Lou Reed-Transformer (Classic Albums) (Warner Vision) (2001)

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Released 8-Feb-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Bonus Interviews (9) - Expanded from the main feature
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 49:31 (Case: 80)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jim Smeaton

Warner Vision
Starring Lou Reed
David Bowie
Mick Ronson
Herbie Flowers
Dave Stewart
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $39.95 Music Lou Reed

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles French
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, sound grab from Lou Reed

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Don't be fooled by the DVD cover - this isn't Lou Reed's second solo album Transformer released on DVD - those familiar with other titles in the 'classic albums' series will appreciate that these are 'Rockumentaries'. Snippets and fuller cuts of songs are interspersed with interviews of musos, producers and people of note shedding insight into the recordings. That's not to say that the content, including rare archival footage, isn't worthwhile or precious, it's just that this reviewer comes away from this sort of presentation with the feeling: "but wait, there's more ..."

    Anyway, it's the early Seventies, the swinging sixties have turned into the outrageous seventies where the borders between gender, decency, what's  hot and what's not have all got a bit bit blurred in a haze of alternative substances. Poet and singer Lou Reed, after an apprenticeship of literary study, playing the bars and coming to notice with the Velvet Underground heads to London, capital of the music scene and meets up with David Bowie who, with long-time Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson, offer to produce his album Transformer. Teamed up with Bowie sound engineer Ken Scott and various session musicians, notably Herbie Flowers on bass and Mick Ronson on guitar and enjoying the patronage of new friend Andy Warhol the classic Transformer album is born.

    The DVD makes use of present day interviews with Lou Reed, Mick Ronson and Bowie together with commentary by Eurhythmics Dave Stewart,  rock photographer Mick Rock and others to explain how it all came together and the background behind the songs. What these features achieve, quite brilliantly, is to highlight the poetry in the lyrics and the almost brutal simplicity in Reed's music that provides a non-judgemental and in many ways timeless snapshot of life at the time - Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose!  The most fascinating feature for me was Herbie Flower's explanation of how the bass line on Wild Side was recorded (an acoustic bass overdubbed with a sliding electric bass) although the insights into the songs led to a much greater personal appreciation of their meaning and poetry.

    Sadly no song is quite presented in its entirety, which is a shame. The DVD content is quite strangely authored whereby the main feature, probably filmed for television, of 49:31 is supplemented by much of the same material again 'extended for DVD' in the extras. The cover listed Chapter selection of songs is a tad misleading as these lead you not to the song itself but all the interviews and explanations around cuts of the song. Anyway, the chapters have been listed for convenience in the music track section of this review.

    The star of this feature is indubitably Mr Lou Reed himself, with a self-effacing, cynical yet humorous insight into his life, songs and friends.

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Track Listing

1. I'm So Free
2. Vicious
3. Satellite of Love
4. Walk on the Wild Side
5. Andy's Chest
6. New York Telephone Conversation
7. Make Up
8. Perfect Day
9. Goodnight Ladies

Transfer Quality


    The present day interviews are of superb quality video and the following comments apply principally to these segments which make up the majority of the feature. Archival film and video material is, understandably, of inferior quality.

    The feature is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness, shadow detail and absence of low level noise are exemplary.

    The colours are a little muted due largely to the subdued lighting of many of the home and studio venues.

    There is aliasing throughout the feature of a minor nature and this only becomes really noticeable, as is usual, on string shots of guitars (13:37) or the edge of mixers (12:25). 

    The archival footage contained a smorgasbord of film artefacts with dirt, grain, scratches and film fading aplenty.

    As there were no English subtitles, and I'm not polylingual, it was hard to judge the accuracy of the six European language subtitles available but they seemed adequate.

    The disc is a DVD 5 and hence has no layer transition point.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Overall, the audio quality was excellent. There was a 5 second burst of mains hum at 45:42 but the track was otherwise clean and clear.

    There was only one audio track, in English, listed as Dolby Digital Stereo but listening reveals it to be encoded with surround information. Extensive use was made of the centre speaker for dialogue with instruments being diverted to front mains.

    Dialogue quality was excellent - there was no problem making out the words from Reed's New York or Stewart's Sunderland drawl. 

    Audio sync was not a problem with this feature.

    The surrounds were used very inconspicuously in Dolby Prologic Surround mode with low volume instrument reverb.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras are comprised of the 'cutting room' floor clips added onto snippets of the main feature to extend the interviews - they are of great interest but it would have nicer if the whole feature had been re-edited to incorporate these 'extras' and real extras such as video footage of complete songs, their lyrics and musician biographies.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Apart from regional encoding the R1 and R4 versions appear the same.


    A worthwhile addition to the collection of fans of Lou Reed, Bowie or students of the late sixties and seventies. A little short on musical substance, but this is more than compensated for by the fascinating insights of Reed's contemporaries.

    The present day video footage was excellent.

    The audio track was of high quality.

    The Clayton's extras could have more plentiful in quantity and variety.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Lancaster (read my bio)
Sunday, February 24, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-900E, using RGB output
DisplayPioneer SD-T50W1 (127cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon ACV-A1SE. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTheta Digital Intrepid
SpeakersML Aeon front. B&W LRC6 Centre. ML Script rear. REL Strata III SW.

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