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Rock - Released March 17, 2015 | RCA - Legacy

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released April 7, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released September 6, 2013 | RCA Records Label

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Transformer and "Walk on the Wild Side" were both major hits in 1972, to the surprise of both Lou Reed and the music industry, and with Reed suddenly a hot commodity, he used his newly won clout to make the most ambitious album of his career, Berlin. Berlin was the musical equivalent of a drug-addled kid set loose in a candy store; the album's songs, which form a loose story line about a doomed romance between two chemically fueled bohemians, were fleshed out with a huge, boomy production (Bob Ezrin at his most grandiose) and arrangements overloaded with guitars, keyboards, horns, strings, and any other kitchen sink that was handy (the session band included Jack Bruce, Steve Winwood, Aynsley Dunbar, and Tony Levin). And while Reed had often been accused of focusing on the dark side of life, he and Ezrin approached Berlin as their opportunity to make The Most Depressing Album of All Time, and they hardly missed a trick. This all seemed a bit much for an artist who made such superb use of the two-guitars/bass/drums lineup with the Velvet Underground, especially since Reed doesn't even play electric guitar on the album; the sheer size of Berlin ultimately overpowers both Reed and his material. But if Berlin is largely a failure of ambition, that sets it apart from the vast majority of Reed's lesser works; Lou's vocals are both precise and impassioned, and though a few of the songs are little more than sketches, the best -- "How Do You Think It Feels," "Oh, Jim," "The Kids," and "Sad Song" -- are powerful, bitter stuff. It's hard not to be impressed by Berlin, given the sheer scope of the project, but while it earns an A for effort, the actual execution merits more of a B-. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released October 11, 1991 | RCA Records Label

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released January 1, 1989 | Warner Bros.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
New York City figured so prominently in Lou Reed's music for so long that it's surprising it took him until 1989 to make an album simply called New York, a set of 14 scenes and sketches that represents the strongest, best-realized set of songs of Reed's solo career. While Reed's 1982 comeback, The Blue Mask, sometimes found him reaching for effects, New York's accumulated details and deft caricatures hit bull's-eye after bull's-eye for 57 minutes, and do so with an easy stride and striking lyrical facility. New York also found Reed writing about the larger world rather than personal concerns for a change, and in the beautiful, decaying heart of New York City, he found plenty to talk about -- the devastating impact of AIDS in "Halloween Parade," the vicious circle of child abuse "Endless Cycle," the plight of the homeless in "Xmas in February" -- and even on the songs where he pointedly mounts a soapbox, Reed does so with an intelligence and smart-assed wit that makes him sound opinionated rather than preachy -- like a New Yorker. And when Reed does look into his own life, it's with humor and perception; "Beginning of a Great Adventure" is a hilarious meditation on the possibilities of parenthood, and "Dime Store Mystery" is a moving elegy to his former patron Andy Warhol. Reed also unveiled a new band on this set, and while guitarist Mike Rathke didn't challenge Reed the way Robert Quine did, Reed wasn't needing much prodding to play at the peak of his form, and Ron Wasserman proved Reed's superb taste in bass players had not failed him. Produced with subtle intelligence and a minimum of flash, New York is a masterpiece of literate, adult rock & roll, and the finest album of Reed's solo career. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released October 30, 2000 | Buddha Records

Hi-Res Distinctions The Unusual Suspects
One would be hard-pressed to name a major artist who ever released an album as thoroughly alienating as Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music; at a time when noise rock and punk had yet to make their presence known, Reed released this 64-minute aural assault that offered up a densely layered soundscape constructed from feedback, distortion, and atonal guitar runs sped up or slowed down until they were all but unrecognizable. Metal Machine Music seems a bit less startling today, now that bands like Sonic Youth and the Boredoms have created some sort of context for it, but it hasn't gotten any more user friendly with time -- while Thurston Moore may go nuts on his guitar like this for three or four minutes at a stretch, Metal Machine Music goes on and on and on for over an hour, pausing only for side breaks with no rhythms, melodies, or formal structures to buffer the onslaught. If you're brave enough to listen to the whole thing, it's hard not to marvel at the scope of Reed's obsession; it's obvious he spent a lot of time on these layered sheets of noise, and enthusiasts of the violent guitar freakout may find it pleasing in short bursts. But confronting Metal Machine Music from front to back in one sitting is an experience that's both brutal and numbing. It's hard to say what Lou Reed had in mind when he made Metal Machine Music, and Reed has done little to clarify the issue over the years, though he summed it up quite pointedly in an interview in which he said, "Well, anyone who gets to side four is dumber than I am." For the record, I did get to side four. But I got paid for it. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released January 1, 2011 | Virgin EMI

Distinctions Sélection Les Inrocks
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Rock - Released March 30, 2009 | Sony BMG Music UK

