14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uber Dissonance
The Velvet Underground were perhaps the ultimate yin/yang band: with an incredible lyricist who was selfless about who actually sang them, capable of self-surrender ("Jesus") and total egotism (Lou Reed turning down the rest of the band in "I Heard Her Call My Name" - thankfully improved on the remaster), with a musical character capable of howling feedback and sweet...
Published on 30 Oct 2007 by Mike Cormack
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much of the same
Let's get the obvious comments out of the way first. Unless you live on the Moon you already know the groundbreaking importance of the Velvets and how this album is their most extreme statement that invented the seventies. It's also safe to say that if you shelled out the extra cash for this you (like me) are already a fan and already own the original (along with all...
Published 9 months ago by jason johnson
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uber Dissonance,
The Velvet Underground were perhaps the ultimate yin/yang band: with an incredible lyricist who was selfless about who actually sang them, capable of self-surrender ("Jesus") and total egotism (Lou Reed turning down the rest of the band in "I Heard Her Call My Name" - thankfully improved on the remaster), with a musical character capable of howling feedback and sweet chiming melodies, artistic yet streetwise, tough but vulnerable, basic yet relentlessly experimental, concise and pithy but able to do stream-of-consciousness ("Black Angel's Death Song") and a seventeen-minute epic, they had it all.
Where their debut combined all of these assets (making it a candidate for the greatest album of all time - and certainly one of the most influential), "White Light/White Heat" saw them focus on their dissonance and ferocity. (And their next album "The Velvet Underground" was all subdued sweet melodies). Consequently this can be a tough album to listen to, should you prefer the more focused and structured Velvet's songs - there's no "Sweet Jane" here, nor even "Venus In Furs" or "Heroin". In addition, this album is often cited as the worst-recorded album of all time, for the feedback, bleedthrough and distortion of the red-lining guitars and organ blew the studio capability apart (this being the mid-60s we're talking about here).
Nonetheless, this is a remarkable album, with musianship to die for. It starts relatively conventionally, with the eponymous title-track. It features a tremendous honkytonk rhythm, almost similar to "All Tomorrow's Parties", but where that felt portentous, this feels manically exhuberant, appropriately given the subject matter of speed. It ends with an incredible surge of bludgeoning energy, the like of which I have never heard anywhere else.
"The Gift" follows - a Lou Reed short story narrated by John Cale, over the backing of the Velvet's doing their Booker T and the MGs impression. The story is macabre and has an intensely black humour, and some wonderfully deft touches. Waldo's chracter can be immediately surmised by Sheila's two word summary of him..!
"Lady Godiva's Operation" starts fairly conventionally and, like a Burroughs story, just gets weirder and weirder. When Reed's voice cuts through with "Neatly" and "Sweetly" you wonder what planet they were on, and when the shivering starts you know you've never heard the like before. Bizarre but great fun.
"Here She Comes Now" has an achingly beautiful melody, played with impeccable gentleness. But almost in reply they follow with "I Heard Her Call My Name" which seems its crazed half-cousin. Where the narrator in "Here She Comes Now" is in love with a woman who doesn't notice him ("Ahhhh... she's made out of wood"), in "I Heard" the Velvets magnify that moment when love turns her gaze upon you to absurd proportions. Reed's guitar soloing is incredible, hyped and amplified to almost unbearable levels, and featuring perhaps the best use of feedback ever - after he says "And then my mind split open," there's a (relative) pause, and then the feedback explodes.
However all this pales into comparison with the closer "Sister Ray". Reed often mentioned freeform jazz musicians like Ornette Coleman in relation to this song, and so traditional rock concepts of verse and chorus, melody and harmony are out of the window. Built upon a huge surging three-chord riff, "Sister Ray" grows into a monstrous epic, with Reed and Cale almost literally duelling it out, with guitar and organ freeforming and interjecting upon each other and the vocal. Like Coltrane's "Asenscion" and Coleman's "Free Jazz", each seems to take turn to solo while the other instruments comment upon and freeform over it. This gives the whole piece an insane level of musical ferocity - "Sister Ray" was done live, in one take, and no-one backs down at any point to accomodate anyone else. All mighty good, a gleeful musical decontruction. And yet the closing of the song tops all that, when the steady propulsive beat (deftly accelerating or slowing as the song demands) of Mo Tucker's drums finally become as thrashed as the other instruments, which leads to a huge feedback soundblast, an incredible outpouring of sonic energies at the speed of light. Utterly jaw-dropping incredible. Lou Reed's vocals also deserve a mention - he narrates a seedy debauched tale of junky transvestites and a murdered sailor, but two and a half times, and with ever more distortion, playing with the words, stretching them out, misshaping them. Everything is dissonant, distorted, even the lyric and voice. To some, "Sister Ray" is the greatest song ever recorded - it's unsurpassed in many ways. No punk band ever approached this level of power.
