In 1974, after the commercial disaster of his album Berlin, Lou Reed needed a hit, and Rock N' Roll Animal was a rare display of commercial acumen on his part, just the right album at just the right time. Recorded in concert with Reed's crack road band at the peak of their form, Rock N' Roll Animal offered a set of his most anthemic songs (most dating from his days with the Velvet Underground) in arrangements that presented his lean, effective melodies and street-level lyrics in their most user-friendly form (or at least as user friendly as an album with a song called "Heroin" can get). Early-'70s arena rock bombast is often the order of the day, but guitarists Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter use their six-string muscle to lift these songs up, not weigh them down, and with Reed's passionate but controlled vocals riding over the top, "Sweet Jane," "White Light/White Heat," and "Rock N' Roll" finally sound like the radio hits they always should have been. Reed would rarely sound this commercial again, but Rock N' Roll Animal proves he could please a crowd when he had to. [The revised CD reissue released in 2000 offers markedly better sound than the album's initial release, along with two bonus cuts that give a better idea of how this band approached the material from Berlin on-stage, as well as an amusing moment of Reed verbally sparring with a heckler.]
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