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on 15 June 2006
In 1989- seventeen years on from 'Transformer' his most acclaimed work, Lou Reed turned his attention to the sleazier side of his hometown to find inspiration for 'New York'- his fifteenth solo studio album.
He writes in his liner notes that 'New York' should be taken in one sitting, as if it were a film or play, and after listening it's not difficult to see why. From beginning to end the listener is taken on a musical tour through the drug fuelled, crime - ridden, destitute streets of the Big Apple - which at the time was one of the most dangerous cities on earth.
The album kicks off with Reed's '1-2-3-4' counting - in the opening bars of 'Romeo Had Juliet' with it's dark,twisted lyrics -"Caught between the twisted stars,the plotted lines,the faulty map that brought Columbus to New York."
The musical pace then slows down with 'Halloween Parade (AIDS)' but then leads into arguably the finest song on the album - the perverse, yet mesmeric 'Dirty Blvd'. With it's dirty guitar riff and hollow snare drum it's a tale of Pedro, a young kid with nine siblings living in a squalid squat and beaten by their father - fellow New Yorker Dion Dimucci appears on backing vocals.
The stark and disturbing theme of child abuse continues on 'Endless Cycle' with it's detached, simple guitar loop.
'There Is No Time' rocks along vibrantly while the subdued 'Last Great American Whale' is poignant in it's subject - the destruction of our natural environment and fellow creatures.
Lou also vents his spleen from several directions - attacking politicians ('Good Evening Mr Waldheim' and 'Strawman') and the treatment of Vietnam vets ('Xmas In February')-'Sam stares at the Vietnam wall,it's been a while now that he's home,his wife and kid have left,he's unemployed,he's a reminder of the war that wasn't won'.
Genius a much overused word but it comes close to describing the lyrics on this album. The music is exceptional here as Lou surrounds himself with guitarist Mike Rathke and the rythym section of Rob Wasserman and Fred Maher give the album a tight and raw garage feel.Ex Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker plays on the Andy Warhol tribute'Dime Store Mystery'.
'New York' is widely regarded as Lou Reed's masterpiece and on it's release Lou said that this is as good as he gets.
Artists tend to say this, but although decades have passed since it's release, many of us would find it difficult to disagree with Lou's statement.
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on 5 December 2000
The whole idea of Lou Reed's art is captured in this snippet of the liner notes regarding this album: "It's meant to be listened to in one 58 minute (14 songs!) sitting as though it were a book or a movie." There is exactly one reason Reed has only had one hit in his 35-year career: He's an artist. His albums contain blissfully funny rock-songs, yes, but there's also the kind of Nicole Blackmannish deadly seriousness in some of their lyrics, that makes you forever unable to not listen to them once you've started. Reed's self-appointed mission is to elevate rock music to an art form in the league of literature and painting, and "New York" is the closest he's gotten yet. Going against the liner notes, if there's only one song you hear from this album it should be Beginning of A Great Adventure, which is the best treatment of becoming a father I've ever heard. But, honestly, once you've got the album (and you should get it if you have any interest in rock becoming more than simple entertainment) you ought to do as Lou says and listen to it all. It's well worth it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 March 2013
This 1989 masterpiece from Brooklyn's finest is (certainly for 1989) something of a blast from the past, representing as it does one of the most virulent 'protest albums' I can recall hearing (though perhaps not surprising, given that it came at the end of two presidential terms of Ronald 'cupcake' Reagan). And, I guess, as they say, protest and disaffection often provoke great levels of creativity - as is evidenced by New York, whose consistent levels of musical and (particularly) lyrical dexterity make this album just possibly my favourite ever solo work by Reed.

New York really represents something of a 'back to basics' approach for Reed as the album's sound reverts to a predominantly small band (and quite sparse) sound, with Rob Wasserman's electric upright bass and album co-producer Fred Maher on drums lending a generally (though not exclusively) light touch. The band's overall sound therefore gives Reed's guitar plenty of room for a number of nicely judged solos and his (and Mike Rathke's) guitar(s) consistently impress. Strangely enough, the album's generally light sound adds a nice touch of dark irony for what is one of Reed's most angry set of songs. There is a pervading theme of despair with the broken state of urban New York, as Reed laments in the face of (perhaps ironically) promiscuous lifestyles (Halloween Parade), lack of concern for the environment (The Last Great American Whale), religion (Busload Of Faith), Vietnam (the sublime Xmas In February) and just about everything else (in the hilariously light Sick Of You and the rocking Hold On).

