Lou is great and this is a great box no matter which way you look at it. Roughly this box represents the first four years of Lou's post VU life. I say roughly because it omits both of the period live albums - Rock and Roll Animal and Lou Reed Live - and the double LP studio set Metal Machine Music. MMM has a life of its own and if you want to get a feel for it, check out some of the Amazon reviews. Lou probably hates this box for leaving out MMM but I can see why the compilers made that choice. I'm not saying that it's right, just understandable.
So what do we have left? * Lou Reed is the solo debut. On paper this should have been Loaded pt 2, the songs on balance were as good as Loaded despite nothing hitting the highs of Sweet Jane, New Age or Rock n Roll. What went wrong is hard to say but it just doesn't sound alive. Lou says that the original mix had a problem with Dolby; this CD corrects that but Louie seems hesitant and the hired guns in the studio band don't really help. Great songs though, including many VU leftovers.
* Transformer you maybe know about. Ziggy Bowie hauls our Lou up by the lapels and gives him the production to match his songs. Yes it's good - Satellite of Love, Perfect Day - but in my mind it's a tad over rated, more a reflection of the times than of Lou. Still, you get the remaster with the additional demos and radio ad. Bowie fans will love it.
* Berlin is the dark fire meisterwork. It works because while it's a "concept" per se, the songs don't have a specific narrative. Instead Lou gives you the dots and let you fill the gaps in. Using the divided city of Berlin as a metaphor for a failing relationship, Lou takes us through the whole emotional kaleidoscope. The Kids still chills 40 years on. Ignore those who say it's depressing, it has its own inner beauty but you'll need to persevere with it.
* Sally Can't Dance is the sleeping classic. Derided by Lou himself, this hits the spots that Transformer skirted around. Try New York Stars for a piece of nastiness that's funny in it's put down of the wannabees. And Lou never sounded as laconic as here, his voice hits that NYC cool throughout. Again, this is the remastered shot with the bonus tracks.
* Finally Coney Island Baby and another lost classic. In the wake of the MMM fall out, Butch promised RCA that he'd behave himself on the next album and in turn serves up a thing of beauty. Said to be a throwback to the doo wop days where Lou cut his teeth, it's got more going for it than that superficial style suggests. And check out Kicks for a disorientating piece of sleaze. The title track is the killer, 6+ minutes of beauty with Lou's voice and cool cracking on the final "Man I swear I'd give the whole thing up for you". The bonus tracks show that the initial draft had a harder edge. Difficult to say whether it would have been better had it come through in that form but they're a worthy addition.
In common with other boxes in the series, the discs come in replica sleeves. Not exactly Japanese standard but fine nonetheless. Everything is held in an outer sleeve. At the price, this is a gift - no two albums are the same, and it's Lou Lou Lou!
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