Lou Reed was touring in support of Rock and Roll Heart, one of his less remarkable albums of the '70s (though any record in which Lou tells us he believes in both "good-time music" and "the Iron Cross" in the same verse of the same tune is not without interest), when he rolled into L.A.'s Roxy and played a set that was recorded for later radio broadcast. While the Roxy show has circulated as a bootleg, Winter at the Roxy gives it a belated above-ground release, though some of the pirate editions of the album had better-sounding audio than this release, which is often tinny and reveals occasional damage to the tapes. (This edition also drops a few tracks, including a lively opening jam.) As for the performance, Reed and his road band (which included Michael Fonfara on keys and Marty Fogel on sax) sound like they're having a fine time, and with free jazz legend Don Cherry sitting in, the band's frequent jams give this an exploratory feel that sets it apart from some of Reed's other live sets of the period. Reed himself is in a loose and playful mood (at least by his standards), occasionally goofing on the lyrics, and reveling the opportunity to make noises with a new guitar synthesizer. However, the elastic structure of this set sometimes means the songs get lost within the jams, especially on the 11-minute "Waiting for the Man," though the open-ended exploration in "Kicks" suits the tune well. Winter at the Roxy does include two lesser-known tunes from Rock and Roll Heart, "You Wear It So Well" and "I Believe in Love," and the extended improvisations will make this worth a listen for serious Lou Reed fans, but between the less-than-stellar audio and the meandering tone of the set, casual observers may not be so enthusiastic, and if you already have the bootleg editions of this concert, you probably have a more complete version of the show, making this release of questionable value.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming