As you might expect of any appreciation of Lou Reed, this collection opens with his 1972 song, Perfect Day. This languorous Reed original first appeared on his second solo album, the striking Transformer. But it became better known when it appeared on the soundtrack of Trainspotting, and later as the theme for the BBC's 1997 Children In Need appeal. The BBC's memorable version featured a staggering array of talent singing alongside the composer - including the original album's producer, David Bowie; Bono; Elton John; Lesley Garrett; Emmylou Harris; Dr John; Tom Jones; and Tammy Wynette.
It was all a very long way from where Lou Reed began... Few people had mourned when the Velvet Underground split in 1970, but over the years, the Velvets have frequently been named as rock's most influential band - second only to The Beatles.
After the split, Lou landed up in London where he recorded his eponymous solo debut. Featuring Caleb Quaye (from Elton John's band) as well as Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman from Yes, the album garnered good reviews; and two of its tracks, Wild Child and Lisa Says, are included here to give you a flavour of the Lou Reed album. But it was his follow-up, Transformer, produced by long-time Velvets fan David Bowie, that helped establish Reed as a unique and potent solo act.
Transformer, famously, featured Walk On The Wild Side which Lou had originally written for a Broadway play... but few people realised that the distinctive bass part was played by Herbie Flowers, who two years earlier had written Clive Dunn's hit 'Grandad'!
Another surprise came when Berlin, the 1973 follow-up to Transformer, cracked the UK Top 10 - no mean feat for a collection which has been called "one of the most unrelentingly bleak listens in the history of rock".
Over the next ten years Lou forged ahead with his solo career, releasing acclaimed albums such as Coney Island Baby, Street Hassle, The Bells and New Sensations; while in concert he also kept the Velvets' legacy alive. And in 1993, a full-blown Velvet Underground reunion served as a timely reminder of just where U2, Radiohead, Joy Division and the Jesus & Mary Chain had found their inspiration.
On into the 21st Century, Lou Reed continues to innovate and entertain; and in 2007 he revisited his Berlin album - now widely hailed as "a classic" - both on film and on stage.
Reed has long been heralded for his pioneering work, expanding the boundaries of rock music; but, as you can tell from the 36 tracks gathered here, he has always had a good ear for a nice melody... just take a listen to the majestic Ocean; the poignant Sad Song; the exuberant I Love You Suzanne; and, as a reminder of just where he came from, a thunderous live version of the Velvets' White Light/ White Heat (which, incidentally, has been a firm fixture of David Bowie's live set for many years).
In the end, for all the praise heaped on his head, and for all the wayward directions he has followed in a career now stretching back over 40 years, you sense that Lou Reed never sang a truer line than that included here, on the title track from his 1976 album: "deep down inside, I got a rock & roll heart..."
© Patrick Humphries, 2008
Read about Lou Reed on Wikipedia