Velvet Underground


Band members                             Related acts

   line up 1 (1965)

- John Cale (RIP) -- vocals, electric viola, organ, bass

- Angus MacLise -- drums, percussion

- Sterling Morrison (RIP 1995) -- vocals, guitar, bass

- Lou Reed (RIP 2013) -- vocals, guitar, keyboards

 

   line up 2 (1965-68)

- John Cale (RIP) -- vocals, electric viola, organ, bass

- Sterling Morrison (RIP 1995) -- vocals, guitar, bass

NEW - Nico (aka Christa Päffgen) (RIP 1988)-- vocals

- Lou Reed (RIP 2013) -- vocals, guitar, keyboards

NEW - Maureen Tucker -- drums, percussion (replaced 

  Angus MacLise)

 

   line up 3 (1968)

- John Cale -- vocals, electric viola, organ, bass

- Sterling Morrison (RIP 1995) -- vocals, guitar, bass

- Lou Reed (RIP 2013) -- vocals, guitar, keyboards

- Maureen Tucker -- drums, percussion

 

   line up 4 (1968-70)

- Sterling Morrison (RIP 1995)--- vocals, guitar, bass

- Lou Reed (RIP 2013) -- vocals, guitar, keyboards

- Maureen Tucker -- drums, percussion

NEW - Doug Yule -- vocals, guitar (replaced John Cale)

 

   line up 5 (1970-71)

- Sterling Morrison (RIP 1995) -- vocals, guitar, bass

NEW - Walter Powers -- keyboards

NEW - Billy Yule -- drums, percussion (replaced Maureen Tucker)

- Doug Yule -- vocals, guitar

 

   line up 6 (1971-72)

NEW - Willie Alexander -- keyboards  

- Walter Powers -- bass 

- Doug Yule -- vocals, guitar

 

  line up 7 (1992-93)

- John Cale -- vocals, electric viola, organ, bass

- Sterling Morrison (RIP 1995) -- vocals, guitar, bass

- Lou Reed (RIP 2013) -- vocals, guitar, keyboards

- Maureen Tucker -- drums, percussion

 

 

 

 

 

- Willie Alexander (solo efforts)

- Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band

- Willie Alexander and the Confessions

- American Flyer (Doug Yule)

- Kevin Ayers and Company (John Cale and Nico)

- The Bagatelle

- John Cale (solo efforts)

- The Glass Menagerie

- Half Japanese (Maureen Tucker)

- Listening (Walter Powers)

- The Lost (Walter Powers)

- Magnet (Maureen Tucker)

- Nico (solo efforts)

- The Primitives (Lou Reed)

- RedDog (Doug Yule)

- Lou Reed (solo efforts)

- Lou Reed and John Cale

- Theatre of Eternal Music (John Cale and Angus MacLise)

- Maureen Tucker

- Doug Yule (solo efforts)

 

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  White Light/White Heat

Company: Verve

Catalog: 23MM 0190
Year:
 1968

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+

Comments: original tattoo cover, Japanese pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID:1141

Price: $50.00

 

Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  White Light/White Heat

Company: MGM

Catalog: 2353 024
Year:
 1976

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: UK reissue

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID:SOLD 1142

Price: SOLD $30.00

 

 

When I was in high school I had a buddy who was into truly obscure bands - one of the albums he owned and introduced me to was The Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat".     In spite of his ecstatic ravings about the LP, I have to admit I just didn't get it.  As a 16 year old I found it atonal, somehow deeply disturbing, and basically gave up on it after a spin or two.   Back to ZZ Top and Grand Funk Railroad  ...  Yeap, you can tell I grew up in the '70s American suburbs.

