Artist: Lou Reed
Album: New York (1989)
Favorite song: Last Great American Whale
Rating: (4.0 / 5)
Thoughts: Necessary disclosure – I’m not a really huge Lou Reed fan. He falls into that category of artists who I recognize as having immense talent, and who I respect for their immense influence on music, but who don’t often make it into my playlist. I’d have certainly gotten around to doing a write-up on this album eventually, but felt the need to bump it up. Lou Reed died today.
I own two of his solo albums: New York and The Blue Mask. Of the two, I’m much more fond of New York. The Blue Mask marks the end of an era for Lou Reed, as he closed the door on the indulgent style of his Velvet Underground period, and the decade that followed their breakup. You can feel the similarity between the tracks on The Blue Mask and earlier VU material, but they all failed to reach that bar for me. Even the cover is basically copied from his earlier album Transformer.
New York, on the other hand, is much more polished…more composed. It retains the lyrical poetry that had become Reed’s signature, but feels more produced than simply recorded. Thematically, New York still packs the kind of socio-political commentary that you’d expect from a Lou Reed album, but it’s a more mature Lou, one mellowed by almost a decade of marriage. And he’s still thumbing his nose at established norms, including a false start on the very first track, “Romeo Had Juliette.” “Halloween Parade” recalls Lou’s previous solo hit – “Take a Walk on the Wild Side.” “Endless Cycle” has a strong country feel, while the following “There is No Time” sounds like pure 80’s pop-rock. My personal favorite though is “Last Great American Whale,” which I can’t help but compare to Syd Barret’s “Effervescing Elephant.”
It’s simply the best of Lou’s solo albums.
Bottom line: if you aren’t familiar with Lou Reed’s solo work, this is probably the place to start.
But while I’ve admitted that I’m not a huge fan of his solo work, I will always cherish Lou Reed for The Velvet Underground & Nico. It’s impossible to overstate the impact of that record on rock music. That album gets more playtime than the two solo records combined, times 10. It’s haunting. I can’t count the hours that were spent in my late teens listening to that with my friends (unfortunately on CD rather than vinyl). For that, if for nothing else, thank you Lou – and God speed.
Album Art: The cover of this album is a simple black & whit photo of Lou Reed standing in front of a brick wall. Lou is shown in several poses, composited together to give the appearance that he is in a small crowd, made up entirely of copies of himself. It’s nothing like the stark pop-art album covers from his VU and earlier solo works, again reinforcing that this is not the Lou Reed you’ve been listening to for the past 20 years. The reverse side shows the track listing over the same brick wall, the graffiti now clearly visible.
- “Romeo Had Juliette”
- “Halloween Parade”
- “Dirty Blvd.”
- “Endless Cycle”
- “There Is No Time”
- “Last Great American Whale”
- “Beginning of a Great Adventure” (Reed, Mike Rathke)
- “Busload of Faith”
- “Sick of You”
- “Hold On”
- “Good Evening Mr. Waldheim”
- “Xmas in February”
- “Dime Store Mystery”
**All songs written by Lou Reed, unless otherwise noted**