on April 21, 2005
Lou Reed staring from the cover of this album like Frankenstein in mascara gives us a feeling we are going to be in for a rough ride of the heavy metal kind. Nothing could be further from the truth. The album is probably most famous for the seventies hit "Walk on the Wild Side". However most of the album is unlike that classic rock song. The songs seem like somewhat sweet ballads that lull us almost into complacency until they slap us in the face. One of the great things about this album is how the music is so sweet and somewhat like show tunes and the lyrics are so subtly deviant and oh so clever.
Take for example the song vicious. These days a song called "vicious" would have speed metal guitars. But that would be much too heavy handed for Lou Reed.
Here are a few selected lines from that song.
"You hit me with a flower
You do it every hour
Ohh, baby you're so vicious"
But Lou Reed does not stop there as he brings up the lyric a notch or two a few lines later.
"Hey, why don't you swallow razor blades
You must think I'm some kinda gay blade
But baby, you're so vicious"
In the next song "Andy's Chest" (most likely referring to the scars Warhol received after the attempt on his life) Reed again accompanies his slightly twisted lyrics with sweetly sounding music.
The song begins just like a love song with the line
"If I could be anything in the world that flew"
But is followed by a line that leads us into a type of horror movie
"I would be a bat and come swooping after you"
One of my favorite songs is Perfect Day. And it is a love song (if a some what twisted one) with a swelling chorus
"Oh it's such a perfect day,
I'm glad I spent it with you.
Oh such a perfect day,
You just keep me hanging on,
You just keep me hanging on."
On the surface it seems so wholesome but the perfect day includes drinking sangria in the park as well as the wonderfully twisted line
"You made me forget myself.
I thought I was someone else,
It is an incredible album well worth owning and savoring.
Over these eleven perfectly crafted tracks, Lou showed us various little panoramas of Andy Warhol and The Factory, transvestitism, New York's [homosexual] scene, urban decadence, [narcotics] use and more in a wonderful blend of humour and irony and in a brilliantly diverse musical setting. The guitar-driven hard rock of Hangin' Round and Vicious is balanced by the subdued power of the poetic Perfect Day and the imaginative arrangements of Walk On The Wild side and Goodnight Ladies. Transformer is a literate, intelligent and enduring statement of an era and is one of the few albums of the glam-rock movement that has survived with its artistic integrity intact and that still has something to say today. David Bowie and Mick Ronson produced it with all the expertise they lent to the Ziggy Stardust album. But its varied styles, broader subject matter and feel of personal experience make it a better album than Ziggy Stardust. Unlike on most of Reed's other albums, there is great melodic variety too, and classic pop like the poignant Satellite of Love which by the way, is beautifully covered by Eurythmics on their Sweet Dreams video. It ought to have been as great a hit as Walk On The Wide Side! This most accessible album of Reed's was a deserved commercial success and spawned a million dreams.
on June 7, 2006
THE Lou Reed album (though 'Berlin' is just as good), 'Transformer' is simply the closest any album comes to Bowies 'Ziggy', and I encourage anyone, who has just fallen in love with that Bowie-album, to proceed straight on to 'Transformer', even before exploring the rest of Bowie's catalogue.
On the other hand, Lou Reed DOESN'T betray his own muse by jumping on the glam rock-wagon, cos' this is simply a great album, imbued precisely with that energy field known as pure rock'n'roll, that Lou has always worshipped.
'Vicious' may be his best rocksong, and is certainly the track on the album, you'll enjoy the most. It is vain, glorious, playful and absolutely stunning.
'Andy's Chest' offers a somewhat weird, romantic song in just the same vein, another classic. 'Perfect Day' is even more melancholic, pure doomed romance, and precisely the kind of song, which would later inhabit 'Berlin' with feelings.
'Hangin' 'Round' returns us to straight-ahead rock'n'roll. It's a fun & blistering rock song, with a lyric both haunting and hilariously funny. It is followed by the transatlantic Top 20 hit, 'Walk On The Wild Side'.
Some say this song has aged, well, they're wrong. It is a mysteriously, romantic, harrowing epic about the residents of the N.Y. streets.
'Make Up' may be very commecial, it may also be very weird, but there's no denying, that it is funny in its crass commerciality, and that it actually is a very good song.
'Satellite of Love' is another classic, stranded somewhere between 'Walk...' and 'Perfect...' on the mood-scale. Bowie in the background is amazing, while Lou himself beats even that, and the song just perfects the album.