In sum, this album is certainly an acquired taste, but if you like feedback, distortion and plain old noise, it's the finest example of its kind, unsurpassed in forty years.
78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars don't buy this one first,
If you've got this far you probably know this is one of the most critically acclaimed rock albums ever. That is well deserved but it doesn't mean you're going to like it - it's also one of the most uncompromising rock albums ever (one reason the critics like it so much) and was quite unprecedented at the time - and completely out of step with the current hippie/flower power/peace and love ethos. It was also made very quickly and cheaply with an engineer who wasn't hugely enamoured of the group, so the niceties of production were pretty much non-existent. This doesn't matter, for the most part, as long as you like extreme, noisy, brutish rock'n'roll.
The title track is a short, snappy slice of distorted rock'n'roll which you could imagine being recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard - although it would sound very different. Then they slow down for The Gift, with the band jamming grungily away on 3 chords in one channel while John Cale, with his marvellously deadpan Welsh voice, recites an amusing and macabre short story Lou Reed wrote while studying English in the early 1960s. This is followed by the two quietest tracks on the album, Lady Godiva's Operation and Here She Comes Now. The former is sung mostly by Cale, with sudden interjections from Reed, and is another macabre little tale over a quite unique droney background with the only appearance of Cale's viola on this album. The latter is by far the most "pleasant" piece of music on the album, a prettily hypnotic little ditty wondering whether a girl will come.
What was side 2 of the original lp begins with probably the most extreme track, I Heard Her Call My Name. By all accounts this doesn't do justice to their live performances of the song and is the one track where the recording shortcomings matter, but it is still quite extraordinary, featuring among the most savagely atonal lead guitar ever committed to tape. This really isn't for the fainthearted but it certainly isn't without merit. And finally... the last 17+ minutes of the album are taken up by the awesome Sister Ray. Again the lyrics (about a bunch of drag queens shooting up heroin and murdering a sailor they don't appear to have known very long) are sordid and macabre, but Lou Reed relates this scuzzy tale with sardonic relish over an astonishing and propulsive one chord blast that never lets up, driven along by Maureen Tucker's hypnotic drumming. They were determined that there wouldn't be either a second take or overdubs - they had to nail it first time. There is no bass, just two guitars, organ and drums. At various points it develops into a volume duel between Lou Reed's guitar and John Cale's organ, with Cale pulling out more and more stops and then Reed cranking up the volume and distortion on his guitar. It never degenerates into self-indulgent jamming or outlives its welcome, indeed for many devotees it's too short. The demented glee with which they bash it out completely transcends the sordid subject matter - this really is rock distilled down to its essence.
Unless you like really abrasive stuff already (e.g. The Stooges' Fun House, with which it shares the pinnacle of proto-grunge) you may well find this a bit much, so it's not the ideal place to start if you haven't heard the Velvet Underground before. Try their equally excellent debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico, which is the only one of their albums to combine both pretty tunes and noise and consequently gives a good idea of the range of music they played. If you like the noisy stuff on that, you'll love this. If you don't but like the more tuneful stuff, you'll like their untitled 3rd album and Loaded.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best reason in the world to go deaf!,
By A Customer
This is my favourite VU album. It is one of those albums that you can't quite play loud enough. The band are at their heaviest instrumentally and Lou sings everything like he is the most pissed off person alive. He sounds, in a Dylan kind of way, like he knows the stuff is so good he doesn't have to try too hard to hit the notes.
The blueprint for loads of subsequent stuff, from early punk (Cale helped the Stooges out on their debut) and Can ('Hallelujah' is really just a funky 'Sister Ray') right up to the whole grunge thing (Check out Nirvana's version of Here she comes now, if you can find it). The most outstanding tracks are the more extreme - Cale narrating the horrifically funny 'The Gift', the maddest guitar I have ever heard on 'I Heard her call my name' and of course 'Sister Ray' - over 17 minutes of amp abuse that just wears you out.
