Lou Reed has been the subject of so many idiosyncratic, bewildering compilations that the release of yet another idiosyncratic, bewildering compilation can either inspire amusement or frustration. In the case of 2003's double-disc, 31-track NYC Man: The Collection, it's nearly apoplectic frustration because this is yet another thoroughly botched attempt at a thorough overview that doesn't even function as a representative sampler or introduction -- something that is desperately needed in a discography as lengthy and uneven as his. Perhaps part of the problem is indeed that his discography is inconsistent, and thereby any collection that attempts to take it all in will be uneven, but this is especially wobbly, particularly because it tries to cover everything from the Velvet Underground to 2003's The Raven, all with no chronological sense, flipping from decade to decade without sense for either historical or musical logic. Then, there's the song selection itself: It opens up with an unreleased alternate take of "Who Am I" from The Raven, then often substitutes studio cuts with live performances, including a healthy selection from Live in Italy and Perfect Night: Live in London (only one cut from Rock 'n' Roll Animal, strangely enough). It does contain many big songs -- "Walk on the Wild Side," "Satellite of Love," "Dirty Blvd.," "Coney Island Baby," "Perfect Day," "Street Hassle," "Vicious," plus a host of Velvet Underground songs, both in VU and solo versions -- but the songs that surround these tunes are all over the map. Sometimes they're excellent album track selections, but more of the time, they're not as good as songs that have been left behind, which include such cuts as "I Love You Suzanne," "Sad Song," "I Can't Stand It," "New Sensations," "No Money Down," "Romeo Had Juliette," "Egg Cream," "Doin' the Things That We Want To," "Legendary Hearts," and "What's Good," among others. Perhaps these aren't Reed's best -- and, yes, his "best" will always be a subjective matter -- but they are popular, representative songs that would have fit a solo career overview better than much of what is here. Without them, and with the songs that are here, NYC Man is a muddled mess, containing some of Reed's best, but not enough to justify this as the "ultimate" Lou Reed collection. Yet another bungled Lou collection, then.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2