Sunday, 17 March 2019

Lou Reed - Rock 'N' Roll Animal (1974)


  

Released February 1974

Recorded live in New York City

After the disturbing, acquired taste and overall shock of 1973's "Berlin" album, Lou Reed won some of the perplexed fans back with this barnstorming, full-on guitar-powered rock live album. Featuring a blistering dual lead guitar attack from Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner (who went on to play with Alice Cooper), it is full of swaggering rock grandeur and elevates four Velvet Underground tracks and three Lou Reed solo numbers (from "Berlin") into veritable, majestic anthems. The quirky, drugged-up, trance-like enigmatic vibe of the Velvet Underground originals is replaced by a clean, muscular, almost glam rock performance and Reed's slightly vulnerable Velvets voice is given a street-suss makeover such as he started to develop on 1972's "Transformer". It is one of rock's truly great live albums.

TRACK LISTING

1. Sweet Jane
2. Heroin
3. How Do You Think It Feels*
4. Caroline Says 1*
5. White Light/White Heat
6. Lady Day
7. Rock 'n' Roll                                                      

* not on the original vinyl album release

The greatness of this album begins from the very start. You can imagine the atmosphere in New York as the two guitarist come on stage and launch into some searing, exhilarating guitar interplay that lasts for a tantalizing, teasing four minutes of crystal clear sound before the man himself arrives, like a rock 'n' roll caesar greeting his adoring populace. After two minutes you think it is going to break into the "Sweet Jane" riff, but it teases you again until finally it arrives "da-da-da-dah-Dah..." and the crowd breaks into applause and you know he is on stage - "standin' on the corner, suitcase in my hand..." drawls Reed. There you have it - one of the best live introductions of all time, if not the best. Simply wonderful stuff. The remastered sound quality is fantastic too. Just turn this mother up loud.


The Velvets' paranoid drug anthem "Heroin" is turned into a grandiose masterpiece, full of crashing cymbals, shredding guitar and intoxicating, dare I say addictive, atmosphere on the quiet parts, with Reed's voice completely captivating. The organ break in the middle is positively Deep Purple-esque. There are some excellent funky, rhythmic parts near the end too, plus some stonking guitar. This rendition really does justice to what is difficult song to play, surely.

The original album only contained five tracks and did not include the next two tracks (also, the remaining six tracks from the complete concert were released on 1975's "Lou Reed Live"). "How Do You Think It Feels" and "Caroline Says 1" were actually played before "Heroin" in the original set list. The former track it brought to a new life by some stunning guitar and impressively solid drums. The latter is far more upbeat and rocky even than its version on "Berlin". It is given a sort of "Ziggy Stardust" glam makeover, which, although depriving it of some of its intrinsic sadness, gives it a new riffy verve and vigour.

The Velvet's effervescent "White Light/White Heat" has the breakneck, punky vibe that David Bowie used when playing it live in 1972-73. There is a bit of a funky feel to Reed's delivery of it here, though, at times. The slow and stately "Lady Day" is bestowed with a crunching backing which while again removing some of the original's pathos turns it into a much more powerful number. This album, and the original concert, end with The Velvet's wonderful "Rock 'n' Roll", which here is ten minutes plus of rhythmic, guitar-powered heaven. It features a quirky funky guitar break in the middle played out between the two guitarists most effectively. Then the bass and drums join in. Brilliant.

If you are wondering, the original concert set list is below. A playlist can be made using this album and "Lou Reed Live":-

ORIGINAL CONCERT SETLIST

1. Sweet Jane
2. How Do You Think It Feels
3. Caroline Says 1
4. I'm Waiting For The Man
5. Lady Day
6. Heroin
7. Vicious
8. Satellite Of Love
9. Walk On The Wild Side
10. Oh, Jim
11. Sad Song
12. White Light/White Heat
13. Rock 'n' Roll

Whatever way you listen to these tracks, they are simply superb live recordings. Seventies rock music at its absolute finest.

B+

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