Originally published January 12, 1992.
A selective guide to Lou Reed's recordings:
With the Velvet Underground:
The Velvet Underground and Nico (Verve, 1967) (4 stars): A potent mix of pop and the avant garde, ostensibly "produced" by Andy Warhol, who simply got out of the band's way.
White Light/White Heat (Verve, 1968) (3 1/2 stars): Loud, abrasive, chilling-the perfect antidote for the Age of Aquarius.
The Velvet Underground (Verve, 1969) (4 stars): Reed, recording for the first time without John Cale, creates quiet, impossibly beautiful folk-rock.
Loaded (Cotillion, 1970) (3 stars): Reed had already quit the band by the time this album was completed, but not before recording the classics "Sweet Jane," "New Age" and "Rock and Roll."
1969 Velvet Underground Live (Mercury, 1974) (4 stars): Relaxed yet intense.
Lou Reed (RCA, 1972) (3 stars): Velvet Underground leftovers and an early version of "Berlin," recorded with the likes of Yes' Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe in England.
Transformer (RCA, 1972) (2 stars): This glam-rock artifact, produced by David Bowie, has not aged well, despite the presence of Reed's sole hit, "Walk on the Wild Side."
Berlin (RCA, 1973) (4 stars): A spare, understated song cycle of nearly suicidal intensity about a crumbling marriage.
Rock 'N' Roll Animal (RCA, 1974) (2 1/2 stars): Great songs performed live by a bombastic arena-rock band.
Sally Can't Dance (RCA, 1974) (1 star): A commercial success that turns Reed's street-poet persona into a pose.
Lou Reed Live (RCA, 1975) (2 stars): Son of "Rock 'N Roll Animal."
Metal Machine Music (RCA, 1975) (1 star): Tuneless noise. Its release can only be interpreted as a vile gesture aimed at the record industry, a bad joke, or both.
Coney Island Baby (RCA, 1976) (3 stars): Surprisingly sentimental and tuneful.
Rock and Roll Heart (Arista, 1976) (2 stars): Bleak and bland.
Street Hassle (Arista, 1978) (4 stars): Shades of "Mean Streets," the three-part title track is among Reed's strongest works.
Live Take No Prisoners (Arista, 1978) (2 stars): Reed as foul-mouthed stand-up comic.