Lou Reed – Transformer

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  • Excellent sound for Lou Reed’s Glam Rock Classic, Transformer — Double Plus (A++) or BETTER on both sides
  • Here is an import pressing with the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce
  • Transformer is an absolute tour de force of ’70s Glam Rock / Classic Rock / Alternative Rock
  • “… Bowie and Ronson gave their hero a new lease on life — and a solid album in the bargain.” – All Music

Transformer is an absolute tour de force of ’70s Glam Rock / Classic Rock / Alternative Rock. You’ve got Lou Reed teamed up with David Bowie (in the producer’s chair!), Mick Ronson, Herbie Flowers and Klaus Voorman, and on top of that the album was recorded at Trident and mixed by the great Ken Scott.

Throw in the fact that this is the best set of post-Velvets material Lou would ever write and it is a recipe for success. There are so many good songs on here I won’t bother to list them one by one. Satellite Of Love is especially good though, if you ask me. If you agree, and you’ve never heard the VU demo version, make sure to seek it out. It’s completely different and very fun.

Tubey Magic Is Key

This import pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — often, not always of course — but perhaps one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1972
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
  • No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is of course the only way to hear all of the above

The Players and Personnel

Adapted from the Transformer liner notes.

Lou Reed – lead vocals; rhythm guitar
Mick Ronson – lead guitar; piano; recorder; string arrangements
Herbie Flowers – bass guitar; double bass; tuba on “Goodnight Ladies” and “Make Up”
John Halsey – drums

Additional personnel

David Bowie – keyboards; backing vocals; acoustic guitar on “Wagon Wheel” and “Walk on the Wild Side”
Trevor Bolder – trumpet
Ronnie Ross – soprano saxophone on “Goodnight Ladies” and baritone saxophone “Walk on the Wild Side”
The Thunder Thighs – backing vocals
Barry DeSouza – drums
Ritchie Dharma – drums
Klaus Voormann – bass guitar on “Perfect Day”, “Goodnight Ladies”, “Satellite of Love” and “Make Up” 

Production

David Bowie – producer
Mick Ronson – producer
Ken Scott – engineer 

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Vicious 
Andy’s Chest
Perfect Day 
Hangin’ ‘Round 
Walk on the Wild Side

Side Two

Make Up 
Satellite of Love 
Wagon Wheel 
New York Telephone Conversation 
I’m So Free
Goodnight Ladies

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

The sound and style of Transformer would in many ways define Reed’s career in the 1970s, and while it led him into a style that proved to be a dead end, you can’t deny that Bowie and Ronson gave their hero a new lease on life — and a solid album in the bargain.

Background

As with its predecessor Lou Reed, Transformer contains songs Reed composed while in the Velvet Underground (here, four out of ten). “Andy’s Chest” was first recorded by the band in 1969 and “Satellite of Love” demoed in 1970; these versions were released on VU and Peel Slowly and See, respectively. For Transformer, the original up-tempo pace of these songs was slowed down.

“New York Telephone Conversation” and “Goodnight Ladies” are known to have been played live during the band’s summer 1970 residency at Max’s Kansas City; the latter takes its title refrain from the last line of the second section (“A Game of Chess”) of T. S. Eliot’s modernist poem, The Waste Land: “Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.”, which is itself a quote from Ophelia in Hamlet.

As in Reed’s Velvet Underground days, the Andy Warhol connection remained strong. According to Reed, Warhol told him he should write a song about someone vicious. When Reed asked what he meant by vicious, Warhol replied, “Oh, you know, like I hit you with a flower”, resulting in the song “Vicious”.

Production

Transformer was produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, both of whom had been strongly influenced by Reed’s work with the Velvet Underground. Bowie had obliquely referenced the Velvet Underground in the cover notes for his album Hunky Dory and regularly performed both “White Light/White Heat” and “I’m Waiting for the Man” in concerts and on the BBC during 1971–1973. He even began recording “White Light/White Heat” for inclusion on Pin Ups, but it was never completed; Ronson ended up using the backing track for his solo album Play Don’t Worry in 1974.

Mick Ronson (who was at the time the lead guitarist with Bowie’s band, the Spiders from Mars) played a major role in the recording of the album at Trident Studios, serving as the co-producer and primary session musician (contributing guitar, piano, recorder and backing vocals), as well as arranger, notably contributing the string arrangement for “Perfect Day”. Reed lauded Ronson’s contribution in the Transformer episode of the documentary series Classic Albums, praising the beauty of his work and keeping down the vocal to highlight the strings. The songs on the album are now among Reed’s best-known works, including “Walk on the Wild Side”, “Perfect Day” and “Satellite of Love”, and the album’s commercial success elevated him from cult status to become an international star.

In 1997, Transformer was named the 44th greatest album of all time in a ‘Music of the Millennium poll conducted in the United Kingdom by HMV, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM. Transformer is also ranked No. 55 on NME ‘s list of “Greatest Albums of All Time.” In 2003, the album was ranked number 194 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It is also on Q magazine’s list of “100 Greatest Albums Ever.”

Wikipedia