Selected and sequenced by the artist himself, the 31 tracks on The Essential Lou Reed make the case for this volatile, taboo-smashing innovator’s central place in rock history. The anthology digs deeply into Reed’s 40-year recording history to uncover neglected cuts as well as signature tunes, giving a well-rounded picture of how wildly diverse his music could be. Ignoring chronology in favor of contrast, the set offers glimpses of Reed as lovelorn poet (“Perfect Day,” “Pale Blue Eyes”), mordant storyteller (“Street Hassle,” “Dirty Blvd.”), hellacious rocker (“White Light/White Heat,” “The Blue Mask”), and glam-rock showman (“Satellite of Love,” “Vicious”). From the anthemic energy of “Sweet Jane” to the outrageous humor of “I Wanna Be Black” and the elegiac tenderness of “Magic and Loss,” just about every aspect of Reed’s multifaceted catalog can be found here. Career-defining tunes like “Heroin” and “Walk on the Wild Side” are juxtaposed with semi-obscure but worthwhile tracks like “Temporary Thing” and “Kill Your Sons” (included here in fiery live form). Track for track, this is probably the most definitive collection of Lou Reed's work available.