This really is the way to do super deluxe reissues. Eschewing silly gimmicks, it's basically a coffee-table book, beautifully produced, with 6 CDs in slots at the back and, of course, a peelable banana on the front. The essay by Richie Unterberger is well-informed - as far as is possible because there seems to be quite a lot of uncertainty about exact dates etc. - and well written, though a little bland; I particularly like the opening list of negative and random factors that should have prevented the album from ever having been made, and the informed speculation about why it took nearly a year for the album to be issued. Much of the book consists of photographs, most of which I've never seen before, both of the Velvets and associates (often in live performance) and of different versions of the original album cover, gig handbills etc.
The mastering is superb throughout, the amount of detail they've got out of the original tapes is extremely impressive and both the stereo and mono versions of the released album sound magnificent, and better than ever before, as does Nico's Chelsea Girls album, included here in its entirety. Notably it is mastered quite a bit quieter than the previous 2 CD deluxe edition - it sounds quite noticeably different overall as well. As I predicted in my review of the grey-market Unripened - Sweden, the contents of the legendary Scepter Studios/Norman Dolph acetate featuring an early/demo version of the album get an official release as part of a box set. However, the scratches, noise and occasional jumps of Unripened are largely a thing of the past: one of the 2 session reels has survived and the mono mixes of the tracks it contributed to the acetate (European Son, Black Angel's Death Song, All Tomorrow's Parties and Heroin) have been recreated (evidently the mixdown tape from which the acetate was cut is long lost, though this isn't mentioned) and the full length European Son and alternate Heroin have also been given new and excellent stereo mixes (there aren't 3 different takes of any track, though it does rather look that way from the track listing). Those tracks which HAVE been taken from the acetate (I'll Be Your Mirror, Femme Fatale, Venus In Furs, Waiting For The Man and Run Run Run) have apparently been taken from a different copy that was in the possession of Maureen Tucker. A little noise is present, especially on Femme Fatale, and there are muffled pops in places, but overall they sound way better than Unripened and there are no jumps. I guess the most unexpected inclusion is an instrumental mix of All Tomorrow's Parties, which allows clearer examination of John Cale's extraordinary piano part.
I've not heard bootlegs of the January 1966 rehearsal tape; it's interesting, and a very good recording, though likely to be the least listened-to part of the set as songs stop and start, apart from a very good version of Heroin. The section with Lou singing (or much of the time, reciting) the lyrics of Venus In Furs over Bo Diddley's Crackin' Up is a gas, as is the version of There She Goes Again featuring Nico - you can hear why Lou sang it on the album, it's just not in her key. If Maureen Tucker is present on this session, she only plays a little tambourine, which is a shame, but there's a lot of nice guitar playing from Lou and Sterling.
Finally, spread over 2 CDs, we get the entire Valleydale Ballroom performance from 4 November 1966. There are far worse-sounding bootlegs out there, and it sounds a little better than a version I downloaded not that long ago, but it's fair to say that the sound is seriously flawed, and in places pretty rough. To my ears, this is less down to the recording, which must originally have been pretty clear and well balanced - you can hear all the instruments well enough - than it is to the state of that tape at the point it was copied to another one prior to finding its way onto the bootleg market. It suffers wobbles, distortion and dropouts in places but the overall sound balance, otherwise unheard material (the long jams that open and close the performance) and excellent performances of material from the album make it essential, and it's far from unlistenable; it certainly has no rivals from this period of the Velvets. It's also worth noting that, without losing any of the music, it runs quite a bit shorter than the available bootlegs, so clearly quite a bit of between song tuning etc. has been edited out. Since it's spread over 2 discs, this was for cosmetic reasons not space.
Really there's only one thing wrong with this set - a minor quibble but a shame nonetheless - and that is the absence of the record that started it all, The Ostrich, which Lou Reed recorded when he worked at Pickwick Records. The Ostrich, and even more so its B-side, Sneaky Pete, point the way to the Velvet Underground and have never been officially reissued or cleaned up. It's even more bizarre given how much Richie Unterberger's essay dwells on how attempts to promote it with a live band resulted in Lou Reed meeting John Cale; I had not previously realised that it was a producer at Pickwick, not Lou Reed, who had met Cale at a party, felt he looked the part and, discovering he actually was a musician, recruited him to be a member of The Primitives and introduced him to Lou; none of these recordings would exist otherwise.
