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4.1 out of 5 stars
Transformer
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2004
Transformer (1972.) Lou Reed's second solo album.
Following the disbandment of the Velvet Underground, frontman Lou Reed started a solo career. Although his self-titled 1972 solo debut didn't really add anything special to his name, it was still an excellent album, even if many people overlooked and/or bash it needlessly. Later in 1972, Reed began recording his second solo album, Transformer. And with the glam rock uprising, who better to produce the album than the king of glam rock himself, David Bowie, along with his guitarist Mick Ronson? Before 1972 came to a close, Transformer hit stores. How does it measure up? Read on and find out!
This is Lou Reed's most popular album, period. And the reason it has earned that reputation is due to a single song - but it's a damn good song. Walk On The Wild Side, Reed's ode to drag queens, is one of the finest songs ever recorded that managed to crack the top twenty on the charts. But, as with any artist, there is more to Reed than just the hits. As the album progresses, Reed serves up a variety of songs - no two of them sound exactly alike. David Bowie produced this album, and you can see his influence in many a place on here - he even does some backing vocals! It's also interesting to note that one of the bass players on this album is none other than Klaus Voorman. Voorman is best known for playing bass on several of the former Beatles' solo albums, as well as for drawing the Beatles Revolver album cover. Through and through, Transformer is an excellent album, but it starts to weaken as it draws to a close. Many of the songs featured near the end of the album sound too much like David Bowie circa 1967, and if you've listened to David Bowie's self-titled solo debut album from that year, you know that that's not really a good thing. Fortunately though, there are more than enough saving graces to make this one of Lou Reed's finest efforts. Four and a half (out of five) stars.
In 2002, this album got a serious revamp in the United States. The sound quality was remastered, the liner notes were expanded, and two bonus tracks were added! The bonus tracks featured here are acoustic demo versions of two of the songs. If you're a big Lou Reed fan, you're bound to get a real kick out of these bonuses. Likewise, the lengthy text in the liner notes will be of interest to you, whether you're a Lou Reed die-hard, or this album is your first introduction to his music. All in all, a good reissue.
Transformer is Lou Reed's most popular album, and while not necessarily his best (contrary to popular belief), it is nothing short of excellent. If you're new to the musical stylings of Lou Reed, this album would make an excellent first purchase from his catalogue. There's a reason this album is so popular - it flat out rules.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2001
Lou Reed's seminal post-Velvet Underground album was produced by David Bowie. Every song is a masterpiece. "Perfect Day" and "Satellite of Love" are two of the most beautiful love songs ever written by Reed. While there are other albums of Reed's that are brilliant, none match Transformer in its narrative thread and glam-rock splendor. The album evokes a period and setting -- downtown NYC in the early 1970s including Andy Warhol's Factory scene and Max's Kansas City -- with wit and humor. Each song is a short story of mood and character. Transformer is as fresh and unique now as it was when it was released. Get the remastered version. You won't regret it.
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On this legendary album, Reed celebrates Andy Warhol and his 15-minute of fame stars in a variety of styles partly influenced by David Bowie. The new edition includes two extra tracks, acoustic versions of Hanging Round and Perfect Day. The informative insert includes illustrations and an essay on the history of Reed and the significance of this album.

Transformer is a type of decadent cabaret comparable to Bowie's Aladdin Sane, but less bleak, more colourful and life-affirming. Reed proved himself to be a master of many styles, from the compelling rock of Walk On The Wild Side through the tender and tuneful pop of Satellite Of Love to the dreamy Perfect Day, a haunting poetic excursion.

Other highlights include the edgy rocker Vicious with its hypnotic melody and sarcastic/ironic lyrics (an attitude that would soon infuse punk and new wave), the quirky New York Telephone Conversation, the energetic Hanging Round and the stately Goodnight Ladies. The songs are highly descriptive of a time, a place and a mindset whilst the music is powerful and elegant.

