21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2004
You wouldn't think of rhythm and blues or soul stylings to necessarily show up on a typical Lou Reed record, but the real question should be - is there such a thing as a typical Lou Reed record? The other reviewer's notwithstanding, I would rate this to be one of Lou's finest efforts. And it's greatness may be for the same reasons that Lou himself laments it's failure. He claims he was hardly trying and gave up all control over the production. In rare cases a great artist going through the motions can produce imaginative and powerful music. Such is the case here.
Highlighting Steve Katz's production and teamed with the same set of muscians from "Berlin" and "Rock'n'roll Animal" creates a decadent scene containing some of the most memorable characterizations of any of 70's era Reed records. Powerful and lush Horn arrangements awash in soulful guitars. Lounge style Piano and solid backbeats illuminating the upfront vocals sung this time, not spoken by a mellow yet disillussioned Reed. Brimming with certain conviction and melancholy, Reed is the drunk, drugged and depressed blonde nightclub rockstar. He wearily describes shattered lives and relationships (Billy, Baby Face) broken dreams (Ennui) effects of electric shock therapy (Kill your sons) debauchery (Ride Sally Ride) and even a girl "in the trunk of a ford" which abuses a top-ten disco beat to slyly yet humorously tell the listener why "Sally Can't Dance". The aforementioned "Billy" powerfully closes the album and takes a completely different musical path but is quite possibly one of Lou's 10 greatest songs. Borrowing heavily from Bob Dylan, it is heartbreaking, ironic and unforgettable with a sax lead that dominates. It meanders and cascades for a wonderful 5 minutes much like someone lost walking down the road, soaring and dipping with the best of any blues horn arrangement you will ever hear. Likewise with "ennui" that uses the slide guitar for much the same effect while still equally as gutwrenching and powerful.
Most of Sally Can't Dance's detractors cite the ambivalence on Reed's part along with the sellout "Soul" style production as reasons for the failure of this record. I feel, however that the sound strikes a perfect background for the time in which this record was made and the dis-quieting anger and frustration prevelant throughout. It's as if the dirt and filth from the mid-seventies New York street corner got a soul jam going on and Reed was there, as always to capture it in all it's beautiful ugliness and perversity.
An almost masterpiece, as well as an underrated gem that requires repeated listenings to hear the subtleties and emotion that boils below the surface. Not quite as in-your-face as most Lou Reed music, but just as disturbing and powerful.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This is quite a fun album in a way. What artist other than Lou Reed would meow like a cat on one track and on another give intimate details about his own teenage experiences with electro-shock treatment? This is certainly an interesting album and is definitely worth a few listens. This album is way out there in terms of content and it has a tendency to wander off course in various different directions, seemingly at random. Since this is a Lou Reed album, most of the directions that he wanders off in are quite interesting, but it gives the listener an extreme feeling of disorientation, as if the musicians really weren't sure what they wanted to do and wrote the album on a serious of very confused mood-swings depending on what drugs they were on in the studio that day. While it's definitely one of Reed's less focused albums, the material that does work is extremely powerful.
