After a couple of years off, Lou Reed finally emerged with his first album after leaving the Velvet Underground. His self-titled debut was about as successful as his previous albums had been (read: barely a ripple) but becomes more interesting down the road when taken as part of the whole picture.
“I Can’t Stand It” has a nice fuzzy rhythm guitar, but the immediate switch to sensitive singer-songwriter in “Going Down” is jarring, considering how badly suited his voice is for the soft arrangement. Still, it’s a nice song, even if someone should have told the guitarist to take it easy. “Walk And Talk It” borrows the riff from “Brown Sugar” for another rocker. “Lisa Says” sounds like a VU song—because it was, having been played onstage throughout 1969. In addition to building nice dynamics for the bridge, it also features one of Lou’s occasional ragtime detours. A bigger departure happens in “Berlin”, which indeed sports something of a continental flair. It’s one of his more musically sophisticated tracks, and would itself become more important in a couple of years.
“I Love You” is fairly pedestrian, but “Wild Child” revives his interest in Dylanesque wordplay and wacky street characters. One of the more complicated songs is “Love Makes You Feel”, which goes through a variety of unresolved chords before settling into the incongruous chorus. “Ride Into The Sun” begins heavily before settling into a more straightforward backing. “Ocean” was always envisioned to be a magnum opus, with the rolling percussion and chords designed to emulate the sound of the sea. It’s unknown if it ever lived up to the vision in his head.
For all his conflicting emotions about “going commercial” for Loaded, it’s clear that he got over it by the time he finished recording Lou Reed. Every song features stylish female backing vocals, and very little of the album could be considered edgy. Even the presence of Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman in the band doesn’t venture far from the mainstream. In the long run the album should only be of interest to aficionados of the man’s career, considering that seven of the songs were recorded by the Velvets, and would eventually be available in multiple versions for archival study.
Lou Reed Lou Reed (1972)—2½