[The Velvet Underground] made four harrowing albums that exposed the seamy underbelly of the late '60s counterculture's acid-soaked dreams of peace and love. Songs like Heroin, Venus in Furs, Femme Fatale, I'm Waiting for the Man and White Light/White Heat, all of which left little to the imagination in their lurid detail, but still managed to seek redemption for man even in his squalor and pain….
Rock 'n' Roll Diary takes you from Waiting for the Man through Street Hassle, with a healthy mixture of tunes from each of Reed's many stylistic periods. If you don't have any of this (some quite rare) stuff, by all means, go out and turn on to one of the most literate songwriters in rock, a middle-class Jewish boy … whose neuroses and hang-ups mirrored his generation's now seemingly aimless search for values.
Still this otherwise honorable project warrants a few complaints…. [There] is a not-surprising bias toward Lou's Arista period, reflected in the unfortunate inclusion of three tracks from last year's Growing Up In Public, not one of Reed's strongest works. Still, all in all, this is a long-overdue retrospective for the hard-edged NYC street poet who never feared letting it all hang out in public, often with a uniquely touching vulnerability.
Roy Trakin, "Record Reviews: 'Rock 'n' Roll Diary'," in Hit Parader (© copyright 1981 Charlton Publications, Inc.), Vol. 40, No. 202, June, 1981, p. 23.