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Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: Lou Reed | Coney Island Baby

Continuing to swing from one extreme to the other, the eternally mercurial artist's followup to Metal Machine Music is a sweetly nostalgic and gently romantic outing.

I have always considered myself a Lou Reed fan — but maybe I’m not. Or at least not an indiscriminate one — especially when it comes to his solo output. After leaving The Velvet Underground, the late legend made 20 studio albums as a solo artist, along with two more collaborations. Of those albums, I was only familiar with five. So I decided to listen to and review the remaining 15. At times it was like torture.

In a nutshell, Reed has a big basket of bonafide classics. Unique, unmistakable and ground-breaking songs which combine poetry and prose with a variety of music styles. But he also recorded a fly-ridden heap of awful, awful songs featuring his distinctive but poor singing, along with excessive sax and fretless bass.

Here’s one of the entries in his uneven catalog:



Coney Island Baby, Lou Reed’s 1976 followup to the universally derided Metal Machine Music, was much more to his record label RCA’s liking — a sweet, nostalgic and romantic album. Reed’s muse was his own childhood and his current girlfriend, transgender woman Rachel Humphries. Together from 1973 to 1978, she’s illustrated on the rear cover of Sally Can’t Dance.

It opens with Crazy Feeling, which is about the love at first sight Reed experienced with Humphries. It would be amazing if it had a better chorus. I like it because I try to imagine the backing vocals aren’t there and Reed is actually Andrew Vincent. Charley’s Girl is next. This one is top-tier Reed. A classic. If you love Walk On The Wild Side, you’ll love this.

What’s cool about this album overall is the production. It’s really, really good — and was done by Reed himself with 21-year-old Godfrey Diamond. Also, Reed’s former Velvet Underground bandmate Doug Yule plays bass on many of the tracks and future KISS session guitarist Bob Kulick is also on it. Perhaps this was part of the connection which led to Lou co-writing some songs for KISS’s 1981 misfire Music From The Elder. The main connection, of course, was Reed’s friendship with producer Bob Ezrin, who helmed The Elder as well as Reed’s Berlin in 1973.

Anyway, the next track She’s My Best Friend is nearly as good as Charley’s Girl — not as catchy, but quite beautifully crafted. Kicks ends the first side and is pretty cool, with ambient spoken word and a simple, repeating bass chord groove.

A Gift starts the second side. It is not to be confused with The Gift from The Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat. This one is rather plain and boring by comparison. It’s not bad, it’s just meh — which might be the worst thing you could say about the meth-fuelled Reed of the mid-’70s. Then it’s Ooohhh Baby, which is like some sort of Muppets glam song. Again, it’s not bad — and I like Reed’s chuckle in the first chorus — it’s just basic and feels like Joe Walsh.

Nobody’s Business is great, and uses the cymbal flourish thing previously heard on The Ocean from Reed’s eponymous first album. Fans of The Grateful Dead should love this. It’s one of my favourites on the record. The LP wraps with the title track. Coney Island Baby is an epic story-ballad, and a real good one at that. In all, this record is nearly as good as Transformer.



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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.