Lou Reed sadly passed away on 27th October at the age of 71. He left behind a body of work among the most respected and loved in the industry. From his work as part of The Velvet Underground, to his hugely successful solo career, Reed wrote some of the most seminal songs in rock ‘n’ roll’s history. Here’s a subjective rundown of the top five albums he ever created:
The Velvet Underground – Loaded (1970)
The last Velvets album to include Reed was also their most commercial effort. Stepping further away from Warhol’s influence for their forth effort, the band created and album chocked full of radio friendly tunes. The album flows expertly showing a band at the peak of their songwriting ability. Reed ditched the drug and sex related imagery in his lyrics and the production values were ramped up from the previous albums, helping thrust Loaded into the mainstream. It didn’t sacrifice the basics of the band’s sound however and it can be regarded as a 70’s rock classic.
Top Track: Sweet Jane
Lou Reed – Berlin (1973)
Lou’s third studio album was a concept album. The press originally panned it, but as with many classic albums its stature has only grown over time. While the album is notable for it’s heavy usage of orchestral arrangements, the subject matter is the usual heavy Reed fare: depression, domestic violence and suicide. It’s an album of grandiose beauty as the orchestra adds extra weight to Reed’s dark lyrical content. Berlin is an incredibly depressing record, but an absolutely beautiful one at the same time.
Top Track: Men of Good Fortune
The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat (1968)
For the Velvets second album they took a new direction. It was a much more experimental outing after parting ways with Warhol and Nico. Noise became the bands best friend, and they became experts at making it. Ditching the pop edge to their previous work, the album bludgeons the listener like an oncoming freight train. Including much longer, expansive songs, such as the brutal, mesmeric 17 minute jam Sister Ray. The album’s influence on the emergence punk and alternative rock is oft stated and rightly so. White Light/White Heat is the sound of a band not giving a dam about how many records they sell or who they piss off. It’s about the creation of an album as an art.
Top Track: Sister Ray
Lou Reed – Transformer (1972)
Lou hooked up with David Bowie and his band mate Mick Ronson for his second studio effort. The resulting album was his most commercially successful. Not only does it include Walk on the Wild Side and Perfect Day, two of the most instantly recognisable tracks of the seventies, but also the album showcased Reed’s copious talents for writing perfect pop tinged rock ‘n’ roll. The instant accessibility of the expertly produced music, layered with serious lyrical subject matter and Lou’s singing swagger make this the perfect place to start for any newbies. The album is an absolute seventies classic and shows Lou at his best, the personification of cool.
Top Track: Hangin’ Round
The Velvet Underground and Nico – The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)
Definitely a top contender for the greatest debut album of all time. This 1967 release by The Velvets also has probably the most iconic album art ever created (by their long time collaborator Andy Warhol). There is no doubt it’s one of the most influential rock albums of all time, never before had rock music taken on such dark subject matter. Drawing inspiration from the work of Burroughs and Ginsberg, Reed wrote lyrics about sexual deviancy and excessive drug use. The resultant album is a brooding, dark affair, relentless in its emotional effect. An absolute classic, which still holds up today as one of the greatest albums ever produced.
Top Track: Heroin
Written by Robbie Bryson