Lou Reed's calm, yet ominous song "Perfect Day" has been attracting attention since it first appeared on his Transformer album in 1972, particularly in the U.K., and particularly in the mid- '90s. In 1995, Duran Duran had a Top 40 British hit with it, and a version by Kirsty MacColl and Evan Dando also charted. Then, in 1996, the Reed recording was featured in the film Trainspotting, giving it a new lease on life. Someone at the U.K. branch of BMG Entertainment's discount-priced Camden division seems to have thought that was a good reason to assemble a new compilation of Reed's work from the company's vaults -- he recorded for the BMG labels RCA Victor and Arista from 1972 to 1986 -- attempting to come up with a collection for someone unfamiliar with Reed or the song until its appearance in Trainspotting. Thus, we have this 18-track, 75-minute disc of songs culled from Reed's many albums of the period with an eye toward his calmer, more conventional side. You will not find anything as provocative as Reed's hit "Walk on the Wild Side" or "Street Hassle" here, nor anything as raucous as the live version of "Sweet Jane" from Rock 'n' Roll Animal. But you will find the title tracks from Coney Island Baby and Rock and Roll Heart, along with other mid-tempo rockers and ballads. This is a kinder, gentler Lou Reed than the one most people think of when his name is mentioned. Of course, it isn't an inaccurate portrait of the artist -- he really did record all these songs -- but it certainly isn't the whole story. Think of it as "Lou Reed Lite." No wonder that, shortly after this album came out, "Perfect Day" was used for a chart-topping various artists charity single. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Rock - Released April 7, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

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Rock - Released October 14, 2005 | RCA Records Label

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Rock - Released March 17, 2015 | RCA - Legacy

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Rock - Released April 17, 1998 | Reprise

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Rock - Released April 7, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

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Rock - Released October 7, 2016 | RCA - Legacy

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In 1972, Lou Reed was a minor cult hero to a handful of rock critics and left-of-center music fans who championed his former band, the Velvet Underground, but he was unknown to the mainstream music audience. By 1986, Reed was a rock & roll icon, widely hailed as a master songwriter and one of the founding fathers of punk, glam, noise rock, and any number of other vital rock subgenres; he even scored a few hits along the way. If you want to know what happened during those 14 years to make such a difference, the answer can be found in The RCA & Arista Album Collection, a 17-disc box set that brings together nearly all of Reed's recorded work from this period. This set includes seven albums Reed cut for RCA Records from 1972 to 1975 (Lou Reed, Transformer, Berlin, Rock n' Roll Animal, Sally Can't Dance, Metal Machine Music, and Coney Island Baby), five he recorded while signed to Arista from 1976 to 1980 (Rock and Roll Heart, Street Hassle, Live: Take No Prisoners, The Bells, Growing Up in Public), and four more Reed made after re-signing to RCA in 1982 (The Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts, New Sensations, Mistrial). Despite the bulk of this set, it isn't quite complete; two live albums are missing, 1975's Lou Reed Live (outtakes from the shows recorded for Rock n' Roll Animal that were released without Reed's input) and 1984's Live in Italy (a flawed but enjoyable concert recording with guitarist Robert Quine anchoring one of Reed's best live bands). But this set beautifully charts the formative years of Reed's solo career. The early RCA albums see him finding his feet, slipping into self-indulgence and decadence before making his way back to his strong suits. The Arista albums herald Reed's return to strong, personal songwriting, even as he struggles with his demons and his ego. And a newly sober Lou returned to RCA to make some of his strongest and bravest music since leaving the VU (even if Mistrial ended that run on a stumble). Reed supervised the remastering of these albums for this release, and for the most part the sound is observably cleaner and more present, especially the LPs recorded using binaural sound, which have lost some of their murk. And the packaging is lovely; each CD is housed in a reproduction of its original vinyl jacket, and the hardcover book is full of rare photos, clippings, original liner notes, and interviews, including some candid conversations between Reed and Danny Fields. The RCA & Arista Album Collection doesn't include any rare or unreleased material (and the bonus cuts that appeared on the previous CD releases of some of these albums aren't here), but for serious fans who want to reacquaint themselves with Reed's catalog of the '70s and '80s, it has rarely been presented with this degree of care, and there's plenty of brilliant music to be found here. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released April 7, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

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Rock - Released May 13, 2003 | RCA Records Label