 

I'm no VU scholar, but I know this was the band's second studio LP and came after they' parted ways with mentor Andy Warhol and shed singer/keyboardist Nico.  (As far as I know Warhol's only connection to the album came in the form of the classic album cover designed by The Factory's Billy Name.)  Produced by Tom Wilson who seems to have recorded the band in a studio with the sound qualities of a large shower, the album was recorded on the heels of extensive touring in support of their debut album.   Reportedly recorded in a two day span, with the possible exception of the bizarre 'Lady Godiva's Operation',  the album found the group abandoning the debut's arty pretenses\ in favor of a mixture experimentation and discordant, take-no-prisoners garage rock aggression that would serve to inspire a generation of forthcoming punk bands.  Buzz saw guitars, pounding drums, and raw, seat-of-the-pants ranting vocals carried the day this time around.   So it's been forty years since my first exposure to this album and during those years I've listened to this collection dozens of times.  Besides the collection's incredibly dark aura, the thing that surprises me the most is how good the band actually sounded.   Sure, there were times when Reed and company seemingly went out of their way to sound irritating (check out the meltdown ending to the title track), but for the most part they were technically quite good; certainly better than most late-'70s American or English punk outfits.  Is this a challenging listen ?  Yes .  Is it disturbing ?  Yes.  Is it a classic LP ?  Yes.  

 

"White Light/White Heat" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) White Light/White Heat   (Lou Reed) - 2:47   rating: **** stars

Powered by John Cale's pounding bass line (I was always impressed by his simplistic attack), "White Light/White Head' seemingly combined '50s rock moves with a blood-letting garage band attitude.   Lyrically the title track was equally assaulting, seemingly inspired by Reed's affection for met amphetamines and  heroin.   Always wondered what inspired the closing freak-out section.  Always wondered why Verve tapped the album for a single:

 

  

 

- 1967's 'White Light/ White Heat' b/w 'Here She Comes Now' (Verve catalog number VK 10560)

2.) The Gift   (Lou Reed,- Sterling Morrison - John Cale - Maureen Tucker) - 8:18   rating: **** stars

With Cale's deadpan spoken word delivery (his Welch accent is perfect for the tune), of a truly gory tale of love and betrayal over a bouncy little garage band melody 'The Gift' was one of the band's most fascinating performances.   Wonder if the US Postal System ever considered it for a promotional campaign ?   
3.) Lady Godiva's Operation (Lou Reed) - 4:56
  rating: **** stars

If you thought 'The Gift' was dark and disturbing, then you might want to steer away from 'Lady Godiva's Operation'.  Depending who you believe, the song was inspired by a botch sex change operation, or was a somewhat autobiographical story of a transsexual going through electroshock therapy (something Reed underwent as a teenager).  Speculation on my part, but given Cale handled the lead vocals, I've always wondered if the subject was a little to close to home for writer Reed.   The closing medical sound effects were truly harrowing.  
4.) Here She Comes Now   (Lou Reed - Sterling Morrison - John Cale) - 2:04
  rating: **** stars

'Here She Comes Now' underscored the fact the band could craft a mainstream melody.  Yeah, the title seems to pretty much nail the song concept which served to ensure no radio station would touch it, but it was a pretty melody.  

 

(side 2)
1.) I Heard Her Call My Name (Lou Reed) - 4:38   rating: **** stars

The first half of 'I Heard Her Call My Name' demonstrated Reed could craft a tuneful garage rocker on his own (who would have expected to hear sweet harmony vocals on a VU tune?).   The second half of the song found  Reed and Morrison turning in a mesmerizing slice of feedback drenched, twin lead guitar mayhem.  Imagine The Allman Brothers in the middle of a hellish nightmare !  Nah, imagine the military trying to softened up uncooperative terrorist suspects with a little bit of music.  
2.) Sister Ray
  (Lou Reed,- Sterling Morrison - John Cale - Maureen Tucker) - 17:28   rating: **** stars

Great concept seemingly having something to do with drag queen orgies and tales of drug use (searching for a main line), wanton violence (there's at least one dead sailor in this sprawling narrative), and various sexual escapades  (lots of ding song sucking) ...  Geez, that seems to capture the spirit of the band pretty well.  Unlike lots of folks, I'd argue that at 17 minutes it went on way too long and Reed's shouted vocals sounded like he was completely out of it.   Elsewhere the song showcased Cale's distorted organ (which would have made Ray Manzarek proud) and plenty of feedback guitar.   Amazingly the track was reportedly inspired by Ornette Coleman's improvised jazz moves and recorded in one single take with producer Wilson walking out in the middle.  

 

I've always found it amazing Verve bothered to release a single off the album and the fact the collection actually managed to chart, hitting # 199 on the US charts for a couple of weeks. Also, is there another album that's attracted as much on-line and print attention in the wake of such dismal sales performance? 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Live At Max's Kansas City

Company: Cotillion

Catalog: SD 9500
Year:
 1972

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID:1143

Price: $30.00

 

It's pretty amazing this late-inning Velvet Underground document exists (supposedly Lou Reed's last performance with the Velvet Underground); let alone that it managed to go from fan collectable to seeing the light of day as a major label release.  

 

Recorded at a pair of August 1970 performance, the album captured the band near the end of a three month residence at New York's Max's Kansas City.  In terms of personnel, the performance found John Cale long gone and original drummer Maureen Tucker on maternity, leaving Billy Yule as a replacement.  Unless you were a hardcore VU fan the personnel shift probably didn't make a lot of difference, though, I'll admit Yule was a more conventional player than Tucker.   That's not meant as praise, or criticism.   Anyhow, the album's somewhat tortured history is interesting. Andy Warhol hanger-on/New York scenester Bridget Polk was a big VU fan and recorded the band at an early and late show at Max's on a cheap Sony portable cassette recorder that was apparently set up close to the stage.  Recorded in mono. the overall sound was best described as distant and flat with audience noise occasionally creeping in and writer Jim Carroll making himself known through his repeated requests for a Pernod and later some Tuinal barbiturates.   So be forewarned; if you were looking for state of the art sound quality, this wasn't the album to invest your money in.  And while you would think such a low-fi sound would effectively quash the results, Reed and company actually acquitted themselves well throughout the eleven tracks.  The eleven songs were heavily geared to Reed material, which made sense given The VU were basically his band by this time.  Occasionally sloppy, lackadaisical, and even out-of-tune, the performances were even more impressive when you considered the band was dividing their time between recording sessions for the forthcoming "Loaded" album and playing multiple sets every night at Max's.   You could easily understand why Reed and company sounded a bit on the tired side.  Anyhow, there were enough highlights, including a great 'Sweet Jane', a beautiful 'Beginning To See the Light' and a breezy 'Femme Fatale' to warrant buying the LP.  Other than the crappy sound quality my only complaint stems from the fact Reed and Atlantic staff producer Geoff Haslam spliced the songs into what amounted to fast and slow sides.   I suspect the album would have flowed better had they stuck with the original song order.  A minor consideration in the overall scheme of things.

 

"Live At Max's Kansas City" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) I'm Waiting for the Man   (Lou Reed) - 4:00    rating: **** stars

After a low key introduction from Reed ("Good evening, we're called the Velvet Underground.  You're allowed to dance in case you don't know it.  That's about it ...",  the band opened up their set with an energetic 'I'm Waiting for the Man'.  The performance aptly demonstrated these guys could rock out.  Billy Yule sounded quite comfortable behind the drums.   Elsewhere, never known for his lead guitar work, Sterling Morrison turned in a first rate solo.    

2.) Sweet Jane   (Lou Reed) - 4:52     rating: **** stars

One of Reed's best known works, 'Sweet Jane' came off as surprisingly catchy and commercial.   On the other hand hearing writer/future singer Jim Carroll whine about getting a drink ("go get me a double Pernod") wasn't exactly an album highlight.    

3.) Lonesome Cowboy Bill   (Lou Reed) - 3:41   rating: ** stars

With Doug Yule handling lead vocals, 'Lonesome Cowboy Bill' was a tune off the band's forthcoming "Loaded" album.  The country-rock tinged  track was a bit unsteady and hardly an essential VU tune, but so what ...   and yes you got to hear more of Carroll and the damned Pernod which was apparently only available at the downstairs bar.   

4.) Beginning To See the Light    (Lou Reed) - 5:00    rating: **** stars

'Beginning To See the Light' was tuneful and energetic with one of the best folk-rock-meets-garage-rock melodies the band ever recorded.  

 

(side 2)

1.) I'll Be Your Mirror   (Lou Reed) - 1:55  rating: **** stars

'I'll Be Your Mirror' was originally on the debut "The Velvet Underground & Nico" and found Reed doing a nice job of  replacing Nico on vocals. Yeah, the audience chatter was irritating. 

