[Review] Lou Reed: Rock n Roll Animal (1974)

Epic renditions of V.U. classics including thirteen minutes of “Heroin.” You’re only getting five songs, but nearly 50 minutes of pure awesomeness.

Kronomyth 4.0: A walk on the wild side

Rock n Roll Animal offers part of Lou Reed’s live performance in NYC from December 21, 1973 (the rest of it presumably appears on 1975’s Lou Reed Live). Though, at only five songs, it might seem the spirit of Scrooge was upon him, the treatment given these songs is nothing if not generous. Led by the clever interplay of guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, with full-bodied support from Prakash John on bass, Reed and his band du jour saturate the arrangements with color, take creative detours, and manage to make a 13-minute “Heroin” and 8-minute “Sweet Jane” perfectly justifiable.

Fans may be surprised to find only “Lady Day” from his solo catalog (and here the band manages to find a lot of new music in the crevices); the remaining tracks are VU tunes. Where the originals were often bleak, Rock n Roll Animal features a fertile musical landscape—and it’s here that the effect of Hunter and Wagner are incalculable. “Heroin” becomes an epic filled with guitar heroics, “White Light – White Heat” busts up the place like a battering ram; songs that were intense but unadorned in the studio are elevated to larger-than-life proportions on stage.

Rock n Roll Animal might well be the best “glam rock” live album ever recorded; it certainly ranks as Reed’s most colorful and engaging live record. If the knowledge that you’re only getting five songs for your money dampens your enthusiasm, focus on the music: nearly fifty minutes of high-octane, butt-kicking rock & roll. Note that the 2000 CD reissue includes two more selections from Berlin, with purportedly better sound (although the BMG digital remaster is no slouch).

Original elpee version

A1. Intro (Steve Hunter) / Sweet Jane (7:55)
A2. Heroin (13:11)
B1. White Light/White Heat (5:15)
B2. Lady Day (4:00)
B3. Rock ‘N’ Roll (10:17)

CD reissue bonus tracks
6. How Do You Think It Feels (live)
7. Caroline Says I (live)

All songs written by Lou Reed unless noted.

The Players

Lou Reed (vocals, guitar), Ray Colcord (keyboards), Pentti Glan (drums), Steve Hunter (guitar), Prakash John (bass), Dick Wagner (guitar). Produced by Steve Katz and Lou Reed; engineered by Gus Mossler; tape operated by Joe Lopes; production assistance by Ralph Moss and Bruce Somerfeld.

The Pictures

Cover photography by Dalrymple. Art direction by Acy R. Lehman.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in February 1974* in the US (RCA, APL1/APS1-0472) and the UK (RCA, INTS 5086) with gatefold cover. Reached #45 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record) and #26 on the UK charts. (*First appeared in 2/9/74 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the US (RCA, APL1-0472 with black label) and the US (RCA, AFL1-0472 with black label) with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on elpee, cassette and 8-track in the US (RCA “Best Buy” Series, AYL1/AYK1/AYS1-3664) and Germany (RCA, NL/NK-83664).
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1988 in the US (BMG/RCA, BG2 03664).
  4. Re-released on remastered, expanded compact disc on March 21, 2000 in the US (RCA, 67948) and Japan (RCA, BVCM-35059) with 2 bonus tracks.
  5. Re-issued on elpee in 2012 in the US (RCA, 95802-1) with gatefold cover.

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