Lou Reed, Rock ‘N’ Roll Animal

Michaelangelo Matos

By Michaelangelo Matos

on 02.06.12 in Reviews

Rock And Roll Animal

Lou Reed

Anyone who’d heard Transformer or Berlin knew Lou Reed had a flair for the dramatic. Anyone who’d heard the Velvet Underground was aware that he’d helped alter the vocabulary of rock and roll guitar without playing it overly flashy. But chops sold, then as now, and Reed desired something more than cult stardom. So live, he began to really put on a show tying off with a mike cord and pretending to shoot up with a microphone, a move that was precisely as controversial as it sounds. Or looked, anyway because you can’t actually hear him do that during the 13-minute version of “Heroin” that anchors this 1974 flash-guitar in-concert fiesta. Released the same year as 1969 Velvet Underground Live, it’s a study in contrasts with that double-LP: Rock N Roll Animal emphasizes the (often unison) leads by guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, Ray Colcord’s show-stopping organ, and splashy arrangements rather than the grinding unity of the Velvets, and the fidelity is crystal-clear, as opposed to 1969‘s mud-fi. But Animal holds its own with any live rock album from the era, including the VU’s. The secret is that for all their showboating, Hunter and Wagner sound like they love “Sweet Jane” or “Rock and Roll” as much as Reed does and it’s contagious.