Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lou Reed 9: Walk On The Wild Side and Different Times

RCA had their faults as a label, but had pioneered the concept of repackaging via their association with Elvis Presley. So even after they dropped Lou Reed from their roster, they made sure to get him to curate a compilation. Wisely again, the set subtitled “The Best Of Lou Reed” was called Walk On The Wild Side after the most famous song, and the one likely to attract newcomers in the bin. (Rachel, Lou’s stubbled soulmate, appears among the Polaroids strewn about the cover art.)
Of course, “best of” is an objective opinion, and Walk On The Wild Side goes all over the place. Each of his RCA albums is sampled save Metal Machine Music. “Sweet Jane” from Rock ‘N Roll Animal is severely truncated to remove the intro and fade early (to make room for “White Light/White Heat”, which doesn’t belong here?) and it’s not even the single version. Maybe “How Do You Think It Feels” was the most commercial track from Berlin, but just to force even established fans to buy it, there is one “new” track, the trashy “Nowhere At All” B-side from the Coney Island Baby sessions.
As an introduction, the album works, and there are probably many people who still revere the album for that reason. Two decades later, when he’d had a career renaissance and was making decent albums on another label, RCA dipped into the same pile for a similar but different compilation, in disregard of the fact that the first disc of the box set from five years before would have sufficed. Different Times: Lou Reed In The ‘70s shares only four tracks with Walk On The Wild Side, but takes advantage of CD capacity to include the complete live “Sweet Jane” and more songs from each of the albums sampled. By then, “Perfect Day” had become a cult favorite, more so than “New York Telephone Conversation”, so that made sense, and Berlin maybe wasn’t quite so scary anymore. Even for a cash-in, Different Times ably displaces its much older brother, and nobody missed “Nowhere At All”.

Lou Reed Walk On The Wild Side: The Best Of Lou Reed (1977)—3
Lou Reed
Different Times: Lou Reed In The ‘70s (1996)—

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