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New York is the fifteenth solo album by Lou Reed, released early in 1989. A universal critical success, it is widely considered one of his best solo albums. While the defunct Velvet Underground were at the peak of their popularity at the time, Reed's solo career had hit several lows during the 80s, at least since his Blue Mask. However the widespread popularity of New York reignited his career to the extent that he could revive the VU for an (aborted) world tour.
The album is highly regarded for the strength and force of its lyrical content, but at the time drew criticism for its perceived pedestrian, "truck driver", musicianship. Reed countered that he required simple music so that it would not distract from his frank lyrics. The single "Dirty Blvd." was a #1 hit on the newly created Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart for four weeks. Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker played on a few tracks.
Reed's straightforward rock and roll sound on this album was unusual for the time and along with other releases such as Graham Parker's The Mona Lisa's Sister presaged a back-to-basics turn in mainstream rock music. On the other hand, the lyrics through the 14 songs are profuse and carefully woven, makingNew York Reed's most overtly conceptual album since the early 1970s. His polemical liner notes direct the listener to hear the 57-minute album in one sitting, "as though it were a book or a movie." The lyrics vent anger at many public figures in the news at the time. Reed mentions by name the Virgin Mary, the NRA,Rudy Giuliani, "the President", the "Statue of Bigotry", Buddha, Mike Tyson, Bernard Goetz, Mr. Waldheim, "the Pontiff", Jesse Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Swaggart, and Morton Downey.
Reed also drew inspiration from some of his friends and fellow artists. For instance, in the song "Last Great American Whale", Reed quotes John Mellencamp, referring to him as "my painter friend Donald". Upon hearing the album, Mellencamp himself said, "Yeah, it sounds like it was produced by an eighth-grader, but I like it."
"An album which, in terms of descriptive lyrics, may easily be his best to date," suggested Fred Dellar in a top-rated A*:1* review for Hi-Fi News & Record Review. "In some ways it's a small record, merely dialogue set out over the background of two relatively unobtrusive guitars plus bass and drums. But what a dialogue, what a delivery and what a range of targets."
"Whether or not you buy Reed's line about New York being a single integrated experience 'like a book or a movie'," remarked Q in its end-of-year round-up, "this is indisputably one of the landmark albums of an inconsistently brilliant career." In a five-star review of a subsequent reissue, Q's Bill Prince noted that it "signalled the beginning of the defrosting of Reed's Velvet Underground past that has so far marked out his '90s.". In 2006, Q placed New York at #26 in its list of "40 Best Albums of the '80s".
In 1989, Rolling Stone ranked it the 19th best album of the 1980s. Mark Deming wrote in his allmusic.com review that "New York is a masterpiece of literate, adult rock & roll, and the finest album of Reed's solo career." In 2012, Slant Magazine listed it at #70 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s".
All tracks written by Lou Reed except as indicated.
- "Romeo Had Juliette" – 3:09
- "Halloween Parade" – 3:33
- "Dirty Blvd." – 3:29
- "Endless Cycle" – 4:01
- "There Is No Time" – 3:45
- "Last Great American Whale" – 3:42
- "Beginning of a Great Adventure" (Reed, Mike Rathke) – 4:57
- "Busload of Faith" – 4:50
- "Sick of You" – 3:25
- "Hold On" – 3:24
- "Good Evening Mr. Waldheim" – 4:35
- "Xmas in February" – 2:55
- "Strawman" – 5:54
- "Dime Store Mystery" – 5:01
|1989||UK Albums Chart||14|
|1989||German Album Charts||19|
|1989||Austrian Album Charts||8|
|1989||Swiss Album Charts||1|
- Lou Reed – vocals, guitar, background vocals
- Mike Rathke – guitar
- Rob Wasserman – Clevinger electric upright six-string bass
- Fred Maher – drums on all songs except "Last Great American Whale" and "Dime Store Mystery"; Fender bass on "Romeo Had Juliette" and "Busload of Faith"