2.) Pale Blue Eyes   (Lou Reed) -  5:38    rating: *** stars

Off of 1969's "The Velvet Underground", 'Pale Blue Eyes' was apparently an audience favorite, but was a bit too slow and sloppy for my tastes.

3.) Sunday Morning   (Lou Reed- John Cale) - 2:43  rating: **** stars

Another pretty ballad that comes off as surprising mainstream. 

4.) New Age   (Lou Reed) - 5:58  rating: **** stars

'New Age' opened up with Carroll asking about the availability of Tuinal barbiturates.   Luckily the song was another album highlight with Billy Yule turning in a nice performance and some cool synthesizers. 

5.) Femme Fatale   (Lou Reed) - 2:29    rating: **** stars

After declining an audience request to perform 'Heroin' the band launched into a breezy 'Femme Fatale' complete with sweet backing vocals.  

6.) After Hours   (Lou Reed) - 2:05    rating: *** stars

With Tucker home on maternity leave (she wasn't sick as Reed announced), 'After Hours' was given a nice old-timey arrangement that made for a nice way to close the album.  

 

Surprisingly enjoyable, but ultimately probably only of interest to hardcore VU fans.

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  VU

Company: Verve

Catalog: 422-823721-1
Year:
 1985

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: SOLD 

Catalog ID:SOLD 1149

Price: SOLD $30.00

 

The Velvet Underground is one of those bands that did little commercially during their active life, but in the ensuing years have become a cottage industry spinning off a seemingly endless catalog of compilations, live sets, bootlegs, etc.   Seeing the money to be made in the VU market, in 1985 the revitalized Verve label (the band's original record label), released the ten track compilation "VU".   Part of a catalog of 19 tracks that were discovered in the MGM archives, most of the ten tracks on this album were apparently intended for the group's planned follow-up to 1969's "The Velvet Underground".  Along with some earlier material from the John Cale-era line-up, the material was shelved when, in a cost cutting move, MGM President Mike Curb dropped the band from it's recording contract.  With Cale out of the band, this compilation was largely a Reed effort - he was credited with penning nine of the ten tracks.   Musically it caught him in strong creative form dividing his attention between some of the prettiest tunes he'd every penned ('Stephanie Says', 'Lisa Says' and 'Ocean') and some surprisingly straightforward and commercial rockers - 'I Can't Stand It' and 'Foggy Notion' being two of the many album highlights.  Overlooking the three  throwaway tunes that ended the album ('One of These Days', 'Andy's Chest' and 'I'm Sticking With You'), this may have been their most accessible collection and for a compilation set, it sounded remarkably consistent. 

 

"VU" track listing:

(side 1)

1.)  I Can't Stand It   (Lou Reed) - 3:21  rating: **** stars

Geez, who would have thought these guys could get down and funky ?   Certainly not me !!!   A complete surprise and a VU song that's actually fun to hear - how can you not giggle at a lyric that include "I live with 13 dead cats ..."    For hardcore fans Reed recycled the song on his 1972 debut "Lou Reed".  

2.) Stephanie Says   (Lou Reed) - 2:49  rating: **** stars

One of two songs from the John Cale era line-up, 'Stephanie Says' may have been the prettiest thing Reed ever wrote for the band.    A beautiful ballad complete with some nice Cale viola, pretty Sterling acoustic guitar, and sweet harmony vocals.   This was another one that got recycled for Reed's solo debut.  

3.) She's My Best Friend   (Lou Reed) - 2:47  rating: **** stars

'She's My Best Friend' sounded like a relatively conventional pop tune with a pleasant melody, nice harmony vocals, and slightly flat Doug Yule vocals.   Naturally the lyrics were a bit too colorful for any radio station to even get close to.   This one subsequently reappeared on Reed's "Coney Island Baby" LP and under the title 'Caroline Says II' on his "Berlin" album.  

4.) Lisa Says   (Lou Reed) - 2:53  rating: **** stars

Admittedly it took me awhile to appreciate the ballad 'Lisa Says', but after a couple of spins I reached the conclusion this fragile ballad might be the album's standout performance.   Hard to imagine it was shelved.   Another tune that appeared on Reed's 1972 solo debut.  

