In 1976, Lou Reed produced Nelson Slater’s debut LP, Wild Angel. In the early 60s, both men had attended Syracuse, where they were bandmates and, according to at least one source, roommates. The two rockers would have gravitated toward one another, according to Velvet Underground guitarist Sterling Morrison, who recalled:
Syracuse was very, very straight. There was a one percent lunatic fringe.
The album’s back cover reproduces a note from Slater, introducing the singer to his audience. Recording artists used to do things like this.
I first knew Lou when we played together in a band at school in upstate New York. We kept in touch, and the last time I ran into him in San Francisco he decided it was time to unleash me on the world. This is what we came up with on my first album. Hope you find something nice within.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Wild Angel to anyone who likes Reed’s 70s work. The band consists mainly of players from Reed’s Coney Island Baby and Rock and Roll Heart albums (namely, bassist Bruce Yaw, drummer Mike Suchorsky, saxophonist Marty Fogel, and guitarist Bob Kulick), and Reed himself is all over Wild Angel, playing guitar and piano and singing backing vocals. To my ears, Slater’s voice falls somewhere between Daryl Hall’s and David Byrne’s, which sounds more pleasant than you might imagine.
Reed and Slater performing together
Victor Bockris’ Reed biography, Transformer, has only this to say about Wild Angel:
After finishing [Rock and Roll Heart], however, Lou managed to muster the energy to produce an album, called Wild Angel, for a friend of Lou’s at Syracuse, Nelson Slater. “That was one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Reed commented. “RCA released it to about three people, I think. So no one very much noticed it. I think we sold six copies.” The critics who picked up on it singled out a track called “We” as a great showcase for Reed’s production talents.
In 2011, around the time he released his second album, Steam-Age Time-Giant, Slater discussed his career in an interview with WFMU. He attributed the poor showing of his debut, at least in part, to the S&M imagery in Mick Rock’s cover photo, and said that the final mix of Wild Angel was a disappointment:
I was in San Francisco at that time, and I had an incredible demo tape that I got RCA interested in, and things were cooking, and I actually signed with the label, and I needed a producer who wouldn’t produce, you know? My ideas are maybe a little difficult for a conventional producer to really get into. So, after looking for a producer for about a year, talking to Lou [about] the frustration I was having, he said, ‘Why don’t I try.’ [...] [The album was] a great disaster. The mix wasn’t quite representative of what we actually recorded. To me, it was way too soft.
Numerous articles refer to Wild Angel as a scarce collector’s item, but don’t believe the hype: copies on Discogs Marketplace start at $3. Here’s a needle drop that sounds quite nice if you don’t mind a little surface noise: