[Review] Lou Reed: Live (1975)

The critics were more vicious this time, but Hunter and Wagner are absolute animals on these songs.

Kronomyth 6.0: A walk on the milder side.

This is more or less the other half of Lou Reed’s live concert at The Academy of Music. “Less” seems to be the general consensus. The first half, captured on Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal, is canon in the annals of live rock & roll records. Lou Reed Live is regarded as the songs that missed the first cut. I agree that Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal floored me in a way that Lou Reed Live doesn’t, but I’m not so jaded as to et cetera an album into existence that contains Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner dueling it out for lead lead guitarist.

In my half-assed opinion, the performances from Hunter and Wagner outstrip Lou Reed’s banal reading of his own meisterworks. Like a lot of artists from the time (Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell), Reed was more interested in moving forward than revisiting the past, and so you get irreverent readings of “Walk on the Wild Wide,” “Satellite of Love” and “I’m Waiting for the Man.” That leaves you with only three performance that shine consistently: the unsinkable “Vicious,” “Oh Jim” and “Sad Song.”

The guitar soloing on “Oh Jim” is easily the album’s highlight. A straight reading of “Vicious” is also a winner, while “Sad Song” is just an awesome way to end a concert. Apparently, producer Steve Katz brought in a backing vocalist, Rob Hegel, to sweeten the final mix of “Sad Song” in the studio. At least Katz didn’t do guitar overdubs; now that would have been heresy.

Without Hunter and Wagner goading each other on to greatness then, yeah, Lou Reed Live would be largely inconsequential. But it’s still half a great show, even if it isn’t the better half. And any show that ends with someone shouting “Lou Reed sucks!” probably doesn’t, since live Lou Reed is all about getting a reaction from the audience.

Original elpee version

A1. Vicious (5:55)
A2. Satellite of Love (6:03)
A3. Walk on the Wild Side (4:51)
B1. I’m Waiting for the Man (3:38)
B2. Oh Jim (10:40)
B3. Sad Song (7:32)

All songs written by Lou Reed.

The Players

Lou Reed (vocals), Ray Colcord (keyboards), Pentti Glan (drums), Steve Hunter (guitar), Prakash John (bass), Dick Wagner (guitar). Produced by Steve Katz; engineered by Gus Mossler.

The Pictures

Photographs by Oliviero Toscani. Cover concept by Dennis Katz. Art direction by Acy Lehman.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in March 1975 in the US, Australia and Italy (RCA, APL1/APS1-0959), the UK (RCA, RS 1007), Greece (RCA, RCLP 20006) and Japan (RCA, RCA-6292). Reached #62 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the US (RCA, AYL1/AYK1-3752) as Best Buy series.
  2. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in February 1981 in the UK (RCA, INTS/INTK 5071).
  3. Re-issued on cassette in the US (RCA, AYK1-3752) [barcode reissue].
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in Germany (RCA, ND83752).
  5. Re-packaged as Extended Versions on compact disc and cassette in the US (BMG, 69842-2/4).

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