5.) Ocean   (Lou Reed) - 5:10   rating: **** stars

Almost jazzy, 'Ocean' was apparently recorded for possible inclusion on 1970's "Loaded", but didn't make the final cut.  Given that album's almost poppy feel, it wasn't not hard to see why it didn't make the cut.   That's not  meant as a criticism since this tune was fantastic.  Yeah, Tucker's drums are a bit too prominent, but so what.   Reed appropriated the tune for 1972's "Lou Reed". 

 

(side 2)

1.) Foggy Notion   (Lou Reed - Sterling Morrison - Doug Yule - Maureen Tucker - Weis) -  6:40   rating: **** stars

With a bouncy melody, some great rock and roll guitar from Morrison and occasional obscenities that kick along a plotline that seemingly has something to do with sadistic behavior, it wasn't too hard to picture 'Foggy Notion' showing up on the "Loaded".  Another album highlight.    

2.) Temptation Inside Your Heart   (Lou Reed) - 2:30  rating: **** stars

The second John Cale era composition, 'Temptation Inside Your Heart' sounded like a really good quality demo with lots of in-studio goofiness going on.   Wonder who the song commentary is coming from ...   Always loved the backing vocals on this one.    

3.) One of These Days   (Lou Reed) - 3:50    rating: ** stars

The album's first real disappointment, 'One of These Days' sounded like Reed had slammed his hand in a door while trying to delivery a Mike Nesmith penned Monkees tune.    Out of tune and pretty dreadful.   Morrison's slide guitar was that best thing here. 

4.) Andy's Chest   (Lou Reed) - 2:49 v

A complete mystery to me - good timey melody with nonsensical lyrics and a just plain strange vibe.  The track reappeared on Reed's "Transformer" LP.  Unlike most folks, I'd argue the solo version is better, even though that isn't much of a complement.    

5.) I'm Sticking With You   (Lou Reed) - 2:26  rating: *** stars

A stark piano powered ballad, the first half of 'I'm Sticking with You' featured Tucker on vocals and sounded very much like something off a children's soundtrack.  About halfway in Reed's vocal kicked in. Another track contemplated for the "Loaded" LP.

 

It isn't the lost classic album hardcore fans would have you believe, but overall it wasn't half bad.  Certainly better than most of their posthumous catalog.   I'm constantly surprised by how much I like this album.  For a band that enjoyed minimal commercial success during the heyday, this set proved their best commercial seller, eventually peaking at # 85 on the US album charts.   

 

By the way, the rest of the "new" tracks appeared the following year under the title "Another View".  

 

 

 

 

Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  1969 Velvet Underground Live

Company: Mercury

Catalog: SRM-2-7504
Year:
 1974

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: double LP; gatefold sleeve

Available: 1 

Catalog ID:1149

Price: $35.00

 

For a band that had generated minimal sales over their rocky recording career, you had to give kudos the Mercury Records executives for having the courage to release "1969 Velvet Underground Live with Lou Reed".  Sure, they were trying to take advantage of Lou Reed's unexpected mid-'70s solo success (he'd just released "Rock N Roll Animal", but they were still taking a massive chance with this specially priced, double album live set.  So much for good will - as you'd expect, the buying audience wanted nothing to do with the album.  I can remember seeing heavily discounted stacks of the LP at my local Penguin Feather..  Shame, since it's an amazing performance.

 

Recorded during a 1969 North American tour which saw Doug Yule replacing John Cale, the album captured the band at performances in Dallas' Live at End Cole Ave. and San Francisco's The Matrix.  The five Dallas tracks were recorded by a fan who happened to be a recording engineer and brought  some professional recording gear to the show.  The remaining nine Matrix tracks were recorded using the club's in-house, four track mixing board.  Shortly after the album was released Matrix management filed a suited claiming they'd never granted permission for the tracks to be commercially released.  Mercury settled the suit out of court.

 

With the Velvet Underground having called it quits, the tapes sat in the vaults for several years. With Reed's solo career gaining steam, former band manager Steve Sesnick started peddling the tapes, but Reed's management team stepped in, gaining control over the tapes and negotiating a deal with Mercury Records.  

