LouReedLou Reed doesn’t enjoy a large fan-base.  But what he has is worldwide, and ROCK SOLID.  After a legendary career, with beginnings rooted in The Velvet Underground, and a great (and greatly varied) solo outing that includes the ambiguous double LP, Metal Machine Music, Lou has done what few performers in his bracket can do.  And he’s come out alive.

Recently, he joined forces with Metallica that resulted not only in confused fans from both sides, but also an unusual album (Lulu), that is, at heart, a typical late-edition Lou Reed album backed by an unlikely source.  Its reception was mixed, and is still a bit of a controversy among fans of both side although Lou Reed fans are much more likely to embrace it than otherwise.

But what of his previous works?  Lou Reed has created such a wide body of albums, every one as strange and as distant from its predecessor and what came after.

From the difficult to acquire (physically) RCA self-titled debut, to the critically enjoyed followup, Transformer, to the brilliant and unsung Berlin, and the  remainder of the first-era RCA issues (including the troubled Metal Machine Music), Lou Reed has entertained.  Whether or not you stayed with him throughout tells a tale as much about you as it does the mind of Lou Reed.

Lou followed with a fairly impressive Arista collection of albums including the critically acclaimed Street Hassle.  Eventually, Lou Reed would land back in the stable of RCA Records, moving on to Sire Records for the safe to say what seems a conclusion of Lou Reed albums (other than 2011’s Lulu collaboration). His unappreciated and indulgent The Raven was released in 2003, ten long years ago.

With such a wide array of Lou Reed albums, many of them solid contenders for best of career assessment, I thought it a good time to inquire of fans which album they appreciated most.  Although I have a distinct feeling that Transformer might run away with it, I kind of hope not as I feel Lou was divergent enough to have more people battle for a favorite.  For this forum, I think it is safe to list a favored selection should you desire to do so.  There’s a lot of years, and a lot of albums to discuss.

What do you think?

By MARowe

15 thoughts on “Poll: Which Album Is Best? – Lou Reed”
  1. Lou Reed doesn’t enjoy a large fan-base? That’s news to me. Anyway, I’ve always been a big fan of Berlin, so that gets my vote. Transformer is obviously also great and I think New York is highly undervalued.

    1. Adam, certainly his fan-base is sizeable. New York was his only album in the US to achieve Gold status (500,000), so fan-base, I’d still have to say isn’t large (at least not large enough).

  2. Musically speaking, we can discuss three or maybe four albums to be his best, namely Transformer, Coney Island Baby and New York. Taking into consideration some other aspects, like “historical importance”, hit singles or most remembered songs, Transformer is undoubtedly Number One in the ranking. Unless you go for “radical Lou” and prefer Street Hassle or -as some fans do here in Spain- the live record Take No Prisoners. Anyway, his hidden masterpiece will always be Coney Island Baby. I love the sound in that record!

  3. Lou Reed’s hey day was the first RCA solo albums. You can’t deny the radio hits from back then. However I always thought that Lou thinks of himself more a poet. Once he finished with flirting with various music styles during the Arista years then for me the true singer/songwriter period began. The album in my opinion which stands as his best around effort was New York. The albums that followed for the most part sought to duplicate the, what was for me, magic presented on New York. Stick a fork in me I’m done.

  4. My go-to Lou is the wracked The Blue Mask (Quine is awesome splitting songs wide open). Then maybe Growing Up in Public, as those 2 coincide with my musical awakening borrowing them from a friend before finding my own copies. I have lots of Lou, but honestly visit the Velvets more often.

  5. Berlin was a remarkable statement, and the fact that it was shunned for years is still a flag to me on some critics. Take No Prisoners is often one of the most unforgettable live albums ever, although Rock n Roll Animal has Dick and Steve. Growing Up in Public seems to be one of Reed’s most honest albums—at least for the time—and the band still cooks in a weird way. New Sensations proved to be his last pop album as it served to be a touchstone for his more spoken-word singing style going forward. Magic and Loss is in many ways a better album than New York, particularly since he and Mike Rathke had been working together long enough to create some kind of mysticism across the 14 tracks. I’m still waiting on another great album from Lou Reed, because Hudson River Wind Meditations is like Metal Machine Music: you might listen to it once, but as you put it away forever you wonder what he was thinking. And it should be noted: Lulu was like a turd in a cookie jar.

  6. I really loved New York when it came out, and played it constantly in the record (well, CD and tape) store I worked at back then. I haven’t listened to it in at least a decade though. I should really break that again. I wonder if it’ll seem dated now?

    That one and Rock and Roll Animal are the only two albums (well, CDs) of Lou’s I ever bought, so those are my two choices. Rock and Roll Animal is one of the great live albums, almost in the same league as the Allmans at Fillmore East, Live at Leeds, or the Dead’s Live/Dead and Europe ’72.

  7. Blue Mask for me. On another note. . .The main graphic on the site is cool and all but I don’t think you really need it. Maybe make it smaller. When the site loads I immediately see your post which I want to read first and then the graphic loads and takes up the whole screen and makes me scroll down. Just a thought. Maybe make a poll to see what your other readers think.

  8. Lou Reed’s “Rock & Roll” was best when covered by “Detroit Featuring Mitch Ryder” (not the Detroit Wheels). Steve Hunter’s debut album and produced by Bob Ezrin. Mitch Ryder was offered a spot by Leon Russell on the Mad Dogs And Englishmen Tour. Ah, what could have been.

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