on 17 September 2003
Probably Lou Reed's most popular recording, if not his best. Great songs introducing us to an alternative New York (drugs, sex, prostitution, transvestites to name but a few topics), and backed off with perfect production from David Bowie & Mick Ronson, as well as Bowie's distinctive backing vocals on Satellite of Love, Wagon Wheel and others. Lou timed this album perfectly, taking full advantage of the new 'Glam Rock' sound sweeping the market at the time, whilst not committing himself whole-heartedly in this direction (I give you 'Berlin' the following year!). The Reed/Bowie vocal duet on 'New York Telephone Conversation' is perfectly camp for the time, and this helped introduce Lou to a whole new audience who might otherwise have remained in ignorance. Memorable also for the fact of the BBC not fully understanding certain 'Americanisms' in the lyrics, hence 'Walk On The Wildside' becoming a hit single here. Still stands the test of time today. A true classic album. 5 Stars for sure.
on 3 April 2005
Truly a brilliant, brilliant album. On first listen this blew me away with the tremendously cool (yet often gritty and dark) lyrical prowess of Lou Reed, and the laid-back, confident mix of funky, jazzy, bluesy and often punk influences. This is a must have for anyone's record collection - an amazing album - if you haven't heard any Lou Reed before I'd recommend this. Certainly if you enjoy this it's a must that you then explore his work with the Velvet Underground, which is equally original and equally immense.
A big, big recommendation to get this album coming from this reviewer!
On this legendary album, Reed celebrates Andy Warhol and his 15-minutes of fame stars in a glamrock style, influenced by David Bowie. This new edition includes two extra tracks, acoustic versions of Hanging Round and Perfect Day. The informative insert includes illustrations and an essay on the history of Reed and the significance of this album.
Transformer is a type of decadent cabaret comparable to Bowie's Alladin Sane, but it is less bleak and much more colourful and engaging. Reed proved himself to be a master of many styles, from the compelling rock of Walk On The Wild Side through the tender and tuneful pop of Satellite Of Love to the oneiric Perfect Day, a haunting poetic excursion.
Other highlights include the edgy rocker Vicious with its hypnotic melody and sarcastic/ironic lyrics (an attitude that would soon infuse punk and new wave), the quirky New York Telephone Conversation, the energetic Hanging Round and the stately Goodnight Ladies. The songs are highly descriptive of a time, a place and a mindset, and the music is powerful in places and very elegant.
The stylistic variety renders Transformer compelling throughout while not detracting from the cohesion, making it a great piece of musical theatre. Devoted followers would agree that it does not reveal the complete Reed, as he has been so prolific and his oeuvre encompasses a much larger spectrum. But as a document of the middle seventies, it remains superb, an essential album for all serious rock fans.
Co-Produced by David Bowie and with a Stella line up of musicians including the awesome guitar of Mick Ronson and the master multi-instrumentalist Herbie Flowers Lou Reed's chronicle of gay life in New York is a classic from the opening riff of 'Vicious' to the Flowers arranged cabaret of 'Goodnight Ladies'.
Needing a boost after the failure of his patchy 'Lou Reed' debut for RCA Reed agreed to allow Bowie to co-produce with guitarist extraordinaire and current Spider, Mick Ronson (this edition of the CD allows you to see how the team turned Reeds rough masters into polished classics with the addition of the acoustic demo versions of 'Hangin' Round' and 'Perfect Day')and what a meeting of minds it was.
Each of the eleven original tracks is a stunner the stand outs being the Herbie Flowers bass dominated 'Walk On The Wild Side' (the title was stolen from the Nelson Algren's novel but the lyrics were about the Factory Set), Reed is quoted as saying that this song was so edited in the States that only the 'Doo, Doo Doo's were left)), the simply orchestrated and beautiful 'Perfect Day', the chugging mettle that is the angst ridden 'Vicious', the joyful menace that is Hangin' Round' and the fabulously camp 'Satellite Of Love'.
If you already have a copy of this album buy it for the extra tracks, if you don't have it, start your Lou Reed collection here.