 

VU fans will certainly want to own each of the first four studio albums, but 1974's posthumous "1969 Velvet Underground Live" simultaneously served as a great career overview and a set documenting these guys were far more musically accomplished than widely recognized..  With Nico and John Cale gone, the Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker, and Doug Yule line-up was the band's most consistent and musically competent.  For a collection seemingly recorded without much in the way of post-production work, there weren't many blown notes and while the live versions occasionally wandered away from the original studio arrangements (Reed replacing Nico on lead vocals for 'Femme Fatale', Yule taking over for Nico on 'I'll Be Your Mirror'), the band came off well on almost all of these 17 tracks.  The overall sound was a bit raw, but the rocked with considerable conviction; certainly more power and energy than you would have expected if you were only familiar with their studio work.  I clearly remember being surprised by what an accomplished guitarist Morrison was - check out his thick fuzz guitar on 'Some Kind of Love', or his stuttering lead on 'Rock and Roll'.   The album was also worth owning for a couple of previously unreleased tracks 'We're Gonna Have a Really Good Time Together', 'Over You', and 'Sweet Bonnie Brown/It's Just Too Much'.    Simply an awesome LP and a great place for the curious to start.

 

"1969 Velvet Underground Live" track listing:

(side 1)

1.)  I'm Waiting for My Man (Lou Reed) - 7:02   rating: **** stars

Reed's extended spoken word introduction, complete with a couple of Texas slams, went on way to long, but after a minute or so 'I'm Waiting for My Man' kicked into gear showing these guys were actually quite musically proficient.   Awesome Sterling Morrison solo around the four minute mark.

2.) Lisa Says (Lou Reed) - 5:46   rating: **** stars

The perfect song for listeners who aren't big into lyrical content.  This performance at San Francisco's The Matrix was one of their finest versions of the song.

3.) What Goes On - 8:47 (Lou Reed   rating: **** stars

Anyone doubting the value of a good rhythm guitarist should check out Sterling Morrison and Lou Reed's work on the fabulous 'What Goes On'.  Add in Maureen Tucker's relentless, snapping drums and  Doug Yule's merry-go-round-styled Vox Continental  organ fills and this may have been the band's most commercial release.  The original studio version (found on their third album - "The Velvet Underground") was pretty great and had been tapped as a promo single, but this live version was even better.  Hard to believe a track clocking in at almost nine minutes could go by so fast:

- 1969's 'What Goes On' b/q 'Jesus' (MGM catalog number K14057)

4.) Sweet Jane  (Lou Reed) - 3:58   rating: **** stars

Performed as a closer at one of their Matrix shows, this stripped down, barebones version of 'Sweet Jane' was actually better than the studio version most people know and loveOne of the album's standout performances.

 

(side 2)

1.) We're Gonna Have a Really Good Time Together  (Lou Reed) - 3:12   rating: *** stars

'We're Gonna Have a Really Good Time Together' was one of three tunes that had never appeared on a VU LP, or single, who would have ever expected the Velvets to turn in a beach romp tune  Hysterical to hear Reed and company doing the na-na-na-na refrains.  

2.) Femme Fatale  (Lou Reed)  - 3:01   rating: *** stars

Velvet Underground producer Andy Warhol asked Reed to write 'Femme Fatale' for the late Edie Sedgwick.   One of four tracks originally appearing on their 1967 debut album "The Velvet Underground & Nico", Nico handled lead vocals on this surprisingly sweet and sympathetic ballad.  Reed handled lead on this version, which reflected a much tougher, rawer sound than the studio version. 

3.) New Age  (Lou Reed) - 6:01   rating: **** stars

Starting off as a fragile ballad, but building to a rugged rocker, 'New Age' was one of two tunes that would subsequently appear on their "Loaded" album, though with different lyrics, a different arrangement, and Doug Yule on lead vocals (Lou Reed handled vocals on this version).  The song was supposedly inspired by Reed's then-girlfriend Shelley Albin.

4.) Rock and Roll  (Lou Reed) - 6:00   rating: **** stars

Another tune that would appear on 1970's "Loaded", 'Rock and Roll' should quiet anyone who didn't think the Velvets could actually rock out.  Sterling Morrison's stuttering lead guitar figure was dazzling.    In the liner notes to the "Peel Slowly and See" VU boxed set, Reed wrote: "Rock and Roll' is about me.  If I hadn't heard rock and roll on the radio, I would have no idea there was life on this planet.  Which would have been devastating - to think that everything, everywhere as like it was where I come from.  The would have been profoundly discouraging.  Movies didn't do it for me.  TV did do it for me.  It was radio that did it."   