Dark, disturbing but just so cool. The sound all young guitar based bands want, but never really achieve. This album is the best reason in the world to go deaf!
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars searching for your mainline? you've found it with this album,
By A Customer
this was the velvets' second album, that, like it's predecessor (the excellent and very influential 'velvet underground and nico'), was released to very little critical acclaim, only just entering the chart at no. 199!
but 'white light/white heat's importance and influence was later acknowledged as a little thing called punk happened in the late 70s. this is pretty much, as far as i'm aware, the very first, and one of the very best punk albums.
a quick word: every review i've ever read bangs on about how shocking and notorious this lp is. to be really honest- yeah, ok, there's hardly a 'song' on it, it's still LOUD, dirty and extremely no-fi and uncommercial, but i think some of the shock value has gone, 35+ years later. it's only REALLY shocking, nasty, gritty and notorious when you put it in context: this was released in 1968. peace and love. hippies. freedom. the beatles, for cryin' out loud. and here were the velvet underground (lou reed, john cale, sterling morrison and moe tucker) making basic, noisy, droning hard-rock music and writing about sex-change operations, grisly deaths, and murderous orgies. intrigued? read on...
1.title track 'white light/white heat' is good ol' 50s rock 'n' roll (pounding, propulsive piano) given a v.u injection (fuzz, distortion, screechy guitars). for those of you less educated about the joys(?!) of drugs, 'white heat' is heroin and 'white light' is speed. and it certainly sounds like that was what was fueling the band while recording! so, not quite elvis rock 'n' roll, then.
2.a lot of people put down 'the gift', or only listen to it a few times, but i absolutely love it. in an ingenious and definetely avant-garde effort, john cale reads one of lou reed's college stories about a weirdo who posts himself to his girlfriend with grisly consequences in one speaker, while lou and sterling lay down a slick, groovy, fuzzy guitar track in the other. the story itself is a well written, entertaining little piece and cale's lilting welsh tones fit it perfectly.
3.'lady godiva's operation' is, IMHO, the worst track here. again, it's a great idea and a good attempt to make it work, but it doesn't quite happen. john cale takes vocal duties for the main part, singing a line, and then lou reed sings the last word of that line. since the dynamics of the their voices are noticeably different, it comes off quite choppy. it's about a sex-change operation that goes horribly wrong, ending in the patient's death. there are some creepy sound effects (oxygen machine, choking on anasthetic, chainsaw). the music is slow, distorted and kind of easternish. there are fuzzy guitars, with squeaky viola in the background. this track is easily the weirdest thing the velvets' ever recorded, and it leaves you with a nasty taste in your mouth.
4.'here she comes now' is the quietest song here, and the most musical. it's a wave of calm in a stormy ocean- soft, gentle and not unlike the brilliant 'sunday morning' on the previous lp. the lyrics might be about sex, but it doesn't really matter; there's hardly any words anyway. some probably see 'here she comes now' as boring and far too slow and melodic for this big, noisy, lumbering, menacing monster of an album. i love it, but it doesn't prepare you for the firing-on-all-cylinders sonic assault that follows...
5.penultimate track 'i heard her call my name' is completely devoid of any melody whatsoever. it's a fast, pounding rollercoaster ride about wanting a dead girl. lou drawls 'and then i felt my mind split open' and then unleashes on us mere mortals possibly the coolest, maddest guitar solo ever recorded. note(?) after note after note, soaked in feedback and drenched in distortion, it spirals, twists, turns and screams until you know EXACTLY how it feels to have your mind split open. whatever the guy was smoking when he recorded that, i want some. lots of it. now.
6.if you thought 'i heard her call my name' was a metaphorical slap around the head, 'sister ray' is an elbow in the jaw and a few hard punches on the nose. AND getting your face rubbed in gravel afterwards. this is THE best rock song ever. nothing to beat it before or since and there never will be. standing at a marathon 17:27, lou tells us all about the attendants at an ill-fated, drug-filled party/orgy that turns murderous. 'i haven't got the time time/ too busy sucking on a ding-dong.' a few people die, the cops turn up, and from then onwards it's a complete sonic breakdown. the musical apocalypse. i can't describe it any better than that. if you can stick this one all the way thru, start to finish, after listening to all of the previous tracks, then well done. take a few headache pills, throw up if you need to, and go lie down in a darkened room for several days. then when you're fully recovered, go and listen to the album again.