Over these eleven perfectly crafted tracks, Lou showed us various little panoramas of Andy Warhol and The Factory, transvestitism, New York's gay scene, urban decadence, drug use and more in a wonderful blend of humour and irony and in a brilliantly diverse musical setting. The guitar-driven hard rock of Hangin' Round and Vicious is balanced by the subdued power of the poetic Perfect Day and the imaginative arrangements of Walk On The Wild side and Goodnight Ladies. Transformer is a literate, intelligent and enduring statement of an era and is one of the few albums of the glam-rock movement that has survived with its artistic integrity intact and that still has something to say today. David Bowie and Mick Ronson produced it with all the expertise they lent to the Ziggy Stardust album. But its varied styles, broader subject matter and feel of personal experience make it a better album than Ziggy Stardust. Unlike on most of Reed's other albums, there is great melodic variety too, and classic pop like the poignant Satellite of Love which by the way, is beautifully covered by Eurythmics on their Sweet Dreams video. It ought to have been as great a hit as Walk On The Wide Side! This most accessible album of Reed's was a deserved commercial success and spawned a million dreams.
With both David Bowie and Lou Reed having passed so recently - re-listening to 1972's utterly brilliant "Transformer" is a bittersweet experience. But more than the pain of their loss - you're also struck by just how 'fully-formed' the record is, how lyrically kick-ass it was (and still is) and that it’s not just some dismissible showy glam rock period piece either. This sucker has more attitude (and mascara) than the angst-ridden gay spawn of Mary Whitehouse and Eddie Izzard. If anything "Transformer" seems shockingly rad in 2016 - contemporary and emotionally brave (a bit like its creator really).
Produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson (Ronson on Guitars, Bowie on Backing Vocals also) - the whole of Lou Reed's "Transformer" works - and Vic Anesini's wonderful 2002 CD remaster brings the album to life like never before – each track clean yet muscular without ever being over trebled for the sake of it. The audio of the monster smash "Walk On The Wild Side" alone is enough to make the hairs on the back on neck stand up (that Bass line, the Baritone Sax solo). Here are the plucked eyebrows...and shaved legs...
USA released 22 October 2002 (28 October 2002 in the UK) – "Transformer" by LOU REED on BMG/RCA 07863 65132 2 (Barcode 078636513225) is an expanded 'Original Masters' CD Remaster and plays out as follows (45:23 minutes):
2. Andy's Chest
3. Perfect Day
4. Hangin' 'Round
5. Walk On The Wild Side
6. Make Up [Side 2]
7. Satellite Of Love
8. Wagon Wheel
9. New York Telephone Conversation
10. I'm So Free
11. Goodnight Ladies
Tracks 1 to 11 are his 2nd solo LP "Transformer" – released 8 November 1972 in the USA and UK on RCA Victor LSP-4807 (didn't chart until April 1973 in the UK). All songs by LOU REED – Produced by DAVID BOWIE and MICK RONSON – it peaked at 13 on the UK charts and 29 in the USA. Other guest Musicians included Herbie Flowers on Bass and Tuba, Klaus Voorman on Bass with Barry Desousza, John Halzey and Richie Dharma on Drums
12. Hangin' 'Round (Previously Unreleased Acoustic Demo)
13. Perfect Day (Previously Unreleased Acoustic Demo)
The 16-page booklet is a pleasingly chubby and substantive affair – rare foreign picture sleeves for "Walk On The Wild Side" (most countries had "Perfect Day" as the B-side but some had "Vicious"), sheet music, RCA Master Tape Boxes, a music press advert for the album and even a picture of the 8-track cartridge on Page 3. The CD is a picture disc (Reed live) and there's even a "Transformer" period photo beneath the see-through tray.