Clearly this is not aimed at those unfamiliar with the original album, which is why I've not reviewed it. It's a 5 star album and then some. But for those for whom it's an old friend, this is essential, and that friend has got a whole heap of new stuff to tell you! Let's hope they do similar for White Light/White Heat and the 3rd album (and VU/Another View material).
Had this one for a while and have given the CDs a good listen.
CD1 contains the stereo mix of the original album with 5 alternative track versions, all worth having as European Son being possibly better than the original. This must be as good as this album is going to sound in my opinion. Much better having the original album to start with not "sandwiched" as it is on Peel Slowly And See.
CD2 has the mono version + some singles and surprisingly does not have the impact of the stereo version.
CD3 is Nico's album which I must admit I have never owned before unlike VU's album where I still have my original '67 vinyl. As this album had Reed, Cale & Morrison playing on it (along with Jackson Browne), it is a logical inclusion, and a worthy one.
CD4 has the studio sessions and rehearsals which for any fan of the band is such interesting listening, (although the early recordings on Peel Slowly on CD1 are essential as well), and again are a really worthy addition.
CDs5&6 contain a live concert from 4/11/66 and are bootleg quality. Anyone that has ever heard bootlegs of rock concerts as early as 66 may know how bad the quality can be!
However, for a band and an album of this historical importance, I'm am so happy that they were included. They should carry a caveat emptor though as they are rough!!
The package comes housed in a large format book far more suited to your book library than your CD library, however it is beautiful in my opinion with many photos of the band and memorabilia, lyrics and 6 slots at the back to house the CDs.
Many cite this as a landmark and influential album, but I remember it selling in minute quantities when first released. Me hearing the original album for the first time 45 years ago though is still one of those moments that is burnt into my brain, such was the impact, and there is very few that have ever done that. The content of many of the songs might not be everyone's cup of coffee, but this is one of the true monumental rock albums of all time and as such this deluxe volume is well deserved. I do not considered VU ever equalled the impact, urgency, macabre beauty of this album again.
Few albums are really worthy of the term classic but this one is not only a classic, but it is a 24C solid gold classic, and this set is a most welcome addition to my library. This had to have five stars due to the iconic status of this album and the overall package.
on 22 September 2012
Apparently the bulk of this eponymously-titled debut LP was recorded over 4 days, in 10 hours, at a cost of somewhere between $1500 and $3000. And yet its artistic reputation has endured over 45 years later, and its cultural value is priceless: The Velvet Underground & Nico has been widely recognised as a profound influence on a variety of rock movements, like glam rock, post-punk and indie rock. Why is that? Firstly, the group managed to synthesise a diversity of musical styles (including R&B, Mod-pop, free jazz and drone music) in a hugely successful fashion. This 11 track LP boasts some staggeringly beautiful ballads ('All Tomorrow's Parties', 'Femme Fatale'), and it features some ear-splittingly heavy rock noise as well ('The Black Angel's Death Song', 'European Son'). Secondly, their principal songwriter Lou Reed wrote persuasive lyrics that accompanied that music seamlessly. The tone and content may vary - from the dispassionate reportage of 'Heroin', to the touching tenderness in the description of a poor girl in a hand-me down dress on 'All Tomorrow's Parties' - but the quality never faltered.
on 17 July 2012
I grew up ignoring this as old hippy cobblers, I was 15 in '77.
ie 50 now. I read Renton and co banging on about it Irvine Walsh's books. So decided to give it a go. £1.44 on Amazon is not pushing the boat out.
Bloody hell. the tracks with Nico being all tragic and Germanic are cool. But 'waiting for my man' and 'Heroin' are amazing. Ninety sixty seven???? Really. Fabulous stuff, revolutionary even.
Think of all the aging Teddy Boys yelling at their kids 'Do you call this music'. Fabulous.
on 24 October 2012
I'm a bit lost for adequate words to describe this album. Produced by Andy Warhol, it features the tall, elegant German chanteuse Nico, with her breathy, deep voice perfectly complementing and indeed typifying the Velvet Underground sound.
There are songs that are gentle and melodic, such as 'I'll Be Your Mirror', defiant, driving rock like 'Run Run Run', the cacophonic John Cale violin-dominated strangeness of 'Black Angel's Death Song' and the category-defying 'Venus in Furs' based on the eponymous sado-masochistic novel.
