Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be 50 fantastic first solo albums recorded by artists who departed—or simply took a temporary hiatus from—their respective groups, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
LOU REED | Lou Reed
Selected by Sarah Paolantonio
Known as one of the most influential bands of the 20th century, The Velvet Underground were the first punks, writing about heroin and sex change operations the same years The Beatles were dripping in Technicolor psychedelia. Imagine the expectations looming over Lou Reed’s first solo debut. Recorded away from his New York City home base in London, Lou Reed functions as the most literal definition of Flying Solo: an introduction to Lou Reed as he wanted to be seen as a standalone artist in full control.
But Lou Reed is a collection of songs written in the era of The Velvets, demoed by the band but never released until after they split. Many songs can be found on VU, the full LP of Velvets outtakes released in 1985, and the 1997 double disc re-issue Fully Loaded. “Berlin” appears for the first time on Lou Reed and it will be re-worked a year later as the title track for his third solo record of the same name.
Lou Reed is its creator workshopping songs as his own before he was ready to move on to the landmark Transformer, also released in 1972. Versions of “I Can’t Stand It,” “Walk It Talk It,” “Lisa Says,” “Ocean,” “Ride Into The Sun,” and “Love Makes You Feel” feature the familiar surf grimey guitar emphasizing his sound whether or not he’s a Velvet. Layered piano and female vocalists round out the chorus and brighten these tracks. Lou Reed sets us up for the rest of his career as a self-involved tortured soul pushing the audience over the edge. Loosen up with Lou Reed and fall in love with a man who knows exactly what he wants to be: something else.