Sep 192011

I subscribe to Pop Market. They send me one-day offers on box-sets, vinyl, and limited-edition stuff from Sony.

Today’s special is a Lou Reed CD bundle for $23.99, including shipping and comprising the following:

  • Transformer
  • Rock ‘n Roll Animal
  • Metal Machine Music
  • NYC Man: The Collection

I own ZERO (0) Lou Reed  (I had New York on vinyl in the late ’80s and know the hits). Is this a good place to start? I know that Metal Machine Music is NOT for the pop fans, but the rest?


  57 Responses to “Lou Reed…As His Music Was Meant to Be Bundled?”

  1. tonyola

    Looks like you’re getting two good albums out of the four with Transformer and Animal. Metal Machine Music is over an hour of unlistenable raw noise – and that’s an accurate description, not just a value judgement. I’m a hardcore prog fan willing to listen to all sorts of weird stuff yet to me it’s a total waste. NYC Man overlaps some with the other two albums so its usefulness is limited. Overall, this set isn’t well thought out (especially with MMM included) and not good value either. I’d say scrounge used CD outlets for the first two albums and spend the rest for a good Velvet Underground collection.

  2. Bear in mind, I only one of the above albums (Transformer). But if you don’t own any Velvet Underground, you should really start there. Used copies of the Peel Slowly and See boxed set start at $15.37 on Amazon.

    With the Velvets, you get more of the great (albeit arty) rock ‘n’ roll and less of the trainwrecky jazzbo braggadocio that makes his solo career such perfect RTH fodder. Nevertheless, I’m confident that even Lou’s biggest supporters in the Hall will join me in my “Velvets first” campaign.

  3. shawnkilroy

    Transformer is Lou’s only decent album after the Velvet Underground. All the rest is awful. it’s really funny and worth laughing at, but for actual listening, i would only reccomend Transformer. I bought RnR Animal because it had a cool name and picture, but it’s Lou and a band of German jazz nerds butchering VU classics.

  4. BigSteve

    I disagree that MMM is unlistenable. I’ve listened to it many times.

  5. BigSteve

    Not a good deal. If you know the ‘hits’ you don’t need NYC Man. If you like VU and want to explore solo Lou, I would recommend starting with the first, self-titled solo album (which contains songs written for the Velvets), proceed to Transformer, and then continue until you’ve had enough.

  6. pudman13

    What in the world is the point of giving someone a bundle that includes a comp that repeats songs from two of the other albums in the bundle?

    I disagree with shawnkilroy re: TRANSFORMER, which I think is every bit as awful as most of the others (and whose best songs are produced in ways that emasculate them.) Reed’s solo career, for me, is just disappointment after disappointment. Even the albums that have moments of greatness (R&R ANIMAL, STREET HASSLE, BLUE MASK, NEW YORK) are loaded with chaff too (and admittedly, even lousy albums like ROCK AND ROLL HEART have a few moments that are good enough to make me even madder that he’s produced so much crap to surround them.) And the one album with the best songs, his solo debut, is also furstrating because the songs are not presented in their optimal ways, as with TRANSFORMER. My favorite is probably CONEY ISLAND BABY, which is probably not especially consequential, but is listenable and often quite sweet.

    Frankly, I think that if someone were to ask me where to start with solo Lou, I’d go perverse and recommend BERLIN and METAL MACHINE MUSIC, two of the most unlistenable albums in the history of rock and roll.

    Anyway, I wasted more hours of my life listening to solo Lou than any other diappointing artist, and I will forever curse him for all that time I’m never getting back.

  7. I agree with Oats. Get the first four originally released Velvet Underground albums. Then get V.U. and consider some of the live albums. Then get one of two solo Lou songs (maybe Satellite of Love and Vicious). Then head to your local haberdashery and see if you can get the same kind of clothes the the emperor is wearing.

    Lou’s solo career arc is only slightly less disappointing than Rod Stewart’s.

  8. Also, if you like incidental stand-up comedy/spoken-word performance art, consider Live Take No Prisoners.

  9. tonyola

    You’re getting your Lou albums mixed up. Rock and Roll Animal had Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter (ex-Alice Cooper) playing hard rock and roll behind Lou in a NYC gig. It’s a fine record with no Germans or jazz in sight. The German jazz nerd album is Live: Take No Prisoners and that one isn’t good. As for other albums, I like Berlin though I’ll admit it’s really depressing. Not a party record, that’s for sure.