5.) Beginning To See the Light  (Lou Reed) - 5:26   rating: **** stars

Having appeared on "The Velvet Underground", 'Beginning To See the Light' was one of the best folk-rock-meets-garage-rock melodies the band ever recorded.  Neither Sterling, or Reed may have been the flashiest of lead guitarists, but when they piled up their rhythm guitar moves, they made quite an impact.  Taken from the "Velvet Redux - Live MCMXCII" DVD which found John Cale back in the line-up for a reunion tour, YouTube has a bouncy, almost poppish June, 1993 performance of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdED7XGbuAU 

 

(side 3)

1.) Ocean  (Lou Reed) - 10:46   rating: ** stars

Written with the intent of appearing on a VU album, technically 'Ocean' was a Reed solo effort, having appeared on his self titled 1972 album.  Whereas the Reed solo version was an over-produced ballad, marred by a barely in-tune vocal, the live version featured a far rawer and sparser arrangement.  Yeah, stretched over ten minutes, it would have benefited from some judicious editing.  

2.) Pale Blue Eyes  (Lou Reed) - 5:50   rating: **** stars

Another "The Velvet Underground" tune, 'Pale Blue Eyes' was also apparently inspired by Reed's college girlfriend (Shellby Albin).  Unlike most of the album, this track sounded a bit flat.  It may have lost some of the studio version's perfection, but Reed's vocal was touching and Morrison's lead guitar solo was sweet and tuneful.  The end-of-song audience applause always makes me smile since it sounded like there were about a dozen folks in the club.  YouTube has a performance of the song from their 1993 reunion "Velvet Redux - Live MCMXCII" DVD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQzPvJWeofU 

3.) Heroin  (Lou Reed) - 9:42   rating: **** stars

Another song which appeared on "The Velvet Underground & Nico", the live version may not include Cale's haunting, screeching electric viola, but made up for it in a myriad of other ways including Reed's dark and ominous delivery and the meltdown guitar ending ...     No idea when or where it was recorded (Cale was still in the band), but YouTube has a fascinating, black and white concert performance of the song at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKnbFpdGKog 

 

(side 4)

1.) Some Kind of Love  (Lou Reed) - 4:44   rating: **** stars

Morrison's growling fuzz guitar simply pushed 'Some Kind of Love' to the next level of intensity.  In the song intro Reed described the song as 'dialog between a guy named Tom and a girl/woman named margarita. And he's just trying to drink her like tequila and she doesn't like being sold ..."

2.) Over You  (Lou Reed) - 2:15   rating: *** stars

Another track that doesn't seem to have seen an earlier release, 'Over You' was almost jazzy in its demeanor.  Morrison turned in a lovely solo on this one.   

3.) Sweet Bonnie Brown/It's Just Too Much  (Lou Reed) - 7:50   rating: ** stars

Another previously unreleased track.  Okay, 'Sweet Bonnie Brown' highlighted the fact twangy country-rock and backing vocals may not have played to the band's strengths.

4.) White Light / White Heat  (Lou Reed) - 8:23   rating: **** stars

As much as I like the studio version, the extended live version is even better, tacking on some two minutes of wonderful improvisational Morrison and Reed lead guitar interchange.

5.) I'll Be Your Mirror  (Lou Reed) - 2:17   rating: *** stars

The fourth song off the debut album, Reed was inspired to write 'I'll Be Your Mirror' after meeting Nico for the first time.  She apparently greeted Reed with the phrase.  She handled the original studio version, though according to Morrison, the song almost didn't make it on to the album. "She [Nico] kept singing "I'll Be Your Mirror" in her strident voice.  Dissatisfied, we kept making her do it over and over again until she broke down and burst into tears.  At that point we said, "Oh, try it just one more time and then fu*k it - if it doesn't work this time, we're not going to do the song."  Nico sat down and did it exactly right."   Yule handled vocals on the live version and while it remained one of their prettiest songs, Yule's muffled vocals made it sound like he was singing while locked in a dark closet.

 

 

 

 


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