Some of it has a decidedly punky feel.
It's part of my youth, and I hope that subsequent generations can appreciate it too. In a decade dominated by numerous indistinguishable artists and bands, this kind of originality should still inspire.
Added later - and how could I have forgotten to mention that other vocals are by Lou Reed? Shame on me - get the whip out...!
on 4 April 2016
When the recent DELUXE and SUPER DELUXE versions of 'THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO' and 'WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT' were first announced I was fairly disgusted with the price of the SUPER DELUXE EDITIONS. Here's a rundown of their contents, and at the end we'll discuss their value for money and cheaper options. Let's begin with the new releases of their first iconic album.......
I already owned the first THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO Deluxe Edition from 2002 featuring the album's stereo and (superior) mono versions, the five most VELVET-like tracks from NICO's 'CHELSEA GIRL" and mono versions of the singles "All Tomorrow's Parties"/"I'll Be Your Mirror" and "Sunday Morning"/"Femme Fatale." The first pressing (which I have) also had the "peelable" banana. The 2012 45th ANNIVERSARY version's first disc contains a REMIXED version of the stereo album, four alternate takes ("All Tomorrows Parties," "Heroin," "European Son" and "I'll Be Your Mirror") and an instrumental take of "All Tomorrow's Parties." The second disc has the oft-bootleged "Scepter Studio Sessions," with nine of the album's eleven songs recorded before the Verve album, and six "Factory Rehearsals" recorded on January 3, 1966 that contain the rarities "Walk Alone," "Crackin' Up" and "Miss Joanie Lee.".....
The six disc SUPER DELUXE LIMITED EDITION of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO comes in a 10" x 11" hardcover book with the de rigeur peelable banana. The first disc is the same as disc one of the 2012 DELUXE EDITION, Disc Two is the same as Disc 2 of the 2002 DELUXE EDITION. Disc Three contains the stereo mix of NICO's 'CHELSEA GIRL' and Disc Four is the same as Disc 2 of the 2012 DELUXE EDITION. Discs Five & Six contain a live concert recorded November 4, 1966 in Columbus, OH at the Valleydale Ballroom. It is, I believe, the only surviving full concert of the line-up with Nico. They perform seven songs from the debut album sandwiched between a 28min. "Melody Laughter" and a 28min. "Nothing Song." The sound quality is comparable to a fair bootleg, slightly better than LIVE AT MAX'S KANSAS CITY but not as good as the LIVE 1969 Vol. 1 and LIVE 1969 Vol. 2 sets, but an unquestionably historic document, nonetheless. I was also impressed with Nico's contributions to the controlled noise fests that bookend the concert, belying tales that she was only interested in her "spotlite" performances. The book itself is printed on high quality paper and contains mostly unpublished photos, none of which I could find in other VELVETS books such as "The Velvet Underground: An Illustrated History of a Walk on the Wild Side." My only complaints are the high price, that the discs are in slots in the rear of the book, and more importantly, they left off the superior mono mix of CHELSEA GIRL even though they had room on the stereo disc. Fans of this version have to either track down an old LP or buy Sundazed's The Verve/MGM ALBUMS, a vinyl box set of the first three albums and CHELSEA GIRL in mono, and the "lost album" '1969' in stereo......
This three disc WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT 45th Anniversary SUPER DELUXE EDITION comes in a similar hardcover book of the same quality. The first disc contains the original stereo album and seven bonus tracks. "I Heard Her Call My Name" is an alternate version, "Stephanie Says" and "Temptation Inside Your Heart" were previously available on the VU compilation, "Guess I'm Falling In Love (instrumental version)," "Hey Mr. Rain (Version 1)" and "Hey Mr. Rain (Version 2)" are new mixes of tracks first released on the compilation ANOTHER VIEW, and there's a previously unreleased early version of "Beginning To See The Light." All the bonus tracks, especially those previously released, have benefited greatly from the new remastering. Disc Two has the mono version of the original album with the single mix of the title track and it's B-Side "Here She Comes Now" and "previous unreleased isolated vocal and instrumental versions" of "The Gift." The real treat is on Disc Three, a seven song concert by the WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT group on April 30, 1967 at NYC's Gymnasium in, to quote John Cale, "remarkable quality." It contains the rare tracks "Booker T.," "I'm Not A Young Man Anymore" and "Guess I'm Falling In Love." The first and third were previously released on the 'PEEL SLOWLY AND SEE" set......
The two disc 'WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT 45th Anniversary DELUXE EDITION' contains Discs One and Three of the SUPER DELUXE set, and is therefore a bargain. I have to admit, when I first heard there was to be a 2CD version, I figured it would contain Discs One and Two, forcing the real fans to shell out for the rare great concert. I was more than pleasantly pleased when I found that the concert disc was to be included. The only MINOR nitpick I have is there's no photo of the alternate European cover anywhere. For such a revered album you think they'd want to "cover" all bases, but it's a drop in the ocean compared to the value of this set......
I was extremely lucky, one day I was checking prices and found a "Like New" used copy of the THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO SUPER DELUXE EDITION for about $10 a disc, which I think would be a fair price for a NEW set. So, unless you have the $$$ to spend on the SUPER sets, here's my recommendation if you're a fan that wants to dip your toes beyond the original canon; currently (4/19/14) you can purchase the 2002 and 2012 DELUXE EDITIONS of THE VU & NICO and the DELUXE WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT, in no less than "Like New" condition, for about $55, a little more than half the price of the THE VU & NICO SUPER DELUXE set. You would be getting Remastered versions of the first album in stereo AND the superior mono mix, the superior stereo mix of WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT, the five most VU-like songs off CHELSEA GIRL, mono mixes of their first two singles, both rare pre- recordings from Scepter Studios and The Factory, six rarities in great remastered sound, and one of the last concerts of the WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT band, again in "remarkable quality." The only things you'll be missing is the good but not great show with Nico, four songs from CHELSEA GIRL that have limited VU involvement, the mono version of WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT and it's two mono single sides. The mono album and singles were actually just fold-downs of the stereo masters anyway, and anyone who has a copy of WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT has the separate sections of "The Gift" already. If you want to hear the instrumental or recitation separately, all you have to do is turn your balance knob all the way to the right and left.....!
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND is a band that's loved by some, reviled by others, some think they are genius, others think they're degenerate, some when first hearing them fall in love, others run screaming, but no wonder what YOU think, there's no doubt about their influence and legacy. They may be an acquired taste, but once you acquire it you never lose or forget it. All these sets expand and do justice to their legacy, No matter what path you chose, if you're a VELVETS fan you won't be disappointed......
on 6 April 2015
The original release is indeed one of the most important in rock, ever. We have heard about other vinyl records resulting in nearly everyone starting a band, and this here is the real deal in that department. And you know what - it does not sound outdated at all! In fact, the rock circus has gone full circle a few times in the department of how a rock album should be, and have always returned here, like it was a fountain of youth. And it's a good point: it's every bit as important as The Beatles' "Rubber Soul", say, or early releases by The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Led Zep, and a sea full of other great bands/artists. While very few bought this on its first release, it has been stated that everyone who got one wanted to start a band - and many did. Now, I for one am still looking for that first vinyl issue with a pristine peelable banana for a dime (the one I nearly bought had cost a mere $200), but here is something to hold on to and cherish while you are hunting. You get remastered stereo and mono versions, straight from the original source, and it sounds clearer to my ears than the previous releases on cd - which they should, of course. You get additional versions of the songs, from rehearsals and a live disc, and then you get - for free! - Nico's "Chelsea Girl", too! Now having had it for a while, like with a few other remastered items, I find that cd's aren't that fun really, and would have wanted the vinyl version of the collection. But there you go - you can't sell your car just to get the best rock album in the world - or can you?
Included in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2006, voted number 13 in Rolling Stones Magazine's `Greatest albums of all time' and widely regarded as responsible for inspiring the `Punk' and `New Wave' movements of the 1970s and 1980s, the Velvet Underground's notorious 1967 album (mostly recorded in April 1966) was way ahead of its time. If you're new to this music in the 21st century, however, it doesn't usually impress on first listening and might take time for you to appreciate how good it really is.
Conceived musically by John Cale and thematically by Lou Reed, the album is a musical tour de force. The whole recording project reportedly cost only US$1,500 (financed by Andy Warhol) and it shows in the rough production values. John Cale threw away the rule book and utilised unconventional tunings - including tuning all the strings of his viola to the same note - to effect a discordant, repetitive and nihilistic feel. Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker back-up Cale's experimental melodies with a rock-solid rhythm section.