The stylistic variety renders Transformer compelling throughout while not detracting from the cohesion, making it a great piece of musical theatre. Devoted followers would agree that it does not reveal the complete Reed, as he has been so prolific and his oeuvre encompasses a much larger spectrum. But as a document of the middle seventies, it remains superb, an essential album for all serious rock fans.
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on July 2, 2004
What kind of scene might the world of avant gard music if not for the wonderful inventions of Lou Reed and Velvet Underground. Lou Reed knows how to craft a pop song with the best of them and and inject his persona thus making it quite unique.
This was the album which positioned the rest of his solo career. David Bowie true enough did not write one of these songs but did his best to put onto tape the way he heard these songs in his head by acting as producer over the project. Mick Ronson (guitarist in the Spiders from Mars) also helps in molding the soundscapes which make this album a one of a kind. The thin white dukes thoughtful overtures often go misconstrued in the many albums he's helmed production duties on. I'm not sure if the album was remixed or not but for those who remember, Iggy Pop and Stooges 'Raw Power' had this kind of treatment in a re release some years back. Iggy opted to reduce the treble and increase the bass and percussion instead.
Lou at this time was struggling to find his solo voice and wanted something different from what he was used to putting forward with Velvet. His finest songs are found on this incredible album...Walk on the wild side, Satellites of love and perfect day just to rattle of a few. Whether Bowie's contributions have held some lasting impact on the albums resonance some 30 years after being released is questionable. It certainly doesnt hurt in my opinion. Good place to start for those just now investigating Lou's reputable catalogue.
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on April 17, 2004
¿Que hubiese pasado con Transformer sin la ayuda de David Bowie y Mick Ronson? Imposible saberlo, pero seguramente las cosas hubiesen sido muy diferentes. Pero así como nadie puede negar este aporte, también es cierto que si Lou Reed no hubiese contado con un puñado de notables temas, el disco aún estaría perdido.
Reed andaba en búsqueda del esquivo éxito cuando aparecieron Bowie y Ronson. Aparte de producir el disco, participaron en voces, arreglos y en el caso de Ronson, piano y guitarra. Es clara la influencia de ambos en el disco, desde el enfoque glam de Reed, pasando por las aplastantes guitarras y los toques de piano. Temas como Satellite of Love, Andy's Chest o I'm so free son perfectas muestras de glam rock al estilo Reed. Una vuelta de favor, dirían algunos, por la tremenda influencia que ejerció el ex Velvet Underground en Bowie.
Canciones como Perfect Day y Walk on the Walk Side le subirían muchos puntos a cualquier disco, mientras los sucios Vicious y Hangin' Around, con potentes guitarras, son la antítesis. Y si hablamos de estilos distintos, Make Up y Goodnight Ladies parecen sacadas de otros tiempos y escenarios.
Para muchos su mejor trabajo, Transformer masificó la hasta entonces poco apreciada carrera de Reed, ratificando que calidad y éxito comercial pueden ir de la mano, sobre todo si se cuenta con tres músicos de tal categoría.
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on April 6, 2004
This is a great recording by a very interesting artist... definitely one of the best lyric writers in rock and roll. I've listened to all of his official solo albums as well as every official Velvet Underground album. This is probably the best one to start out with if you are just getting into Lou Reed. Lou Reed is not often easy to take, but I would say that Transformer is his most accessible solo recording. If you liked Walk on the Wild Side, you will most likely enjoy the rest of this disc. All of the tunes fit together nicely. Bowie's production, although a bit muddy, definitely makes Reed more palatable. Bowie's background vocals are fabulous. I've never been crazy about Mick Ronson's guitar playing (it's technically good and immediately recognizable, but seems too dated), however the keyboards, horns and bass are extraordinarily timeless. I first heard this recording almost twenty years ago, and I still find some of the lyrics just stunning! My favorites are Andy's Chest and Satellite of Love. If you are just starting out listening to Lou Reed with this disc, I would recommend Coney Island Baby, then New Sensations or possibly New York next. All the Velvet Underground albums are masterpieces. Enjoy.
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on March 26, 2004
Lou Reed's music on Transformer seems to bring out the inner city vibe of New York City. Lou's imagery is quite intriguing if a bit quirky as he introduces you to the many characters in his world.
