Coney Island Baby

Lou Reed

I was five when Lou Reed’s Coney Island Baby was released in 1976, so needless to say, I wasn’t familiar with the album when it came out. In fact, until recently, all I really knew by the man was his hit “Walk on the Wild Side,” which was released in 1971. Prior to this, he was the guitarist and principal singer/songwriter for The Velvet Underground, a band whom many consider to be the first alternative band. Thank God for reissues or my knowledge of Lou Reed might have stopped there. An expanded version of Coney Island Baby has been released, and it is well worth listening to.

If your only experience with Lou Reed is “Walk on the Wild Side,” you’re in for a whole other world of sonic treats. The music on Coney Island Baby not only sounds great, but it covers the full spectrum of musical avenues, proving that Lou Reed can’t be categorizes as a one-genre musician. The first eight tracks on this reissue cover all of the musical bases, from the folk/country feel of “Crazy Feeling” and “Charley’s Girl” to straight up rock n’ roll, as best exemplified on the sixth track, “Oooh Baby.” But that’s just the first half of the CD.

The second half is a treat as well, especially for long time Lou Reed fans. If you didn’t buy Between Thought and Expression: The Lou Reed Anthology, Reed’s 1992 box set, the bonus tracks on Coney Island Baby contain two songs off of that compilation, “Downtown Dirt” and “Leave Me Alone.” Three other tracks, “Crazy Feeling,” “She’s My Best Friend” and “Coney Island Baby” are also amongst the bonus tracks. These songs were on the original album, yes, but with the bonus section of this CD, you get never-before-released versions that were recorded during rehearsals in 1975 with Doug Yale, a former member of The Velvet Underground. It’s great hearing both what was released on the actual album and the rougher rehearsal versions, as it shows the progression from a rehearsal to an actual studio recording. (Listen to both versions of the title tracks — it’s like two different but equally powerful songs.)

Coney Island Baby is a must-have not only for Lou Reed fans, but for fans of music. It serves as a great example of what a full album should be: not overly produced and covering a wide variety of musical styles. And I guarantee you this reissue is going to sound a lot better than your old LP.

~ Chris Hlad

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