so that's basically an analysis of one of the top 5 best albums in the world ever. it's a rock masterpiece and every single person who has ever even contemplated the idea of being in a punk band needs this now. all you so-called 'punks' out there listening to the latest so-called 'punk' bands and all you teens listening to commercial, watered-down top 40 'rock'- these guys are the originals. listen and learn, and have a change of underwear on hand for afterwards.
those wise people that choose to buy the monster that is 'white light/white heat': your life will change (and so will the relations with neighbours, so you might want to move into a cave somewhere) when you hear this amazing cd. before you play it, tho', try and invest in double glazing. or get the number of someone that'll fit new windows, cuz you'll need 'em after one spin of this album.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the velvets 'difficult' second album,
The Nico album gets most of the critical acclaim. It's undoubtedly a classic but if you want to hear something really extraordinary then you should check this out. Everything about this album, from the subject matter of the lyrics to the primitive production and anarchic song structures, is subversive. Years and years ahead of its time, it still has the power to unsettle 40 years after it was first recorded. Not that it deliberately sets out to shock in a calculated Pistols way. That's just the way it came out.
If you make it as far as the final track and are still enjoying it then i can promise you a rare treat. Still reeling from the most brutal guitar solo ever recorded ('I heard her call my name')? It's just about to get much much better....
If I told you that an album track recorded in 1968 was 17 minutes long you might be excused for thinking it would be some trippy, hippy psychedelic jam designed to send the listener into a deep coma. But 'Sister Ray' is one of the rawest, most thrilling pieces of music you'll ever hear. Yes, there is a tune in there somewhere and a debauched tale of sailors and prostitutes but the real thrill is the sonic assault on the ears created by the duel that breaks out between Cale's organ and Reed's guitar. Both turning up to '11', it's a punch up to behold. Cale comes out on top........just. Heart-stopping stuff and a fitting finale to an amazing album. Buy it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much of the same,
This review is from: White Light / White Heat (Audio CD)
Let's get the obvious comments out of the way first. Unless you live on the Moon you already know the groundbreaking importance of the Velvets and how this album is their most extreme statement that invented the seventies. It's also safe to say that if you shelled out the extra cash for this you (like me) are already a fan and already own the original (along with all the other relevant releases including Another View, VU and the other extended version of WL/WH on Peel Slowly and See).
The actual album sounds fine here, but then again I always thought it did and I've listened to this several times and honestly can not tell the difference. So the validity of this release, for me, relies solely on the strength of the additional studio and live material.
Firstly, the extra studio material. How the hell could anybody justify including Hey Mr. Rain, Stephanie Says, and Guess I'm Falling in Love here!? They've been widely available for years and this is just lazy filler with the old 'remixed' chestnut appended. Peel Slowly and See has got a demo of Here She Comes Now - surely they must have demoed other tracks for this album - why are they not included? I really fail to believe that these were the only tracks the band had and these are the only versions of them.
Now I've got that of my chest - the good points. The early version of Beginning to See the Light is GOLD. Really, as a Velvets fan this is one of those discoveries you always dream of but so very rarely get. I would stick my neck out and say this is better than the version from the 3rd Album. Like another reviewer here I don't think that it is an alternative version of I Heard Her Call My Name, however it is sufficiently remixed to allow the rhythm guitar to come to the fore and gives the song a much rougher garage feeling.
Finally, to the extra live material. This was recorded in New York in early 1967 before the band recorded White Light and contains early versions of some of the tracks that would appear on WL/WH along with tracks from the 1st album and unreleased tracks. Two of these (Booker T and Guess I'm Falling in Love) have already been released on Peel Slowly and See and are fairly standard R & B workouts given a rough Velvets edge. I'm Not a Young Man Anymore has a similar feel to Guess... and as such doesn't add a great deal to the bands' canon but is still welcome as a new track. The real meat of this collection are the live versions of the tracks that appeared on their official albums. Waiting For the Man has evolved into a real killer - a riff lead snarl of a song that I wouldn't have guessed at given how it ended up sounding just 2 years later. Sister Ray is cleaner than the album version but this allows the rhythm to stand out more and just shows what an exceptional live band this was. Finally it ends with an instrumental version of The Gift. Apparently this has been confused with Booker T over the years but I can't see why. This is no crowd pleasing R & B, this is a down and dirty 2 chord grind that is still one of the bands' finest moments - they didn't always have to sing about deviant sex - sometimes the music just sounded like it.