As for 'Wagon Wheel' and 'I'm So Free', they're solid, and more spectacular than given credit for, rock-songs. They blend seamlessly with the very strange 'New York Telephone Conversation' and 'Goodnight Ladies', and together these four tracks ensure, that the chief moods of the album; romance, doom, rock'n'roll & [weird] humour, all survive till the last note ends, and therefor makes the album a consistent whole.
Definently one of those albums one just HAS TO HAVE! Also definently one of those rare albums, which are among the greatest artistic statements of a decade, but at the same time will be recieved with EQUAL joy by an average pop fan!
on October 6, 2004
A wonderfully bizarre and entertaining album, TRANSFORMER features many of the qualities that make Lou Reed such a unique figure in rock. Like his work with the underrated Velvet Underground, this album is quirky, unpredictable, and awfully clever. "Vicious" offers a perfect intro to a fun and wacky endeavor. Regardless of how one feels about Reed's music (or his notorious extracurricular activities), he is never dull or derivative. Of course, the fifth track, "Walk on the Wild Side," became the biggest song of his career, including his work with the VU. Though "Wild Side" is a classic about the seamier side of New York City, it is probably not even the best song on the album. That honor may likely go to the third track, "Perfect Day," a haunting, dream-like tune that foreshadows the sorrow that would characterize Reed's subsequent BERLIN, one of the most thoroughly miserable albums of all time (though not bad, actually). Though the music is pretty strong throughout, the second half of TRANSFORMER pales in comparison to the first. "Satellite of Love," perhaps the second most famous song from this record, is a little overrated, but memorable nonetheless. "Goodnight Ladies" provides a nearly flawless ending to an extremely impressive effort. The key ingredient in the mix may be Reed's tremendous sense of humor which shows up in various ways in most of the numbers. Unfortunately, it is this essential Reed characteristic that is sadly missing on BERLIN, which pales in comparison to this triumphant accomplishment.
on July 27, 2012
I owned this album in the 70's and wore it out (not as clothing) by the 1990's and since then have bought the remastered CD version to replace my old album. The CD version is OK but somehow wasn't giving me the same thrill as the original vinyl did and left me a little flat or distanced from the recording if that makes any sense. Anyway, I decided to see if this reissued vinyl version could bring the feel of the original and lo and behold it does the trick. The main difference is the drum sound. This is most notable on the seemingly straight rock tracks I'm So Free, Wagon Wheel, and Hangin' Round. Anyone who has spent an intoxicated evening following the Bowie produced studio and stereo trickery and the magnificent bass and drum interplay in these songs will be glad to hear it all back again. I suppose in a way it's the story of vinyl versus digital and those of us that still have vinyl memories of music are often left wondering why we even liked some things in the first place when we hear the CD version. So if you want to hear this in all it's full dynamic glory BUY THE VINYL LP the CD is not bad but not as good. The songs and production on Transformer are up with the best in the Reed canon and this is my favourite RCA album by Lou Reed. I know this because I still have old original working vinyl versions of all the other RCA albums in my collection and none of those have worn out yet. A great album faithfully reproduced.
on August 10, 2001
This is the closet Lou Reed got to the mainstream. With the help of David Bowie, Lou Reed made "Transformer," a seventies pop classic. It isn't as great as "Berlin" and "Rock 'N' Roll Animal" but it doesn't even come close to one of Lou Reed's many crimes against humanity("New York," "The Bells," etc.) "Transformer" is simply good pop with the Velvet Underground underground New York scene lyrics. Lots of people will remember such hits as "Perfect Day, "Walk On The Wild Side," and "Satellite Of Love" which indeed are the best offerings on this album. The rest are good but not as well perfected. "Transformer" is great but not Lou Reed's best, it's just his most popular for obvious reasons. Check out "Berlin" if you want to see the REAL Lou Reed.
on March 1, 2005
if someone were to come up to me and say, "TRANSFORMER is the greatest album of all time", i wouldn't argue; it's definitely in the top few.
