse introduces a new character. There is Holly, Candy, Little Joe, Sugar Plum Fairy, and Jackie.

The characters are all cronies of the infamous Andy Warhol Factory, as was Lou.

 

cream of the crate: album review #141 – lou reed: walk on the wild side [ the best of lou reed]
Transformer Cover

 

Reed had an empathy for these characters that comes through in the song, as he struggled with his sexuality for most of his life. His parents even tried to “cure” his homosexuality when he was young.

Walk On The Wild Side


Turn the LP over (try that with a CD!), and we are faced with another excellent array of tracks.

Track number 1Sweet Jane comes from VU’s fourth album released in 1970 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal.

This was the last VU album that Reed appeared on. The album was ostensibly produced to have a more commercial feel and to get away from the “Andy Warhol image”, and that album is ranked 109 in Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Written by Reed it was the “unauthorised” hacking of the track, ok, ok! editing – that tipped him over the edge and saw him leave the group.

There are two distinct versions of “Sweet Jane” with minor variations, spread over its first four releases.

The first release of the song, in November 1970, was a version recorded earlier that year and included on Loaded.

In May 1972, a live version (recorded August 1970) appeared on the Velvet Underground’s Live at Max’s Kansas City; this had an additional bridge that was missing from the Loaded release.

In February 1974 a live version recorded in December 1973 (similar to the Loaded version but with extended “intro” and hard rock sound), appeared on Reed’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal.

In September 1974 a down-tempo live version recorded in late 1969 was included on 1969: The Velvet Underground Live, with a different song structure and lyrics.

Track two, White Light White Heat also comes from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal Album.

The song is said to be about the sensations produced by intravenous injection of speed and features a heavily distorted electric bass outro played by John Cale over a single chord.

This bass solo purportedly mimics the throbbing, ear-ringing effects experienced during the methamphetamine “rush.”

There are indeed four versions of this track that I know of: A 1967 studio version; a 1969 live version; a 1974 live version and a 1993 live version – with Cale playing bass on versions 1 and 4.

So it means that this version does not have Cale playing that amazing bass line, but has John Prakash on bass.

 

cream of the crate: album review #141 – lou reed: walk on the wild side [ the best of lou reed]
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

Variously described as; “The purest and rawest ‘document’ of the VU”; “The least accessible track…”; and, “…. the quintessence of articulated punk.

And no one goes near it”; So, what do you think of it?

Reed is purported later as saying he regretted making the album, so did that mean he regretted the version?

It is intense, the slide guitar is wonderful, and the energy that a live performance that is “firing” creates – explodes out of the track.

White Light White Heat


Track 3Sally Can’t Dance is taken from the 1974 album by the same name. It’s not an album that I enjoyed and even this track, which was a moderately successful seller, doesn’t do much for me so I move onto tracks 4 and 5, both of which have been taken from his 1976 Coney Island Baby LP – well, kind of.

Nowhere At All was recorded in the Coney Island recording sessions but did not appear on the album, and was not released until the 30th Anniversary Deluxe set was released and the track appeared on that album.

The final track, number 5, is the track Coney Island Baby.

It’s been a long journey from the early days in UV to this album – not so long in time alone, but in the journey. By now we had already heard Reed do pretty much everything that could be done in a pop song from shooting up heroin to being devastated by speed.

He sung of crossdressing and sucking on schlongs, he dressed and sang of shiny leather – in fact he sang about the whole NY scene.

Confronted by all these stories and scenes it was something far more conservative that shocked his fans, when in this album and especially this track, he reveals the naked truth – he always “wanted to play football for the coach.”

But as the song drifts along its strange poetic arc, the song and thus the story traverses the ridiculousness of Lou as linebacker through to the utter craziness of nothing fuelling a young man’s developing homosexual urges, like getting pat on the butt by brawny alpha males in tights.

 

cream of the crate: album review #141 – lou reed: walk on the wild side [ the best of lou reed]
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

But wait! There’s more!

He shares another secret, this man who has done it all, ingested it all, tried it ALL, really just wanted to fit in all along.

Really! Really?

This is a most gentle song and whether it really reflects Reeds inner most desires or whether he is but confronting us with the image of young men as he “sees’ them in his world.

It is a question we may ponder.

The track is as gentle and emotional as any Lou Reed track can get – and whereas a coin has but two sides, Lou Reed is a many faceted man and this is yet another face.

Coney Island Baby

So there it is – Lou Reed, in an eight year journey that might have killed most people, or at least had them locked away.

