My attempt to blog all of the entries from the book 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die
Brief Background: Transformer was recorded in London during August of 1972 and was released in December of the same year.The album was produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson. Ronson played guitar on Bowie’s early seventies Glam Rock albums.
What I think: As I get older, I feel like I’m not as open minded when it comes to “weird” or “odd” things. That has really been the opposite for me though, when it comes to Lou Reed (and The Velvet Underground). As a younger person I found him (them) scary and even unmusical. It is because of this, that I still feel strange when I think of the beauty I hear him painting on this album. It’s certainly dark, and still somewhat scary, but he has so much love for the world that he inhabited.
On this album, what Surrounds those heart filled lyrics are some wonderful instrumentation. Ronson’s trashy/glammy/chunky lead guitar is almost everywhere and it sounds spectacular. It is so locked in the early seventies and it doesn’t seem like it belongs anywhere else. The magnificent part is that it isn’t built around solos and it certainly isn’t loud, as it sits really nicely in the mix. The first track “Vicious” is a perfect example of that. Following that is one of a few quirky songs on the album titled “Andy’s Chest”. The song has some amazingly bizarre lyrics, that still somehow remain up lifting. Following that track though is the heart of the album and what could arguably be the best six song stretch on any album. “Perfect Day” feels so raw to me. It’s like Reed has been through hell and he finally is able to enjoy himself again and be with a person he loves. And aren’t those strings just amazing? “Hangin’ ‘Round” is my favorite song on the album. I love the energy of the vocals, the guitar and the sing along chorus doesn’t hurt either. It’s a perfect pop song… with debauched lyrics of course.
The song we all know, “Walk on the Wild Side” follows that. Listen to it again with fresh ears. I just learned that wonderful bass line is actually two separate bass parts. Then you get to the end and those “dodododo’s” from the Thunderthighs rise above everything and eventually take over the song… then boom a saxaphone solo to take us out. So weird, so perfect.
It keeps going… “Make Up” seems to be the template for which Pavement was built on. “Satellite of Love” and its ever building parts (and some amazing backing vocals by Bowie). The stretch ends with “Wagon Wheel”, which sounds like a perfectly absurd love song.
At this point the spell is broken with “New York Telephone Conversation” that doesn’t mean things go bad though, they just aren’t as masterful. And couldn’t you just hear Louis Armstrong doing “Goodnight Ladies” in that classic New Orleans style.
Do I agree or disagree with the writers as to this being an album you must listen to? There is no doubt about it, it is a masterpiece and as I get older, I hear that mastery more and more.
Rating (Out of 5): 5
Transformer Amazon Review (Out of 5): 4.5
Is this my first time hearing this album? No(63/261)
Percentage of Albums that are new to me: 76%