The big hit here is Walk On The Wild Side. Ilike the booming bass, steady rhythm guitar and rapping style vocals. The ending saxaphone solo is oh so appropriate. But there is so much mroe than this fine single. Viscious, I'm So Free, and Hangin' Round are good steady rockers. However Lou's style touches on cabaret jazz with the brief New York Telephone Conversation, Satelite of Love, and the album closer Good Night Ladies. I truly like the use of the Tuba on these and other tracks.
Whereas Lou Reed is not much of a singer, someone he evokes the right style with his quiet muffled rap. He does wver a little off key in spots but somehow it does not offend too much as he keeps a low key style. As another writer noted, Lou's performance on Perfect Day is quite good.
All things consider this is a fine recording that should not be overlooked. A solid four stars for sure.
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on November 27, 2003
Let me commence by saying that no mere words could ever do this record justice. What I am trying to attempt with this review is to convey to the reader what this record does for me emotionally as well as physically. I found this masterpiece while browsing through the record bin at a Salvation Army thrift store, and purchased the LP for a mere forty-eight cents. Ah, what paroxysms of rapture and pure ecstasy would I know! I must shamefully admit that I was not awestruck the first time I set the record onto my turntable, and I did not listen to it for awhile after. Providentially, one day I decided to give it another chance, and immediately I was filled with such shame and scorn for myself at not recognizing immediately the genius that created this potent and melodious combination of pure passion and poeticism. Thus, the rest of the night was spent dancing my pants off to Lou Reed's larynx of temptation.
There is not a single track on this album that is not infectiously catchy and wonderful. From "Vicious" to "Goodnight Ladies," Transformer is an undulating current of musical as well as lyrical prowess that simultaneously impassions and hypnotizes the listener into a trance-like state of pure bliss. Let me tell you, I have never injected heroin into my body, but I must imagine that it could not possibly be any better than listening to Lou Reed's voice. Whether it is the brilliant bass line in "Walk on the Wild Side," the upbeat rhythm of "Vicious," or the supreme and glorious absurdity of the tuba in "Make Up," it is impossible to not find something to like in this album. Me? I worship everything about this album, but most of all, it is Lou Reed's voice that motivates within me a deep desire for life and passion that I could rarely find in anything else, and I would hope that others might know this splendorous sentiment of unbridled joy. Find this and listen to it at all costs.
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on June 19, 2003
Teaming up with the always interesting David Bowie, the artistic leader of Velvet Underground ventured out on his own only to create one of the strangest, funniest, and most disturbing albums to come out of the seventies.
Filled with stories of drug abuse, confused sexual identity, and outright weird imagery, Reed may have tapped into what was actually going on in underground New York more than he admits. The truth is usually far more interesting and humorous than fiction.
Whether the homo-erotic undertones were from personal experience or not, songs like "Make Up" with the chorus "We're coming out of our closets" are hilarious. Other such moments of blatant imagery include girls who have sex in the hall, priests who resurrect people using tarot cards, and hairless honey bears?
If the topics of discussion aren't bizarre enough, Reed uses his detuned voice to keep things interesting. One example would be the way he pronounces the word tequila in "Goodnight Ladies". Very very funny.
Overall, Transformer is not an album to take seriously, although the delicate "Perfect Day" stands as one of Lou's most moving ballads. Musically eclectic (rock, glam, jazz) and lyrically entertaining, this is the NYC man's finest moment.
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Although he had already released a self-titled solo album, I believe Transformer marks the transition for Lou Reed from a member of the Velvet Underground to a solo artist. There's some great material on this album, including Vicious, Walk on the Wild Side, and Satellite of Love, along with some less engaging numbers (hence I gave it 4 stars versus 5). The production and backing by David Bowie and Mick Ronson add greatly to the quality and richness of the recording. The remastering seems to bring this out even more. And although this is a 30th anniversary release, the music has held up very well and doesn't sound dated at all; in fact, Transformer continues to be a highly influential album that is frequently called upon by contemporary musical scores.
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