  10. Right on! Thanks to the 8-track cut out section of Montgomery Ward, I had a very complete collection of 1970s Lou Reed. His stuff just didn’t sell at the Northtown Mall in Blaine, MN. My “keepers” from that period would be:
    Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal
    Coney Island Baby

  11. I’m with you…

  12. pudman13

    I called it “unlistenable” too, below, but that’s not exactly right. A few minutes at a time work for me now and then as a certain kind of mood music, but it’s important to know that it wasn’t even remotely intended to be listened to. Mostly it was a way for Lou to write some bizarre liner notes and give some even stranger interviews. Lou was most certainly not above creating an entire album to give him an opportunity to spew yet more bullshit to the press.

  13. pudman13

    P.S. I acutally like the much-despised SALLY CAN’T DANCE, which in my opinion shows that Lou had so lost perspective on himself that he made better albums when he wasn’t giving any effort (SALLY, CONEY ISLAND BABY) than when he was trying really, really hard (BERLIN, THE BELLS.) I think this proves what an inconsequential artist he really was after the VU broke up: his most enduring work was as often a matter of his flippancy creating great comic moments as it was his genuine talent being presented in an honest way. SALLY has a bit of both—the title track encapsulating the former and “Billy” encapsulating the latter. Whatever his intent, and despite some awful stuff on side one, I think side two of that album is the best album side of his solo career.

  14. tonyola

    I thought it was intended to be a kiss-off to his record label (RCA). Oh, and this is funny – Reed announced last year that he’s preparing a remaster of MMM.

  15. pudman13

    yeah, that’s true too (the kiss off to RCA)

  16. I agree with Oats. If “Peel Slowly…” is going for that price, that would be the one to start with. You even get better versions of some songs he recorded again as a solo act. Personally, I HATE “Rock & Roll Animal”, but I’m not a fan of 70s stadium rock wankery. You’d be better off with the Velvet Underground’s “Live 1969” album. The solo Lou stuff that I think actually adds something more to his body of work after the highs (harr harr…) he reached with the V.U. are the following: Transformer, Berlin, MMM (not for everyone, though), Coney Island Baby, Street Hassle, The Blue Mask, New York and Magic & Loss. After that last one, I lose interest….I always give whatever is new a listen, but I’ve been pretty solidly disappointed since then.

  17. I like that one. He should have become an insult comic after that…(and maybe just gone back to music for the stuff he did with Robert Quine).

  18. I don’t think “Berlin” is in any way unlistenable. It’s not a FUN album, but it’s a good one…maybe even great.

  19. Yeah I had Sally too — that was probably the number one Lou Reed album in the cutouts by volume, followed by Coney Island Baby – but for some twisted reason, I would let Berlin cycle through the old 8-track more than the others . . . over and over again. I thought “Sad Song” was genius was great.

  20. Yeah, a side a serving (16-something minutes), in the right mood, I like the feedback-fest that is MMM. I don’t care what his true motivation was (I’ve also read him quoted in the more recent past as saying,”Yes, I was very serious about that album: Very stoned, but very serious.”, so who really knows, and does it really matter?).

  21. I say: Beware of the box set for starters. I like it and that is a great price, but it’s got that “For fanboy collectors to play once and never again” front matter of early recordings. I think I’ve listened to the last Outkast album white folks were raving about the week it was released than those Angus McLish (sp?) recordings.

    The main reason to avoid starting with the box set, however, is its George Lucas-style director’s-cut “restoration” to the two best songs on Loaded: “Sweet Jane” and “Rock ‘n Roll.” Those two songs should be heard as they were originally released, not with out-of-context room mic bits that were initially edited out stuck back into the songs like a piece of clothing held together by a Ronco Buttoniere.

    If the album is available on CD and the tracks weren’t messed with by “one of those guys,” I’d recommend the 2-album Rock ‘n Roll Diary collection, which spanned his VU days through the end of the ’70s. It provides a great sense of the highs and lows and misfires and awkward moments of his career to that point. That was the second Lou Reed collection I picked up after the somewhat lame single-album greatest hits album from the mid-’70s. From …Diary you can get a sense of which directions you may want to explore.