Lou Reed's song lyrics focus on the street life of then-contemporary New York City and showcase heroin addiction, BDSM, prostitution and the shallow preoccupations of the prevailing cultural milieu, a perfect match for the music. Both Reed and German chanteuse Nico have flat voices devoid of emotion, which also suits the musical style and gives the album its unique character.
These songs still retain their power, and despite yourself you may soon find the hypnotic and powerful `Waiting for the Man', `Heroin' and `Tomorrow's Parties' replay in your head (to name just three - all the songs with possibly a couple of exceptions are good).
Iconic, influential and important, this album never seems to age - unlike almost all other musical output from the same period. You can buy several re-issues including boxed sets and `deluxe editions' with extra tracks. Most important is that you make sure the original mono recording is part of the package: it's more visceral and raw than the post-production `stereo' versions.
This was a touchstone to describe anything non linear and difficult to digest. VU at one time were a secret cult. A glacial pond within the 60's cultural ice age, emerging with the Stooges to sprout new life forms in the late 70's thaw.
David Bowie brought Lou Reed into mass consciousness with Transformer launching the VU trajectory.
Primarily ignored during their heyday. VU zoned within the sealed New York art experience, playing to outsiders moving to the inside. Avant Garde middle class misfits alchemising a generation with new beliefs culled from art sifted into pop.
VU ditched the blues, instead playing monotone drone tones. John Cale the catalyst working alongside La Monte Young brought the ideas to the fringes. Drones resembled the dying embers of the bagpipes as the choral melodies dance a jig to the vibrating surface harmonical dense fog of noise. Drone entered rock with the electric viola and Cale's ear for the absurd. Lou Reed two chord salutes to Cale's drones seeking attention.
A glacial vocal melancholia counterpoised the New York drawl, the mix of the old europe with the new world. Vocals suffused in two shades of deadpan; male or female monotone baritone echoing the walls of the avante. The drums beaten with Bo Didley primitive finesse, the bells and whistles emptied.
Song subject matter changed from having a ball to what time is the dealer going to arrive. The timetable and the geography deftly announced in Waiting for My Man. The whoop of sensual euphoria of the 50's had turned into the creak of leather and the crack of the whip in Venus in Furs. Love euphoria of boy needs girl next door transformed into the femme fatale, the uberfemme breaking the hearts of men by luring them onto the rocks of her beauty. Gaining her power by seeing them wreck their souls on the heels of her shiny leather boots. All tomorrow's parties joins Cinderella to pathos, the non happy ending of a fairytale life, an indictment of the Factory front and prescient of Nico.
The taboo of the mainstream was now opely discussed; Nelson Algren Hubert Selby, Burroughs, Chandler, Jim Thompson and Chester Himes had all pulped this world. Now the treasure chest wa opened and VU put it all to the sound of music.
Described as an alternative Beatles, the Velvet infused the dark real cynical and jaded to shiny smooth cloying versions of love few people attain and retain. Heather the femme fatale to love sick Paul.
It has a majesty, resonating 40 years later because it communicates to each new generation different facets of its angst and ennui. Lou Reed set out to shock, 40 plus years later heroin use, S&M, uberfemmes are commonplace cultural artefacts now embedded. This no longer shocks but describes.
Meanwhile music has retreated into reaction. The brisk confidence of experimentation has been replaced with safety in numbers clogging up the cultural arteries.
on 6 December 2002
While many people believe this album to be the most influential album ever (it is by the way), they rarely concentrate their praise on anything else.
Granted, while it is hard to imagine Smashing Pumpkins, Jesus & Mary Chain, Pixies, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, Godspeed You Black Emporor!, My Bloody Valentine, (countless others) making the extraordinary albums they did without this album existing, it is also worth noting that this album is still ahead of the times.
35 years on, it still astonishes for its audacity, its experimentation with sound and its originality. Sunday Morning's hushed druggie fall out ambience, Waiting For The Man's pure rock 'n' roll innovation and stark imagery, Venus In Fur's hypnotic and off-kilter swirl of detuned guitars and viola, Heroin's distressing seven minute caustic attack on addiction, the nausea inducing musical headf**k of the closing European Son. It all adds up to an amazing listening experience. You hear the history of almost all alternative music in the 48 minutes and six seconds this album contains.
This deserves to be considered the starting point for anyone interested in alternative music, and anyone considering should stop considering and start purchasing!