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In 1982, 12 years after he left the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed released The Blue Mask, the first album where he lived up to the potential he displayed in the most groundbreaking of all American rock bands. The Blue Mask was Reed's first album after he overcame a long-standing addiction to alcohol and drugs, and it reveals a renewed focus and dedication to craft -- for the first time in years, Reed had written an entire album's worth of moving, compelling songs, and was performing them with keen skill and genuine emotional commitment. Reed was also playing electric guitar again, and with the edgy genius he summoned up on White Light/White Heat. Just as importantly, he brought Robert Quine on board as his second guitarist, giving Reed a worthy foil who at once brought great musical ideas to the table, and encouraged the bandleader to make the most of his own guitar work. (Reed also got superb support from his rhythm section, bassist extraordinaire Fernando Saunders and ace drummer Doane Perry). As Reed stripped his band back to a muscular two-guitars/bass/drums format, he also shed the faux-decadent "Rock N Roll Animal" persona that had dominated his solo work and wrote clearly and fearlessly of his life, his thoughts, and his fears, performing the songs with supreme authority whether he was playing with quiet subtlety (such as the lovely "My House" or the unnerving "The Gun") or cranked-to-ten fury (the paranoid "Waves of Fear" and the emotionally devastating title cut). Intelligent, passionate, literate, mature, and thoroughly heartfelt, The Blue Mask was everything Reed's fans had been looking for in his work for years, and it's vivid proof that for some rockers, life can begin on the far side of 35. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released March 17, 2015 | RCA - Legacy

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Rock - Released March 22, 2004 | Reprise

Apparently the notion of Lou Reed reinterpreting the works of Edgar Allan Poe didn't strike a positive chord with many folks, given the chilly commercial and critical reception accorded to Reed's 2003 album The Raven, and it seems plenty of fans were no more enthusiastic about seeing the material performed in person, since the tour staged to support the album found Reed playing smaller venues than was his custom. And in both cases, the folks who took a rain check really missed something; while The Raven was genuinely flawed, it was also one of Reed's most ambitious and compelling albums in quite some time, and the subsequent live shows found Reed and his musicians in truly superb form. Animal Serenade, recorded during the Los Angeles date of the tour, is a striking two-plus hour document of Reed and a fine ensemble in full flight; Reed brought along a small but potent backing band -- bassist and sometimes percussionist Fernando Saunders, guitarist Mike Rathke, cellist Jane Scarpantoni, and backing vocalist Antony -- and the performances presented manage to merge the intimacy of a small-group show with the force and passion of a full-on rock gig. The takes on "All Tomorrow's Parties" and "Dirty Blvd." are both hypnotic and muscular, but the more subtle and measured interpretations of "Venus in Furs," "Sunday Morning," and "The Day John Kennedy Died" easily conjure up the same edgy conviction, and Reed's interplay with his group is marvelous. These folks don't simply back him up; there's a genuine sense of collaboration among the musicians that's one of the real defining points between good and great performances. Animal Serenade isn't the hardest rockin' live album Lou Reed has ever cut, but for the sheer commitment and power of these performances, it's in a dead heat with Live in Italy as Reed's finest concert recording, and makes clear that in his fifth decade in music, Lou can still deliver the goods -- and in some respects is actually getting better. A more than pleasant surprise, and truly fine listening. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released July 10, 2000 | Arista

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After the harrowing triumph of Street Hassle, Lou Reed's The Bells sounded like a bit of a step back; it returned Reed to the more listener-friendly, keyboard-dominated sound of Rock and Roll Heart, the lyrics lacked the caustic self-loathing of songs like "Dirt" or "I Wanna Be Black," and it even featured a four-and-a-half-minute funk workout called "Disco Mystic" (hey, this was 1979). But lyrically, The Bells found Reed moving away from the boho decadence of most of his 1970s work and toward a more compassionate perspective on his characters; "Families" and "All Through the Night" display an empathy and emotional depth Reed didn't often allow himself as a solo artist, and "Stupid Man" and "Looking for Love" rocked hard while making the loneliness of their protagonists felt. And the title cut, with Reed experimenting with a guitar synthesizer and free jazz hero Don Cherry inviting the spirit on trumpet, is both a brave exploration of musical space and a lyrically touching sketch of loss and salvation. An album that's worn well over time, The Bells gains depth with each playing and now sounds like one of Reed's finest solo efforts of the 1970s. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released April 17, 2000 | Buddha Records

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Rock and Roll Heart was Lou Reed's first album for Arista Records, and one senses that he wanted to come up with something saleable for his new sponsors. Uptempo numbers with pop hooks dominate the set, the 12 songs zip by in an efficient 38 minutes, and instead of Reed's trademark meditations on the dark side of life, the lyrics are (for the most part) lean bursts of verse and chorus, in which the artist sings the praises of good times in general and rock & roll in particular (then again, on "I Believe in Love," Reed pledges his allegiance to both "good time music" and "the iron cross," a bit of perversity to remind us whose album this is). But if Rock and Roll Heart sounds like "Lou Reed Lite," there are more than a few flashes of Reed's inarguable talent. His band is in fine form (especially Marty Fogel on sax and Michael Fonfara on keyboards). "Banging on My Drum" is a crunchy rocker that recalls his work with the Velvet Underground; "A Sheltered Life" is an amusing bit of VU archeology (the Velvets demoed the song, but this marked its first appearance on record); and the closer, "Temporary Thing," is a bitter, haunting narrative that foreshadows Reed's next album, the harrowing masterpiece Street Hassle. ~ Mark Deming

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