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C.A.T.: Transformer

Lou Reed – Transformer (1972)

Sorry this is a little late, but I still feel like I gotta keep the CAT alive.  Anyways, it was hard for me not to be reminded of Lou Reed’s classic 1972 album, Transformer after seeing Adventureland this weekend.  

Coming after Reed’s first unsuccessful solo album since leaving the Velvet Underground, Transformer saw Reed collaborating with co-producers David Bowie and Bowie-guitarist Mick Ronson who were both heavily influenced by the Velvets.  You can definitely hear Bowie’s influence rubbing off on this album, as it gives Reed’s songs a sound similar to the glam rock movement that was going on at the time.  Ronson’s flashy guitar work on songs like “Vicious” and “I’m So Free” certainly adds a lot to Reed’s compositions, and you even get to hear some Bowie back-up vocals scattered throughout the album.
It’s this combination of this glam-rock infusion with what might be Reed’s most pop-oriented material that really makes this album such a stand-out record in Reed’s boldly uneven solo career.  Of course the album is probably most known for Lou’s signature tune, “Walk On The Wild Side”, his only hit single to date.  I can’t say I know of any other top 40 singles from the ’70s that features such blatant mention of transvestites, drug dealers and junkies, but I guess that’s Lou Reed for ya.  
Transformer is also not without a number of soaring ballads such as “Perfect Day” and “Satellite of Love”, both of which feature the kind of unique orchestral arrangements you’d find on Bowie’s early ’70s recordings.  So as a whole, the album shows off many of Lou Reed’s different strengths as a songwriting and performer.  It’s probably also the most accesible and easily enjoyable of Reed’s career and easily the best album of his years as a solo artist.