  22. pudman13

    Here’s what I most hate about BERLIN:

    He decided to make this horrifyingly depressing rock opera. Fine…like it or not, there’s probably some validity in it, even when he can’t resist a joke here and there. But what makes that album so revolting to me is that instead of making the music somwhat sympathetic to the story, he hired a bunch of studio guys and played and produced the thing in the slickest possible 70s method. It’s not that there’s some kind of delicious irony in this awful story being dressed up in such pretty clothes—it’s that the production is just as much of an endurance test as listening to the babies cry or hearing endless (and the songs are way overlong) songs about the woman slitting her wrists. My two favorite BERLIN songs are the two that have been removed from the context: the live “Lady Day” on R&R ANIMAL and the original “Berlin on LOU REED.

  23. Transformer is always a drag for me. “Walk on the Wild Side” is amazing, but I prefer live versions of the album’s other best song, “Satellite of Love.” Most of the rest of the album is really annoying to my ears, both sonically and musically.

  24. That would have been a good career path, Bobby. The Blue Mask is my favorite Lou solo album. Quine was the secret sauce.

  25. tonyola

    But I think the music is one reason why Berlin is great, and you can “blame” it in large part on Bob Ezrin who also put the bombast in Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. It’s supposed to be dissolute, sour, and decadent – just like the underground life in Berlin. The overall sound is like an updating of the 1920s partying-in-the-graveyard German club subculture of the 1920s – caught between the wreckage of World War I and the evil tyranny that was to come.

  26. Alternatively, you can skip Lou solo and instead concentrate on John Cale solo – a much more rewarding experience.

  27. tonyola

    I agree. Cale put out some always-interesting and sometimes-great albums at least up until the late 1970s. My personal favorite is Paris 1919. The difference between Cale and Lou is that Cale was always interested in the music behind his singing – there wasn’t the air of “just anything will do” that seemed to pervade a lot of Lou’s output. Cale put a lot more care into his records.

  28. BigSteve

    Did you actually write that Transformer was a “drag”?

  29. BigSteve

    It’s seems like I’ve had to write this a dozen times, whenever this album comes up. The source of the idea that the album was a “fuck you” is merely the review of the album by Lester Bangs, not a quote from the artist. And MMM can’t have been a kiss-off to his label, because RCA released Lou’s next album, Coney Island Baby, the following year. I don’t see how anyone who has heard Lou do feedback on European Son etc can pretend to be surprised by an album’s worth of feedback. Neil Young released such an album too.

  30. That box is a great way to get all 4 albums + the stuff from the V.U. comps, so I don’t think it’s anything to be wary off…for $16.00!?1 Just upload the stuff you really want handy to iTunes, and listen to the discs at your convenience.

  31. BigSteve

    PS. The remastered version of MMM has already been released.

  32. I had to get a serious teeth cleaning today, and the sounds going on in there made MMM sound like Joan Baez.

  33. underthefloat

    My opinion..
    Yes, get the VU discs.
    But do get:
    Transformer, Coney Island Baby and The Blue Mask. His best three solo discs.

    Later Lou gets tougher…Songs for Drella has it’s moments (but Cale especially has the moments).

    With Cale I agree with Paris 1919 as the place to start.

  34. And I think Lou wanted the “wine & roses” part put back in “Sweet Jane” because that’s how he’d played it live with the band, and someone else edited it out of the original release of “Loaded”. I had “1969” before I had any of the studio albums (brother gave me a copy when I was in 6th grade), so I was already used to that version of the song. Radio stations mostly played the “R&R Animal” version, and I’ve already stated my feelings about that nearly Lou-less Lou album…

  35. I have no problem with the concept OR execution of “Berlin”. For me, it works…all of it.

  36. Yes, Oats is on the money here. I’ll agree with others too: that bundle is NOT the way Reed’s music is most effectively bundled. In fact, the logic of it seems significantly lacking.

  37. “Lou,” someone should have said, “tough shit! Or we can add it as a bonus track, if you’re stuck on it.” The edits are not in context with the production. They sound like they were taken from a room mic. It’s really stupid and it takes away from my effort at acquiring, as tonyola would advocate, a better-quality version of an old, beat-to-hell album I’ve long owned and loved.