All in all this could have been so much better, but there are still some gems here - but was it really worth the price tag?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't you know you'll stain the carpet,
This has to be one of the worst productions ever made by any sound engineer, which only helps to make this album the garage/punk classic that it is. The throwaway style and attitude is perfect, the guitar work is frenetically exciting and the compositions are terrific. Sister Ray is a gargantuan slab of musical obsidian that will slice and rip your soul. Beg, steal or borrow a copy of this now!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars MERRY XMAS FROM THE VELVET UNDERGROUND...!,
This review is from: White Light / White Heat (Audio CD)
For those like me who enjoy and appreciate the music of The Velvet Underground but who are perhaps not the most die-hard of fans, then this two-disc Deluxe Edition of the band's most idiosyncratic and extreme second album, WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT (1968), makes for a nice alternative to the 3-CD Super Deluxe Edition also available.
Here, on disc one we get a remastered stereo mix of the original album, together with a nice selection of outtakes. None of these will be particularly unfamiliar to Velvets obsessives, but nevertheless we get an alternate take of 'I Heard Her Call My Name', which appears to feature clearer vocals; both sides of a projected single coupling 'Stephanie Says' and 'Temptation Inside Your Heart'; as well as an early version of 'Beginning To See The Light', ultimately one of the highlights of the band's eponymously named third LP. All of these tracks represent John Cale's last recorded moments with the band and also make an interesting aural contrast to the infamously rough-and-ready production quality of WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT itself.
Arguably, discussing the remastering of WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT is something of an academic exercise: we want it to sound all noisy, unbalanced and distorted, right? Well, thankfully, it still does. The title track continues to rattle along with uncompromising abandon; the buzz-saw guitars of Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison heard throughout 'I Heard Her Call My Name' slice across the channels; while 'Sister Ray' remains a maelstrom of fractious rhythm and blues riffing and searing keyboard runs, anchored by the pulse of Maureen Tucker's relentless percussion. I have no complaints - at least not so far...
Disc two of the set is somewhat less satisfying. Featuring a Velvet Underground live performance at The Gymnasium in New York City on 30th April, 1967 and recorded onto a cassette by a person or persons unknown, it is inevitably not of the greatest quality. Sound levels tend to fluctuate throughout and, while it is clearly of some historical importance, containing as it does an early and less wild rendition of 'Sister Ray' - captured some five months before the studio version was recorded - this listener would have probably taken the mono mix of WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT (available on the Super Deluxe Edition) in its place.
Finally, however, the packaging is pretty top-notch and an infinite improvement upon the bog-standard CD edition of WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT which has been available for years. A triple-panel digipak opens to reveal that iconic black-and-white photograph of the Velvets gathered around a prized copy of their new album, while the booklet contains an eloquent and highly informative essay by ROLLING STONE magazine scribe David Fricke detailing the making of this highly individual album and the influences which inspired it.
This revamp of WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT was reportedly the last project that Lou Reed worked on before his recent death and, therefore, it is perhaps fitting that the very essence of his band The Velvet Underground - what made them so different and, more importantly, what made them so influential - is encapsulated within this package. Almost without question, the art-rock and punk-rock movements of the middle to late 1970s had their genesis here.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing music,
I just heard this for the first time 40 years after it was released. What a fantastic collection of brilliant songs. I particularly love "the gift" and "sister ray". The remastered CD version of "the gift" has the advantage over the original vinyl that the speech track and the backing track are completely separate, so you can choose to listen just to the music, which I like to do. Amazing, buy it!
5.0 out of 5 stars Perversity as an art form,
After the schizophrenia of their revered debut, The Velvets dedicated an album to each side of their personality; beautiful acoustic ballads on The Velvet Underground, scuzzy rock n roll on Loaded, and sheer noise terror on White Light White Heat, an album which elevates perversity to an art form.
Lady Godiva's Operation sounds like a folk song from the valleys through the filter of a William Burroughs-esque nightmare. I Heard Her Call My Name is a bizarre marriage of The Beatles and The Stooges, tied together with a literally screaming guitar solo. It's unrelenting, culminating with 17 minute one way journey to hell Sister Ray.
Lou Reed really comes into his own here as a poet as the dispossessed, rendering the lives of New York's addicts, trannies and sexually obssessed with a force and compassion equal to Hubert Selby Jr's Last Exit to Brooklyn.
All Velvet Underground albums should be required listening, but this is them at their most brutally uncompromising.
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