But his journey didn’t end here, and in fact he was still working and collaborating through to 2012.

He recorded more than 16 albums and shook the music world and shocked the music world.

If there had not been a Lou Reed, we probably would have had to invent him!

 

cream of the crate: album review #141 – lou reed: walk on the wild side [ the best of lou reed]

 

In 2013, Lou Reed became very ill. He canceled several of his scheduled performances, including his appearance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in March of that year.

At the time, he blamed “unavoidable complications” for pulling out of these shows. It was later revealed that he had been suffering from liver failure.

Reed received a liver transplant in May 2013. The operation was done at a hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. News about Reed’s transplant broke that June, while the rocker was still on the mend from his major medical procedure.

He credited his return to health to his medical treatment. “I am a triumph of modern medicine, physics and chemistry,” he wrote on his website.

Reed also believed that his healthy lifestyle and tai chi practice had helped his body recover from the illness and surgery.

Although having been ill, he believed he had overcome his illness and expressed a desire to start recording again, however, he died on October 27, 2013.

He was 71 years old.

Liver disease was determined to be the cause of his death. Reed’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist was announced on December 16, 2014.

cream of the crate: album review #141 – lou reed: walk on the wild side [ the best of lou reed]

Lou Reed is an acquired taste and there is no doubt about it, there are probably more people who dislike his music than like it.

His music should be listened to both by Reed fans, anyone curious about Lou Reed or indeed, by anyone who has an appreciation of music development.

Why? Well, because it can be appreciated both in a historical sense, in that it reflected what was going on albeit a scene not many participated in and, it is music that confronts.

As I said earlier in this retro-review, it was both cutting edge and way over the edge.

I chose this album instead of the White Light White Heat and the Transformer albums (both in my collection), because it takes on a journey that includes elements of those albums so we get to taste of those two fantastic albums and, more!

Both the vinyl album and the re-released CD are under $20.00 and are readily available on Ebay and through Discogs.


VIDEOS:

There a number of videos featuring Lou Reed live, but many are of complete shows. These are among the better single song clips.

 

Lou Reed & David Bowie – Transformer (1997)

 

Heroin (1972)

 

Walk On The Wild Side (1984)

 

Lou Reed & John Cale – Berlin (1972)

 


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

Click to open the following Vinyl reviews from 101 onward:

101:  Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley’s Beach Party (Live)

#102:  Les Paul and Mary Ford – The World Is waiting For The Sunrise

#103:  Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica

#104:  Los Fronterizos – Misa Creole

#105:  Bobby Bright – Child Of Rock And Roll

#106:  The  Nylons – One Size Fits All

#107:  Jimmy Cliff – The Harder They Come [Soundtrack from the film]

#108:  Paul Simon – Graceland

#109.  The Ventures – The Very Best Of

#110.  The Pardoners – Indulgences

#111.  Atlantic R&B: Volumes 1 – 3 [1947 to 1957] 

#112.  Atlantic R&B Volumes 4 & 5 [1957 – 1965]

#113.  Roots of Rock: Vol.12 – Union Avenue Breakdown

#114.  David Fanshawe – African Sanctus

#115.  A Reefer Derci – Various Artists

#116.  Dr. John – Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch

#117.  The Walker Brothers – The Walker Brothers

#118.  Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel

#119.  Curved Air – Airconditioning

#120.  The Delltones – The Best of The Delltones

#121.  Hound Dog Taylor – Hound Dog Taylor and The Houserockers

#122.  Bessie Smith – Queen of The Blues

#123.  The Shadows – The Shadows Greatest Hits

#124.  Gil Scott Heron – Reflections

#125.  The Dingoes – Five Times The Sun

#126.  Bert Jansch and John Renbourn – Bert and John

#127.  Nat King Cole – The Complete After Midnight Sessions

#128.  Various Artists – The Rock and Roll Collection [A Box Set]

#129.  Sam Cooke – 16 Most Requested Songs

#130.  Various Artists – Australian Rock Heritage Vol.1

#131:  Wilson Pickett – The Exciting Wilson Pickett

#132.  Martha and The Vandellas – Greatest Hits

#133.  Van Morrison – The Best Of

#134.  The Marvelettes – Greatest Hits

#135.  Various Artists – So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star Volume 1

#136.  Various Artists – Zydeco [ The Essential Collection]

#137.  King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King

#138. Slim Harpo – The Best of Slim Harpo

#139. Mary Wells – The Best Of

#140. Various Artists –  So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star Volume 2