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Extended Versions Live
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Lou Reed Live
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This midline/budget package duplicates the contents of Lou Reed Live. Reed is captured December 21, 1973, from the same Academy of Music performance that yielded the arguably better-balanced Rock 'n' Roll Animal (released in 1974). Granted, the road band could never replicate the finesse of the all-star aggregate on the Berlin studio disc; however, the assembled combo of Ray Colcord (keyboards), Pentti Glan (drums), Steve Hunter (guitar), Dick Wagner (guitar), and fresh from a stint with Funkadelic, John Prakash (bass) do an admirable job. Fascinatingly, the collection opens with the evening's encore, a practically metallic "Vicious," replete with blatantly overdubbed audience response. The remaining half-hour adopts the drugged-out persona that Reed's music outwardly conveyed, split between favorites and the lengthy and edgy renditions of Berlin-related titles "Oh Jim" and "Sad Song." The former is a highlight with the double-lead electric fretwork of Hunter and Wagner fanning the flames of an already scintillating and earthy analysis. "I'm Waiting for the Man" loses the manic garage feel of earlier interpretations, taking on a proto-disco visage that is effective in its decidedly funky and loose approach. "Satellite of Love" shines as an example of the diversity inherent in Reed's songwriting. While at times the gilded melody borders on pop, there is no mistaking the included workout for anything other than rock & roll. Just exactly why the powers that be decided to release Lou Reed Live under the "extended versions" and "encore collection" monikers is a mystery as the original is readily available.
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If you liked 'Rock and Roll Animal' try this too.
The opening trio of songs from Transformer are - always with the proviso that you can stomach the arrangements - very fine, and Lou is in fine vocal form, especially on Walk On The Wild Side. This sequence also has the advantage of being in the actual order they were consecutively played at the gig. We then jump back to earlier in the concert for an almost funky version of I'm Waiting For The Man. Again, the arrangement is very much a matter of taste but it's a powerful performance and the vocals are excellent. The album concludes with two of the longer and grimmer tunes from Berlin, Oh Jim and Sad Song. That said, they're both very fine songs and I've always felt the former, especially the "how could you treat me this way" outro, is not without humour. Here, it becomes a lengthy guitar duet showcasing the virtuoso playing of Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner. Thankfully, the playing is REALLY good if you like that sort of thing (as it is throughout both this album and RnRA - it's no surprise the whole band ended up backing Alice Cooper shortly afterwards) and they never lose the shape of the song or degenerate into formless jamming. Sad Song likewise suits the slick, lead guitar-heavy arrangement surprisingly well and closes out the album on an anthemic note.
I went through quite a long period of not really liking this album - I sold a vinyl copy many years ago - but having bought it on CD recently I'm really warming to it again. If you like Rock n Roll Animal it's pretty essential, if you're a Reed/Velvets fan but have heard neither I would try to listen to some of it first to make sure you can stomach the arrangements - it's a bit much for some Velvets purists but if you reject it on those grounds you're missing some top notch Reed vocals.
Who knows why BMG decided to shoehorn this into the "Extended Versions" series - neither the album nor any of the songs on it are extended in any way - all this achieves is vandalising the sleeve, not that it's that great but generic add-ons to the sleeve of this kind are rarely acceptable and those responsible will suffer in marketing hell. In fact, if you have the genuinely extended reissue of Rock n Roll Animal (with two extra tracks) then this completes the concert, explaining why no extra tracks have been added to any edition of this album. Surely the logical step for BMG would be to put out a double CD version of Rock n Roll Animal with all the songs in the order they were played. Shame they missed the 40th anniversary.
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