  38. I love Berlin. I think its over-the-top approach works.

  39. I love Cale’s solo albums, but it’s really apples and oranges…they’re coming from two completely different & distinct mindsets, which, I think, is the main reason they’ve had so much trouble working with each other for any length of time over the years.

  40. Yeah, and Quine also got Lou back to playing guitar again. One of my favorite things about The Velvet Underground is Lou’s rhythm guitar style. It was cool to be able to hear him do that again (if you watch the “A Night with Lou Reed” video, or listen to “Live In Italy” you can really hear him do it on some of the V.U. songs, plus you get Quine making amazing, strangled guitar leads. I think that was the best band, apart from the V.U., he ever played with; him, Quine, Fernando Saunders and Fred Maher.

  41. machinery

    What … No love for in The Hall for The Blue Mask? I dig that album. Nice stripped down sound and Quine in good form.

  42. machinery

    The Blue Mask!

  43. tonyola

    Wow. Another place where a couple of obstinate and opinionated cranks agree. There’s hope yet! 🙂

    Seriously, Berlin is one place where there seems to be no middle ground. People either love it or despise it – I’ve never heard anyone go “Eh, it’s so-so”.

  44. Have you missed the high fives Bittman and I have been trading over that one? High five, machinery!

  45. shawnkilroy

    oh! thanks.

  46. shawnkilroy

    i almost forgot, i like Street Hassle as well. It’s fucking awful, but I happen to dig it.

  47. BigSteve

    Street Hassle is one of my favorite albums by anyone ever.

  48. machinery

    hard to follow when those columns get so small 🙂

    high five.

    That live in Italy album is aces, too. High five.

  49. misterioso

    Here’s a preview of the Lou Reed – Metallica double-shot from hell.

    I am not sure if I have ever expressed this here before, but Metallica suck in a big way. I think I’d rather hear Lou record with Bread. The whole thing makes me gag.

  50. I like Live in Italy well enough but something about Fernando Saunders bass playing bugs me. Does he use a fretless? Something about it sounds too slick and L.A.

  51. hrrundivbakshi

    Oh! Oh! I almost forgot to mention that a colleague of mine just got back from “Dreamforce” — the yearly convention held by (which is a sales/customer relationship management tool that is taking over the business world) — and Metallica played their welcome night party. Where the world’s pushiest Herb Tarleks were in mass attendance.

    From the DreamForce web site:

    This year’s Global Gala is going to rock! Dreamforce’s biggest bash is your chance to let loose with all your Salesforce buddies. Catch up with old friends and meet new ones, all while enjoying our best party of the year. This year we’ve got Metallica headlining the event to help us rock out like never before.

    With an incredible 9 Grammy Awards, Metallica has sold an estimated 100 million records worldwide. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees have had five consecutive albums debut at number one on the Billboard 200, and their 2004 documentary film, Some Kind of Monster, won the Independent Film awards “Independent Spirit Award” for Best Documentary. So join us at Dreamforce, bring your metal gear, and get ready to rock!

    What I want to know is: what exactly is “metal gear”?

  52. hrrundivbakshi

    Good lord, but that clip is awful. I was listening to Lou speak-singing, and trying to figure out who he sounded like. Then it hit me: Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp. Seriously! Listen for yourself and see if you don’t agree with me.

  53. misterioso

    Was that written by Marty DiBergi? “But hey, enough of my yakkin’ – whaddaya say? Let’s break out our metal gear!”

  54. misterioso

    Well, we all hit rock bottom at some point, and while one would have thought Lou had already been there and done that (see also, Edgar Allen Poe), one ought to prepare to revise this assessment. I’d be embarrassed for him if I thought it were worth the effort.

  55. jeangray

    Well, here’s where I shoot down any imagined Rock cred that I thought I may have had & proudly admit that I enjoy Lou’s solo stuff over V.U. Don’ get me wrong, I enjoy V.U., I jus’ prefer Lou solo.

  56. underthefloat

    Street Hassle is very high on my Reed list too. I understand that some don’t like it. It would be my 4th fav of his.
    Pretty cool cover to boot…..

  57. underthefloat

    PS: BIG Steve: thanks for the clarification on where the belief that MMM was a “kiss off” record. I’d always believed that to be true. I’m glad to know the real story now….

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