There is another brilliant example of 'light irony' on (for me) one of the album's highlights, Endless Cycle, with its apparently hopeless plea against family histories of addictions to drugs, drink and violence. Similarly, both Dirty Boulevard (with its reference - one of a number - to the 'statue of bigotry') and the call to action that is There Is No Time ('this is no time for my country right or wrong remember what that brought') are both intoxicatingly vibrant. Good Evening Mr Waldheim, on the other hand, is a brilliantly inventive gem with a compelling rhythm and hook, in which Reed targets all and sundry, from the Austrian president (at the time of New York's recording) and (alleged) Nazi sympathiser, Kurt Waldheim, through to Jessie Jackson, outspoken Islamist Louis Farrakhan and the Pope ('can anyone shake your hand or is it just that you like uniforms and someone kissing your hand'). And, finally, to the album's other real rocker, the superb Strawman, on which Reed's guitar again excels (in feeling rather than technique per se) and his lyrical targets include wasteful affluence (movies, movie stars, $60K limos, space rockets/shuttles, skyscrapers), corrupt politicians, racist preachers and TV evangelists (in particular, Jimmy Swaggart).

Simply a must-have album, and one that, as Reed's sleeve notes suggest, should be listened to in its entirety in order to be able to fully absorb the album's message.
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on 16 November 2002
Lou Reed closed out the 80's with his best album in a long time, not only is it art but it is street art.

When I say that I mean the tales of "New York" that Mr Reed has woven about the life on the mean streets of one of the world's capitals come across as so real as to create the smells and sounds of what he is singing about.

The delivery that Mr Reed can't really be called singing, it's more like talking in pitch. The wordplay that is used to great effect here is like a modern day "Mickey Spillane" or "Raymond Chandler" novel. As always Lou has a swipe at the America society with humour and intelligence that is his trade mark.

This album is both well produced and played and will be around a long time for people who like their music with a sting in the tale, so do your self a favour and buy it and buy it NOW...
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on 25 March 2017
This album has aged well. I recently got a copy, having owned it on vinyl all those years ago. The production is crisp and unfussy and Lou sings great on every track. This is a very strong collection of songs, with no weak tracks spoiling the flow. Love it.
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This collection of 14 sketches represents one of the most powerful song cycles of Reed's career. On New York he deals with the wider world rather than personal concerns for a change, and in the enchanting core of New York City, he found enough to comment upon, like crime on "Romeo Had Juliette," the terrible impact of AIDS in "Halloween Parade," the tragedy and psychology of child abuse in the poignant "Endless Cycle," the plight of the homeless on "Xmas in February" and wrong priorities on the powerful rocker "Strawman, " where he actually sings with open throttle unlike most of the other tracks where he employs his talking-style delivery. Older themes are revisited too: "Dime Store Mystery" is a moving elegy to his former patron Andy Warhol. Not all the tracks are memorable though - "American Whale" and "Mr Waldheim" for example, are not up to the greatness of the rest of the album. In addition, due to the lack of any other but the basic rock instruments, the sound is not as varied as on some of his other classic albums. Neither is this Reed's most melodic work. However, the lyrics make up for that - in beautiful lines like "Caught between the twisted stars the plotted lines the faulty map that brought Columbus to New York", the poetry is full of sharp and lean images, driven by Rathke's guitar, Wasserman's bass and Maher's drums. This album is a beacon of literate, intelligent rock and amongst the top 5 of Reed's career.
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on 6 November 2013
At the time of its release New York was considered Lou Reeds best album for a while. I was too tight to buy bit outright so all these years I have had a copied cassette version minus the last two tracks!
It's been played a hundred times and to me it still sounds as fresh as ever, great songs performed by a tight little combo and as Lou says on the sleeve notes this record should be played in its entirety in one session as if you would, say watch a movie.
"The last great American whale" is my fave track. "stick a fork in its ass, turn it over and its done" ---love it.
Inconsistent output from Lou has dogged his career, one step forward two steps back ,witness Metal Machine Music, for whatever reason his fans did not deserve that.
New York is my lasting memory of Lou Reed, a true giant of the rock genre we all love.
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on 4 May 2013
I had this on vinyl back in the day. I was in Germany recently and heard it played in a cool pub, came home and bought it straight away. Of course the references are somewhat dated but the raw power and honesty of the performances of both Reed and Rathke and the rest are top class. In my opinion, an out and out classic and a statement of what was to come to pass in the whole world, not just in NY. Real rock 'n' roll! Kids today will be surprised and even shocked at some of the lyrical content as stuff like this kust isn't out there, perhaps in metal and trash metal but the lyrics in those genres are indecipherable and the genres are too narrow to make a difference to the ordinary punter....A must for any Reed fan, a must for any rock and roll fan! Eugene Brosnan.
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on 22 September 2010
The genre of LP as graphic novel is superbly realised in this recording. The songs are poignant and colourful. The portrait of New York at a moment in time is crystal clear - ugly, beautiful, bolshy, aggressive. But for me the best thing on hearing it all again after a leave of absence, is the superb playing and the disarmingly unfussy recording. Just some guys with guitars paying their fingers off. Hugely recommended to anyone who ever visited New York, enjoyed a Lou Reed song or played a guitar. So nearly everyone.
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on 3 December 2013
Hi amazoneans started following lou reed as a 70s rocker,the guy was not only brilliant,he was thirty years ahead of his time!(may he rock in peace).This folks is one of the best dammed albums you will ever listen to,no matter what your taste.bumper.
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