MICHAEL HILL provides the excellent and informative liner notes that go into song-by-song analysis and general ruminations on drag queens, Nelson Algren novels (where he got the title "Walk On The Wide Side") and how clueless BBC Radio 1 controllers simply didn't get the reference 'giving head' as being frightfully naughty and so played the song on English radio with gusto because it was 'one of those hit things' (much to the delight of the listening British public). But the big news is the truly superb VIC ANESINI Remaster. Anesini is a name I've raved about many times before when it comes to Audio Engineers - a man who seem to lift proceedings without drowning them out. He's worked on the prestigious Elvis Presley catalogue, Simon and Garfunkel. Carole King, Santana, The Jayhawks, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Byrds, Nilsson, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Denis Wilson (of The Beach Boys), Hall & Oates, Cab Calloway, Big Maybelle...to name but a few (see reviews for all). His work here is typically on the ball – the album is muscular without being showy and those formerly too-distant bottom-end rhythm pieces now full of subtle punch. A top job done...
The words alone on this record should elicit classrooms full of study – witty, street savvy, butch and snarling – characters are looking for Soul food and a place to eat. Holly from Miami FLA has shaved his/her legs and we’re all taking a walk on the wide side (baby). Any album that opens with a song that counter-culture's with "...You hit me with a flower...oh baby you're so vicious..." is probably not going to be a demo for the Euro Vision Song Contest. Even the soundscape of "Vicious” with that manic treated guitar in the background and the rhythm amplified into the right speaker like some voodoo man tapping out a New York mantra on an empty tin of beans – it has such a 'Lou Reed sound' (helped of course by David Bowie and Mick Ronson understanding what Reed wants). "Andy's Chest" talks of "venom snipers" and "hairy-minded pink bare bear" and "...yesterday Daisy May and Biff were grooving on the street..." So much of the album is about clothing, make up, lipstick traces, torn tights, sex and generally coming out in New York regardless of the consequences.
You have to say that "Andy's Chest" sounds amazing – especially those drums and backing vocals that used to kind of get lost on my vinyl issue. The beauty and ever so slightly lonely/desolate vibe that permeates the whole of "Perfect Day" was picked up by filmmakers (the druggy sequence in "Trainspotting") and even charity groups (1997 saw it reach No. 1 in the UK for three weeks after the BBC gathered together an all-star cast and used it (with permission) for their Children In Need Appeal). It was of course originally the B-side of "Walk On The Wild Side” when RCA issued that stunning song as a 45 7" single back in November 1972 in the USA (went to No. 10 in the UK in May 1973 after the "Transformer" album charted in April 1973).
Harry becomes a priest and digs up his recently deceased father in the wicked groove of "Hangin' 'Round" as the guitar-shadow of Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and the following year's Aladdin Sane anchors the acidic lyrics. Then we get 'the' tune that defines the LP and for my money easily in the top 5 greatest 45 RPMs ever released bar none – the sensational "Walk On The Wlld Side". Even now it brings a smile to me face and flips a beat in my heart. The liner notes wittily explain that the song's truly iconic and hooky bass line by Herbie Flowers was more of a fluke than a stroke of musical genius. He did it first on an upright bass then added the more subtle electric bass line to underpin it - that way he got paid for two sessions instead of one. Flowers got his £12, RCA got their hit, Reed got to be a lippy Global superstar and we got musical history that literally oozes cool and sex. RCA issued it in the USA as a 3:57 minute edit without the 'oral' reference (to you know what) and it's a shame this CD reissue didn't include that version here as a third bonus track (plenty of room boys – as Candy would say on the streets of New York). By the way it's RONNIE ROSS who plays that brilliant Baritone Saxophone as the song fades out.