it's commonly thought that the second half of the album isn't quite up to par with the first half. well when you look at track 2-5, you're looking at possibly the greatest four song stretch on any album ever. so maybe the second half of the album isn't as spectacular ['viscious' is also a brilliant song] as the first, but let's look at it for what it is: 'make up' is one of the most vivid/clever songs ever penned. 'satelite of love' is deserving of all the praise that it gets [it's really the only song on the second half of the album that gets mentioned along side 'perfect day' & 'walk on the wild side']. 'wagon wheel' is a brilliantly fun rocker w/ a stunning break down. 'n.y telephone conversaton' is a perfect little song; i wish more musician would put little songs like this on their albums. 'i'm so free' is also great fun. 'i'm so free' is also genius when you pay careful attention to the lyrics. 'goodnight ladies' is one of the greatest closing tracks ever . . . most people [that have heard the album] won't debate this.
i obviously don't want to overlook the first five songs:
'viscious' is an amazing rocker and a perfect song to open the album,
'andy's chest' is one of the very best written songs that i've ever heard, and it builds up oh so well.
'perfect day'. you've probably already heard it if you're reading this, but if you haven't, it's one of the most beautiful songs you'll ever hear.
'hangin' round' is vivid/wild rocker. the characters are completely out there and completely believable.
'walk on the wild side' is one of the top five songs ever recorded by anyone. i'm not going to try to do it justice.
basically, if you don't have this, your album collection isn't all that impressive.
on June 20, 2000
You know how usually when you hear stray songs that you really like by a single artist, it means you have to buy a "best of" collection or a bunch of different albums or something? Don't do it with Lou Reed. All you have to do is buy this album. This album has the classic 'Walk On the Wild Side," "Perfect Day," (which, if you're in your late teens or early twenties like me you'll best remember from the Trainspotting soundtrack), and "Satellite of Love." Plus, it has loads of other awesome songs... this is one of those albums where every single song complements the others and IS GOOD. And, man, it's so cheap...
on January 17, 2002
this album is probably the best of lou reed's solo career. the velvet underground are one of my favorite bands, and i think he never really captured that magic again. but, 'transformer,' is pretty close.
david bowie and mick ronson were very involved with this album, and bowie's influence can be heard all over it. not to say this album sounds like david bowie, but he did seem to tap into uncharted territory in reed's talent. great songs are aplenty here. 'vicious,' is a nasty little rocker opening the album, and leads into the more subdued, 'andy's chest,' which is one of my favorite lou reed songs, with or without the velvet underground.
'perfect day,' is one of the most magical songs i have ever heard, although i almost always associate it with the o.d.-ing scene in, 'trainspotting.' it's a lovely, lovely track. the next song, 'hangin' 'round,' is another great rocker, with absolutely hilarious lyrics. and then, the big hit, 'walk on the wild side,' comes on. a great song but not the best on the album.
that's 5 songs of pure, unadultured bliss, and there's more. the cheesy but sweet, 'sattelite of love,' (another of his best songs), and, 'goodnight ladies,' with it's haunting brass section follows. i have yet to really digest the other songs, but not many of them are as good as the aforementioned.
the great thing about this album is that it can be bought on the cheap. so buy it, for [goodness] sake. it's so good.
on July 30, 2001
Transformer is a charming & legendary lp, containing many legitimately classic songs that indeed make it like a greatest hits but w/ the flow of a proper album which makes it even better, witness Perfect Day, Wild Side, Satellite of Love, & Vicious. Andy's Chest was a then unreleased Velvet Underground song & whilst I prefer that version [found on 'VU', 1984] this is just about as enjoyable. 1 song that I wasn't familiar w/ before but instantly loved is Make Up & it's a shame it rarely gets mentioned, not actually being gay myself doesn't stop me singing along w/ "yeah we're comin' out, out of our closets, out on the streets", as Lou goes "w/ all those things that you do to yr face, you're a slick little girl, such a slick little girl". It's worth mentioning that most of the lp has a laidback middle of the night atmosphere w/ Herbie Flower's bass & tuba, Mr Bowie's production & occasional background vox [glorious outro of Satellite, an oft-covered tune, I like the Love Positions a fair bit, it also gets cross referenced in Smudge's Scary Cassettes, a song about getting yr Lou Reed & Lou Barlow tapes mixed up, "I've been told that you've been bold w/ Harry, Mark & John, well that's my 2nd favourite line from my 5th favourite song, hope you like Lou", yes I like digression], Transformer unexpectedly would sit more comfortably on the shelf next to Kind of Blue than any sleazy 70s rock, although the famous live lp from a couple of years later Rock & Roll Animal certainly would [I don't much care for it though]. Overall 1 of those essential records of all time alongside that there Banana album of course.