A unique feature of Lou Reed's music is that it changes wildly over time. Someone who doesn't like his earlier work may not even recognize his material from five years later. Sally Can't Dance is a huge departure from his Velvet Underground days, utilizing a cheeky horn section and clear, undistorted guitar sounds. Musically, it's probably the easiest album for someone unfamiliar with Reed's background to get into, but it's not quite as rewarding as his Berlin or Magic And Loss recordings. Still it's a great sounding album with great riffs and Lou's trademark wit.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2001
so this is regarded, by general critical consensus, as the absolute nadir of reed's albums; reed decried it himself; and why? well, he probably didn't like the fact that he relinquished all control in the studio to his producer, but he'd done the same with 'transformer' and 'berlin'; and there's also the fact that this album was such an open commercial move; reed allegedly promised his record company he would give them two commercial albums if they let him do 'berlin', so the first of the two was 'rock'n'roll animal' and 'sally' was the second; but 'transformer' was an equally calculated commercial move, just as radio-friendly; this album is loads of fun, musically very accessible, a slickly produced pop/rock effort, with r/n touches here and there, but it's by no means a soul or disco album; it's difficult to dance to the title track or 'n.y. stars' but you can actually skake to 'animal language' whatever that one's about; reed said this album was 'cheap and nasty... produced in the slimiest way possible'; so what? i like it for that, it's enjoyable, trashy and no less good because of it; what astonishes is reed's demeanour, he's unbelievably critical of the characters he sings about, actually his usual cast; whereas on 'transformer' he celebrated them lovingly, here he disparages them viciously; the key line is 'isn't it nice/when your heart is made out of ice'; well, he hates himself and his audience too, here more than elsewhere, and this album may have been what the public wanted from the junkie 'fagot mimic machine', but none of this matters, i just love it; the highlights are 'ride sally ride', 'animal language', 'n.y. stars', and the title track; lyrically it's as good as anything by reed, with special praise to 'billy', 'kill your sons' and 'n.y. stars'; also, his voice, which i think is beautiful when he actually sings the words, in my opinion sounds great, brought to the fore in the mix and greatly multitracked on 'n.y. stars' and 'baby face'; btw, the opening riff of the former was lifted by bowie for 'stay' on 1976's 'station to station' album; actually, a more appropriate album title would have been 'ennui'; the added single version of 'sally can't dance' features a different, more deadpan vocal track, and is also a different mix than the album version
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2001
RCA finally got Lou Reed's unnoticed underdog Sally Can't Dance album right this time on CD. This album when released in 1974 slipped right off the shelves and into the underbelly of New York`s lower eastside in a flash. This is the 2nd time around on CD for this album. But this time it has been properly digitally remastered (not like the first CD issue) and includes 2 bonus tracks. The 2 bonus tracks "Sally Can't Dance" single version and "Good Taste" Unreleased) will hopefully give it a longer shelf than the original album or first CD issue. "Good Taste" is a melancholy tune that sounds like a possible left over from his Berlin album. A nice inclusion here. The sound is 100% improved and makes Lou's voice and music even more chilling. The booklet is full of info on the making of this album and the inside back CD cover is the album cover art of Lou. Try these tunes on for size... "Kill Your Sons," "Animal Language" and "Billy" for starters. A.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
More often than not I disagree with the critics' assessment of Lou Reed albums. There are some great melodic songs here, like the poignant Billy that tells the story of a childhood friend, the fierce Kill Your Sons (an autobiographical narrative of psychiatric shock treatment), the title track with its nervous but gripping rhythm, and New York Stars which is reminiscent of tracks like New York Conversation and Vicious from Transformer. Just like on the latter album, an atmosphere of decadence pervades the work. Sure, the attitude is cheap, nasty and cynical (except on Billy) but it works in the context and Lou uses his best singing voice here for a change. The arrangements are fine and the music is very accessible overall. Those who like albums like Transformer and Berlin should find enough to appreciate on Sally Can't Dance.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2005
Lou Reed's 4th album "Sally Can't Dance" is usually not regarded as one of his most appreciated albums; often criticized for being too heavily weighed down by too much horn and female voices.
And yes, I agree on this, to some extent. Some tracks do, in various degrees, suffer from this. But on the other hand; Reed's songwriting is as great as on most of his 1970's albums.
I particularly like the opener "Ride Sally Ride", which has a great build-up, and a wonderful cahrming end. Great song!
Both versions of "Sally Can't Dance" are great too. Note that the single-version is not just an edited version of the album track, but a completely different recording.
"Kill Your Sons", which is song from his Velvet Underground days, is a raw slow-rocker, and often regarded as the highlight of the album. Great solo-guitar on that one!
The album also contains some fine quieter songs, like the almost acoustic "Billy", the silent-sad "Ennui" and the bluesy "Baby Face", which with its 5 minutes playing time, tend to go on a little too long.
