Lou Reed Albums Ranked

Lewis Allan Reed (March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013) was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and poet. He was the rhythm and lead guitarist, singer and principal songwriter for the rock band the Velvet Underground and had a solo career that spanned five decades. The Velvet Underground was not a commercial success during its existence but became regarded as one of the most influential bands in the history of underground and alternative rock music.
After leaving the band in 1970, Reed released twenty solo studio albums. His second, Transformer (1972), was produced by David Bowie and arranged by Mick Ronson, and brought him mainstream recognition. The album is considered an influential landmark of the glam rock genre, anchored by Reed’s most successful single, “Walk on the Wild Side”. After Transformer, the less commercial but critically acclaimed Berlin peaked at No. 7 on the UK Albums Chart. Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal (a live album released in 1974) sold strongly, and Sally Can’t Dance (1974) peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard 200; but for a long period after, Reed’s work did not translate into sales, leading him deeper into drug addiction and alcoholism. Reed cleaned up in the early 1980s, and gradually returned to prominence with New Sensations (1984), reaching a critical and commercial career peak with his 1989 album New York.
He contributed music to two theatrical interpretations of 19th-century writers, one of which he developed into an album titled The Raven. He married his third wife Laurie Anderson in 2008 and recorded the collaboration album Lulu with Metallica. He died in 2013 of liver disease. Reed’s distinctive deadpan voice, poetic lyrics, and experimental guitar playing were trademarks throughout his long career. Reed has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice; as a member of the Velvet Underground in 1996 and as a solo act in 2015. Here are all of Lou Reed’s albums ranked.

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10. Lou Reed (1972)

“Reed’s first solo outing had been eagerly anticipated since his departure from ‘The Velvet Underground’ two years previously. However, this very much amounted to his band’s back catalogue, mostly unreleased material on their last album. A massive commercial failure, it was an entrance into a solo career where the artist did not arrive at the studio, brimming with new ideas or compositions. At best, it is more of a continuation of the raw sound he had achieved with his sixties outfit, without any addition of interest. Two standout tracks are opener ‘I Can’t Stand It’ and ‘Walk and Talk It’.”

9. Metal Machine Music (1975)

Metal Machine Music has been turned from a joke to a masterpiece and back so often I am not willing to count the times. And I’m not going to make any ‘final’ statement because I haven’t spent more than an hour of my whole life trying to figure out. The guy was probably serious: how the results matched the intent is very difficult to judge; anyway I won’t rate it very low because it’s very entertaining if you take it in small parts and also adventurous as a concept. I’d like to think Reed had tried hard to make an avant-garde record and succeeded; he just maybe isn’t that great avant-garde musician someone claims he is, but anyway the concept between this stuff is interesting. I’d not trash it, neither erect an altar to it.”

8. Magic And Loss (1992)

“The song cycle works to create a journey through darkness, misery and pain, reflecting responses of anger guilt frustration and desparation. I liked the mystical parallel reflecting a necessity for the journey through pain, in order to grow and accept loss and death as necessary parts of life. Then, in case by the end you still didn’t get it, the title track gives a “Summation”, “There’s a bit of Magic in everything, but then some loss to even things out”, and “Life is good, but not fair at all”.”

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7. Street Hassle (1978)

‘Personally, I believe that, while uneven in quality, Street Hassle contains some of Lou’s strongest efforts. This is especially evident in the title track. Lou had always said he wanted to write rock music for adults, and Street Hassle is exactly that: an unpleasant yet totally believable narrative with adult content for adult listeners (and let’s face it, the spoken word passage near the end is a very pleasant surprise!). On the strength of this song alone, I would recommend this album,..but wait! There’s more! In the mood for a sonic experiment? Try his reworking of VU’s Real Good Time together. “

6. The Blue Mask (1982)

“Lou is also back playing guitar, and with a second guitarist, the talented and distinctive ex-Voidoid Robert Quine, to push him. The rhythm section, bassist Fernando Saunders and drummer Doane Perry, were no slouches either. Great musicianship is aligned to a batch of committed and literate songs crafted by a serious and sober Lou. Upon its release the critics competed to heap praise on this album and it is undeniably impressive. However, none of the songs are especially memorable and this is an album I admire more than love.

5. Coney Island Baby (1975)

“Reed’s attempt to re-establish an audience after the previous year’s disastrous disengagement with the music industry. On the verge of bankruptcy, many fans regard this clear embracing by Reed of a much more commercial sound as his selling-out of his edgy Velvet Underground roots. There is greater heart present and fewer bleak overtures. The tracks which are best served by this mainstream restyling are Crazy Feeling’ and ‘Charley’s Girl’. Ironically, it is the sole track which retains an unconventional musical structure, ‘Kicks’, which stands out amidst these more approachable offerings, and thereby lingers in the memory”

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4. Rock N Roll Animal (1974)

“Loud Reed Intro/Sweet Jane – This is how to open a show. Almost 4 minutes of intro, the prelude to the arrival of some rock n roll emperor, who is, and over 4 minutes this sinks in, in absolutely NO hurry to see the audience. You had to give them time to take a piss, hit their joints and adjust their hair. They don’t know how to behave in public, so they’re being given PLENTY of time to figure out where their seats are. The intro itself is wonderful, the two guitars trading the spotlight while Lou hangs out offstage making it clear who’s waiting and who doesn’t give a sh*t.

3. New York (1989)

“Songs with subject matter that is still very, very much relevant today. Way ahead of its time, it is an album detailing the corruption and rotting of American culture. Lou even mentions Trump and Rudy Giuliani in the song ‘Sick Of You’ – now how is THAT for being ahead of the times? Like 30 years beforehand! Lou’s best album and an absolute masterpiece.”

2. Berlin (1973)

“Funnily enough I don’t think this album is anywhere near as depressing as people make it out to be. I do however believe it to be the most evil album ever made. The idea of man taking pleasure in another persons self destruction is quite distasteful to me, but the songs are excellent especially those on the second side. But “sad song” maybe goes on a bit longer than it needs to.”

1. Transformer (1972)

“One of the best albums by one of the best artists, with heavy influence by one of the other best artists (Bowie). This is a true classic that I never get tired of listening to! The Bowie / Ronson influence and production of this album is strongly evident and enhances Lou’s songwriting to a new place and level post Velvet Underground. This album is responsible for his only real “hit”, Walk on the wild side. However the entire album and every song is equally as strong! It is a shame the remainder of the songs did not reach the same level of popularity with the masses, this album highlights Lou’s songwriting capabilities and establishes his influence on the “now” ( circa 1972) Glam Rock movement in the UK.”