When New York hit store shelves in January 1989, Lou Reed was still nursing the psychic wounds of seeing the same rock critics that had reflexively lauded every previous Reed solo effort as the second coming become suddenly frugal in their doling out of "raves" for his previous album, Mistrial, which, was as bland, conservative, and devoid of inspiration as Metal Machine Music had been a defiantly dissonant and aggressively executed "FU" to musical convention.
Reed's slow descent into normalcy and trend chasing that had begun on 1984's New Sensations, the cover of which showed Reed holding an Atari-style joystick whilst staring at a large TV projection of himself, certainly hadn't hurt his commercial popularity, though, as both New Sensations and Mistrial broke the Top 100 albums chart - something his previous four albums (The Bells, Growing Up In Public, The Blue Mask, and Legendary Hearts) had failed to do.
So, as anyone who has followed Reed's career knew, he was overdue for a huge misstep that would most certainly return him to the rock & roll dung heap. Therefore, it was even more exhilarating to discover that New York was NOT a massive misstep, but arguably Reed's best solo record of the decade, if not of his entire career.
While the overuse of programmed instrumentation had rendered Mistrial musically weak and lacking in any coherent direction, New York was sharp and focused. Just as David Bowie had found it necessary to trek to Berlin to find such inspiration, Reed accomplished much the same results by staying home and providing a lyrically unfiltered glimpse into life in NYC.
In his beloved hometown, Reed found the inspiration he'd long been searching for and delivered an album that worked as both an unflinching love letter to the city that never sleeps and a reminder to all who may have written him off that Reed was back to reclaim his throne as King of New York.
What made the album truly special was the feeling that, in many ways, Reed was celebrating this new start (his deal with Sire Records) as well as his past (former VU bandmate Maureen Tucker plays on two songs). New York would go on to hit the Top 40 and be certified Gold.