Side 2 opens with "Make Up" where Lou tells us of a 'slick little girl' and people coming out of their closets. It's followed by another gorgeous "Perfect Day" moment – the very Bowie/Mott The Hoople "Satellite Of Love". Originating from his Velvet days in 1969 – Reed updated the song for "Transformer". A simple piano refrains play as he sings of cars parked on Mars while someone on Earth has been bold with Harry, Mark and John (and that's just on Monday). "Wagon Wheel" slides in like a slick T. Rex knock off – that cleverly treated guitar sound while Lou sings of 'flirting with danger' – Anesini's remaster brings out the clarity of those quite 'heavenly father' passages. Vaudeville rhythm fills "New York Telephone Conversation" with a street gossip bitchiness and you're not really sure he means it when he sings "...I'm glad to hear from you all..." The chugging guitars and backing vocals of the utterly brilliant "I'm So Free" could easily have been another single – and the remaster here gives it incredible clarity and power (you can Bowie's voice just above those harmonies more now – and that Ronson guitar soloing as it fades out). It ends on a Tuba where Herbie Flowers puffs away as Reed gets all Leon Redbone on "Goodnight Ladies" telling us that she's sucked her lemon peel dry...nice.
I had thought the two demos would be throwaway – but their unplugged acoustic strum (beautifully produced) allows you to focus on the words that feature verses he didn't use in the finished song. Jeannie and her mentholated cigarettes are still in there as is "...you're still hung up on things I gave up years ago..." - but then there's Raymond who had no hair on his head so he didn't use a comb. The bittersweet "Perfect Day" feels even bleaker somehow in Acoustic Demo form as he sings "...it's just a perfect day...I'm glad I spent it with you..." Both are excellent finds.
What mercurial talents Lou Reed, David Bowie and Mick Ronson were between 1971 and 1973 – everything they touched seemed to have a kind of fairy dust magic about it. Some records grow in stature - get rediscovered and rightly so - Lou Reed's second solo LP "Transformer" is one of those albums. It's still fresh, effortlessly cool and lyrically as snotty as The Sex Pistols - and 44 years after the event – just as relevant.
All together now – "...And the colour girls go...do...de...do...de...do...de...do..."
This album, of mellow laid back rock ballads really set the benchmark for this type of music. Without its influence, rock music in the seventies would have been much less adventurous.
The album has a delicate, light touch and it always rewards careful listening. If you look at the list of names on the credits, including David Bowie, Mick Ronson and Herbie Flowers, it is no surprise that it reaches such musical heights.
Of course, the highlights of this album are "Perfect Day" and "Walk on the Wild Side" but "Vicious" is also worthy of special mention.
Lou Reed's mellow voice and the lyrics at once cynical, surreal and witty capture the attention first on this album but when you look further, there is just so much good music here. For example, the bass line on "Walk on the Wild Side" is wonderful and it really holds the whole song together.
If your music collection includes just one CD from the seventies, it should be this one.
on 28 October 2013
One of my all time favourite albums.
Goodnight Ladies, Perfect Day, Walk On The Wild Side, Satellite Of Love. So hard to listen to now without crying.
A simple, groundbreaking album beautifully produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson.
Lou Reed was one of those life-changing artists. Put your headphones on, lie back and float up to the sky with Lou.
Goodnight Lou, Lou goodnight. It's time to say goodbye...
on 24 March 2002
No bad tracks on this album, which is a pretty rare thing. For me, it is Lou Reed through and through - simple cut down instrumental layers, thoughtful poetry and touches that really are the hallmark of someone in their prime (clarinet and other jazz instruments on Goodnight Ladies perfectly capture the mood and setting of the lyrics).
Yes, if you have 50+ CDs and rock music is in there, this should be too.
on 18 June 2013
Whatever taste in music you have this is one of those essential records which sadly do not come along that often. From the sublime 'Perfect Day' (this song will always remind me of a fabulous day at Longleat many, many years ago. It was and I hope she feels the same whatever she is doing now?) every song has stood the test of time well and none seem out of place today. Over the years I have heard the terms 'camp' and 'glam' used but both seem a bit insulting and stereotyped? The whole album is littered with social comment and observation. If you are not in the mood for that just listen and enjoy to what is just over half an hour of a genius at work, especially 'Wagon Wheel', 'Satellite of Love', 'Andy's Chest' and of course 'Vicious'. Ooops, nearly forgot 'Walk on the Wild side'! See what I mean, they are all classics. Along with Bowie's 'Aladdin Sane' a style was set that many have tried to copy without any real lasting success?