So, though not one of Reed's very best albums, this a still a strong album that deserves at least 4 stars.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
More often than not I disagree with the critics' assessment of Lou Reed albums. There are some great melodic songs here, like the poignant Billy that tells the story of a childhood friend who died in Vietnam, the fierce Kill Your Sons (an autobiographical narrative of psychiatric shock treatment), the title track with its nervous but gripping rhythm, and New York Stars which is reminiscent of tracks like New York Conversation and Vicious from his classic Transformer album. Just like on the latter, an atmosphere of decadence pervades the work. Sure, the attitude is cheap, nasty and cynical (except on Billy which is a tender song of regret) but it works in the context and Lou uses his best singing voice here for a change. The arrangements are fine and the music is very accessible overall. Those who like albums like Transformer and Berlin should find much to appreciate on Sally Can't Dance.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2008
Sally Can't Dance was released to the most hype ever for a Lou Reed album. His first, self-titled album had great songs and a clueless band, Transformer was next, third was the great but harrowing Berlin - definitely not for mass consumption, leading to the live Rock and Roll Animal, all four classics, that have withstood the test of time, now 35 years on. For the crime of not approaching the lofty standards set by his first 4 albums, and the growing Velvet Underground cult, Sally Can't Dance was Lou's only top ten album, and almost universally panned by critics upon release. If Lou, or anyone else for that matter, put out this identical album this year, it would be on every critic's Top Ten list. If you've avoided this title due to the conventional wisdom that it's a dud, give it a chance. It's not his best, by any means, but if you already own the first 4, plus Street Hassle, The Blue Mask, and Magic and Loss, you should try this one or any of his other albums on for size. They all have charm.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2006
Hey, the previously unreleased track found here,Good Taste repeats "Your Making A Fool Out Of Yourself"..you can fool some of the people all the time but this album no matter how much Lou or the critics castigate it is still entertaining and is as retro atavistic now as it was then.
The "jazz" singer crooning on excess in the "slimy" New York I lived in then and now knows that the fool who persists in folly eventually becomes wise"..
The production of the songs shine with a glossy spacious unmuddled effect something unlike one considers typical Lou but the touches of horn, minimal reliance on heavy handed guitar preferring the soloing of a Danny Weis,so unlike his usual,and that 1970's keyboard texture all come together in this sketchy druggie funky schmaltzy autobiographical slices of an album reeking of commercialism,debauchery and sincerity simultaneously.
Saw Lou on this tour coming out in a green robe like a demented Muhammad Ali and with a click of the fingers the robe removed by his henchman...saw that tourniquet scene during heroin and well..this is still certainly a piece of musical history from one of the genius's that music knows...
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2010
Sally Can't Dance is often considered one of Lou Reed's worst albums. `A grotesque hodge-podge of soul horns, flash guitar, indifferent rhymes and deadpan song-speech' wrote Robert Christgau. (Agreed, except for the adjective `grotesque'). Derided for being too commercial (that old saw), and cynical (Lou Reed? Cynical? Surely not), Lou was accused in some quarters of showing contempt for his audience. However, anyone with even a cursory familiarity with the man's music knows that contempt for the audience was his default mode throughout much of the 1970s.
Lou himself hated the album, but that's largely because the musicians are allowed a bit of space: Lou tends to like dominating the proceedings (such as when he mixed Robert Quine off Legendary Hearts in 1983). True, he doesn't play guitar here, but like Dylan and his harmonica, sometimes that can be a blessing.
In my view, Lou sings well, his lyrics are caustic and accurate, and the session musos churn out an impeccable, anonymous groove. There's not a single bad track here, so why pick on this album? I think it's largely snobbery: flash guitar and big bang horns must equal a bad album. But the opposite is the case: in fact Lou's monotone voice and barbed lyrics, yoked to the lush production, actually yields fascinating juxtapositions.
There is so much to enjoy here. There's the opener `Ride Sally Ride' with its lovely guitar intro ('take off your pants/doncha know this is a party?' drawls Lou), the slinky `Babyface', the emotionless rock-funk of NY Stars, and the swelling, melancholy backing vocals on `Ennui.' The title track is one of Lou's best ever songs: funky guitar, squelchy disco keybs, and nasty, deadly accurate lyrics about the demise of Warhol's Factory scene in the late 60s. Even `Animal Language' is great: go on, enjoy the catchy tune, and those ridiculous lyrics (`Bow wow!')
`Kill Your Sons' seems a little lifeless at first, compared with the live version from the early 80s with Quine, but after a while it starts to make sense- the lumbering cadence and Lou's lifeless delivery evoke the drugged-up state of the electroshock therapy he suffered in the 1950s.. The Dylan-esque closer `Billy' at first seems spoiled by the blues horn, but its a fine, intelligent song with thoughtful lyrics.
The re-issue contains the single version of the title track, which cuts out the lyric about Sally getting `raped in Tompkins Square,' and `Good Taste,' where Lou chastises an un-named lady for chasing him around, adding that, at least she has good taste (!) Lou, you are such a wag. This is one of the best Lou albums of the 70s.